When I’m revising and polishing a manuscript, I read it aloud. Not just once, either. I’ll go through it paragraph by paragraph, and when something gets changed, I’ll go back and re-read the changed section along with the preceding and following sentences. If I’ve done a lot of changes, I’ll re-read the whole chapter again, aloud. (Obsessive? Moi?)
Hearing the words lets me hear the rhythm, and usually makes the clunky repetitions really stand out. It also reveals the sentences that are fine if they’re read with the correct expression, but which don’t work so well if one is just “reading through.” Those usually get changed.
Being curious how many other writers are read-alouders, I did what anyone in the modern world would do: I queried twitter.
Writers: when revising & polishing, do you read your work aloud?
Only one of those who replied confessed to not reading aloud at all. Most who answered read aloud to some degree or in some way. Here are some samples:
* Only reading dialogue aloud
* Only reading dialogue and difficult passages aloud
* Reading aloud to a significant other. (This one boggles me: to have an SO with such patience!)
* Having a computer read back the manuscript.
I’m intrigued by this last one. The way I work, I would need to read and re-read with my own voice, because I go over the same words so many times, but I can definitely see the advantage of hearing a computer reading back the manuscript on the last go-through. First, because its “eye” isn’t going to skip over the repeated words or incorrect verb tenses, so you will hear them. And second, because a good human reader can make bad writing sound decent, but I don’t think the flat voice of a machine is going to do that.
I’ll read expressively when I start revising, but at some point I try to go over things in a flat, non-expressive voice to see if the flow is still there.
Thanks to all those on twitter who responded! I’m heading off now, to read and revise.
Linda Nagata is the Locus and Nebula award winning author of The Bohr Maker, Vast, and Memory, all available at Book View Cafe. Her latest book The Dread Hammer, is a fast-paced mythic fantasy of love, war, murder, marriage, and fate.