Monday, May 6, 2013

My Dirty Little Secret

Okay, so I've been on the writing scene for a few years now. About six, to be exact. I've attended a number of conferences. Been critiqued and edited until I want to gouge out my eyes and invest heavily in Rogaine. I've read countless blogs on craft, and books on improving pacing, tension, self-editing. The list goes on and on.

One thing I've heard -- and even advocated! -- is reading your book out loud.

But... confession time. I've never done it. I hate (like loathe with the passion of a thousand suns) reading my own work out loud. I refuse to do it at signings and events, because it just sounds so lame in my own voice.

I won't do it.

Thus, I've never read one of my manuscripts out loud.

Until this past revision I was working on. And I didn't read it, but my Mac version of Word has a option that lets you select text and send it to iTunes as a spoken track.

I did that. I had Alex read my book to me. Here's what I learned:

1. It is so painfully slow, you'll still need to invest in Rogaine. But that's kind of the whole point. When you read, your brain fixes things. You skim over things. Forcing yourself to read out loud -- or to listen -- is hard. So slow. I think it took something like 12 hours to read the whole book (yes it is really long too). (And now you know why I've been absent for a while...)

2. Using iTunes is awesome, because I can sync it with my iPod and put it in my car. So wherever I go -- and I basically drive everyone everywhere -- I can be working.

3. I found things I would have never discovered. I was sitting at my computer, following along one day, reading ahead of Alex. Next thing I know, he says "staking down her face." I was like, "Wait. What? Staking? That can't be right, I just read that..."

And you know what? Alex was right. I had switched the T and the K, and I didn't even notice. Like I said, our tricksy brains fix things like that.

So overall, I think the experience was very valuable. I had whole sections of the book that were redone, so they were basically a first draft. Listening to them helped me find the too-long sentences, the repeated words, the typos.

So there you have it. I can proudly say that after six years, I have finally read a book out loud as an editing tool!

Have you done this? Either read your work out loud as you're editing, or had the computer read it to you? What was your experience like?

25 comments:

Em-Musing said...

I do read my manuscripts aloud sometimes, but my eyes still do the tricksy thing.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I read my mss aloud all the time. It's the only way I can find awkward sentences. But no one is allowed to be around when I do it. Which doesn't bode well for me and book readings. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

I don't do it all the time, but I have read my manuscript aloud. And you're right, you do pick up things you missed.

Michelle McLean said...

The hubs got me that Dragon software for Xmas two years ago - and I wanted it for preciously that purpose - to have it read my mss out loud to me. I have yet to use it :D But I really want to! I do sort of read my books out loud sometimes, like sort of mumble them under my breath. It is amazing the mistakes you catch that way.

Matthew MacNish said...

I don't have a private room in my house where I can read aloud, so having Alex do it would be very useful! Great tip. Thanks, Elana!

Stacy McKitrick said...

I've read my book out loud (with no one around me - who wants to hear me read? No one around here!), but I also changed the font so I was LOOKING at it totally different. It really helped me find my mistakes better.

Angeline Trevena said...

I always read mine out loud. It's amazing what you can miss when you read in your head. How often have you had to re-read a paragraph because you were daydreaming first time? Hope this method improves your editing experience.

Sarah Chafin said...

I've read my shorter works out loud and it has helped me catch several mistakes. I haven't read my novel out loud yet. I like the idea of listening. I think I will have to try it!

Christine Fonseca said...

I have my Kindle read every manuscript before I send it off to my editor. Its the only way I can catch certain things

ilima said...

I never have, but having the computer read it is brilliant.

Kerri Cuev said...

That's a neat option with Mac. It's been recommended to me to read back my work, but I feel like such a dork. I have to do it when no one is around lol.

Jessie Humphries said...

Yes! I did this while I folded laundry and I caught a bunch of craptastic errors! Is "folded" a word? Maybe I should have my Mac read that sentence back to me, it doesn't sound right!

Janet Johnson said...

I read everything aloud to my husband. I find tons of repetitive words that way and typos. He is my official listener and while he complains I don't let HIM do the reading to himself, his role is too important to change anything.

So glad you finally found a way to do it! :)

David P. King said...

Awesome! I typically read out loud if I'm having trouble with a section, but overall read the whole thing out loud, slowly, to catch all the small things on the last last last polishing read. :)

Taffy said...

I've read out loud and had the computer read it to me. It helped a lot!

Liza said...

I think I read my most recent book out loud three times. I caught so many mistakes. I've never tried on the computer thought...I'm afraid, like books on tape, it might make me fall asleep!

Martha Ramirez said...

Lol you're so right about it being slow. You can speed it up but sometimes it doesn't sound right.I've been searching for just the right voice. I'm gonna have to try it in itunes! Thanks for reminding me.

That's so true how things are caught aloud.

Lily Cate said...

I've tried, I really have, but it doesn't seem to work for me.
I don't particularly like listening to narration anyway, like books on tape, and such, I can only listen to them if it's a book I've already read. Just a quirk of mine, I suppose.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I sometimes read a passage out loud to myself, but I have never read the whole thing out loud ...

until my class talked me into reading my MG manuscript to them as a read aloud.

And then the other class heard about it and demanded it, too.

So the first time I did it (and the second time, about 2 chapters behind the first), I did it in front of 5th graders. Talk about sweating bullets!

JeffO said...

I've read pieces/parts aloud, but not the whole thing. Honestly, I hate reading my stuff at all!

Denise Covey said...

Reading your work out loud is a great idea. You pick up clunky phrasing, pick up nuances. It needs to be done. Great post.

Peggy Eddleman said...

I've read Sky Jumpers out loud at least five times. (Once just a couple of days ago-- except that one no longer counts. Grr.) I find so much that way! But, um... I didn't know you could use iTunes!! My kindle will read me books, but sadly, not manuscripts. I thought it just wasn't possible. But really? It is?! You just made my day.

J.R. Johansson said...

Yes, it's SO useful. I usually do it as I'm editing. One scene/chapter at a time. I usually don't go back and read through the whole thing in one go...although I bet that would be really great, too.

Alexis Bass said...

I read my manuscripts out loud, but I love this idea of having a machine do it for me. :)

Alice said...

Having someone else read it aloud is very different than reading it aloud yourself. You catch things you otherwise wouldn't.

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