Writing Fear Free: Reading Aloud

This weekend, I read the manuscript of Caroline Bingley aloud to my husband. (He wasn’t held hostage or anything.) He wouldn’t choose to sit down and read a Jane Austen sequel, but he does have a certain respect for books and movies that usually appeal to women. I also did this with Charlotte Collins, and I plan to make it a part of the writing process of every manuscript in the future.

His general indifference to the genre is actually a huge benefit to the process because he has tighter tolerances. If I read the book aloud to him, I automatically think about it from his perspective. A slow part suddenly seems slower, a cheesy part suddenly seems cheesier, a bad line suddenly seems worse. He is like a magnifying glass; he helps me see the flaws better so I can fix them.

Here’s what’s great about reading aloud to someone:

  • You read the manuscript from start to finish in one or two sittings. Writers spend so many months and years picking apart a book, but sometimes they don’t try to see it the way a reader will.
  • You will start to think like a reader, not a writer. You’ll start to recognize the repetitions and slow passages.
  • You will see your connections more clearly and you’ll be able to strengthen your story lines accordingly.
  • You will have another person’s honest reactions in real time. I knew I had a good line if my husband laughed. You get immediate feedback.
  • You will discover where you have been unclear because the listener will stop and ask questions.

If you cannot coerce anyone to sit still for hours and listen to a book, then read it aloud to yourself. I have heard other writers do this with great benefit too. It’s a great way to experience your book in a new way and to make it even better for your readers in the future.

 

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Comments

  1. Good info, Jennifer! I can’t imagine my husband being willing to do this, but I’ll ask him. I’d never considered his indifference to the genre might be a good thing. I always read my work aloud … and with an English accent (it sounds so much more Jane Austen that way) but that drives my sister nuts when I’ve tried it out on her. LOL

  2. Flipping it works too–last year I had my roommate read part of my story to me. (I trying to drive and edit at the same time.) Things that had looked perfectly acceptable on the page sounded maudlin and trite when I heard her say them.

    My dictation process gives me some of the same benefits, but since I have to insert the punctuation and watch for transcription errors, I can’t listen to the story quite as much.

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