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.