Monday, April 14, 2014

Revision Read Aloud

A couple weeks ago, I posted about how a good verbal narrator can influence the listener’s enjoyment of a story. But today I want to talk about using the act of reading aloud as a revision tool.

When you’re revising your story, especially if you’re on draft ten or so, you know what’s on the page so well that you can miss little details here and there. In a MG I recently revised, I altered the story such that the main character no longer had a mom. Instead, he had a close aunt. I went through the whole manuscript to remove all references to the mom, but missed a few. I never did catch them—my agent did. :) And, even as I was staring at the sentence with the mom reference, it still didn’t register completely. I’d read that sentence so many times that my brain had stopped noticing it. Even when it was pointed out to me directly. :)

So, after I’d gone through another round of revisions, I decided to read my story aloud, just to make sure everything sounded like I wanted it to sound. Aaaand, I caught another revision remnant (not the mom, something else) that was left over from an earlier draft.

When you read something aloud, your brain seems to go to a different place than when you’re reading silently. My brain does funny things when I read aloud. As a kid, whenever I was called on in class to read, I couldn’t ever read and comprehend at the same time because I was too nervous. No one wants to be that kid that mispronounces a word and says something ridiculous in front of everyone. :) So the only thing I focused on was pronouncing each word. But when I read my novel aloud without an audience, I found myself listening to the sound of my voice. The awkward sentences were suddenly obvious. A missing word, or an additional word, presented itself. Repeated words popped up, arms waving and screaming ‘here I am again!’ It’s really astounding.

All this said, there are times when it’s not useful to read aloud. For example, when you have a first draft. :) In this part of the revision process, you’re still looking at big picture issues. Does the plot build tension? Is it resolved with a satisfying conclusion? Are my characters likeable and believable? Do they grow? Does the story flow well, or does it have moments when interesting things don’t happen?

When you’re investigating these kinds of questions, reading your work aloud isn’t going to help you much. But if you’ve got a solid draft and you’re ready to polish the language, then reading aloud is incredibly useful.

1 comment:

Karla Gomez said...

That sounds like something I should do. I haven't made any mom/aunt-like changes, but I have heard this technique before. Just seems like it'll take longer and I bet I'll tire fast haha