The Writing Process Part 10 – Read Your Manuscript Out Loud

Don’t neglect the last, and most important step in the writing process: reading your work out loud.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked via Twitter: “Mrs. @mbweston, what’s your writing process?” To answer his question, I’ve been writing a series of blog posts about how I go about my personal writing process. So far, we’ve covered:

You’ve applied the changes your advance readers suggested, and you are ready to send your manuscript to the publisher, right?

Not yet.

I highly suggest, if possible, that you read the story out loud. This might sound crazy, but it’s a good final step to catch the rest of the errors you might have missed. (I admit I have skipped this step more than once when I have been on deadline, but I don’t recommend it unless it’s necessary.)

When I first read through A Prophecy Forgotten (my first novel) out loud, it took me about 12 hours, and I lost my voice. Now, I use a text-to-speech website: http://text-to-speech.imtransl0ator.net/. It reads exactly what I have written, such as when I write though and meant through. You can also download text-to-speech apps on your smart phone or tablet.

These are a few things you will catch when you read your manuscript out loud. (Remember, I’ve compiled this list because I’ve made all of these mistakes and only caught them when I read my manuscript out loud.):

  • Missing words. Believe it or not, when you read, your brain inserts words that aren’t there that are supposed to be there. Somehow, the process of speaking what your read forces your brain to read what is actually there.
  • Words that look similar but aren’t. Though and through are good examples of this.
  • Words that sound similar but aren’t. Two, too, and to.
  • Missing commas. I find several places where I need commas when I read out loud.
  • Run-on sentences. That triple compound sentence you thought was so brilliant simply might not read well. I’m the compound sentence queen, and I’m convinced half of the periods in my novels wouldn’t exist without reading my work out loud.
  • Final cut/paste problems. I’ve often done a cut and paste and neglected to reread the sentence to make sure it makes sense.
  • Grammar problems resulting from grammar fixes. Sometimes a grammar fix requires fixing more than one word. For instance, if you want to change “He had been waiting,” to “He waited,” you need to change three words. If you read it out loud, you might discover your “corrected” sentence actually reads: “He waiting.”
  • Silly dialogue. You will find that some of your dialogue sounds incredibly stupid when you read it out loud. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Fix it.
  • Other places full of “stupid”. Sometimes, phrases sound brilliant in our heads, yet cheesy when we actually hear the words out loud. You want to catch all of your stupid phrases before your publisher and your readers do.

Read your manuscript out loud and send it off as soon as possible, especially since you are probably sick of it by now. Once it’s gone, make sure to reward yourself for all your hard work! You deserve it!

Fantasy novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. Weston speaks to children, teens, and adults about writing and the process of getting published. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. Find out more about The Elysian Chronicles at www.elysianchronicles.com.

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About M. B. Weston

M. B. Weston is an award-winning fantasy, pulp, young adult, steampunk, and paranormal author. Her attention to procedure and detail gives her works an authentic gritty, military feel that takes an adventure tale to the level of a true page-turner. Weston’s writing attracts both fantasy and non-fantasy readers, and her audience ranges from upper-elementary students to adults. A gifted orator, Weston has been invited as a guest speaker to numerous writing and science fiction/fantasy panels at conventions across the US, including DragonCon, BabelCon, NecronomiCon, and Alabama Phoenix Festival. She has served on panels with such authors as Sherrilyn Kenyon, J. F. Lewis, Todd McCaffrey, and Jonathan Maberry. Weston has spoken to thousands of students and adults about the craft of writing and has been invited as the keynote speaker at youth camps and at several schools throughout the US.
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9 Responses to The Writing Process Part 10 – Read Your Manuscript Out Loud

  1. I like the text to speech idea, much better than actually voicing it out loud. That would get monotonousto me, but I’m sure I could listen to my story. I’d fear getting caught up in the story though.

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    • M. B. Weston says:

      I like the text to speech better as well. I think it catches more errors. It’s probably a good idea to take breaks, especially if you’re correcting a novel, but to be honest, when I’ve gotten to this stage, I just want to get it all over with… But breaks help. Impatience is so dangerous, and I tend to get impatient a lot.

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      • I understand, especially when you must be that close to the end. I can imagine the excitement, the angst, and the fear all pushing against you just hoping for it to be done. It has to be tough, can’t wait to get there.

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  2. This is a great post, it’s amazing how different a manuscript can sound when read aloud instead of simply being read in the head.

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    • M. B. Weston says:

      One of my publishers suggested it at a writing conference. When I first tried it, I found so many mistakes I would have missed otherwise.

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      • Yes, I know exactly what you mean – a common one for me is missing an odd word out in a sentence – I think that we hit the keyboards so quickly, our fingers move quicker than our brains and it isn’t always obvious – unless like you say – we read it out loud – great post – looking forward to the next.

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  3. joanneeddy says:

    I did exactly this as part of hopefully my “last edit.” (At least until an editor makes me change things!) I was stunned how many of the little mistakes you described I found this way, despite all my previous editing, and the reads by a number of my critic-friends. It really was a revelation. The other thing I found about some dialog was not just that some of it was stupid (or too cute or not funny), but that it didn’t sound right for the character who said it. Just not a match for them. Once it was spoken aloud I instantly knew that it was off in some way. Thank you so much for these posts. I have spent the last year editing my first novel and I appreciate your organized approached to the process.

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  4. Pingback: Recap of The Writing Process Posts | M. B. Weston's Official Website

  5. Pingback: Recap of The Writing Process Posts | M. B. Weston's Official Website

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