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:
- The Writing Process: Part 1 – Getting Your Inspiration
- The Writing Process: Part 2 – The Conflict
- The Writing Process: Part 3 – Plot: Your Story’s Skeleton
- The Writing Process: Part 4 – The “Pre-Draft”
- The Writing Process: Example of a “Pre-Draft”
- The Writing Process: Part 5 – The First Draft (A)
- The Writing Process: Part 5 – The First Draft (B) Description
- The Writing Process: Part 6 – Cutting Your Darlings
- The Writing Process: Part 7 – Editing for Grammar & Style
- The Writing Process Part 8 – Using Advance Readers
- The Writing Process Part 9 – Dealing With Critique
You’ve applied the changes your advance readers suggested, and you are ready to send your manuscript to the publisher, right?
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.