A surefire way to improve your writing today: read your work aloud.

DSC_0093 This last weekend I flew to Nashville to record the Thin Places’ audio book. This is my first time reading for a book, and the whole process proved to be enlightening. Afterward, I realized that if every author read their work aloud, they’d improve dramatically? How? Four ways.

  1. Reading the book aloud, I found four errors. Remember that a traditionally published book goes through several phases of editing. The substantive edit is the biggie where the editor tells you your macro problems (leaps of logic, if a novel: story issues, lack of clarity, poor research, etc.) Then the book goes through a line edit where grammar issues arise. After that, you read through it again, then you receive the galleys to also proofread. So you’re typically looking at the manuscript four times, not to mention all the editorial eyes on the piece. Thin Places had been through all four of these stages, and yet as I read aloud, I caught blaring errors. I’ve emailed them to the publisher. Thankfully, the book is not yet in print, so it’s easily fixable.
  2. You find your pet words. Who knew I used the word “penchant” way too much? Or “mess”? Editors do catch these things, but sometimes they don’t. At this point in the game, I can’t replace my extra words, but I do wish I’d have read it out loud first so I knew.
  3. You catch awkward sentence structure. Nothing is better than articulating your sentences out loud to catch clunky wording. I stumbled a few times, having to re-read the sentence or paragraph to make it work. Had I read the entire manuscript out loud, I’d have caught these.
  4. You catch repetitive themes. I realized how much I wrote about how hard it is for me to justify my existence on this earth, how very broken and needy I was/am. How my insecurity bleeds into my life. (Of course, this is dependent on the type of book you’ve written. Since mine is a memoir, these are the kinds of things I find.)

If you truly want to grow, change and become an excellent writer, I highly recommend reading your work out loud. Sure, you risk your family thinking you’re bonkers, but at least you’ll be a better writer (crazy, yes, but better!)

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