Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Writer Wednesday: Revising Out Loud

I've been doing a lot of editing lately, both for clients and for my own books, so I thought I'd share a tip with you all today. I talk a lot about how I edit books backward in one of my reading passes, but something else that is just as important (maybe more important) is reading the book out loud.

I can't stress this enough. Yes, you will probably lose your voice if you revise too much in one sitting, but reading aloud allows you to identify so many weakness in your writing. Don't believe me? Ask people who have had their books made into audio versions if their readers (the person making the audio) identified errors. I bet they did. 

Here are just a few things you'll hear when you read your book aloud:

Repetition  Every manuscript I edit has repetition it in. Every single one. And in 
most cases it's unnecessary repetition that you don't want. (My editors get on my case for this too because seriously, everyone does it.) If you read your book aloud, the repetition pretty much slaps you in the face, and then you can get rid of it. You'll be thankful when the book reads more smoothly and the pace picks up, too.

Missing Words  Yes, you can hear missing words. You hear them because they aren't there. When we read in our heads, we don't always catch a missing "the" or "an," but you will when you read aloud.

Awkward Wording  You'll stumble over sentences that aren't quite right if you read them aloud. If you have to slow down or reread a sentence, something is wrong with your wording. Maybe it's a case of poor word choice or a phrase that doesn't quite read correctly. Either way, this is the time to fix it.

Contractions  I've had clients make words into contractions that have no right to be contractions. ;) It's awkward for the reader. In the same token, most kids don't speak without contractions, so if you're avoiding them completely, think again. Reading aloud will highlight areas that don't sound like real life speech.

Italics  Sometimes you have to make sure your intent with emphasis is clear. Italics will do that. So if you're reading a sentence and the emphasis could be placed on the wrong word, make life easier on your reader and add italics to the word or words you want emphasized.

I could probably keep going, but I think you get the point. It's worth the extra time it takes to read a manuscript aloud. 

Do you make reading aloud part of your revision process?


32 comments:

  1. I think a good substitute for reading is using text to speech
    software to get at the missing words and stuff.

    Because I talk crazy fast (which I have to REALLY work at curving it when I do videos with me or just my voice in them) reading aloud doesn't always work for me.

    Besides, my early drafts are rough enough that I have to do a lot of self-editing
    on my own, before I show it to others.

    But sometimes you're not the best judge of your writing despite
    how we stress the need to self-edit...

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    1. That's why we always need others to help us revise. It's really hard to edit your own work.

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  2. I find reading the manuscript (after the first draft) chapter by chapter and then reflecting on what I heard gives me that added edge. It definitely helps me focus and find those inconsistencies you mentioned. I'd like to add that reading backwards has always been hard for me. Not sure why I find it so taxing. Any specific method you use? Do you just skim basically? If I skim I find it easier, like letting my eyes find the issues. If I read (backwards) slowly, I tend to get bogged down and never get anything done. Weird ...

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    1. No, I don't skim. I go paragraph by paragraph. I actually love it because I find plot issues more easily when I read backwards.

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  3. I've been trying a lot of different ways to edit lately with the sequel to Hurricane Crimes. I tried reading it backwards, which I loved. I change the font size and color, which also helped. I have a beta reader looking at it now, but I plan on reading it out loud when those revisions are done. :)

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    1. I find saving it as a .pdf helps too. Errors stand out in that format.

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  4. Oh yes! I read it out loud and backwards - every time. My girls (dogs) are used to it but once in awhile someone walking past the office will poke their head in "Did you say something?" There is also software available, such as Verbose or Read Aloud which allow you to hear your manuscript being read - I just wish they sounded more human - but the robotic voice has actually prompted a few of my revisions.

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    1. Yes, those programs are helpful too, and you won't lose your voice. ;)

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  5. Very good tips! I haven't done this too much myself, but it certainly makes sense.

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  6. I have my hubby read out loud my PB manuscripts, but I haven't thought about it for my novels. Great idea.

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    1. I wish I could get my husband to read. Lucky you.

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  7. I've read out loud for short works. Never tried it with a novel. I'll have to do that. Great advice!

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    1. It's a little more daunting for a novel but I think it's worth it.

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  8. yup, my English teachers always taught me to do this. so important!

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  9. Yup,YUP! I just did this with a synopsis I'm working on, (slaving, to be exact) and caught an "echo" that managed to hide from through my editing eyes. But it was caught by the ears, so there!

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  10. I am a firm believer in the read aloud method! I have found more errors this way! :)
    ~Jess

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  11. Worse than contractions, I've seen emoticons in a WIP that I had to critique. Talk about LOL moment. :)

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  12. It might be even better to record yourself reading your book, wait a few months, then play it back as you're driving to work or doing mundane tasks (keeping a notepad close by!). You'd probably hear things that you wouldn't hear if you're busy reading your words out loud.

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    1. That's a great idea, and time away always adds perspective.

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  13. I don't think I've read an entire novel aloud, but I do read passages. It's a good way of finding out if what you THINK is on the screen is really there. A writing friend whose books were all NF of about 10-12K words read every single book aloud from start to finish when she was revising, and swore by that method.

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    1. It's a pain to do but definitely worth the extra effort.

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  14. I've never read a book out loud from start to finish(taking breaks of course), but I have read big portions here and there. I do want to start trying to read all of it out loud. Perhaps after I do a hard copy print out!

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    1. Ooh, hard copy print outs are great, too.

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  15. Definitely! Reading out aloud while editing helps me check for missing words and forces me to listen to the rhythm of the sentences.

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    1. Yes, it's great for hearing rhythm, too.

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  16. I've proofed backwards from the end before, but I've never tried to edit by reading aloud. That seems like a very clever idea, though I usually write in the living room while hubby watches TV, so I'll have to wait until he leaves before I start yakking away! lol

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    1. lol Yeah, he might not like you reading aloud while he watches TV. ;)

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