One odd thing about me is that I love acting, but I hate public speaking. Put me in a costume, give me a character to be and someone else’s words to say, and I’ll do all right; but make me stand in front of people as only myself and I’ll start flubbing my words and breaking out in a cold sweat. And that goes doubly for making me read my own work.
The problem is now that I’m a writer with a few things published, I find that there are times when people want me to read my work out loud. And if you happen to be a writer, you may also find yourself in these kinds of situation. Whether it be book launches, signings, competitions, or conventions, there may come a time when someone expects you to read a thing you’ve written. So best get used to reading your own words (or inventing an “Eccentric Author” character to slip into when you need to do a reading *coughcough*).
However, reading your own work can be a great idea—even if it’s not for the public. As much as we love to stare at what we’ve written on the page and admire how awesome it looks, saying those words out loud can help your writing be better.
For example, reading sentences out loud can help you realize if you’ve accidentally used the wrong word or if an errant word has snuck in, or if auto-correct is messing with you.
Natural sounding dialogue can sometimes be hard to write, but if you try saying what you’ve written out loud then you might realize that something doesn’t quite flow or that your typical, modern-day character does not use any contractions when they are talking. (This can also be a lot of fun to do if your characters have specific tones or accents.)
You might also pick up on unnecessary or unintentional repetition. When speaking words out loud, I find it easier to recognize when I’ve used the word “said” too often; or if I’ve repeated a line that was written only a few paragraphs ago. For example, in an earlier draft of this post, I used the word “yourself” twice in one sentence, and it wasn’t until I read this post out loud that I realized what I’d done.
I make sure to do this for short stories, as it’s a pretty good way to “level-up” my draft. It can be difficult when it comes to novellas or novels—I mean, it can take hours to read through those—but if you’ve got the patience for it, it helps. Even if you’re just muttering what you’ve written under your breath.