The Spoken Word

I’m going up to Santa Fe tomorrow (August 1, 2016) to read from my first science-fiction novel at Collected Works bookstore.  They have an open mike*, and anyone can read a five minute work.  I picked out a very short section of the novel, a sort of tiny story within the larger story.

I’ve always liked to read from my works, whether only a part of a larger work, or a complete story in itself.  There are two ways of reading out loud: to others, and alone.  I read everything I write out loud after I’m done with the first revisions.  I mostly do that alone, but I will read to others if the situation arises.  Granted, it’s hard to find someone who will listen to me read an entire novel, but a short story can sometimes be read within a five minute period at an open mike event.

Reading out loud helps find the areas that are clunky and out of sync with the rest of the story.  I want everything to read smoothly, and I can’t always find that in silent reading.  Silence is good for the preliminary stuff such as the initial draft and those dreaded first revisions, but eventually I have to begin reading out loud to find the hidden unwieldy and clumsy areas.  They’re in there; it just takes some doing to bring them out.  I’ve even heard from one person who has his/her iPad read it out loud.  That helps, too.  It’s like getting someone else to read your work to you.  Reading out loud does take more time because talking is slower than silent reading, but it’s worth the time and effort.

Probably the most important reason reading out loud works is that it forces you to read every word.  You can’t skip over a word or phrase as you can in silent reading.  “Oh,” you tell yourself, “I’ve been over this part so many times, I’m just going to skip it.”  Nope, that’s not allowed in out loud reading.

The second reason reading out loud works is that in its slowness the relationship between words and phrases and sentences is exaggerated, and their interaction is accentuated.  You see connections that weren’t there before, and things you thought were connected may not be, or look different.  I have made changes in sentence structure based on a verbal reading.

I strongly recommend every writer try it, if you aren’t already.

*I’d say “open mic,” but WordPress flags “mic.”  Oddly enough, it also flags “WordPress.”

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