The sound of the narrative #amwriting

Reading aloud is a great way to quickly discover the places I want to revise. I have always read portions of my work aloud, a page or two at a time. The places where I stumble are usually always the places that need ironing, so to speak.

In the past, I have only gone to this trouble with sections that I felt had some indefinable thing wrong with them. But lately, I’ve been printing out each chapter in its entirety a day or two after I finish writing it, trying to hear where the prose doesn’t work. I use a yellow highlighter on the places that feel rough.

I’m a slow writer, but I have several looming deadlines for contests and anthologies. This seemed like a good way to speed up development, getting short stories from rough draft to finished in a timely fashion.

As anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, I rarely have a piece that is perfectly clean. I am the only eye that sees it before posting. Despite my best efforts, I catch many things the day after something was posted. I always check through my work on the computer screen, and I catch a lot there, but the eye sees what I intended to write.

This bleeds over into my other work. But if I wait a day or two and then read the paper printout with fresher eyes, I find repeated words, dropped words, and all sorts of typos. Even better, reading the printout aloud exposes the rough areas, the places where the words “fight with each other.”

When you are trying to pronounce the words, run-on sentences really stand out, and clunky prose won’t flow well. The narrative reads well for a long stretch, and then it hits a stumbling point.

That yellow highlighter of mine really gets a work out—maybe I’ll have to buy a case of them.

Another thing I have discovered by reading the entire chapter rather than just a page here and there—I can see where I am repeating entire ideas. This is a common problem for me in the first draft.

Having Natural Reader or another reading program do the reading for you helps, and I have made use of that many times. But this experience has shown me that while these wonderful programs are incredibly useful, they don’t do the job quite as well as a human voice does. They often mispronounce words that are heteronyms—words that are spelled the same as another word, but which are pronounced differently and have different meanings.

  • Read (pronounced reed) as in the act of reading
  • Read (pronounced red) as in having already finished reading the book.

Natural Reader rarely guesses those sorts of words correctly. The cadence and rhythm of the narrative is not as clearly heard when the mechanical voice does the reading, even if you are reading along silently. It tends to be rather flat, a monotone.

I’m not talking poetry here, but good prose has movement when it is read out loud. Sometimes it’s fast, sometimes slow, but it should have no rough spots for the reader to stumble over.

What I love about listening to audio books is the way prose sounds when it’s read aloud by an experienced narrator. Some narratives are beautiful when read aloud, and some are not.

If you intend to have your work made into an audio book, you want to make your work easy for the narrator to read without faltering.

So, now I will add ‘printing out and reading entire chapters aloud and marking places that need correction with a yellow highlighter’ as a regular tool in my writer’s toolbox. As long as the old printer keeps limping along, doing its job, this should speed things up.


Filed under writing

21 responses to “The sound of the narrative #amwriting

  1. Hi Connie,
    I have used Natural Reader, but the new version of Word has it built in and so much easier to correct the errors. I find using a computer reading software more effective than my reading aloud. Just as when I proof my text, I read what I think is on the page and not what I’ve written. This may be because of my inexperience. Whether I read it myself or the software does, I agree that if the sentence doesn’t flow well, it needs correcting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good prose does have its own movement and cadence — I quite agree. I need to set up some sort of deadline for myself to help keep me on track, Connie. As usual, you’re an inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stephen Swartz

    I catch many a correctly spelled error by reading aloud. For example, my worst gotcha is typing “won” because that’s how I hear it in my head, when I really meant “one”.
    Also, I must read dialog aloud, in the appropriate accent, and normally while others are close enough to hear me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read my work out aloud to my mother. I pick up little errors and she picks up where I have assumed to much on behalf of the reader and need to flesh things out a bit more.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Prior to reading your post I had just read a 4000 word blog post which quite easily could have been halved in size if they had heeded the repetition advice.
    That was one of many things I hated about the novel Robinson Crusoe. He would spend three or four pages telling the reader about the most mundane task then say “I shall explain this in more detail later” (paraphrasing) – and he would too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Sound advice from Connie 👍😃


  7. stephaniedanielsonauthor

    Reblogged this on Author S. L. Danielson and commented:
    I like this technique! I read mune aloud on the screen or have several pairs of eyes take a gander.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the reblog ♥ I don’t key efficiently, so my raw work is full of rough spots. I do have several kind readers who read my manuscripts, but my goal this year is to write “cleaner’ but quickly. Will it work? I hope so so..

      Liked by 1 person

      • stephaniedanielsonauthor

        My typing has gotten more precise (on my laptop, definitely not my phone)…
        Good luck on the goal! Slow down just a tick and type with focus…I hope it helps!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Think I’m going to try the print and highlight method. Thanks for the great tip!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Printing my draft is one of my favourite parts of editing. You get inspired by having a physical draft in your hand and then scribble and destroy it with highlighters and sticky notes. With my current novel I’ve printed it a few times. I’m currently going back through and buffing the plot and characters. Once I’m done that I’ll do a word choice pass to buff my sentence structure and language and then I’ll print it and read through it without editing it once and make notes at the end of sections that were slow or needed more polishing/needed to be earned. I actually really enjoy the entire writing process including the editing! Hopefully your finding it reasonable too ~ Mira

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I also find it helpful to see corrections on printed hard copies of chapters. Using the editing programs comments function helps a lot as days might pass before I can get back to the edits, and the comments remind me very specifically what was wrong and how it could be fixed.

    Liked by 1 person