Reading your novel aloud

One piece of advice often given to writers to improve your writing is to ‘read your novel aloud’. I have tried this in the past and not found it much use. I always read what I expected to read, not what was actually on paper. Not only that, I don’t have much of an ear, so I can’t hear rhythms when I speak anyway. I even tried taping myself. That turned out to be a lot of effort for little return.

Then we started reading Sherylyn’s latest work aloud over dinner.

Let me tell you, reading your novel aloud does help you improve it. But you need two people, and you both have to read the same sections.

One reads it first and the other listens. Then the second person reads it while the first reader listens. It’s amazing how much you can improve a story.

Some other tips.

  • Don’t read for too long. We find that after around 10-15 pages we’re not as careful about the editing. After that you need to take a break and come back to it
  • If possible, both of you see the manuscript. Having two working copies makes for two sets of edits, but if the person listening can see what the other person is reading they see what words the reader skips. As I said, sometimes you read what you want to read, not what is actually on the page. Those words the reader skips usually don’t need to be in there anyway.

It’s hard work. A 100,000 word novel comes out to around 250 pages. At 10 pages a night, you have 25 intensive nights ahead of you.

I say it’s worth it.

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