I just finished reading out loud my WIP titled The Seeming Impossibility of Everything. I did this for When Stars Die and The Stars Are Infinite. It was my first publisher who suggested I read out loud–especially the second book because he wanted to cut down on extraneous words before moving forward with the project.
I’ll admit it wasn’t my favorite thing to do. After all, that second book was 105,000 words when I first submitted it, and I managed to parse it down by 11,000 words. It was a lot of painful work. TSIoE wasn’t as bad because it’s about 75,000 words.
When we read only in our heads, the book sounds different to us. Reading it out loud essentially makes us become the reader, so we’re able to see the book how a reader might.
When I was a tutor at my university’s writing center, we had all students read their papers out loud to make it easier for them to catch their own errors. We weren’t allowed to directly point out errors to them.
Now you can make it easier on yourself by having Microsoft Word read it out loud for you, but I never checked if Google Docs has that same function.
- You catch repetitive words and phrases. It’s so much easier to figure out what words you’re overusing when you can actually hear what you wrote. When you’re reading in your head, you become more passive, making it easier to to gloss over words and phrases you’re overusing.
- Awkward sentence structure and run-on sentences. Reading in your head is naturally a lot easier than reading out loud. Reading out loud means that if you suddenly start stumbling over what you wrote, you might want to go back and re-write that sentence because it’s likely poorly structured. You can also easily catch run-on sentences, though some writing programs point this out for you.
- Typos. Reading in your head makes it likelier that you’ll gloss over a great deal of what you’ve written since the brain is excellent at being able to construct entire sentences without needing to read every word in the sentence. The brain is so focused on creating meaning out of the words that it looks at the bigger picture rather than all the details within. But reading out loud, however? You are forced to read every single word, so you’re able to see where your typos are. It’s not a guarantee you’ll catch every one, but you’ll find more than you would not reading out loud.
- Lack of logical cohesion. As you’re reading through your paragraphs, you’ll be able to unveil where some of your story logic may fall apart. For example, in WSD, my MC’s best friend was caught in a trap, and my MC suddenly realized she didn’t stand a chance at being able to free her. I ended the chapter at that and started the next one with her sitting underneath the cloister of a cathedral feeling defeated. The logic fell apart because what happened to her best friend? I never even mentioned what was going through her head to make her decide to just abandon her best friend. But reading out loud helped me not only catch that but come up with some logic that didn’t involve tearing the entire scene apart.
- Pacing. Reading out loud will be able to tell you if you’re going too fast or two slow. It’ll also be able to tell you if you’re using too many short or long sentences in succession, which can absolutely affect the pacing.
- Missing parts. When you’re writing that first draft, it’s assumed you are just writing down whatever comes to mind. If you’re using an outline, it might be a bit more organized, but you’re still writing down whatever comes to mind based off the bullet points in your rough draft. You’ll immediately find incomplete points by reading out loud, thoughts that you started but just let fly off into the ether.
In short, just give reading your manuscript aloud a go.