This is a simple post where I encourage you to speak – out loud – all the words of your book in progress. One single sentence and my alphabet blog post for “S” is complete.
Perhaps I will elaborate a bit.
A book is a theatrical experience in the same way that most anything creative is art, considered a right brain occupation. If you are like me, you “talk out loud in your head” every fiction book you read. I talk-act all the parts, even the despicable characters to whom you wouldn’t give the time of day in real life. I speak the dialogue and narrate the action and whisper the internal thoughts. Your book or mine, I talk it through, feeling the tension, sitting at the edge of my seat with my feet propped on a pillow, the book in my lap. Or on my computer.
OK, so you don’t need to be the drama queen I am, you don’t have to make paper hats or Popsicle stick actors to get into a story. Certainly not those you read for pleasure. But if you write, and I assume you do if you read my blog, read your own manuscript aloud. Not in your head, but loony tune, meshuggeneh, cuckoo as the clock, all out nuts out loud. Be passionate, get angry, weep your heart dry, host a theatrical reading experience – let your voice be heard. So what if the neighbors hear you? It’s your prerogative to give all for your art.
“And why is it necessary?” you ask, crossing one leg over the other, raising an eyebrow, speculating on my sanity or lack thereof. You haven’t read a story out loud since your kids were tiny tots, melted at your hip, begging for “one more.”
Part of the intent of your self-editing process is to catch the errors – the lapses in time frame, characterization blunders, inconsistencies in action, double exposures, words missing in action, and verb tense goofs. But your brain is so smart that it self-corrects better than spell chetck. You noticed how “check” is misspelled? Ordinary silent reading and you often miss stuff that doesn’t belong because your brain edits and shows you what you meant to write, not what you what you actually wrote. Did you catch it – “what you” twice? I’ve written the date of the Apollo 11 moon landing as July 20, 19969. Now you know that isn’t right, but can you figure out which number I accidentally repeated? Hint: should be July 20, 1969. In 19969 they’ll probably be walking on moons all over the Milky Way, stopping in for local cheese snacks. Words of omission are another frequent problem that its ugly head into writing. You know I meant to write “another frequent problem that pops its ugly head,” and without the fizzie of that pop, the meaning falls flat. The final problem area often overlooked concerns changes in verb tense in the middle of chapters or paragraphs. Most work is written in present tense, simple past tense, or perfect past tense. Author preferences reflect what feels natural to the time period and flow of the story, but if it had not been comfortable while we are writing, we had lost audience buy in. This last one needs an editor above my pay grade, but you surely sense the awkwardness of so much verb tense mash up. It’s easy to hear the tense mess when read aloud.
I spotted one of my own real life errors when a character argued with someone who was introduced several chapters later, a similar faux pas to muffing the punch line in a joke. The argument is crucial to the plot but must happen in the correct moment. I’ve also written Benjamin into Henry’s story, so familiar was I with both men that one just made an uninvited guest appearance in the other’s story. Henry didn’t complain of course; he hung back in the corner and smirked. I didn’t notice until I read the section intentionally and caught Benjamin involved in the wrong plot. Reading my work out loud helped me catch these errors because my mouth stumbled over the inconsistencies that my brain had previously “fixed.”
Reading engages the reader, even the reader who is also the writer, in present moment awareness of how the language of the story sounds/reads. It’s a slow tool but an outstanding method of catching blooper story experiences. And it’s fun to “act” your own work – you get to be the writer, the director, and the star. Three gilded Roscars right this way, please.
Image courtesy Jonathon Colman, Google images, public domain