22 August 2017

Three Ways Reading Your Writing Aloud Improves Your Craft

As a way to get myself down into full-on writing mode since essays and competitions are calling out to me, I've been listening to a ton of performed pieces online.

Nothing is better at reading than how we read in our heads, and our introverted selves knows this well. Everything is perfectly intonated without flaws, but getting it out verbally is another story. Why would anyone want to read their writing out loud? The effort doesn't appear worth it. But it is! Here's how.

This is the most glaringly obvious reason to read your work aloud. No matter how many times one goes through their document to hunt down all of those typos and misconceptions that hadn't been cleared up before, not all of them will get cleared up in one sitting. I'm not relaying either that this method is always the most effective way for simple line edits involving punctuation-- words may soon turn into mush and then mouths just rattle on until spittle begins to form at the cress. Reading your work out loud for editing and revising purposes demands full attention, but it is more effective than having a computer read off your work and perhaps not catch that missing comma within quotes.

Reading your work out loud does point out areas of improvement that may go unnoticed. Maybe some sentences are wonky in word structure. Perhaps the color of a silk blanket changed to blue, when it had been established green two pages prior, and maybe this blanket ends up causing an entire village to perish because it had been riddled with a terrible virus strain and investigators in the story are trying to find the blanket's origins from two villages that make different silk colors.

Sure, a voice reader produced by a Kindle reader or a computer can easily do these things. Why be bothered with doing something that sounds so tedious? However, it shouldn't be always relied upon, as it would omit the next two important points I'm about to tell you, which are very much important and you can't receive from a computer dialect.

There are books with some incredibly lyrical writing that can draw you in right away, sucking you into the world the author has created. The way their writing wanes and ebbs along the lines, the poetic pauses and the faint breath before starting another sentence. How can one possible get on that level? It's hard to figure out, but the answer lies in understanding rhythm.

While reading your writing aloud, it's easy to find common fallbacks, which ties in to the previous point. Skews of long sentence after long sentence wraps the pages and it drags on. Some adjectives (particularly those dressed at the ends with -ly) feel like they bog down the quality of the piece because the word pacing is slightly off. The main thing to do is to one, consider what scene is on the page, and two, understand the atmosphere in that moment of the book.

For example, if a scene encompasses characters chased out of a forbidden area, use short sentences. Instead of saying, "They stopped to catch their breath," show them doing that by how the sentences are written! It doesn't need to be written down because it's presented without having to be verbose. Make the sentences short and snippy, and gradually build length as they regain their breath and their sense of panic is arising again.

Another example is describing the ocean on a warm sunny evening. It contrasts tonally with the chase scene. Instead of necessarily saying, "The ocean rose and fell," allow the sentences and the descriptions to rise and fall by the strength of the words being used by saying something like, "'El mar, mija,' my grandmother would say. 'El mar.' Her dying words came at a light whisper as foam kissed my barren toes in soft greeting. The waves retreated back to the heart of this vast sea where, like abuela, all living things returned to at the end."

As the advice goes, "Show, don't tell... balance these two aspects out" This is an aspect of that. It takes years practicing this. It's something I've focused on in my writing a lot, and even after writing for over seven years, it's something that I still work on. But, even if there is only a slight understanding on rhythm in the beginning, so much improvement will occur the more this gets delved into and the more it's understood.

Twelve-year-old me despised presentation time at her writing group, for one good reason: everyone read their pieces in a monotone voice, which irked her so much that she tried not to flinch when the next person got up and began reading. Writing is meant to evoke emotion and feeling, even if the piece isn't classified as "deep." Stories are meant to evoke emotion. They're supposed to make you feel trepidation, despair, zealousness-- the feelings a character feels-- among many things. Even if the words are beautiful, if the presentation isn't great, people will automatically start tuning out.

Getting to the point where your voice conveys what's written melodically is hard, and there's only two ways to do just that. One, listen to a ton of written pieces being performed. Go onto YouTube and search up Spoken Word videos or go to an Open Mic night at your cafĂ© or library. Watching videos and listening to writers perform has actually made me grasp a better sense of how to be sensitive with my pieces and my craft as a whole. Even if one's sole works are primarily novels, one still learns a lot because the rhythm in writing is much easier to listen to. If listening isn't easy to concentrate on, find a transcript or put on subtitles and just listen.

Secondly, read your writing aloud. Understand how each sentence should sound. Recognize what the words are saying and how it should be conveyed when said aloud. Do the same for other works by published authors-- study their poetry and prose, take notes and record yourself saying their work out loud. Mastering this will result in a much better understanding of what your piece is saying, and what you're trying to say. This all seems very tedious, from hind sight-- but who ever said writing is easy?

Do you ever read your writing aloud? What are some authors or poet slammers you enjoy listening to because of the way they read their pieces? What other kinds of writing advice posts should I hit on?


  1. Yes, this post is so true! Thanks for reading me of the importance of reading my works aloud!!!

  2. This is definitely so spot on. I've found that I will miss a lot of typos or things that just don't have good flow when I read it out loud.

  3. YESSS what a lovely post. Awesome tips and honestly you're SO on your way to perfecting your craft [it was already epic to begin with (;]
    Can't wait to read more!!

  4. 1. Your photography is bomb.

    2. These tips are superb! It's funny. I've always felt a struggle when it came to putting my thoughts into verbal form, and I have been considering lately whether or not reading aloud would help this. But then the Hard Work monster came and a mental battle ensued. I'm pleased to inform you that this post has swayed + inspired me. I am ready to take action and reap the (eventual) benefits.

    Thank you so much.

  5. Dude my writing improved LOADS when I started reading out loud. It blew my mind a little bit. I was skeptical when i first started this advice...and then I started doing it and WOW IT HELPS SO MUCH. There's also the bonus of being able to read in funny accents. I can't confirm it helps the quality of your writing but 12/10 it improves the quality of your day would recommend.

  6. I always read my work out loud! At least when no one's around hahah. It works so well because of all the reasons you've listed there. Yeey!! <3

  7. I also read my writing out loud! I find that most of my mistakes start popping up then :). I also really like to check how expressive the dialogue is. Great Post!

    xx Bubbles

  8. This is so good Abby, this post is stuffed with so many goodies of helpful advice. And you've persuaded me to start reading out loud to myself...a bit hard with a large family but we'll find a way ;)

    Also on a completely different note I've been thinking it would be so cool if couples or friends started reading to each other more...taking turns reading chapters. I feel like it would bond people and there would be so much you could learn from each other through it. I mean of course it'd be a bit awkward at first but eventually I feel like people would find it incredible to do. :))) Anna ideas. xD

    Anyway this was a great post Abby <333 Thank you so much for sharing all this.

    Anna | www.worldthroughherheart.blogspot.com

  9. I definitely need to read out loud all of my work. I've been kind of meaning to, but I also haven't thought about all the good things that might come of it. I am motivated to do it ASAP!! :)

  10. Ah I missed this post! Don't know how that happened ;) Sorry I'm only getting here now!

    Such good points, Abby. I think the biggest one for me is understanding rhythm and listening to check if the sentences flow, etc. That is SO important, and something I struggle with when writing - whether it be blog posts, reviews, stories, or even blog comments (like this one...)
    Reading aloud definitely helps me there.

    Excellent post!

    Amy @ A Magical World Of Words

  11. Yay thank you for these writing tips :) These are all so helpful and important.

  12. YES. I used to be all, "Read aloud my work?? Nah, reading it in my head it enough." Then I'd submit my essay or story and find spelling mistakes every second page. Sad times. :(

    I loved your example of using shorter phrases for breathing. Everything you said about rhythm, actually = brilliant and true. Things like rhythm are just as important in a story, in my opinion. It's just more of a subconscious effect, isnt it? :)

  13. Oh, I love this post, Abby! I think that reading your writing aloud DEFINITELY helps, in lots of ways! I read faster when I read in my head, which can, a lot of the time, cause me to skip over important things that I need to change. And yes! Sometimes when I'm writing, I have to say the sentence out loud to make sure it sounds like I want it to rhythmically. This happens A LOT when I write poetry because poetry is all about that rhythm. XD AND OMG YESSSSSSSSS. Everyone reads so monotonously, but if they were telling a story WITHOUT reading from their notebooks, it'd be so much more personality-filled??? Reading just takes away their voice, which SUCKS. I really try to read my writing in an interesting way, when I have to share, but I'm super shy so that's a little hard for me. XD Love this post!!

    may @ forever and everly


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