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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?

18 August 2017

It's Time to Admit I Have a Fear.

I've never told anyone outside of my immediate family I blog.

For those unfamiliar with my four and a half years of blogging journey: this is my first blog. I used to write under a nom de plume for awhile for the sake of privacy and the freedom of writing whatever I want, and over the years I've accumulated so much confidence as a writer and as a person. It wasn't until this year that I revealed my actual name and stepped into the limelight, and while I'm incredibly proud of what I've accomplished both in and out of the online world, this suffocating feeling of revealing the blogging part of myself, an aspect I've coddled away from the blogging world for almost five years, downright terrifies me.

There have been close calls over the years. A group of girls in middle school kept teasing me over the blog, and long story short, they dropped it after some time. This is most likely where my fear of blog sharing stems from. My huge group of friends also revealed they knew I blogged since my browser opened up to Blogger ninety percent of the time, and after many months trying to bog me down with the URL and getting no response, they've moved on. People from my math class ask where I publish my writing and I stay lip sealed. I'd always reply Blogger is used for coding when prompted to defend myself, but this secret of mine had been kept under wraps, and I'm all right with this arrangement.

Senior year is coming up, and perhaps younger me is saying, "Wow! You should just tell everyone you blog! They'll love it! It'll be all smiles and happily ever after!"

It's sweet and hopeful, and in some ways I am still the optimistic I was five years ago, but if I had to undergo this situation realistically with that optimism... Probably not.

As artists, there's the stigma of being afraid to share what we create with others simply for the fear of being judged. In fact,  judgement is the main benefactor when narrowing down the basis of most fears. "What if this is gets negative responses? What if people say that I suck and should burn all of my manuscripts?" Maybe not to the extent of that second one (because that's just a horrible troll looking for someone to react), but like all creators on the art or technical sides of the spectrum, fear is okay. Fear is inevitably part of the process. A ton of authors say once a book is published, it's not in their hands anymore, but the people's, and for some that is just shocking.

What's not okay is to expect the world the world to be perfect and treat the art we create with no ounce of malice armed towards ourselves when exposed to a larger audience. Blogging is considered an odd thing to do; if a person says they blogs, many automatically assume Tumblr and give weird looks which is not the case. I've submitted so many small pieces to various competitions and the like only to receive rejection letters, and this is only in the writing sense. Misunderstandings and confusion have enveloped much of my high school life to the point of just wanting to bundle up in bed and just hash it all out in writing, and while I acknowledge and accept this fear is there, it's not something I want to always face straight on.

The good news: ours fears can be worked on.

There have been times when I may have slipped in telling others about this little abode of mine I've created on the Internet. I've told two friends of mine at a writing conference, back when this blog was doused in a hot pink color scheme at the end of 2015, and accidentally blurted out the fact just recently in amidst of twenty other people I'd only recently been acquainted with at a meeting this past summer. Unlike the (unfortunate) scenario involving the three girls in middle school, the response was somewhat okay.

I still brace myself for negative comments, because I'll know they'll come racking in like a bulldozer. Even after this post years down the line this will still be something I will still need to work on, because some struggles are just hard to make go away entirely and getting to the point when they're fully "conquered" isn't a linear process. Some months things will get better only to falter negatively, then slowly hover at a bearable mark. To those dear friends whose limbs are immobilized, know that while this battle is daunting, we must learn to fight off the fears in my mind because we are the ones who must tame them, whether it be small the fear of staring into a person's eyes feeling vulnerable or big, like the fear of public speaking.

I am putting on thick skin. My courage has some bounds, and that is okay; I've decided to impart the info about my blog to close, trustworthy friends, the link and all, and whether or not they decide to read it is all up to them.

To real-life friends redirected to this post that have never seen this before: Hello! I hope you guys understand the reasons why I've never actually said anything about this little corner of mine where I write, and yes, this is also the reason why I have to stop us from eating whenever there is good food or there's a pretty plant in the garden that has no shade. Hopefully you don't mind my musings, and perhaps stay awhile?
Have you ever told anyone about your blog? How do you deal with the fear of negativity attacking your art? I start school on Monday-- when are you heading back to school? Do you like the new blog design and the mostly updated pages? Also, have you signed up for the yearbook yet?