Quick Writing Tip: Reading Aloud to Oneself

With November only about a month away (technically thirty-six days away as of today), I’m reminded that many are taking part in that great marathon writing session known as “National Novel Writing Month” or “NaNoWriMo.”  And that’s wonderful.  It really is.  The point of NaNoWriMo is to get people who normally wouldn’t find time to write to, well, write.  I’ve certainly taken part in it before (never finished or “won” the event, which is determined by reaching a word count of 50,000 words by the end of the day on November 30), and if a person can come to terms with the fact that what they’ve written during the month of November is nowhere near being close to complete or worthy of publish just yet, it’s a nice little kick in the pants.

I don’t know why a viking helmet is in the logo.

But, let’s say a person isn’t partaking in the event just for therapy, and actually would like to publish their work one day.  Let’s say that person wants to, specifically, self-publish.  How does one get the manuscript to the point of being worthy of something approaching “mass release”?

Editing. 

It’s a long and arduous process, but it’s worth it in the end. Part of the editing process is building a stable of “beta-readers,” or friends and family (or sometimes complete strangers) who will read your work and give you honest, thoughtful feedback on everything from grammar errors to plot holes.

But what if you don’t have beta-readers, or have beta-readers who offer no real insight into how to improve your work, especially in the more technical departments of grammar and punctuation? How can you be sure that your work at least reads like something approaching the King’s English?

Well, today I’m going to share with you aspiring writers an extremely quick and effective tip on editing in isolation that I learned from the published authors (like, for realsies published) who taught me:

Vocally read your work to yourself.

That’s right, read your work aloud. Why?  Because our brains and eyes like to play tricks on us.  We know what the book, short story, or whatever we’ve written should look like, so our eyes and brains skip over errors, correcting the inconsistencies internally.  But if we read the thing aloud, we are using a different sense and two different skills (one being a motor skill, technically).  We will be 75% more likely to catch sentence structure problems, misspellings, double-word errors, typographical errors, dialog issues, and the like. If it sounds wrong, it probably is wrong–and, if we’re unsure whether or not it’s wrong, we can look it up.

It’s an effective little technique and an easy-to-use editing tool to help get you closer to putting your work out there for the world to see.

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