Why You Should Read Your Novel Out Loud

Hey, writer pal! If you're a Blots & Plots regular, you know that I like to give fun tips to make novel writing easier and more creative. One of my favorite and most popular posts is Why You Should Write Your Novel on Paper, and today, I'm happy to present its twin, Why You Should Read Your Novel Out Loud!

Have you ever heard people talk about the rhythm of a novel? A common example of this is The Great Gatsby, which when read out loud, sounds almost like a poem. Now, not every novel needs to sound like this when read audibly, but that F. Scott was onto something. When you read your novel out loud, you can experience your novel in a completely new way.

What ways, you ask? Allow me to open your eyes, my friend.

Pacing makes or breaks your story

When I hear the term "pacing your novel," I always think of a horse race. {Don't ask me why. This brain is a mysterious and magical place.} You have the horses who start off sprinting, and then taper off into a nice, solid trot near the end. Then, you have the ones who can't get their footing quite right, and quickly fall to the end of the pack.

When it comes to your novel, there are two types of pacing that require your attention:

  1. Story pacing. This is the my-plot-is-too-slow, my-characters-don't-have-an-arc dilemma. It's the basic flow of your story.
  2. Sentence/word pacing. This is where your sentence varying comes into play. Do you use too many contractions? Do you have way too many run-on sentences?

If you read your novel out loud, you can get a much better idea of sentence-level pacing. It's one thing to eye-ball the page. It's a completely different ball game when you hear it spoken.

You are a word repeater

Sometimes, if I like a word a heck of a lot, I find it filtering into all of my sentences. Or I find myself giving my characters the same actions. Lord, can my characters roll their eyes. When looking at your manuscript page-by-page, you limit yourself to the margins. However, if you pick a scene and read it from start to finish, you'll find more habits than you might imagine.

Here are a few things to listen for when you read your novel, piece by piece:

  1. Extraneous words. I absolutely detest the word "some," yet I find it trickles into my work like crazy. It's not until I read it out loud that I realize how unnecessary it is.
  2. Repeat words. Again, your characters can only roll their eyes so many times, people. Didn't your mother ever tell you that your face will get stuck that way?
  3. Boring words. Are your own words boring you? Add some pizzazz! {Use the word pizzazz, if you feel so inclined.}

Your Dialogue Is Your Story's Soul

Okay, maybe you don't agree with me. Maybe, you're a setting kind of gal/guy. I think we can all agree that without dialogue, we have no novel. {Unless you are super literary or a poet or extremely innovative.}

Dialogue can be a tricky game. Each character has their own way of speaking and phrasing their sentences. If you get really advanced, you should be able to present pieces of dialogue anonymously to your readers and have them guess the character correctly. Every time. {More on characters over here.}

But we don't need to be there yet.

When it comes to dialogue, your characters need to sound like real people having real conversations. When we read our dialogue out loud, we can get creative with it. Here are some tips:

  1. Put on a play! Assign parts. Maybe you have awesome friends/family who are willing to chip in for the cause. Assign parts and act it out! Take notes on what works and what doesn't.
  2. Break out your tape recorder. Again, dialogue is tricky. It might help to listen to your scenes in playback form.
  3. Pretend you're taping an audiobook. You're not a writer anymore. You're a voice actor! Each character = a new voice. Have fun with this, pal.

And there you have it! I can't wait to see what kind of fun adventures this new strategy will bring you.

Discussion Time: Have you ever read your writing out loud? Are you excited to give it a try?