Lesson 6: Read It Out Loud!
This is one of the most important writing lessons I have learned. It is a simple thing, but I highly recommend you do it for all your written pieces…read your piece back to yourself... out loud!
I consider myself a storyteller, which generally means I like to tell stories, and I like to share stories by reading to others out loud. It started with my children, as I experienced great joy reading their favourite bedtime stories every night. It was a nightly ritual when they were little, especially when we were at our little lake cabin where there was no power, and therefore no TV, or electronic devices. Reading to my kids was the highlight of my day. Their happy smiles were my bliss as a parent. (our family favourite at the lake was a chapter or two from The Magic Stick, available now as an eBook on Amazon, the link is available for you on My Bookshelf page.)
Fast-forward to my life now, and know that I still like to read my stories or poems out loud to others. I often write poetry for friends and family for special occasions, and I always practise my work out loud at home before I present my celebratory poem as a gift as I later read it out loud to the recipient. This is always a win-win... I get a grateful smile and thanks from someone, and having a happy recipient brings me much joy! (Maybe I should start a podcast and read more of my works out loud, I certainly have so many to share!)
One of the fabulous things about reading a story out loud is that you can hear and feel when a sentence flows and when the story is easily travelling along. When a word is incorrectly used, or a sentence is choppy or off in some way, it becomes obvious when the story is read aloud.
My advice to you is to take whatever you have written and read it back to yourself out loud. Maybe you have someone who you can read aloud to at home, someone who supports you in your writing and is willing to listen kindly as you read to them. Sometimes as a bonus, they will also give you constructive feedback, (but that is a subject for another post). Just know that it is on you to to finish your piece, and in reading it back to yourself out loud you are getting another important perspective.
Every story or poem I write I read back to myself out loud. It is a very important step that has become invaluable to me as I have been developing my writing skills. I will fully admit that I am no writing expert, nor a fully trained expert with which to give you the perfect advice. What I am is someone who loves to write, who has been publishing and has found out that reading my written work out loud catches the obvious, and not so obvious mistakes. It often points to where punctuation may need to be, and catches the lack of flow in a chain of sentences. It also catches where a new paragraph or section may need to begin.
That is not to say, we don’t do our first edit more visually. For instance, spellcheck on your device is not always your best friend, so your first edit must involve a visually analytical approach. Look at the words ‘to, too and two’. Spellcheck may allow the incorrect version of those words to be left on the page. So start your editing in a visual direction. Then, as the piece melds, read it back to yourself out loud.
Having said this, when I write rhyming poetry I read my lines out loud back to myself more often than when I am involved in writing a story. The obvious reason is that I have to hear how the words in a line or stanza sound, so I can analyze and hear if the words are actually properly rhyming and that the sentences in each verse have a rhythmic flow, and then a flow from verse to verse.
I suggest your pour yourself a glass of water and place it by you as you write, or make that cuppa tea to have handy, (maybe with a slice of lemon?), so that your vocal chords are happily hydrated as you read to yourself, out loud, what you have written. I guarantee this method will catch things that you have missed if you just silently read the words and sentences back with the old 'inside voice'. Doing the editing and polishing by reading your piece out loud will let you know when a piece really works, and when it doesn’t. It also lets you hear when it is done, or when it may need something more because it feels incomplete or unfinished.
Obviously, this lesson applies to written works that you wish to share with someone or with the world. For Pete’s sake, if you are privately journalling none of this matters, because writing for your personal or private means, such as in journalling or writing in a diary is not for anyone else’s eyes, and grammar, spelling and sentence structure means nothing. Expressing yourself is the important factor in that situation. Just go for it, just write from your heart and mind.
In any event, I hope this small piece of advice to read your written works back to yourself out loud helps you produce a good story or other written piece. I know it has been an invaluable method of support for me, and I hope sharing this with you helps and supports you on your own writing journey…
"Happy writing! " (said to you out loud)
* photo courtesy of lilartsy on Unsplash