Let’s Talk About Writing – Dust Off Those Vocal Chords

The title says it all. Dust off those vocal chords, because today we’re going to be talking about the benefits of reading your writing aloud!

“But Leighton,” you say, “why would I have to read my writing aloud? The whole point of reading is that it’s done silently.” To that, I say: Tell that to the audio book listeners out there. No, but seriously, this advice that I have to give you has nothing to do with whether your book will be read aloud someday or not (which, it totally will). It has to do with making your book the best it can be. That may also seem confusing, though. Like, how could reading a manuscript aloud make it better? Well, it helps in a few ways. Allow me to enlighten you.

First, it clues you in to how your novel’s language flows. As you’re reading aloud, you’ll be two thousand times more aware of any awkwardly-phrased lines, and you’ll be able to get a sense of the rhythm of your writing. For example, when reading your manuscript silently, those five sentences in a row that consist of seven words each may not even register. But when you’re reading aloud, the odds are better that you’ll realize the rhythm is starting to get monotonous, and then you’ll be able to pinpoint the problem and shake things up with shorter and longer sentences.

Second, repeated words and phrases will stand out to you more. As humans, we can sometimes become fixated on certain things. I’m especially guilty of this. Once I hear a word or phrase I like, I use it until I’ve run the well dry. In high school, I had this problem with the word “juxtapose.” I used it EVERYWHERE. The thing is, I didn’t realize I was using it everywhere. But if I had read my essays and writing aloud back then, it would’ve stood out like a sore thumb, and I would’ve been able to exchange a few of the “juxtapose”s with some “compare”s and “contrast”s. And, in case you’re wondering why it matters if you use the same word or phrase a lot, here’s the long and short of it: Word repetition just sounds clunky and lazy to a reader. The general rule is that common words (like “the,” “and,” “had,” “my,” “it,” etc.) can be repeated without someone noticing, but more complex words and any phrases should be used sparingly and interchanged with synonyms when possible. So keep your ears peeled for those repeated words while you’re reading your novel aloud.

Third, it gives you a better idea of your narrative voice and/or the first person narrator’s voice. When writing in your own voice, you want the narration to sound like… Well, like you! And when you’re writing in a character’s voice, you want the narration to sound like your character. As it turns out, this is easier said than done. A lot of the time, novice writers fall into the trap of writing awkwardly, for lack of a better term. They don’t use contractions, their language is stiff… There’s just nothing to the narration. And if a writer doesn’t read their writing aloud, it’s going to stay that way. If they do read their writing aloud, though, there’s a much greater chance that they’ll hear the awkward stiffness, and they can then work on correcting that. (On a related note, if you’d like me to make a post specifically about writing voice in the future, let me know in the comments!)

Fourth, it makes it easier to notice grammatical errors. When you’re reading your writing silently, you tend to skim. I mean, odds are you know your story inside and out, so skimming is only natural. The problem with this is that you can’t catch errors if your eyes are flying over the words faster than your brain can actually comprehend any of what you’re reading. When you read your work aloud, however, it forces you to slow down and actually read. When you do this, most of your grammatical and punctuation errors will be pretty obvious. They’ll make you stumble, trip over the awkward phrasing or oddly placed comma. For me personally, my biggest sin is accidentally putting a period where a question mark should go. Reading aloud helps me spot those moments and correct them without anyone else having to point them out to me.

Fifth, your dialogue will improve tremendously. It’s kind of like the voice thing I mentioned earlier. Many writers really struggle with writing realistic dialogue, and it’s because they allow it to become stiff and awkward. Reading the dialogue aloud, however, is the perfect cure. Doing so will help you recognize all of the parts that feel not-so-realistic. Then, you can work toward writing something more true to life. Sometimes I speak my dialogue aloud before I even write it down, in order to make sure it sounds how I wanted it to sound.

And if you take my advice and find that reading your writing aloud really does help to improve your writing, then I’ve got a challenge for you to take it one step further: Have someone else read your writing aloud for you. Or, at the very least, record yourself reading it aloud and then listen back to the recording. Trust me. Reading it aloud to yourself is one thing, but listening to someone else read your writing is so enlightening. You’ll be able to hear all of these things I’ve talked about in this post, especially if you recruit a friend to help you out and don’t just record yourself. This is because your friend won’t know the nuances of your story, while you do. So, with someone else reading for you, you’ll hear how your reader will perceive things rather than how you, the writer, perceive them. It’s like a beta reader for your ears. This, of course, is not as necessary as reading your own writing aloud, but it will make your book even better if you do follow through with it.

The most important thing to take from this post, though, is to take the time to make your book the best it can be. Dust off those vocal chords and really put in some effort to tidy up your story. Trust me, you won’t regret it.


No “Right” Answer? More Debating Over Self vs. Traditional Publishing

I know, I know. We all thought I had my answer. Self-Publishing was definitely the way to go when it came to The Caspian Chronicles, right? Right? Well, maybe not. I don’t know. The last time I was so torn on a decision, I was trying to figure out if I should break up with my high school boyfriend or not (I did). That was three years ago… today, actually. Wow. Time flies. Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that apparently this is the time of year when I question my decisions in life, and this year’s dilemma is the self vs. traditional publishing one.

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Burning Myself out with My Writing

Yeesh, it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to write out a blog post like this. Over a month, in fact. There’s something freeing about this type of post, where I can just sit down and let whatever I’m feeling pour out. I don’t need to worry about you guys not gathering everything I’m saying because there isn’t really anything for you to gather. I guess what I mean is that I’m not teaching, I’m just talking. It’s hella relaxing, I’ll tell you what.

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31 Days of NaNoWriMo Prep: Day 23 – How Do I Edit My Own Work?

Are you guys ready to edit? Because today’s Day 23 of “31 Days of NaNoWriMo Prep”, which means it’s time to learn how to edit your own work! I know, I know, you want to hop right into today’s lesson, but first I’ve gotta say… If you’re new here and you haven’t read the other 22 posts in this EPIC series, you can catch up here, or you can watch the corresponding YouTube videos here. Okay, now we can do this thing.

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Writing is Work (and Work is Hard)

Lately, I’ve noticed that a lot of people in my life seem to discredit the fact that my writing–and everything that goes along with it, from research to marketing and more–is actually work. I’ve had people say to me, over and over again, “Wow, you’re so lucky, you just get to sit around and write all day!” And, I mean, yeah. I am lucky. Or, at least, I will be when that’s my full time job and I’m able to support myself with it. But, the thing is, even when I do reach that point, it isn’t going to be all fun and games. In fact, it’ll be less fun and games than it is right now.

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The Allure of the Shiny Thing

“The allure of the shiny thing” is a term coined by the writing professor I had for my first two semesters here at college, Marcia Brenner. This magnificent woman (a woman who graced the world with my favorite quote of all time: “Trump is like the Krampus of politics. We got him because we were bad.”) has bestowed upon me most of the life-changing knowledge about writing that I’ve gained so far while I’ve been attending college. All of my other teachers are great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s Marcia that has literally changed my writing life for the better. She’s the one who taught me about rewrites, and the different writing forms, and the allure of the shiny thing.

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A Fuller, Richer Telling (AKA The Fruits of My Rewriting Labor)

So a while ago I made a post about how I was working on a rewrite of my novel. Remember? I was super hyped about it? Well… I’M STILL HYPED! Y’all, I’m so excited about how this rewrite is going. It just feels like the one, you know? Like, this is it. I mean, I’ll still need to go through everything I’ve written after this and do a few minor edits, but this is definitely the version I’m going to be sending off to agents. That’s enough to push me faster than ever toward the finish line.

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