Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Read To Me

One of the most valuable tools in a writer's arsenal is your own voice. I don't mean your writing style, commonly referred to as a writer's voice. I'm talking about the sound your written words make when spoken aloud.

I am a firm believer that compelling writing across every genre possesses a musical quality when read aloud. A staccato rhythm can bog down the reader and seem like you're peppering them with short, three-round bursts. It's boring, folks.

For example: I like to write. Writing is a joy. Writing gives me pleasure. I express myself through writing. My readers like my writing. Versus: I like to write. It gives me joy and pleasure to express myself in this way. If my readers gain half as much enjoyment from my writing as I do in creating it, they are well-satisfied indeed.

See the difference? Hear the difference? If you read them both aloud, while both are phenomenally bad, the second selection at least sounds more interesting. I think you get the idea.

Each time I sit down to edit a passage of my own work in progress, I begin by reading it aloud. Something about the spoken word amplifies any awkwardness that the reader might encounter, potentially causing them to stop reading altogether. I can't tell you how many times I've had to re-read a sentence in someone else's work to try to decode the writer's intended meaning. Often it remains a mystery until I read it aloud. Trust me when I say this, words sound different in your head than they do in the air. Emphasis and inflection can drastically alter a sentence's meaning.

Another benefit, you can also avoid what I call the "Sylvester Syndrome" after the Looney Tunes cat who spit his way through every sentence. "Sssssuffering ssssucatasssshhh!" I'm embarrassed to say this has absolutely happened to me and should be avoided whenever possible. Too many esses in a sentence can be a bad, bad thing.

Rhythm is an integral component in good writing. I promise you won't regret reading your work in progress or even applying it to a book you're having difficulty slogging your way through (Shakespeare comes to mind). Let me know if this technique helps you in any way. I think it will.

Keep writing,


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