For my last 3 or 4 books, plus the three I have edited prior to re-release, reading aloud has been part of my editing process. It’s usually the final part of the process, after I’ve revised, checked for my over-used words, and run each chapter through Autocrit Wizard for pacing, dialogue, word choice, and repeats.
Reading aloud highlights the flow of my words. Many’s the time I’ve stopped and said, “Ugh, that doesn’t sound right” and rewritten a sentence or even a paragraph. There are also times when I read something and think, “Hold on, I’ve already used that phrase.” Somehow, hearing a repeated word or phrase spoken out loud jumps out at you more than simply reading it in your document.
Recently, however, I’ve experienced something different from me reading aloud. I've been listening to my work read aloud by someone else. At the end of last year, my publisher selected Irish Inheritance, the first of my Irish novels, to be produced as an audio book. It was fun listening to about 10 auditions by would-be narrators. I crossed some off the list immediately – one used a very squeaky voice for my heroine, and another used a posh accent that was more reminiscent of the Queen than an ordinary English girl!
Finally we narrowed the choice down to two possibles. The original audition excerpt only had the voices of the American hero and English heroine, so I asked for a second audition, with the voice of the Irish lawyer. When I listened to these, I thought the first one was okay, but she only had a hint of an Irish accent. However, when the second one started the lawyer’s dialogue, I fisted the air in delight, as the accent was wonderful – not too broad, but definitely very Irish.
Needless to say, that one got the narrator job, but my publisher suggested we give another book to the one who just missed out. We decided on Changing the Future – and last week, she sent me the first eight chapters. As I listened to them, there were times when I thought, ‘That sounds good’, but there were also times when I winced – not at the narrator’s voice, but at my own phrasing or word choice.
It’s too late to edit that story now, but I’m thinking that in the future maybe I ought to record myself reading aloud – and then listen to it as an extra check of pacing and style – because, believe me, it DOES sound different when you’re listening to your own words, and not reading or speaking them.