Wednesday, May 4, 2016

R is for Reading Aloud

Paula listens to her own work.

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.

18 comments:

  1. Taking your advice to read aloud when the editing is finished. Not sure I could record myself reading. The thought of hearing my own voice makes me wince.

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    1. I don't like hearing my voice either!

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  2. Will there be a significant difference between listening to a narrator and your own voice?

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    1. I don't know yet, but I want to give it a try!

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  3. How interesting, Paula. You make a very good point about reading our work out loud. I.'ve never done it but often thought about it. Something to remember in future..

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    1. I've found it a very valuable exercise, Margaret.

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  4. Reading out loud is essential for flow and authenticity, at least for me.

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  5. What a good idea, Paula. But I'd have to wait until my husband was out of the house for a time. He's think I'd gone loony. But I do understand. The female who read Kathleen: Book I of the Trinity Hill Brides, did a very good job. But she didn't at first. Her reading was flat, almost monotone, so that she gave the evil man the same intonation she gave six-year-old Cynthia. I pointed this out and she wanted another chance. She was a fast learner and did a good job for the final.
    Thanks for reminding us to read our stories aloud. It does make a difference.

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    1. I'm delighted with both my narrators, Celia, especially the one who can do all the different accents so well.

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  6. I agree, Paula, that reading your ms out loud is a highly effective tool for editing your own work. In my critique group, we meet together and each person reads their chapter/chapters aloud to the group. Then each member does a critique based on what they heard. Often, when I'm reading for the group, I find repeat words, phrases, etc myself before anyone has to point it out. I do it at home by myself sometimes, too. This method works especially well for dialogue. Thanks for a great blog!

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    1. Thanks, Vicki. I always read my chapters aloud now, and invariably find 'clunky' sentences and repeats!

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  7. Critiquing sessions at my local RWA meetings are always read-alouds, which make them even more beneficial.

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    1. Have you tried asking someone else to read your work aloud? It might be worth trying it sometime, as I have noticed more when listening to someone else than when I read my own words aloud!

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  8. I've never heard my work read aloud by another person. I've never had an audio book. I do read my work aloud, especially when I'm not certain if it is how I want it.
    Even with the sudden realization that a phrase or word didn't sound right coming from another person, I know you must be very excited to have audio books. It's kind of a new-old concept. I used to listen to cassettes with books when I traveled. For a while I haven't listened to audio books. But now, with invention of USB drives in vehicles and smart phones, I see audio books are becoming very popular again. Multitaskers are probably beside themselves with happiness to have books they can listen to while they go about their work.
    I am so happy for you that you have your work on audio. I'm certain they will be successful. You'll have to get back to us about audio sales compared to other formats.

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. I have no idea how popular my audio books will be. It's a whole new experience for me, so I'll wait with bated breath to see what happens :-)

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  9. Great blog, Paula. I have never read any of my books aloud, except my poetry books and one speculative fiction short story. But it is a good idea. And, like you, I am very pleased with the narrators of both my audio books. I am awed by all of the editing and attention to details that you are paying to your manuscripts before publication. And it certainly shows in your sales rating!

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    1. Thanks, Linda :-) I am thrilled by the sales of my 'Irish' books - and look forward to hearing the final versions of the audio books.

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