My Dad prefers to indulge in fiction via audio books, so that he can read while walking. This fact has become a very important part of my editing process. I started putting my books onto cassette tapes so I could get his feedback on them, and guess what? Reading them out loud is an amazing tool!
I mean, I guess I sort of knew this before; it’s been recommended by several different teachers in my education. But here’s my discovery: there is a fundamental difference between just reading something out loud to myself and creating an audio version of the book. I read out loud as I’m writing to see if a phrase is working, or if the dialog sounds natural, but that’s just reading it. When I’m making the audio book, I’m performing it, and that changes the entire way I look at the words.
Example: I have an addiction to the ellipsis. I throw them in everywhere. When I’m just mumble-reading to myself, yeah, those pauses sound great. But when I put my stage voice on, I realize that I don’t need them.
Another example: “But I neeeeed all of this exposition!!!” As I’m recording, I find dialog much easier to read than description. As a result, when I’m getting ready to record, I’ll look at that whole friggin’ page where I give the history of the town and think, “Ugh… do I really want to read all of that out loud?” I’m not saying exposition is bad. Not at all. But this process helps me figure out which pieces I truly need and what’s just leftover from my first draft when I was still discovering the world.
Yet another example: In Clocks (Current WIP. The one I just finished recording.) my characters say “Thank you” a lot. That’s not necessarily a problem by itself, but they always say it exactly the same way. The conversation is just about finished, then they sigh/close their eyes/give a sad smile, and add quietly, “Thank you.” Very pretty… until I need to perform it every other minute. I didn’t realize that all of my Thank you’s were being delivered in the same tone until I had to personally deliver them.
But I think the main way that this has helped me is by creating a nice measuring stick for whether my first draft is working. As I write, I know that someday, I’ll need to speak these words into a microphone: Am I excited to do that, or am I dreading it? Sometimes a scene will look absolutely fine: no plot holes, no character malfunction, no overused words, but if I don’t eventually want to read it out loud, then it needs fixing.
So, I’m curious, does anyone else edit out loud? Has it helped?