Monday, February 6, 2012

The Benefits of Reading Your Work Aloud

Today’s Magic City Writers’ Group meeting was canceled, so I have not had full reviews yet on my submission.   I did, however, talk with Lindy and Kathryn enough to have an insight. 

Lindy liked the pacing of the chapter better than my previous submissions.  In our conversation I realized my writing improved in part from the audio readings I had been doing.  

The Rhythm of A Story

Doing an initial read-through does not take long.   A lengthy chapter might take about an hour to read aloud.  A benefit in that reading is discovering where I stumble and unearthing why.  The process often reveals long undiscovered errors and ambiguities hidden in the morass of words and punctuation.

But the real advantage comes in the next step: editing out all the mistakes and retakes until the audio matches the text.  This forces  me to listen to the story over and over, not just read it. 

This experience affected my final edit of the chapter I submitted to the group.  The ear for awkward sentences I developed during the audio readings appears to have help tighten the pace on my writing style and smoothed out some of my rough sentences.  

During my discussion with Lindy about this development she suggested even greater gains could be derived from hearing someone else read the chapters.  I had talked before with Kathryn about her doing some of the voices.  (I don’t do female voices well.)  But I hadn’t considered the possible benefits of hearing someone else’s reading of my work. 

The Parallax Perspective

In college, I learned about the four parts to any story: what the author meant, what he/she actually wrote, the reader’s interpretation of those sentences while reading them, and the reader’s memory of what they liked and disliked about the story as a whole.

Each reader emphasizes different moments, each has unique experiences while reading the text.  This difference is reflected in their voice when they read the text aloud.  Listening to how someone else interprets my words would grant me greater insight into how a reader perceives what I have written.  Which in turn would better inform my future edits.

Both Lindy and Kathryn have expressed interest in reading a chapter.  (Amazing what incessant pestering can accomplish.)  Kathryn has opted to read chapter five, Through Persuasion and Force,…. I expect we will record her reading in the next few days.  Lindy choose the chapter I submitted for review, …Cause All to Cry ‘Havoc’!   The current plan is to record her reading on Sunday after the rescheduled meeting of the writers’ group. 

What I will forgo for the time being is all the special audio effects.  There is value in differentiating between spoken words and thoughts, so I will probably do that much audio editing.  But I think I will not add sounds of thunder, or a horse galloping on cobblestones, or fire burning in the fireplace, and so forth.  While fun to do, that effort is time consuming; and in the end the work must stand on its own, relying solely on the text as written.  Perhaps when seeking diversion I will revisit a reading and add sound effects to create an “enhanced version” for those who like such extras.

I look forward to discovering where this journey leads.

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