If you’re a writer, you probably spend many hours isolated in your shed or at the working end of your dining room table, alone with your literary thoughts.
Some writers believe their creativity is enhanced with a little background music. But most of us prefer to work in complete silence. Even the buzzing of a bee against the windowpane can frustratingly distract from the narrative in your mind. No matter how much those touch-typing lessons in college did you many favours, thoughts tumble from your mind too fast for your fingers dashing across the keyboard. And then that buzzy bee starts: zip, zip, zip… And for a moment, there ends the inspiration.
But once the story has spewed onto your page, it’s time to edit. All those instincts that had you dashing your story out at a zillion miles an hour must now be reined in. You slow down to read every paragraph ten times, ruthlessly slashing adverbs, checking syntax, and cropping phrases until they shine.
The one thing that will help you hone your narrative is to read your work out loud. Crikey, you think, I hate the sound of anything while I’m working, how am I going to stand the sound of my own voice? It gets me every time. The clearing of the throat belies my inner actor’s nervousness. I might have a dialogue going on between four people, and in addition I try to make them sound in character. I haven’t done this since I read bedtime stories to the kids every night. But my toddlers have now grown. The room is empty. I have no audience. Hilarious. I hope no one’s listening.
In the silence of my dining-come-writing room, all forms of social media on mute, the fridge in the distance a vague white noise, I still cannot get over the fact that my voice sounds like a Disney character. I laugh at myself. But I know it works, so I persevere. If a conversation trips me up as I speak, I realise my protagonist wouldn’t have said it that way. What’s going on in my head isn’t necessarily what the reader hears or sees in theirs. You think Why do I need to do this? My narrative is perfect.
Well here’s the thing, it isn’t. Not yet. There are often little errors that sneak into the text, connectors that slip past the eyes, allowing the brain to absorb only the important words. Proof-readers spend years perfecting the skill of seeing every single word on a page. As you rapidly scan your prose, you will undoubtedly skip the little blighters.
Unless you read everything out loud.
Every. Word. Will. Register.
Go ahead. Read aloud.
The world is your stage, and your story deserves a star performance.