7 Reasons Why You Should Read Your Book Out Loud

I have just submitted my novel, Pentecost to my editor for review.

Before I sent it, I read the entire book out loud which really helped me pick up some problems. It took me a whole day, from 7am to around 9pm and I was pretty hoarse by the end of it! Watch the video or read the text below for details.

In the video, I explain:

  • You can find inconsistencies across the story and continuation issues e.g. a character is drinking tea and then coffee, or you’ve described a scene and then you realize it’s night-time.
  • It improves dialogue to hear it spoken out loud. When your characters are actually speaking, you realize they wouldn’t say it quite that way.
  • You find typos and mis-placed words that your brain skipped over when reading on the page.
  • You realise how long some sentences are when you can’t say them without a deep breath in the middle.
  • You can see where punctuation is wrong and where it needs changing.
  • You get a sense of pacing and can check if it is appropriate for the novel e.g. mine is a thriller so needs fast pacing, short sentences
  • You get a sense of how long the podcast novel will be!

I put this idea out on Twitter and Facebook and pretty much everyone thought it was a great idea and most writers are already doing it.

Do you read your work out loud? Does it work for you?

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You can now get free chapters of Pentecost on the Facebook page by clicking here.

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi, I staggered here via Livia Blackburne’s blog and this is the first post I have read. Never would have thought of it. Not that I have a book in the works – yet! – but this advice could apply just as well to short stories, magazine articles and blog entries, obviously with a few different standards to measure up to in each case. I’ll definitely try it next time I write. Cheers!

  2. says

    Last year when I started revising the draft of my historical novel, Maids of Misfortune, I attended a writer’s convention, and the one consistent piece of advice given, by writers, editors, agents, was to read your work out loud. So I did, but not just to myself. I had a friend who had never read a version of the book, and who suggested I read it out loud to her. I did this (it took 4-5 sessions), but I would highly recommend it. Not only was it a fun time for us (I so miss reading out loud to my daughter who is all grown up), and not only for all the seven reasons listed in the post above, but because it gave me immediate feedback.

    When my friend laughed out loud-at just the right places, or said, “just one more chapter,” when I ended a session-so I knew the pacing was working, or when she said, “now who was that character?”-and I knew I had to put in a character tag, I was getting feedback that often goes missing, even from your beta readers. And because I was reading to someone else, I didn’t start to get bored, and stop paying full attention, which is what happens when I read my work out loud to myself.

    So, good post Joanna, and I hope everyone takes your advice.

    • says

      That’s fantastic Louisa, and I am so glad I’m not the only one recommending it. Reading to someone else is something I may consider later when it is the story I am happy with – great idea!

  3. says

    I definitely agree about reading your work out loud. Everything you said is so true. I always tell my writers to read their stories out loud before submitting them to me. Sometimes, if it’s a special project we are working on, we’ll go into a small conference room and I will do the reading while they mark up a hard copy. By having me read instead of them, the awkward sentences, dialogue etc. are even more pronounced. They are not automatically “filling it” something when they read without realizing it. Does this make sense? Anyway, very good tip that we all should be doing if we aren’t already. Have a super night, Buffy

  4. says

    I’m a big fan of reading my work out loud, however, I’ve never had the stamina to read the whole thing aloud. Fantastic! Recently, I was reading a selection of my novel out loud to friends and even though I’d gone over the whole manuscript a million times, I found a couple typos. It is amazing what a different perspective reading aloud gives you.

  5. says

    Great post! I began reading my YA novel, Raven, out loud last week and I was amazed at how many little mistakes I spotted that I missed before. It also helped me see which sentences weren’t flowing as well as they should.
    This is clearly something every writer should get into the habit of.

  6. says

    Hi Joanna – I’ve been reading my chapters or passages out loud ever since I saw that advice in Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages. Lukeman is a literary agent and the subtitle of this book is A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. Something we would all love to do!!

    He says that “prose can be technically correct but rhythmically unpleasant” and that writers, like poets, should pay “close attention to the sound of language, to its rhythm, breaks and to subtle elements like alliterations and echoes”. He dedicates a whole chapter to the sound of writing. Great book which might interest some of your readers :)

  7. says

    Hi Joanna,
    I’m a copy editor and have been recommending this to my authors for a couple of decades … for the very reasons you mention. Authors, you can save yourself a lot of money by taking the time to do this BEFORE you ship your manuscript off to an editor!

  8. Graham Storrs says

    Somehow missed the truly staggering point, when I read this the first time, that you have submitted Pentecost! Congratulations! A huge milestone.

  9. says

    Yes, I completely agree. I always read my writing aloud, though mine is not so much novels but essays, blog posts, sometimes poems, and every so often a short story. I’m a tutor at my college’s writing center, and I find it helps to have students read their work aloud – your mind can’t skip over or “fill in” mistakes that way.

    As to the dialogue – I say it out loud as I’m writing it for the first time to make sure it sounds authentic! Besides, I sort of act out the story. I always feel weird writing fiction when others are around, because I know my facial expressions must look strange!

    Congrats on finishing and submitting your manuscript!

  10. Chronicles says

    Thanks, Joanna! You always give us such good advice from things you learn in your process. I have did several edits, especially since I am a newbite and will take the time to read my series out loud, as I can’t wait to get it to the person for voice over (audio books) and podcasting.

  11. says

    I found your blog through Deviantart member julietcaesar. I’m really glad I followed the link. You brought up quite a few good points and I was rather interested in the idea of a podcast of your book. I never would have thought about that.

    I have also found quite a bit of use for reading out loud for my own work (especially since I have a terrible tendency to skip words) and as a suggestion to other writers, experienced or not.

    The ‘read-out-loud’ strategy is practically infallible in catching everything you noted. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • says

      It’s funny though – I must have skipped over parts by reading out loud because I still continued to find speech that wasn’t written properly in the next draft. So I think reading several times might have helped! Thanks for your comment!

  12. Liz says

    I don’t write much any more but I always read the, what I called, almost finished version of my work. Was always surprised by the amount of errors and changes I ended up making.

    But ever since I was little I would and still do read any book I’m currently reading out loud. I find it helps me grasp what I’m reading and makes it easier to remember the story much longer after reading.

  13. isata88 says

    I will attempt this in a foreign language to better absorb it. Thanks for the tip. Hopefully the next translated novel will be yours. Cheers!

Trackbacks

  1. […] I engaged Steve Parolini, The Novel Doctor after a process of interviewing several editors by email. He’ll be coming on the blog soon to talk about the editing process. Meanwhile, this is my viewpoint (from the scary end!) The draft I sent him was the 3rd whole draft, meaning I had done significant rewrites from the first draft and also tidied up based on reading the book aloud. […]

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