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7 Reasons Why You Should Read Your Book Out Loud

    Categories: Writing

OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn

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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Joanna Penn :

View Comments (26)

  • 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.

  • 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 :)

    • That book's been on the list for a while now - I don't think it's available on Kindle - I'll have another look!

  • 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!

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

    • Thanks Graham. It's to a freelance editor, and I now have rewrites but it does exist as an end to end story which I am pretty proud of!

  • 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!

    • I might try that re dialogue - apparently mine is still a bit stilted and not enough interruptions. It all takes practice!

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Spot on. I learned the value of reading or reading my works aloud in writers groups, where I'd hear errors as I read. Now, reading aloud is my final editing step.