The first is when I am having trouble with a piece or the voice of a character. Reading it out loud can give me a sense of rhythm or, more likely, the lack of the rhythm of that character’s statements. The rough patches tend to stick out and I mark those as I go along. Once I’ve finished the read-through, I’ll revise and then repeat this process until I’m satisfied.
I also get a sense of whether the characters’ vocabulary and phrasing sound too similar using this method. Or sometimes, I’ll hear that I have distinguished their voices as I intended. I’ve also recorded my pieces on a handheld recorder and then listened to them for the same reason. Sometimes just reading it on paper is not enough. My handheld recorder is old school but I also keep it in my car for recording thoughts or story ideas as I drive. I’m sure my Smartphone has the capability as well but I haven’t gotten that far yet so am sticking with what works for now.
The second time is when I am editing. I find uneven spots as I vocalize the words. I also belong to a telephonic critique group. We meet once a week for two hours and we each read for 15 minutes. After each reading, we critique the piece. As a critiquer, it’s a very different experience since we are listening for what is working, what’s not working, and the “hot spots” that raise questions or pique our interest. That feedback often helps me move the story along avenues I might not have considered. As the reader, I often hear the areas that need improving or find typos that I would have glossed over reading it on paper.
How about you? Do you read out loud? How has that helped you? Do you have other ways of doing this?
P.S. I’m in the process of learning Dragon software and will discuss that in a future blog post.