Friday, April 21, 2017

A to Z: Editing Fiction - Read It Out Loud

2017 THEME: Editing Fiction (Because that's what I'm in the middle of doing.)

What is the Blogging from A to Z challenge and where can I find more participants? Right here.

Reading out loud is one of the best way to catch errors. This may seem awkward if you aren't a reading out loud person or don't have a private spot to go hang out and talk to yourself, but there are ways around it.

When you read in your head your eyes will often skip over errors, especially if you wrote the words. You know what you meant. You've read these words probably half a dozen (or likely a lot more) times and you know the story. You may even find yourself skimming along to get to that favorite scene. None of these are helpful in catching missing or wrong words, repeated words, awkward phrasing, and choppy or massive run on sentences.

You can catch all this and more by reading out loud! (I feel an infomercial coming on.)

Will it help catch everything? No, but it's a big step toward the polishing for submissions or self-publishing. I wait to do this step until I'm done incorporating feedback from beta/critique and have moved past tweaking. So around the last step before submissions, a paid editor and/or preparing to self publish.

I find it works best to get out of whatever program I wrote in and work from a printed copy. Cheap like me and hate wasting paper? Print it in a small font, single spaced, two sheets to page an use the back side too. No one is going to see this but you. As long as you have room to highlight errors or scribble notes in the margins, that's really all you need.

Now, you could read this printed copy yourself, making note as you go. Maybe that will work for you just fine. I've tried it. I find I still fall into the problem of knowing what I mean rather than listening to the words I'm saying.

What works wonders for me is having someone else read it, specifically my computer. It can't skip anything and all the flaws in phrasing and sentence flow are abundantly clear in that computer voice. I currently use Word with the Windows Narrator to read for me, but any program that will read for you works. I put in my earbuds and sit at my desk (one of the few times I leave my comfy chair for writing) with my printed copy and have at it.

This may seem like a long process, but it really does catch so much more than eyeballs alone. I highly recommend taking the time and effort to listen to your own book.

Have you tried this and if so, did you find it helpful?


  1. This is something I haven't tried yet on my memoir. It certainly is a lot to read out loud. And I tend to go too fast when attempting to read anything out loud.

    1. Yes, I find it too easy to skim when reading out loud too, speeding through all the words and not really listening to them. Having something else read it for me helps a lot. I often close my eyes while listening so I'm not distracted by skimming ahead with my eyes while only half listening - which totally defeats the purpose.

  2. Ah yes. Reading out loud while editing is something I've been working on doing. It's annoying to me because it takes so long, but that's kinda the point of editing. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Visiting from the A to Z Challenge. You can see my "R" post here:

  3. Reading out loud is a very helpful editing tool, and I have found that my ears catch some of the things that my eyes wouldn’t or couldn’t. I have also read a piece out loud and recorded it, than I listen to it a few days later and see if I catch anything else.

    Thanks for visiting my blog: R for Race

  4. I love the idea of having the computer read it! Thanks for the great tip, Jean.

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador

  5. I do read aloud now, and it does help! I can get wordy, and I find it helps me catch when I'm rambling. Sometimes you don't need five extra words to get a point across. :)

  6. Great suggestion. I hear this a lot and find I invariably uncover phrasing and pacing errors when I read my work out loud.

  7. Good point-- anything, in fact, that gets you to look at every bit of your text, and not skim or skip anything. I have noticed that I skim when I edit, and I do sometimes read aloud (or get my boyfriend to read aloud to me) in order not to miss any errors. Of course, it is also interesting to notice where you (or your beta-readers) start skimming-- these bits should be checked for boring-ness.
    Melanie Atherton Allen

  8. Great idea. When in edit-mode I'll read it word for word in my head, but this would be even better.

  9. Yes, a read-aloud is essential. I have a bad habit of leaving out words--my brain tends to see what I expect to see. Slowing down and reading only the actual words on the page makes the omitted words abundantly clear. I find it helps to change the font and page size before I read. You can squish a lot on if you print two pages per side (four total pages per sheet of paper, if you print 2 sided).

  10. I have never done this, no, but it makes a lot of sense. It's so easy to skim read and miss stuff, especially if it's the umpteenth time, like you say.

  11. I'm still at the point I write without consequence. I know even if I finished a masterpiece tomorrow, obligations would prevent me from having time to market it. However, I have wanted to finish a few items and have them ready for when opportunity happens. I'm going to try this. I leave "of" out a lot and crazy, mangled ideas in sentences happen a way too much.

  12. This definitely helps me find awkward sentences. I always pass this tip along to new writers.

    DB McNicol | Oh, the places we will go! | Tennessee & Texas

  13. That's what I love about text-to-speech. I downloaded the SVOX app on my phone to get different voices for different stories. It really catches my ear when something's wrong, so very wrong, like when there are words missing or homophones misused.

  14. I have a close friend who I often get to read my work back to me which is also very helpful.

    Trying to cacth up my reading now that the A to Z Challenge has finished.


    Sandra, Aspiring family historian, fellow participant in the #AtoZchallenge

    Sandra's Ancestral Research Journal


Join the conversation. It gets lonely in here without you.