No matter what stage of the editing process you are at, reading your novel or short story aloud can help. You can either read it to yourself or find a willing victim or partner to listen to you read it. Ask them to read it to you (as long as you ask them to look at and read each word separately).
Lots of mistakes are more evident when you read aloud than when you silently read the the same text off the page or screen. For instance, did you spot the deliberate error in the previous sentence? If you read it quickly, or at normal speed, your brain may have skipped over the error, “auto-correcting” or“smoothing” it out, so you interpret the meaning rather than register the exact words. However, if you read it aloud and took care to scan and pronounce each word, you would probably have found it.
This works well because reading aloud forces you to slow down. Also, if you are silently reading your own work, it’s easy to see what you think is there, rather than what actually is there, and the different process of reading aloud interrupts that.
There are other benefits to reading aloud than simply spotting double, missing or wrong words. It’ll help you see if the language “works” or has the effect on the reader that you intend. You’ll see if it has the right tone (too formal or too casual), especially in dialogue, where you can have fun by talking like you imagine your characters do (I don’t suggest doing this in a café, as you might get odd looks). You’ll be able to judge the pace of the story – is the action scene too slow, or is there too much back story at this point? It’s also great to hear the rhythm of the sentences. Is there a good mix of short and long sentences, emphasising the pace of the story at that point? Or is the sentence structure not varied enough?
Is the writing too passive? Reading it aloud will reveal that more readily than reading it silently. You’ll also spot places where the punctuation may be wrong, such as missing commas, by reading aloud. If there’s any awkwardness in a sentence, you’ll stumble over the clunky bit when reading aloud, whereas you may miss it altogether if reading silently.
Finally, if you get bored reading it aloud, then your reader probably will too!
~~~~~~~Kevin Berry, Freelance Editor at TheProBookEditor, Co-author of humorous fantasy novels Dragons Away and Growing Disenchantments, view my profile at www.theprobookeditor.com