Reading drafts out loud is one of my favourite parts of the writing process.
Doing so wakes up different bits of my brain, gets senses and body involved too. It releases the story or chapter from internal processes to external reality.
The words and sentences which sound one way in my head sound altogether different when spoken. Whatever I’ve made is revealed for what it is. Only by speaking a piece will I hear its voice.
The rhythms, pace and tone are likewise made real. I discover whether my writing excites me, whether the sparkle-magic happened and the story has come to life.
Reading aloud requires attention to every word and punctuation mark. Everything I forgot to mention, shortcuts and tired oversights, appear as holes. Typos and homophones underline themselves.
My darlings also beg for attention. Observations which seemed flipping clever at the time are obviously showing off. Pretty phrases confess they mean too little.
In the seclusion of my sitting room, I act the characters, taking on their feelings, assumptions and postures, strengths and limitations. This is more fun than it sounds. I love and understand them better, know if the words I’ve put in their mouths are theirs, or me interrupting. I internalise what they want and know what they’d do next.
It is Science Fact that reading aloud aids cognitive function and memory. It helps me remember details of setting, character and plot clues, and to avoid inconsistencies later.
Sometimes I read to myself, but I prefer reading to the perfect audience. I married mine. Mr G usually hears drafts at the same time I do. His first feedback is his emotional response. His laughter, gasps or tears are equally gratifying, his shades of silence are telling. Fidgets are devastating. Next come Mr G’s interruptions and questions - if he doesn’t understand what I’m saying, nobody will. Resolving his questions tells me the edits and additions I need to make (usually about a kerzillion). And after much practice, I don't get cross with him for being right. Mr G loves the process too, but we haven't got a telly.
Whether your perfect audience is yourself, your beer buddy, critique group or your cat, if you're not already reading your stuff to them, I recommend you give it a try.
World Read Aloud Day is on February 1st or 5th, depending who you ask.