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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2012-02-14 05:29
Subject: [process] On reading a manuscript aloud
Security: Public
Tags:calamity, process, sunspin, writing
There's an aspect of craft about which I am just a big, giant chicken. See, I know that when I read my work aloud, I find all kinds of minor style and usage issues I want to fix. It doesn't matter how many times I've revised and re-read on screen or on a print-out. The aural experience of the story is different. And the ear is very good at finding infelicitations that the eye misses.

But reading aloud is slow. 5,000 - 6,000 words per hour. And I feel like a real idiot reading aloud to myself. Plus my voice gives out fairly quickly. I doubt I could do more than an hour per day. So I often avoid this step in short fiction, and I've never once taken it with a novel. Calamity of So Long a Life, for example, is about 130,000 words right now. That's as much as twenty-six hours of reading. That's a freaking month of effort at an hour per day.

Except I know that the reward will be a cleaner, smoother, more elegant manuscript, improved in the precise ways that are important to me.

So here we have a behavior that I'm capable of, that will improve a critical process and work product on which I place a very high value, but which I find very frustrating and tedious to actually execute.

By not finding the time to read aloud late draft manuscripts, I'm not doing the very best job I can.

And when I really think about it, this feels like a major failing in me as a writer.

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Kari Sperring
User: la_marquise_de_
Date: 2012-02-14 13:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You never read aloud alone when you have a cat.
Just saying.
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fjm
User: fjm
Date: 2012-02-14 13:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Someone needs to read the words aloud, but it doesn;t have to be you. Get someone to read to you.
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The Ferrett
User: theferrett
Date: 2012-02-14 14:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm currently finishing up the final draft of my novel, which will hopefully be my first published one - and I've been grappling with this. On the one hand, I know it will make the prose better; the short stories I read out loud have a MUCH higher sell rate.

On the other hand, I'll be in the basement for two weeks, raving like a maniac to myself, and wearing my throat out.

On the gripping hand, do I really not want to do EVERYTHING I can to make this the best novel it possibly could be?
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Keikaimalu
User: keikaimalu
Date: 2012-02-14 14:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I second fjm. What about having reading parties that last a few hours per evening, at which a small group of friends takes turns reading the manuscript while you take notes?

In my local critique group, we used to read each other's work aloud. One advantage of that is that you discover where other people stumble over things you thought were clear.
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Stephanie C. Leary
User: sleary
Date: 2012-02-14 15:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I feel exactly the same way about this. It feels like such a waste of time, even though I know it isn't.

Hmm. I have here a baby who has not yet acquired language. Maybe I'll read to him.
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Jim Keller
User: jimkeller
Date: 2012-02-14 15:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I only do it on spots I'm having trouble with, but I find even an auctioneer-style jabber-through helps tremendously (and in some ways helps more, because tongue twisters become immediately evident at that speed).
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Autopope
User: autopope
Date: 2012-02-14 15:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't read aloud (except when I'm preparing fiction for a reading).

Furthermore, I think it's very poor advice to recommend it as an integral part of the process of writing because in many cases the cadence of written narrative is incompatible with the mechanics of human breathing. If you want an example, just try to read the preceding sentence aloud! It's possible to write prose that is difficult to pronounce aloud but which is nevertheless well-formed, and the requirement that it must be possible to give voice to every manuscript threatens to constrain us to writing in bite-sized concepts.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-02-14 15:58 (UTC)
Subject:
Point very much taken, though in this context I'm mostly talking about finding word echoes (which I hate with a passion unless they're being deliberately placed for dramatic effect), clunker phrasings (which is part of what you're offering a counterpoint to, I know), and line editing errors like omitted particles and verb disagreement.
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Autopope
User: autopope
Date: 2012-02-14 16:48 (UTC)
Subject: Re:
I hate word echoes too.

And there is one type of prose where reading-aloud makes a lot of sense: dialog.

But ... probably it's just PTSD from being the only silent-reader in a class of five year olds making a horrendous racket during English classes, but I find the whole reading-aloud thing very off-putting, to the extent that I'm too self-conscious to use dictation software.
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Tom
User: voidampersand
Date: 2012-02-14 17:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You could turk it. Have people read passages and post the sound files. Then you just need to spend hours and hours listening to them and making notes.

Seems like no matter how you slice it, writing requires the sustained application of attention.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-02-14 17:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
What strikes me as annoyingly ironic is that I'm cheerfully willing to apply sustained attention to every step of the process — hundreds of hours, for a large novel — except for some reason this step...
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mlerules
User: mlerules
Date: 2012-02-14 18:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I read aloud decently well. If'n you like, I'll read this aloud for you in chunks.
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desperance
User: desperance
Date: 2012-02-14 18:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm a wholehearted advocate of reading aloud - for other writers. I never do it myself, I never have done; and yet, when I come to give a reading, my work fits my voice like a hand fits a glove that was made for it. I think I internalised the reading-aloud thing, so that actually my silent reading-through is the same thing, just unpronounced: which is to say that I think it is possible to develop your internal voice to achieve everything that an out-loud reading would achieve, without actually having to do the out-loud reading.

There, now. Wasn't that helpful?
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When life gives you lemmings...
User: danjite
Date: 2012-02-14 18:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
For your novel length work, we we actually do first read them aloud.
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Michelle
User: msagara
Date: 2012-02-14 19:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I read out loud, and I discover a lot in the reading that works better on the page (she says, being far too kind to herself).

But the reason I can is that I don’t do it all at once. I have two readers who pretty much get everything in progress. One lives in Australia, and as our clocks are out of synch, I read the new words over Skype, frequently when he’s driving to work. I didn’t start this to make the book better; I started it to get immediate input. If I had to read a whole book out loud all at once, I wouldn’t do it.
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martianmooncrab
User: martianmooncrab
Date: 2012-02-14 19:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I am just a big, giant chicken

but are you a Foster Farms Chicken?
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kellymccullough
User: kellymccullough
Date: 2012-02-14 19:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't do it either, but I assuage my slight sense of guilt over this by reminding myself that my theater training included an effort at teaching me how to say things silently in my head as though I were speaking them aloud. In theory, and to some degree in practice, this means that I don't find a whole lot more mistakes in a reading than I do in simply reading.
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Sue Burke
User: mount_oregano
Date: 2012-02-14 20:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It works even if you whisper. Which will save your voice.
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russ: zen
User: goulo
Date: 2012-02-14 20:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:zen
2 thoughts:

1. You could experiment with text-to-speech software! :)
E.g.
http://www.ivona.com/en/
http://text-to-speech.imtranslator.net/


2. Instead of intimidating yourself with this all-or-nothing "oh no, it would be a month of work, an hour every day!" fear, try baby steps. Read aloud some part that your intuition tells you needs work. Or read aloud page 1. See how it goes. If you don't want to do more, cool, at least you processed some of it and got some benefit - better than nothing!

Edited at 2012-02-15 10:31 am (UTC)
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Karen
User: klwilliams
Date: 2012-02-14 23:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Maybe. But you're human, and I bet you don't do all of the eat-your-vegetables-they're-good-for-you things that you should be doing, either. It would be great to be perfect, but sometimes you have to do other things.
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Magn0lia
User: magn0lia
Date: 2012-02-15 16:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm up for a reading-aloud group as well. Crowd-source it!
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Jodi
User: rivet
Date: 2012-02-15 20:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I have been known to use the text-to-speech function of my word processor for this. It's not nearly as good as actually doing it, but goes some of the distance without the exhaustion (and can be done at 2x speed!)
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Kenneth Mark Hoover
User: kmarkhoover
Date: 2012-02-16 01:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I usually read out loud as I write, especially for dialog, so I find that helps a lot and takes care of two problems at once.
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