One of the frequent suggestions from established authors is to read your drafts out loud. It helps with the flow of a story and voice.
I’ve read a ton of stories to kids over the years. Whenever there was a spare ten minutes in the classroom out would come a book. At first it was torture trying to read and watch for misbehavior at the same time. It had more to do with me not being the best at bringing words to life.
I then started to observe the masters – gifted librarians, other teachers, and storytellers online who read books with passion and different voices. I knew I had to get better and I did. Practice makes perfect came true in this case. Writing is no different. You can’t just say or write words; you have to tell a story.
After polishing two of my own works, I decided it was time for an out loud read through. So on a recent Saturday I planned to get the job done – if my voice could last through an entire novel. I printed the pages for one manuscript so it would be closer to a real book in hand.
I sat and read the first few lines and the dog wanted out. Start over.
I read the first few lines again and the phone rang – someone from Virginia. I answered and they had a survey on healthy food stores they’d like to conduct. What happened to the no-call list I signed up for? I explained that I was working on a middle grade manuscript and if they would listen to one chapter I’d answer their questions.
They hung up. Huh, kind of rude.
I left my cell phone in a drawer and headed to a deck in the back of my house that looks over an open space area. There’s a walking/biking path that splits the greenery. I sat down and read the first few lines when the neighborhood ninja squirrel jumped off the roof and onto the deck. I may have screamed or drooled a little –probably both.
The squirrel gave me an inquisitive look I’m sure saying, “Got any nuts, berries, or baby birds?” I didn’t so it went next door to terrorize someone else.
Okay, I wasn’t giving up. This was important. I started to read again and got past the first page but glancing up for a second I noticed a boy on the path just sitting on his bicycle and staring my way. I’d met the boy before but couldn’t recall exactly which ‘den’ he was. My neighborhood is filled with them… Aiden, Brayden, Hayden, Kaden, Jayden, Jorden… you get the idea.
“Hi,” I said.
“Why are you talking to yourself?” this particular den asked.
“I wrote a novel, so I’m reading it out loud to hear how it sounds. You can listen more if you want.”
“Nah, but I’ll ask my sister if she wants to. Her name is Camden. She’s six.”
Off he went and I decided I was a bit too loud for this canyon of open space. I went back inside and the doorbell rang. I was beginning to get discouraged.
Opening the door brought a smile to my face. Girl Scout Cookies! I had already devoured my stash of Thin Mints so I opted for Rah Rah Raisins. Despite my new treasure I wasn’t getting further on my reading goal. This must be a test to see if I could endure not only finishing a novel but reading it, too.
Back inside I tore open the box and the sound of a muffled ringtone came from the drawer. Not succumbing to the temptation, I went to the garage, got in the car with my cookies and manuscript, and read my story out loud. I took a cookie break halfway through. The acoustics were quite good as were the cookies.
More than two hours later I accomplished the task. I had marked paragraphs that didn’t read well for later rewriting. Satisfied I reached for the door handle and I must have turned just enough to activate the car key in my pocket. The horn blared every two seconds. I struggled to get out of the car and as I did the manuscript went flying, decorating the garage with my words. I’m glad the pages were numbered.
Yes, publishing should be a snap.