Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Author’s Toolbox: The Auditory Read Through

Every author develops a toolkit containing writing skills and techniques, preferred software and hardware, and proven processes to develop a polished manuscript. I’d like to suggest authors add the Auditory Read Through to their stockpile of available tools.
If you are like most modern authors, you compose your first draft using a word-processing program, which means you first see your words on a screen. You may rewrite your manuscript using a screen to display your text, or you may print out a copy of your manuscript, make handwritten corrections and then convert those back to an electronic form.
Many authors have learned that they find different problems when they view their manuscript on the screen compared to what they find when using a hard copy. I suggest that you will also discover different issues when you read your manuscript out loud.
Even if on previous read throughs you silently sounded things out in your head, you did not fully utilize your sense of hearing. Before the written word, stories were spoken, and you should listen to yours to discover a few last issues you may have missed.
My approach to the Auditory Read Through
I print out the manuscript single-spaced applying the same font, type size, lines per page and page size as the publisher will use. As I read, I’ll see, for example, a long paragraph that needs splitting or dialogue that runs unbroken for two pages. [I am not worrying about exact layout, orphan lines, where words break on a line, or anything like that. 
What am I listening for? Anything that doesn’t sound right on a sentence-by-sentence basis, as well as considering a paragraph or page as a whole. Whenever I stumble or trip over a word, there is a good chance I need to rewrite something. This gives me the opportunity to straighten convoluted sentences and exchange flabby diction with precise wording.
Often on the read through I’ll discover I used a word several times within a short span. I never saw the multiple uses on screen or page, but my ear picks it up.
I pay particular attention to adverbs: are they covering for a flabby verb? Make sure every adverb is necessary. As an example consider the line “She quickly walked to the sidewalk.” With the multitude of verbs available to describe exactly how she moved to the sidewalk, this sentence employs a lazy approximation for what the reader should visualize as they read.
Where I used multiple adjectives, can I replace them with one perfect descriptor?
Have I noun-ized verbs (xxxxx-ness) or verbed nouns (xxxxx-ize)?
Are my verbs ending with “ing” appropriate?
Have I fallen into a repetitive pattern? Do too many sentences share the same form? Are sentences all the same length?
You can do as I do, printing out the manuscript and reading it aloud to yourself, or you can use software that reads the words to you. I’ve tried both and they both work well. Using software has the added advantage that you use only your ears, since you aren’t the one reading. Plus, it can be entertaining when the software butchers a word it doesn’t know.
Some people record themselves reading their manuscript out loud. While they are reading, they muzzle the internal editor. Once they start the playback, they are truly listening (since they are not also reading). I haven’t used this technique, but it is intriguing, although it seems like extra work—but folks swear by it, and I may try it sometime.
I find the best time in my manuscript creation process for the Auditory Read Through is once I think the manuscript is ready for a final nit check. You may want to wait until you believe you have polished the manuscript to perfection. Others may find it’s useful much earlier in their process.

If you’ve tried the technique, how did you think it worked for you? If you haven’t performed an Auditory Read Through, do you think you might?
~ Jim
This post first appeared 8/24/16 on the Lyrical Pens Blog

1 comment:

  1. I do both. I read it aloud myself (but I print it in a totally different font from the one I write in, and print it in two columns to get a new 'eye scan') after I finish the first draft. Then, after my edits are done, before I send it to my editor, I use Word's build-in text to speech option, because "Fred" (as I call him) reads exactly what's on the page, not what my eye "sees" after so many trips through the manuscript.