I've always been a fan of reading your work out loud to test it, but let me tell you -- read the same pages three times in a row and you get a very good idea of where the trouble spots are.
There's one line in a scene I frequently read that I stumble over every single time I read it. It reads in the book okay, but something about the combination of words was a tongue twister.
"The night was more humid than usual, but a slight breeze blew his sand-pale hair."
I kept saying "bleeze."
Our eyes skim over words when we read silently. That's why it's so easy to miss typos and invisible descriptive words. But when you're forced to read them out loud, you trip over words that could be causing problems. If I were revising that sentence now, I'd probably get rid of slight. It's an empty adjective, because really, aren't all breezes slight? Or use soft instead of slight, which would also fix the stumble. It needed something there, because I liked the rhythm of the sentence with that extra word, and taking it out made the sentence feel choppy.
It can be time consuming, but reading your work out loud does give you a different perspective on it. And it might not be a tool you use all the time, just for scenes that you feel are off in some way but can't put your finger on what. Your eyes can't spot it, but your ears (and tongue) zero right in on it.
It could also be helpful down the road when you find yourself reading to 80 people.
Looking for tips on revising your novel? Check out my book Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, a series of self-guided workshops that help you revise your manuscript into a finished novel. Still working on your idea? Then try my just-released Planning Your Novel Workbook.
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and The Truman Award in 2011.
Janice is also the founder of Fiction University, a site dedicated to helping writers improve their craft. Her popular Foundations of Fiction series includes Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, and the upcoming Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).
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