Do you ever look into the deep green shadows of a primeval forest and wonder what those secret depths hold? Do you like to write about your new and inventive discoveries while sipping a glass of fragrant wine? Do you enjoy the creative process? Then I hope you will stop a spell, enjoy the adventure, and travel with me as we imagine the possibilities...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Say It Ain't So!

You've probably heard, as I have, that one of the best ways to edit your writing is to read it out loud.

Don’t do it!

If you like the way your writing is when you sit at your computer and read it; don’t do it. If you enjoy the action and characters as you hold crisp white pages in your hand, feet propped up and a beverage nearby, again; don’t do it. If you think it is perfect and says exactly what you want it to say, and everyone who reads it will send rave reviews to Amazon/New York Times/NPR, well then… Don’t Read Your Book Out Loud! Because if you do, nine times out of ten, you will find things that need changing no matter how excellent you thought it was when you read it.

See, our wonderful minds see what they want to see.  We'll add the correct endings of words automatically.  Fix the descriptions, and because we are the almighty being creating new and wonderful worlds, we will know exactly what we meant when putting ink to paper.  If you read it out loud, the oddest things jump out and grab you by the throat.

If you decide to read your marvelous writing, don’t read it to the dog – he’s going to love it. He’ll wag his tail and look at you like you are Hemingway, Charles Dickens, or J.R.R. Tolkien. Maybe even J.K. Rowling or Steve Berry. Remember – the dog loves you so much, he’ll think everything you say is perfect. Read it to the cat. Cats won’t tolerate crap from anyone… not that your book, or even portions of it, are crap. If you don’t have a cat, imagine one sitting in front of you, eyes slanted half shut, tail twitching. Cats like rhythm, and will get all antsy if what they hear does not suit them. Oh yes, read it to the cat.

See, the written word is like a river – it ebbs and flows, swirls when needed, builds to thunderous waves, and throbs with the beat of a deep bass drum. When speaking, it’s easier for an author to hear that fluidity, or see the snags in the way. And when we make needed changes, readers will find our book more compelling and be willing to follow the current all the way to the end.

So, here I am – sanding and polishing, and reading to the cat. Neither the cat nor I like stagnant pools.

Imagining the possibilities,



  1. Hi Peggy. I am happy to have found your blog!! You must have very well-read cats, even if they act like they don't care.

    I do have a word to put in for when it DOES help to read your work out loud. That is when you are proofreading it. My family has learned to tune it out, but when I am proofing, I read everything out loud. When I need to do double duty, I read out loud and backwards just to eliminate the possibility of anyone thinking I am still of sound mind.

    AND, one more moment of "devil's advocacy," when it is your own writing, and the dialogue is something that two people are saying to each other, I think it is helpful sometimes to speak it rather than write it - I am often asking the authors I work with: "Would this sound natural if the two were saying it to each other?"

    Now, on to those possibilities.......