Last Christmas, Santa brought my kid a karaoke machine which I immediately swiped for my own literary purposes. It’s got a microphone and an amplifier, perfect for reading my rough drafts out loud to one or more of the cats in my office on any given morning. Alone except for Alger Hiss and Eeyore, I pretend I’m reading on This American Life, rehearsing word choices and sentences and characters’ emotions.
I’ve always suggested that my writing students read their work aloud before submitting it to editors. At its most basic, performing a piece allows you to catch typos and problems with verb tense and awkward syntax. But if you envision yourself on the radio or on stage, and treat your reading like a performance, you’ll get a solid feeling of the manuscript’s narrative arc and characterization and theme. Trust me—reading out loud is not just for former high school thespians—and it’ll prep you for going on book tour once your manuscript’s in print.
Fellow Eugenean, JoJo Jensen, understands the value of reading aloud. I’ve just finished writing a short profile of her new business for The Writer Magazine. Jensen, who works as a voice talent, launched Chapter & Voice earlier this year—it’s a service for writers in any genre, matching a short segment of their manuscript with a professional voice talent to produce a high-quality digital audio clip which writers can then send to agents and editors, attach to their e-mail signature, and put on their website as one more way to reach out to readers.
Writing can be an awfully silent endeavor. If you work like I do, you prefer no music, no television, not even a rousing cat-fight to interrupt the creative process. But once you’ve finished your rough draft, why not grab the nearest karaoke machine and have at it? Better yet, gather an audience of friends and family members and perform your piece. Once you’re comfortable reading your work aloud, you can craft 300-word commentaries in your spare time and read them on various radio stations. Here are a few websites to get you started:
- This I Believe–Share an essay that explores one of the values informing your daily life.
- Minnesota Public Radio–Share your insights into contemporary political and social topics.
- Youth Radio–For young adults, offer your perspective on the issues shaping your world.
I’d love to know readers’ methods for reading your work aloud. Feel free to comment below!