I’ve been a bit quiet on my blog here because I’ve been loud otherwise: I’ve been using every free minute I have alone to myself to read my book manuscript out loud, following a tip from Sandra Beasley. When one of my students asked her how she managed to keep her memoir Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl engaging even though she had to convey a lot of research, she said that she read it out loud. “You find the boring parts that way,” she said.

Being a poet, reading her words out loud comes natural to her. For me, it’s a bit odd, especially because I have to wait until I am home alone, or at least until only my husband is at home and in his office at the other end of the apartment. Jabbering out loud to myself would be too weird otherwise.

Sandra is right, however. You do find the boring parts when you read out loud. You immediately realize where the narrative is dragging because reading out loud requires a different kind of effort. Thankfully, I have not found too many passages that ended up on the chopping block. Reading an entire manuscript out loud is a chore but it’s also helping me see it as a whole, which is a special challenge with a longer manuscript.

I’ve read out loud to myself before, whenever I had to prepare for a reading, but those were all short pieces. In fact, my main goal then was to time myself, and figure out where I could cut to stay within the time limit, and having the family as a practice audience was beneficial. When you read a short piece out loud, over and over again, you find that you better be in love with your words, or you won’t want to do it, and if you don’t want to read it, how can you expect a reader to get into it? It only makes sense that the same logic applies to a longer piece.