Reading, Revision, Writing Exercises

Reading Out Loud

TLDR: Reading out loud is a great revision technique, but maybe not the best use of time in a critique group.

The critique group I’ve been going to works as follows:
1. everyone submits a story or part of a story up to 2000 words.
2. each author reads their story out loud while everyone else follows along.
3. then everyone provides feedback.

Recently a new member simply remained silent when it was his turn to read. When asked he said, “I don’t want to read it. I’m not trying to publish an audio book.”

When I first joined the group, I had a similar reaction. I thought, this is a waste of time and we should all be doing our reading ahead of time and arriving with prepared comments.

I haven’t changed my mind per se, but I’m seeing more benefits to the out-loud reading.

First, reading your own writing out loud is a great way to find awkward turns of phrase and hidden repetition. Reading out loud to others adds another layer of self-consciousness that exposes every wonky word choice and break in the rhythm. It’s brutal and useful.

Second, this critique group is geared towards motivating continued writing. To that end, knowing you have to read your unwritten next chapter in seven days or less is hugely motivating to write the damn thing.

In conclusion, reading out loud is a great revision technique. Don’t have a critique group? You could do worse than arranging a panel of stuffed animals or action figures as an audience and reading your story to them. Just know that Captain America is terrible at giving criticism and Batman won’t be happy with anything that has an upbeat ending.


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