Reading Aloud

September 28, 2009

Listening to David-Rees Thomas’s excellent reading of my story, “The Waters of Meribah” the other day, I was struck by just how awkward some of the sentences were.  This is not the fault of David’s reading, I should explain, but my writing.

No false modesty: I can give two reasons for this.  Firstly, and I’ve heard many other writers say this, when you read any piece of your own work once it’s published on publication, its always the case that every mistake and piece of bad writing becomes glaringly obvious in a way that it never did when you were still redrafting.

But secondly, and this is the main point here, back when I wrote  “Waters” I hadn’t yet learned the trick of reading my stories aloud when redrafting.  I don’t always do this now, if I’m honest, mainly due to pressure of time, but it’s a good trick to learn.  Reading aloud makes you more aware of the rhythms in the dialogue.  It exposes wordy sentences and unnatural expressions, and it makes you realise just how awkward some of your sentences are prose is.

Most importantly though, you experience the story via another input stream and this gives the brain a different perspective on the work.  (Similarly, some writers re key in the entire final draft of a story in order to send it through the brain in a different way).

By way of experiment, I just went through the above text reading it aloud.  I’ve marked my deletions using strikethrough.

See?  It works.


Redrafting

September 13, 2009

Julie, a friend of mine, came up with a perfect description of the process.

She said that when you first write a story it’s like a baby:  perfect and precious in your eyes.

After a few redrafts it grows into a young child: you see that  it has its faults, but you love it anyway.

But as  you keep rereading and improving, a story becomes a teenager, lurking in its bedroom and complaining that you don’t understand it anymore. Catch it on a bad day and all you can see is its faults- everything about it irritates you.   If you’re honest with yourself, you realise that you’ve both been in each others company too long: you’ve both changed.

By that time you’re looking forward to the day when your story can go out into the world and start earning a living.  That’s when you can both see the best in one another again.