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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Speaking Life Into Your Words


The other day, I was enjoying the latest post from Mel Fowler’s wonderful blog,  Adventure Writes, when several comments left by others surprised me.
In her post, Survival of a Reader, Mel shares how she read her Chapter One to her writer’s group.
While reading, she “began anticipating what they would say in certain places, and began to feel that my novel, was crap, that my story was no good.”
When someone later said she’d liked the story, this surprised Mel, who’d read her chapter out loud for the first time. Glad to have gotten through what was obviously a nervous experience, Mel also mentioned this was something she needed to do, and that it was a step in the right direction.
Don’t get me wrong – I totally agree and applauded Mel for stepping out of her comfort zone, but what fascinated me were some of the comments from fellow bloggers – many of whom I respect and follow.
The consensus seemed to be that not many read their work to others – and I would have to ask why not?
My Other Baby!
Isn’t that part of why we write – so people can enjoy the fruits of our hard labor?
Trust me, I’m no expert at having others read my work out loud, but last year, when I attended my first Southern California Writer’s Conference I specifically signed up for all their “Rogue Read and Critique” sessions.
These things are legendary… they start at 9 p.m. and stop when the last reader falls... the current record is 6:02 in the morning!
(Digression alert – sorry!)
Anyway, I was excited to hear someone else read my stuff. Sure, I was nervous, but excitement won over.
Well, my theory is: if it doesn’t kill you – it makes you stronger.

I remember looking around the small hotel conference room, I saw that person, yes, you in the corner, holding the five pages I’d printed earlier.
We weren’t related, and, OK we were in the safe environment of a writer’s clique, but you were under no obligation to like what was on the page.
You did, however, offer to read, and thanks for that. Now I’m looked forward to any reviews and assessments from others in the room.
Good or bad is OK – honest is best.
 I’d scribble notes as fast as I can, and did the changes once I got home.

That’s exactly how it goes down every time, and I love it!
Sometimes I read my own stuff, but I prefer strangers to read when possible – it’s raw and so dang awesome when their voice aligns with the tone of the voice(s) on the page. It's like... they get it!!
Seriously, if you haven’t tried this before, don’t miss out on a great way to move your writing forward.
Mel’s taken that first step, it sounds like she’s going back for more – and I bet the next time won’t be so hard.

How about you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Under the Spotlight...


Cassie Mae said...

I read everything out loud, even if it's just me at my little computer. Never been to a conference or writer's group so I haven't had the experience of reading things in front of more than just my two kiddos. :)

K.T. Hanna said...

I don't read to others. I also don't like listening to people read to me.

I'm a visual person. If someone reads to me without a musical backing, I zone out. I don't take in any of the information. I need that page in front of me to truly absorb what I'm seeing.

So, I don't read my book to others, but I do give them it to read themselves.

The only time I read out loud is to myself when a paragraph or lines are bugging me and I can't figure out why.

But that's just me :D

Nicole said...

Interesting topic. I love getting crits and advice! But my crit group does it on paper, everyone reading everyone else's stuff on their own time. I've never really understood the fascination of reading works outloud (except to catch edits in scene or dialogue). It's something I wonder about for published authors, too. When I read a book, I want to READ it. :)

Unknown said...

I often read my book outloud to myself as I write. Sometimes hearing it helps me write it. Silly quirk? I dunno, maybe! Never have read my work in front of others before, but there's a time for everything. And I'm definitely not shy! :)

Mark Koopmans said...

@ Cassie: I haven't tried reading *everything* out loud yet, and thanks for the that's a cute visual of you reading to the kiddos... my boys just glaze over after fifteen seconds... know I know there's hope:)

@ K.T. interesting perspective, thanks. Without pages, I'm a bit of a zoner , too, but at the critiques we rely on our own notes, so I knuckle down and make it happen.

@Nicole: Thanks, too for your comments and I promise I don't read Dennis Lehane out loud... but I should try it one day... hmmm.... It sounds like you have a well-established and organized group. Congrats, it seems like they are hard to find.

@Vicki: Thanks for stopping by and commenting. That's no silly quirt - I think it's a great idea and good luck when the time comes to read your stuff to "the others" :)

Stacy S. Jensen said...

It's a good experience to have someone else read it out loud. If you read your own stuff, you might put emphasis on something that really isn't on the page. I read my stuff out loud to myself, so I can catch stuff that i don't reading it on screen or paper. I think getting your work out there for critiques/feedback is great — no matter how you do it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I feel the same way as KT. I'll let people read it, but I'm not reading it out loud. Not even to my wife. (And I think the only things I've ever read out loud were Bible verses.)

Mark Koopmans said...

@ Stacy: I agree... I think hearing the words makes my writing go a little 3D (if that makes *any* sense!) and I hear stuff I didn't catch on a normal edit.

@ Alex: Hey, that's so interesting to hear you say that....for the first time last week my wife read a chapter out loud, and it gave me goose bumps, but, hey who am I to say this is the "right way."

You're the one, Alex, with two books, me... I wear a Boppy on my head!

As we head toward the same goal, I suppose whatever works for each person is the right way :)

Jessica Therrien said...

The SCWC really opened up my eyes to the benefits of reading my work to others. Can't wait to see you there in Feb.! Also, thanks for offering to help with my virtual launch. I'll contact you a little closer to the release date :) Take care.

Morgan said...

"If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger" <---LOVE it!

I'm so grateful for the times I had to learn how to take criticism. It made me such a better writer. Now, I seek it. Beta readers are irreplaceable. I WANT to know what doesn't work...otherwise I won't get to where I want/need to go ;)

Great post! :D

Anonymous said...

Guess what? I'm still alive! It's fantastic.

I recently sent my stuff to my new crit. partners and they critiqued it, and I was actually excited. I think because I wrote my blog post and anticipated the good that would come from it made me excited. Kind of like you Mark. YOu get excited to hear it. Which is so cool.

Great post! :)

Jocelyn Rish said...

When I started with my local crit group, we used to read our stuff out loud. We could either read our own stuff or ask someone else to do it for us. I found it was more helpful to have someone read it for me because then I could easily hear when things weren't working. But as for critiquing others works, I actually found it very hard to do it that way. Like K.T. I need to see it on paper to be more effective than "I liked it" or "It needs some more oomph."

The group has since moved to paper edits done before each meeting, which has led to more thorough critiques, but I do miss hearing how my work sounds. I've read suggestions about having one of those text-to-speech programs read your work because then you can hear how it sounds with no emotion behind it all.

Also, I do read my stuff out loud to myself. On one of my editing passes I read my entire novel out loud. I was hoarse for several days, but it was totally worth it.

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