Blue Water Writing: The Read-Aloud Review

Long before computers, tablets, and phones, writers wrote and edited on paper and with a pencil.  Pulling sheets through rubber rollers, dabbing glue on drying ink, and jabbing at springy keys, typing was a laborious affair. Unable to rely on spelling and grammar checks, the typewriter was reserved for final drafts only. Under these hostile conditions, writers identified issues with language by subjecting their texts to Read-Aloud Reviews.

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Using spoken presentations to check a text helped authors back in the day address problems with clarity, syntax, and diction. 
Alison Davis’ article on the Read Aloud and a recent discussion by The Writing Center praise the strategy as an editing tool. At The Write Practice, McGann takes it to another level and proclaims that the Read-Aloud will change a writer’s life. As I recently constructed an audiobook of my novelette, There’s a War on Here”, I stumbled across this editing method. 

Under the impression that the text was clear and concise, I pressed the record button and began narrating. When I came across awkward expressions or ill-fitted sentences, I stopped, fixed them, and re-recorded. As I listened to the spoken story, I noticed overused words, and again, I stopped, edited, rewound, and narrated a clean text.

When I started the audiobook, I’d thought that the manuscript was free from language issues. Each time that I edited, these snags went unnoticed. If it wasn’t for the narrating and listening process, I’d never have seen the errors. Much of the time and energy that I’ve put into editing over the years could have been saved if I simply applied this procedure.

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Editing is visual. Language is pictorial. The written word uses optics. The Read-Aloud Review examines writing through an additional, auditory sense and accesses a different part of the brain. Editing through speaking and listening – instead of looking – expanded the scope of my awareness. Whether with recording software, text-to-voice apps, or simply my own voice, the Read-Aloud Review, as McGann so enthusiastically claims, is actually changing my writing life. 

Don’t Give Up On Your Work!

Everyone wants to be successful in life, especially aspiring writers. Writing is a tough gig no matter how you look at it. The process is long, draining, and ultimately complex.  I used to think that the toughest part of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel was completing that very first draft. Although it does take a toll on your free time and the resources dedicated to research on the internet, it is by far easier than fixing up your manuscript. Once you’ve completed the first draft, you have to find an editor and then go back and fix anything that he or she has pinpointed and hope your first edit survives the eye test. That’s just the beginning.

Don’t get discouraged. This is a long and grueling process for every writer no matter how long you’ve been in the biz or how many times you’ve been published. You can imagine that it gets easier. From personal experience, I’m not there yet, but there are people out there that can help you. The resources are realistically endless. There’s always someone who has a connection to someone or some company.

I want to talk about rejection. It’s arguably the most commonplace thing when it comes to manuscripts.  I’ve seen it so many times (as have you): people close to me being rejected left and right, and for the same manuscript no less.  Some could be receiving more rejection letters than regular mail on a weekly basis. It’s possible if you put yourself out there enough. It breaks my heart knowing that they are going through this and that I myself will have to endure this cumbersome process. The trick to surviving it all is the ability to push it aside and wait for the next great opportunity. Don’t take it personally and don’t show your frustration. It’s happening to everyone around you.

When it comes to being published or even signing a TV or movie deal, you’re going to need to find an agent. People say that finding an agent is like finding a needle in a haystack.  It’s mind blowing. I’ve seen situations where an agent would confirm that he would get back to a client and then disappear into thin air. It’s probably the most deflating and depressing feeling a writer can go through. 

Don’t get discouraged by the feedback you receive from an editor.  Don’t even take it personally from other writers that are close friends. If you take it personally, you’ll drive yourself into the ground. Being part of a writing group has its advantages, but do not reject the guidance of the people around you. They’re there to help you along your process, not watch you fail.

The First Harry Potter Book

To close, I just want to mention that countless famous authors have struggled including the likes of J.K. Rowling and James Patterson. Rowling has numerous quotes regarding failure in the writing industry and Patterson was rejected a dozen times before finding an agent in the newspaper.  We all fail. It’s just a matter of whether we want to get up and try again, over and over.