I've heard a number of writing teachers/pundits/plain-old-writers extol the virtues of reading your work out loud, so I did just that this past week. It was an interesting experience and it showed me a few things. Namely, that I had a ton of errors that weren't visible to me by reading in my own head. I'm talking about mistakes that have been in the book for months, or worse, years. Some weren't so bad; word repetitions that I couldn't 'hear', minor flow problems, the odd psychotically placed comma. Others were a little more serious, like discovering that the tone shifts awkwardly between particular scenes and missing plot points.
I was reading through chapter five when the neighbour's kid walked past our open window to get the ball he routinely kicks into our yard, and I guess my (not so) dulcet tones scared him a little, 'cause he ran like hell.
The writing group that I'm in reads everything out loud, which I've found to be a really beneficial experience; not only have I become more comfortable reading in front of others (particularly good, considering the fact that when it comes to public speaking I'm nothing short of appalling) but it's helped me become a little better at finding lit problems (both mine and other people's). We don't distribute our stuff beforehand; we just show up, read, and then discuss, so I think I've gotten a little better and faster at figuring out what works and doesn't work. Which is nice.
However, reading 10 pages out loud every other week is a little different than sitting down and reading out 300 pages all at once, an experience which left me with a fairly spectacular saliva deficit and my tongue glued to the roof of my mouth. This was, as is the case with most things, fixed with a stiff drink.
So, at the end of the day, even though I scared a small child and found some pretty serious problems, I'm glad that I did it. I've finished doing most of the corrections that came out of my read-a-thon and am left with 3 major scenes that need to be reworked. On the other hand, it never ceases to amaze me how changing one or two seemingly innocuous things can result in a literary butterfly effect, creating ripples throughout the rest of a book. So, as is the case with most things, it can always get worse.
For those of you who despair that you'll be hearing my snail's-pace updates every week for the rest of the summer, I fear that you might be right. It's just not there yet.
Wish me luck.