#FixYourNovel #1: Read it Aloud

In my blog last Monday, https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/05/20/the-hard-work-lies-ahead-what-did-i-mean-by-that/, I said this:  “Do I have the audacity to write about how a writer goes about “fixing” his or her novel? Only time will tell.” I’m learning as I go, so maybe you and I can learn together.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Today let’s grapple with “fixing” the rough draft of your novel by reading the entire novel aloud to yourself to make sure it flows naturally, makes sense, has the right amount of backstory, doesn’t have information dumps, and doesn’t have plot holes.

I know, many of you bailed out on that last sentence. If you’re still with me, though, I thank you. If you aren’t interested in today’s topic, just scroll down to see what I’ve been doing, what I’m reading, and what my blog has in store for you next week.

Purposes of reading aloud to yourself

Among other things, the purposes of reading the rough draft aloud to yourself are to:

            * See if the story flows naturally;

            * Make sure there’s the right amount of backstory;

            * See if the pacing is good;

            * Make sure the story makes sense;

            * Make sure events are in proper order;

            * Make sure there are no information dumps;

            * Catch obvious typographical errors; and

            * Look for plot holes.  

Some things I found on my read-through

I’m writing what I hope will be my first historical novel. The working title is The Doubloon. I recently typed “The End” at the end of the rough draft, let it rest a couple of weeks, and then read through it out loud last week. “Out Loud” is very important.

One thing that came to light in my read-through was that some of the scenes weren’t in the best order.

Once the location of a scene is changed – especially if you move it to a point later in your book – you must carefully review the scenes between its original location and its new location to make sure there are no references to what happens or is said in that moved scene in the in-between scenes.

For example, if you reveal a clue in the scene you moved from the end of the first chapter to the beginning of the third chapter, you must make sure you don’t refer to anything in that scene in the second chapter.

There were places where sentences weren’t in the best order. You might not catch those instances if you don’t read your rough draft out loud.

There were instances where a word didn’t do the sentence justice. Sometimes a sentence needed a stronger verb or more accurate adjective. If you can’t think of a better substitute immediately, just highlight it in red and keep going.

I discovered cases where I had not told the reader something they needed to know in order for a scene to make sense. As the author, I knew the background, but I had failed to give the reader enough information.

A number of scenes take place in the meeting house. In my head, I knew exactly what the log meeting house looked like inside, but I had not described it well. That task was added to that running list I mentioned above.

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

I was surprised to find some typos, which means I’m too confident in my typing skills. There were several cases where I’d typed the wrong word, for instance, “where” when I meant “when” and “of” when I meant “in.” (What was that about?) The spell-check function on your computer won’t catch these errors.

How to deal with problems you find

In some of these cases, I edited the rough draft. In some cases, I highlighted the word, phrase, or sentence so I can go back later and take time to make corrections or changes. I started a running list of things I need to research or be sure to check on later. I only made changes that could easily be done without taking much time. I didn’t want to get distracted from the read-through to the point I got bogged down in editing.

Nice surprise in the read-through

It was a pleasant surprise to find some humor in the manuscript. I wrote all 85,000 words, so how could I forget? Maybe you can keep up with such things, but I obviously did not. I was really pleased with some of the humor and the liveliness of some of the dialogue.

Based on my meager experience, I would say this read-through of your novel’s rough draft should be fun. It certainly was for me. I enjoyed getting reacquainted with some of the characters’ personalities and events in the book.

In addition to the humor in this novel that deals with several serious issues, I hope my readers will try throughout the novel to figure out “who dunnit.”

One of the most important things I learned

One of the most important things I learned through this rough draft rewrite and read-through is how to get words on the page and move on. For years I was guilty of trying to write perfectly the first time. If I had something I needed to research or go back to look for in my research notes, I would stop right then and chase after the answer.

I’ve finally learned to throw in a red question mark or type my question in read red, and keep writing. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. I hope you have learned that or will learn it faster than I did. It makes a huge difference in how quickly your writing can move along.


Look for the second installment in my #FixYourNovel blog series in mid-July:  Scene Outline Critique will probably be the topic.

Since my last blog post

We had house guests and also tried to get as much yardwork done as possible before the heatwave started on Saturday with 95 degrees.

Until my next blog post

I hope you’re reading a good book. I’m reading The First Conspiracy:  The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch. Next Monday’s blog post will be about the books I’ve read in May.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time and your projects are moving right along.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

What are you reading?


17 thoughts on “#FixYourNovel #1: Read it Aloud

  1. Oh Janet, this is such an important point to make. thank you for making a whole blog post out of it. I did not do this for my memoir. I’d read that I should, I even believed I should, but somehow just never did (“it takes so much time,” I’d complain. I was impatient.). THEN, the memoir got published and I began doing readings and OMG! I was always making edits in the large print book I used for the readings, there was almost always a more fluid way to say what I wanted. Finally, I took the publishing rights back from the publisher (whose proofreading skills were their weakest link) and finally did it right. I’m now on my fifth edition (and last, I promised myself) but surely could have saved so much time and anguish had I simply done what you are recommending here. LISTEN TO HER, readers. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I appreciate your comments so much today, Janet. I kept having second thoughts as I wrote the post. I kept saying to myself, “Who are you to tell anyone how to fix a novel?) When I hit the “publish” button, my heart sank. Again, who was I to give advice about writing a book? Thank you for sharing your own experience and reinforcing the point(s) of my post! You have no idea how gratifying it is to read your words. Maybe I’m on the right track after all? I hope you have a nice Memorial Day. I think today will be the third consecutive day of 95 degrees here. It seems we always jump from winter right into summer.


  3. Thank you for letting me know this! All I know about writing fiction comes from taking a fiction writing course at Queens University in Charlotte, NC and reading every blog post, article, and “how to” book I could find about writing. More than one source has said it’s important to read the entire rough draft manuscript aloud. For one thing, it makes you read every word. Another thing I read just recently was the importance for a first-time novelist to get a professional writing coach or editor to critique your scene-by-scene outline. I’d never heard of that, but it makes sense and might save some tough editing down the road. I’m excited for you that you’ve finished your rough draft. It was a great feeling to get to the end, wasn’t it? I’ll try not to steer you wrong as we learn together. Let’s keep in touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have noticed that by reading it out aloud I have made a few changes, things that make it flow better or don’t come across as well out aloud as they do in my head. It’s a great tip!

    I was so proud when I reached the end. I’ve written all my life but never really admitted that I did so I used to leave things unfinished because then I’d always have an excuse never to tell/share them with anyone so to finish something feels like a big achievement.

    I’d love to learn together 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Great! I’ve worked on this one book for probably 15 years. Due to a computer crash, I no longer have my original to see the date. I, too, have thought things like, “if I don’t finish it, I won’t have to be rejected.” It’s a brave thing to put one’s creative writing out there. I’m so glad my blog post helped you!


  6. Everything turned out okay, actually. I just lost my first draft. I didn’t lose my latest draft when the computer crash. I had saved my latest rough to an external hard drive. So all I really lost were my earlier drafts. Sorry I didn’t write my last reply clearly. I see now how you got the wrong idea. Sorry to make you panic for me!


  7. That’s funny! My sister read an article yesterday about the author Lisa See. In it she told that she not only reads every draft of her novels out loud, but her sister comes over and they act out the various parts. Now my sister’s afraid I’ll ask her to do that with me!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Jan. This is a very informative post. I have learned so much from your blog about writing and the importance of editing. Everyone of my post I edited over six times. And I still return to them to edit. I also agree with you that when you are writing and creativity is flowing it is best to simply write down your thoughts and not try to edit it or do research at the same time. Those things can be done later. You are an excellent writer and I look forward to reading your book.

    Liked by 1 person

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