A note before we begin: This course is designed to help hearing writers achieve stronger flow and pacing. In our experience, deaf writers succeed beautifully with flow and pacing on their own and are less likely to need a course like this. If you are or know a deaf writer, try this course using sign language to feel the words as you sign them.
When it comes to improving writing, it might sound strange to say that you should focus on the “ear”. Rest assured that when we’re talking about this subject we don’t mean it so literally. This isn’t an Ears 101 course. I’m not an expert of anatomy or human physiology anyways. We’re just trying to emphasize the importance of what you hear when you’re writing and what to do with what you learn. So what exactly does that mean? In this Back to Basics course, we’re talking about how hearing what you write can help shape the course of your writing.
What’s the importance of hearing?
When we say it’s important to hear your work, we also mean that it’s important to listen. That’s kind of a two-way street. Typing words out onto the page and reading it in your head is fine. Chances are, you can spend a good bulk of time doing that. But if someone were to hear—not read—that piece of writing for the first time, how might it hold up? It might still be a totally fine read and hats off to you if that’s the case! But if it’s not, you might find that suddenly… there’s some issues. Maybe some of your sentences run on for too long, maybe some of the narration isn’t as effective. Maybe that dialogue that you think worked perfectly in your head doesn’t actually sound as good as you thought. Issues like these might sound a little frustrating and break that immersion you’ve tried so hard to carefully create, but the good news is that it’s definitely fixable.
How does reading out loud help?
Reading your work out loud forces you to take your time with the text. When we read (and especially when we read our own work) our brain sometimes skips over things or reads things that aren’t really there. As “Writing Cooperative” says, “Reading out loud creates another layer of separation between ourselves and the work during the editing process. Your ear and your tongue will catch mistakes like grammatical errors, typos, and awkward phrases. Overall, reading out loud helps to clean up your prose so you can better communicate what you mean.” When you read your work out loud you’ll find things that might surprise you. As I write this post right now, I’m reading it out loud too: getting a sense for my sentences, checking out how they flow, etc etc. You have to take your time with every word and see how it fits or doesn’t fit. This is part of the writing process.
Give reading your work aloud a try! If anything sticks out to you as odd, you can revise it and go from there.
If there’s just one thing to take away, it’s that reading out loud is pretty important in helping better develop your writing and understanding of the story.
Read your work out loud—it could be a whole chapter or just a small passage—and then make at least three changes based on what you’ve heard. Maybe it’s adding in or taking out a comma or rewriting an entire section! Just try to see what your ear catches.
Extra tip: This is not a dramatic read so keep a consistent beat throughout. Pause for two seconds at every comma and four seconds at the end of every sentence.
Thanks for joining us for this Back to Basics course! If you tried this month’s challenge, you can share it on our discord or on social media using #WWB2B. You can also send us your challenge on the Back to Basics page.
About the author: Hi! My name’s Izhan Arif and I’m an English graduate from the University of Illinois, Chicago. My interests tend to revolve around all things superhero, whether it be comics, shows, or movies! I also love to write (go figure) and when I’m not working on “Back to Basics”, I’m also writing videos for WatchMojo!