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The power of reading out loud whilst editing

Yesterday, the wonderful Bookouture turned two, my publisher who had (and continues to have) faith in me. That’s two years of publishing 22 female authors and building their publishing business into this melting-pot of international creativity and talent. I will always be hugely grateful to Bookouture as it was these guys who rescued me from my non-stop mind whispering I wish I wish I wish to being able to stand aside, point my finger at my mind and say Enough! I did it!

A couple of blogs ago I talked about rejection and how to not let the buggers get you down and I also mentioned that I would write about a couple of things that happened not long before being signed up by Bookouture that I’m certain contributed to finally getting noticed.

I’ll write about the second one in my next blog but here goes for the first one…Now this may sound a little strange, but I read somewhere (I can’t remember for the life of me where, though I have a hunch this may be Stephen King’s advice?) that it’s a good idea when you think you have finished your manuscript to sit down and read the entire thing out loud, start to finish. So that’s exactly what I did. When the children were at school, I drew the curtains of my room, closed the door, made my little cave and then I started reading out loud My daughter Isabel is born on a day of fire-breathing wind…

You know when you have recorded your voice on a tape and you play it back and it sounds odd? Well, it sounded odd listening to myself. And often I didn’t like it and there were days I didn’t want to do it.  But I cannot express how strongly worth it this was. What happened was that I’d be reading along, thinking what’s the point of this? But then suddenly, my voice would catch on a word or a phrase and I wasn’t entirely sure why, but I would go back and read it again once, twice, three times and just like that, I knew I had to change it. Sometimes this would just involve a tweak of one or two words, but at other times my reading-out-loud made me realise that a greater change was needed. And I always listened to it, my physical voice, those crucial moments when I tripped over the words or my mouth couldn’t quite form what I’d written.

Thinking about it, it makes so much sense now. Our ancestors told stories in the oral tradition and whilst this has largely been lost for adults (far less so for children), when all’s said and done, that blueprint of spinning an oral yarn remains with us all and if we allow it to be released, we can refine and embolden our work.

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