Before You Submit

One evening last week I was reading a short story out loud, getting ready to present it at a writers’ meeting. Here are some reasons you should read your material out loud, before you submit it to editors or producers.

Reading out loud is the easiest way to determine if your sentences are a reasonable length. A rule of thumb is, if you need to take a breath while reading a sentence, you need to either add a comma, or make the sentence shorter. It’s better to vary the length of your sentences, so it will feel more natural to your readers. Sometimes your reply to a question will be lengthy, but at other times it will just be “yes,” or “no.” If a character in your story doesn’t not know how to reply to a statement, you can always write, “Hmmm,” as his or her response.

Can the reader pronounce the names you’ve given to locations or characters? This can be an issue for science fiction and fantasy writers, when they’re struggling to come up with unique names. If you read a name out loud and find it challenging to pronounce, then you should seriously consider changing it to something simpler. If your main character’s name is Irlzolriqil, it will be distracting.  Readers who spend too much time concentrating on how  pronounce a name or place, won’t enjoy reading you story.

Taking the time to read out loud, will also help you to find spelling errors, because the software you use, may not recognize the different contexts used with words. “Break,” and “brake,” are both spelled correctly. If the software detects misspelled words, it will only advise you of a problem, if either word was spelled “brek” or “brak.”

If you’re going to read out loud, a good resource is How to be Heard (2017) by Julian Treasure, which is available as either a book or audiobook. An excellent speaker to listen to is Les Brown; you can hear several examples of his passionate style on http://www.youtube.com. Another excellent, though less well known speaker, is Ashwin Ramani. You can find examples of his style in the Sermon Archives at http://www.cschurch.ca. Probably the best speaker I’ve ever heard, is science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer. You can find numerous examples of his speaking style on http://www.youtube.com.

Reading your stories out loud is an inexpensive way to improve your writing and will help you prepare for a successful writing career. And I want you to have a successful writing career, because the world needs to hear your voice, your passion.

Copyright © 2019 by J. Paul Cooper