I Fell In Love With Reading My Work Out Loud - To Others
About a month ago I was at my second grad school residency (the first to be in-person). Before going I’d made a goal to read my work aloud at every opportunity; and so over the course of 10 days in Vermont, I read the opening to a first draft of a YA novel on two separate occasions; read a very personal poem about depression; read some poems from my senior year of high school; and read work that I’d created over the course of the residency itself.
Which all adds up to five different reading experiences! And I’m here to tell y’all: read your work aloud, in a safe space, as much as you possibly can.
I want to focus first on that “in a safe space” part, because I think it’s crucial. I read my work to classmates in my program, a group of people who also are passionate, enthusiastic fans of kidlit, and I felt safe there. So I’m definitely not trying to push anyone into something they’re uncomfortable with, especially if you feel like you’re surrounded by people you don’t trust. But, if you do have a safe space…here’s why I recommend reading your work aloud there!
The first big reason is so simple: it’s an adrenaline rush. I mean, really. There was something so fun about doing readings even during my first residency, when we were relegated to Zoom, and I could see the comments flooding in as people listened; reading in person turned it up a notch! I like to use a lot of humor in my fiction and it tends to be really “voicey,” and there’s something so stinking satisfying about hearing reactions to lines I am proud of.
I loved the startled laughs that came after I read my first line, and the less-startled ones that came and surprised me a few lines later. I loved getting to see what was working and what wasn’t — not just from a reception perception, but from my own. There’s one passage on page 2 or 3 of my work in progress that I skipped over every time I read, because I didn’t think it was exciting, it didn’t move the story forward, and it wasn’t good writing. So when I sat down to reread the whole manuscript recently to start revising it, I immediately knew to mark that scene up as one I wanted to edit.
Finally, I think reading your work aloud, and listening to others read theirs can be a really bonding experience. There’s something so special about getting to hear an author’s words in their own voice — learning what they choose to emphasize, how they choose to accent certain words and passages and not others — it’s a totally different experience than reading in your own head.
Now, I’m not saying authors should narrate their own audiobooks, not unless they’re professional voice actors; I just think it’s fun to sometimes hear something in someone else’s voice, the way they imagine it in their heads. So if you get the chance to attend an author reading, or even better, read your own work in front of some friends, I’d encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity. You don’t have to read something long, something super personal, or something super rough; you just have to read something.
To leave a comment