By the time you’re at the tail-end of the writing process, you are so sick of your words you’ll do anything to not read them again.
This usually happens right around the time you have to read them, though, because you’re getting your MS ready to query or publish. But instead of begrudgingly wading through your words and risking mistakes, I suggest you try one of my favorite editing tricks, which is to listen to the words! Here’s why…
4 Reasons To Listen To Your Own Book
1) It Allows You To Pick Up Errors
Other than being a fresh way to check your work, listening to your book helps you to pick up typos and missing words your eyes just gloss over. When you’ve read a sentence a million times, your brain knows what should be there, and that’s what your lying eyes will show you.
When you listen to those well-read lines, your ears pick up what you can no longer see; a sentence missing a word or a pronunciation that lets you know you’ve used the wrong word.
Listening to your words is also excellent for picking up lengthy sentences. There’s a reason a tried-and-true piece of writing advice is to read your words out loud during the editing process. It weeds out the sentences that look fine on the page, but sound long and out-of-place hearing them back.
2) It Lets You Work Actively
As much as I try to alternate between sitting and standing when I’m writing, some days I hardly make it out of my chair. When you’re on a writing or editing streak, the hours can slip by, and before you know, you’ve spent your entire day sitting. When you’re listening to your book, you can stand, walk around, and even clean or get other physical tasks done.
During my last book listen-through, I walked around my house for 8 hours. My legs and feet were feeling the strain the next day, but I got through my book in one go, which is great for picking up consistency errors, and counterbalanced the sitting I’d done that week.
3) It Confirms That Your Book Flows
By the time you have a completed manuscript, you’ve pulled scenes apart, dipped in and out of chapters, rearranged things, and rewritten random sentences. Most of this happens over weeks, months, years, and all while you’re upgrading as a writer. You also have that lovely writer affliction where you remember the parts you cut or the scenes that were so hard to write you’re convinced they’re terrible, even though you’ve now edited them to shine.
It’s like your brain still seeing what it thinks is there, giving you no perspective on the writing flow from chapter to chapter. When you listen to the book, it gives you distance. Hearing the words in a “voice” that isn’t yours allows you to experience the book as if it’s someone else’s, and with that knowledge, you can truly see how it flows.
4) It Stops You From Editing As You Read
Hands up if you just can’t stop editing as you read. We’ve all been there, which is why you need to leave the computer behind and listen to your book. Keep a notebook and pen on hand to make a note of anything to fix later, and enjoy checking your words without stopping every second paragraph to edit.
If listening to your book sounds right up your alley, there are many ways to do it. I like using the “Read aloud” function in newer versions of Word, which I’ve just discovered after updating from Word 2007 to Word 365 (yes, my version of Word was that old). Or saving my MS as an ebook and listening to it using a “Text to Speech” app. Either way, listening to my book has helped me get to a better final draft, and I hope it helps you too.
— K.M. Allan