I’m a talker. Spontaneous wordage is what I like to call it, but yes, I will speak to any person in my vicinity (unless I see you coughing—no thank you germs), and even inanimate objects. And I like public speaking. No, I’m serious, I honestly adore speaking in front of a group of people. Reading picture books to my nephews and nieces? Piece of cake. Explaining the proper ratio of steamed milk to espresso to fledgling baristas? Not a problem. Training a group of writing tutors? So much fun! But reading my creative writing in front of a group of peers? Um, nope.
So a few of weeks ago when I was asked to join a group of published writers at a reading, I said sure, that’s a grand plan.
Now why would I do such a thing?
Because contrary to popular belief, writing does not gain strength while sequestered away from public viewing, or hearing.
This is more than an issue of finding a community of writers or mentors to receive critical feedback on your work—this is an issue of physically absorbing the tonal qualities of your writing when it is read out loud, before an audience, to discover discrepancies in pacing, plot, character, or syntax. Reading your work out loud before a group of strangers and peers is yes, terrifying, but it is also one of the best secret weapons any writer has in their Mary Poppins bag of tricks. Having difficulty with the dialogue between characters? Hand a copy of your writing to a friend and then act it out! Any forced or awkward dialogue will be immediately revealed. Not sure how your leading lady might respond when about to be thrown into the Sarlacc pit on Tatooine? Read what you have written so far OUT LOUD, to REAL people. I promise, the perspective you will gain on your writing will amaze you.
And here’s the other amazing aspect of this practice: good writing sounds even better when read out loud. This is because when all those fiddly bits of writing come together to create something interesting and clear, it can’t help but sound lovely when read to other people. Even if you’re nervous.
Did you hear that? Even if you’re nervous.
So, my writerly and readerly people, please, speak your work, out loud. To your family, to your friends, to a group of strangers at a coffee shop (this is a fun one), or better yet, organize a small reading event and invite people. Throw some spontaneous wordage out into the world, and see what comes back. You might be surprised!