This morning I spent some time reading several articles I’d written this week on topics ranging from the nuclear industry to a school referendum and wireless communication restrictions – and a conversation I had recently about how quickly writers transition from one niche to another came to mind. It’s a question I get asked often and for me, the secret is simple: I write the way I read. Wait, what?
I believe in reading more than one book at a time – depending on my mood I switch easily from historical non-fiction to action/adventure to mysteries to the classics. Being able to easily alternate between genres as a reader makes switching gears as a writer that much easier. Google how to be a better writer and I guarantee nearly all the advice you find will include reading more but I like to go one step further. If you’re trying to improve your writing don’t just read more; read your writing aloud.
It might sound strange but trust me it works. Here’s why:
You will notice sentences and paragraphs that just suddenly end.Y
ou will notice choppy shifts between ideas that need further nurturing.
You will notice missing words; phrases or punctuation.
You will learn how to turn passive writing into something actionable, which is what great content writing it all about!
As a writer, I like to believe my ability to string words together is what moves people to act but most people don’t give a rat’s ass about sentence structure. No, the story needs to resonate with them and that happens through ‘hearing’ what they are reading. Yes, you read that correctly or did you hear it? Whether you realize it or not, you have a voice in your head when you read. Laugh if you want but that’s why turning books into movies often fails miserably for book lovers.Don’t believe me: Google sub-vocalization, and you’ll learn all about the brain’s natural ability to visualize the sounds of words and ‘hear’ them as they are read.
Here’s another secret about reading your writing aloud: sometimes it doesn’t work. Case in point: I recently wrote a lede for a project I loved; the editor didn’t. I read it aloud often before submitting it, each time marveling at how I reached my point. Then the client read it – ALOUD – and I cringed. It was truthful but long-winded and for new people coming into the story – well, it was downright confusing.
Find someone who will read your copy without judgment or jumping in with their own two cents (not as easy as it sounds), and ask them to read your copy aloud to you. Your initial experience will be the same as anyone reading it for the first time. Use that ‘sound’ to make the necessary alterations. Caution: don’t go crazy with changes unless you completely missed your mark, or lost your writer’s voice. It happens sometimes where you cram too many different ideas into a blog; press release or social media post. You get the point.