word craft


Reading out loud

For me, the hard­est part of writ­ing a nov­el is the con­stant reread­ing of my own work. I do it repeat­ed­ly, tru­ly count­less times. As I do, I make all kinds of changes, big and small. It is dur­ing this process that the book takes on a uni­ty, a clear direc­tion, a sharp focus, and the strong move­ment toward a mean­ing­ful end­ing. Some­times huge changes take place. Some­times only small, but vital, changes. How can I keep the book fresh to my own eyes and mind? In all hon­esty, it is not easy. One of the sim­plest ways, is not to work on it. Walk away. Come back anoth­er time. Work on some­thing else. Some­times the com­put­er helps. Change the font. Mar­gins. Back­ground col­or. How­ev­er, I have learned the best way to get a sense of my own work is to read it aloud. It is as the poet Robert Frost once said, “The ear is the best read­er.” My wife is usu­al­ly the first will­ing lis­ten­er. I often invite myself to a school and read the whole book—over a series of days or weeks—to a class. For bet­ter or worse, it is amaz­ing what I hear.

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