Jay Lake: Writer

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[process] On reading a manuscript aloud

There’s an aspect of craft about which I am just a big, giant chicken. See, I know that when I read my work aloud, I find all kinds of minor style and usage issues I want to fix. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve revised and re-read on screen or on a print-out. The aural experience of the story is different. And the ear is very good at finding infelicitations that the eye misses.

But reading aloud is slow. 5,000 – 6,000 words per hour. And I feel like a real idiot reading aloud to myself. Plus my voice gives out fairly quickly. I doubt I could do more than an hour per day. So I often avoid this step in short fiction, and I’ve never once taken it with a novel. Calamity of So Long a Life, for example, is about 130,000 words right now. That’s as much as twenty-six hours of reading. That’s a freaking month of effort at an hour per day.

Except I know that the reward will be a cleaner, smoother, more elegant manuscript, improved in the precise ways that are important to me.

So here we have a behavior that I’m capable of, that will improve a critical process and work product on which I place a very high value, but which I find very frustrating and tedious to actually execute.

By not finding the time to read aloud late draft manuscripts, I’m not doing the very best job I can.

And when I really think about it, this feels like a major failing in me as a writer.

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