Reading Your Writing Aloud

I was recently given the opportunity by the amazing author Kali Napier to read some of my writing at the launch of her novel The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge (now a bestseller) at Avid Reader in Brisbane. Kali chose to have an emerging writer’s salon to open her launch and asked me and Fiona Robertson, an award-winning short story writer to read some of our work.

What a mix of emotions! I felt grateful, honoured and thrilled to be given such an amazing opportunity, but also terrified. I’d never read any of my work in front of anyone before, let alone a group of 100 people. I’m petrified when someone reads anything I’ve written, let alone me reading it aloud at such an important event.

On the night, Fiona told me her daughter had given her some wise advice – no one would really be listening to us anyway. Fiona thought this was a good point – everyone would be waiting to hear Kali’s ‘in-conversation’ with Cass Moriarty. I agreed, hoping lots of people would trickle in late and miss seeing me at the start. (As it turns out, the audience did listen to Fiona and were very supportive and welcoming.)

Kali recommended choosing a scene with plenty of dialogue, less description and ending on a line of intrigue. (She also advised speaking slowly – not something I’m good at!) With this advice in mind, I chose a scene which occurs early in my mystery novel, The Princess Murders, where the main character, Sylvie, arrives at her friend, Bianca’s house. When Bianca doesn’t answer the door or her phone, Sylvie peers through a window and sees Bianca lying unresponsive on a bed. Another friend, Zara, shows up at the house and together they break into the house. Fiona had the audience captivated with a scene from her short story The Ground Beneath, about a woman who discovers a sinkhole in her backyard.

screenshot 2018-02-17 12.36.54
I survived my first experience of reading my writing aloud in front of an audience.


After choosing my scene, I made the outlandish decision to prepare for reading my work aloud by… reading my work aloud! Reading your work aloud is not a new concept and you’ll find lots of writers recommend this as a strategy to proofread your work. Lia Weston notes in her hilarious blog post that it is especially useful for dialogue and suggests taking things a step further by acting out scenes.

I read and recorded my scene on my iPhone using the Voice Memos app and played it back. After listening to it a few times, some awkward word choices and clunky pacing stood out to me. I even found an implausible action that I hadn’t noticed despite reading the scene on my computer screen multiple times. It wasn’t until I recorded it and listened back to it that I picked up this potentially embarrassing mistake. It also become apparent where I needed to add speaker attributions as it wasn’t clear who said what by simply saying “she said” with two females speaking in the scene.

The exercise of reading and recording my writing aloud helped me edit the scene down to a neat three-minutes reading time and in a way that was hopefully clear and concise with a nice balance between dialogue and description. I also tried different ways of emphasising certain words for dramatic effect but of course all of that flew out the window on the night when I stood in front of the audience!

As I continue rewriting/editing my manuscript, it will be useful to continue the practice of reading and recording my scenes aloud for other scenes, if not the whole book. (If I can get used to the weird sensation of listening to my own voice.)

Another great suggestion comes from Alisdair Daws, who states in his blog post Why You Should Read Your Writing Aloud, that writers who use Scrivener can use its text-to-speech feature. He provides instructions on how to do just that and this is definitely something I’m going to try (because then I don’t have to listen to my own voice!)

It was a great experience to read my work aloud and although I’m sure I will still be nervous if given the opportunity to do it again, at least I know I can survive the incredible dry mouth of anxiety and the sweaty palms of stress.

Click here to buy The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier.

Click here to buy a copy of Fiona Robertson’s short story The Ground Beneath, published in Gargouille Issue 3.

23 thoughts on “Reading Your Writing Aloud

  1. Alyssa, having you and Fiona read that night *made* the event for me. It was everything I believe in: Cass has supported me as a writer, and I’ve given readings at the Avid salons, and, as Bri said, the same writers come back to do their own launches. It’s a beautiful community of writers we have here in Brisbane.

    As for your reading, I thought you selected a perfect piece to read. Great intrigue, and made me want to know more. We were all rapt in listening to you.

    I don’t use Scrivener, but I added ‘Speak’ function to my Word, and it reads out my manuscripts for me (in an American accent).

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Argh, Kali, I don’t know whether to feel pleased or guilty! Those issues aren’t cheap! I will console myself in the knowledge that you’re supporting the two lovely women who run Gargouille, and in turn support their writers by publishing them and paying them well. Thank you xx

        Liked by 2 people

    1. We do have a great community of writers in Brisbane. The audience that night was so genuine and supportive. And I finally got to meet Cass, who couldn’t have been lovelier.

      Thanks for the tip about Word! The Secret’s at Ocean’s Edge in an American accent would have been interesting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought you read beautifully Alyssa, and it actually calmed me down to hear you reading so smoothly. I thought, “Ok, I’ll just try to do it like that!”. (It was my first reading too, as you know). Though I did listen to the audience laughing several times at your trademark humour and think ‘Oh man, this will be a hard act to follow.’!

    I feel really bad about what my daughter said now – it sounds so rude! – but I know she was just calming me down, which is why I passed the comment on to you. In reality, of course everyone listened. But it helped me to settle remembering that we were merely ‘support acts’ for the main event – the fabulous Kali talking with Cass Moriarty.

    And you’re so right about reading work out loud. It helps so much to physically hear how a piece of text sounds, not just hear it in your head as you read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I keep forgetting it was your first time as well because you were such a pro!

      I don’t think your daughter was rude – quite insightful, actually, and it helped calm my nerves. Although in the end, the audience were very respectful and certainly appeared to be listening quite intently.

      I’m looking forward to reading the end of The Ground Beneath when my copy of Gargouille arrivces!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, and I’ve read it all now! I’m no longer in suspense because I know what happens at the end. I really enjoyed it. I also read the Christmas Party story that’s on Kill Your Darlings and I thought it was brilliant writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Well done Alyssa. Sounds like you did an amazing job 🙂
    I’m trying to read my work aloud more often now, particularly during the editing phase. I do feel like a bit of a loser reading it out to myself… but sometimes my dog looks vaguely interested!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, wow and wow!
    Firstly, congratulations on reading your work aloud to an audience at an actual book launch! Nerve wracking, yet exhilarating. (And great practice for when it’s your own turn!)
    Wow to all the great advice in this post. I had no idea Scrivener could read aloud. I’ve just been playing with the feature (thanks for Alisdair’s link – now I just need to work how to change my computer’s voice – or just get used to it!).
    I’m now a big fan of reading my work aloud, and it’s completely different reading aloud to an audience (even a very small one) than to yourself. I find it’s better for picking up on plot holes and ambiguities.
    And Kali Napier? I’m impressed!! I’m reading The Secrets at Oceans Edge and the moment and really enjoying Kali’s writing. (I’d also love to meet Fiona in person).
    What an amazing loop of the roller coaster! Thanks for sharing 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Marie! Yes, even though it was a great experience reading my work aloud to an audience, I was relieved when it was over and could listen to Fiona, and then Kali!
      I looked through your blog trying to find one of your posts as I’m sure you had one about reading your work aloud, but I couldn’t find it. Then I remembered you saying something had happened to your website and you’d lost a lot of stuff?
      I’m sure you’ll love The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge – it’s definitely going to be one of the biggest books this year.

      Liked by 1 person

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