Writing is often a very quiet and private experience for me. I curl up on a corner of a couch with a mug of hot tea, flex my fingers, and then write for as long as I can, avoiding distractions and other people whenever possible. However, I have learned that sometimes, especially when editing a later draft, it’s necessary to break out of my quiet routine and find new ways to stimulate and breathe life into the stories I’m writing. There are two things that I turn to for this: listening to music and reading my own book out loud.
Listening to music. Sometimes this approach also works well when drafting. The big trick is not to listen to your usual music or to anything that could draw your attention away from the task at hand. Choose something subtle that can work in the background and serve to accent your writing–soundtrack music is generally my favorite, or music that would fit into the scene that I’m working on. What’s the effect? My writing when I listen to music tends to be much more emotionally driven than other sections of the novel. When I’m editing, music helps accent certain aspects of the scenes that I had not paid much attention to previously and helps balance the writing as a whole. Maybe a certain detail I had barely managed to mention earlier suddenly becomes a crucial icon representing the core of what’s happening in a different light. Maybe a character feels differently about the situation than I had previously imagined. Either way, music is a fabulous way to look at your writing in a different light and recharge it with new energy that you wouldn’t have just skimming it over for yourself.
Reading aloud. This is intimidating for some people, but currently I consider it an absolutely crucial step to take when revising a novel. You need to read it out loud. You need to hear your words spoken in your voice and immerse yourself even further into your book than ever before, and there is no alternative. I felt silly the first time I read one of my stories aloud for editing purposes. My family was in the house and I already felt that I knew the book well enough anyway. I just wanted a way to shake up my routine, and I was willing to undergo a little awkwardness for the sake of finding a fresh new way to look at my work. It was one of the best experiments I ever did. You’ll never know how much you are missing out on if you don’t read your story out loud. When you start speaking, you’ll notice parts that are much more awkwardly written than you had noticed and you’ll also know just how to fix it to make it sound more natural. You’ll discover your writing’s natural rhythm and pacing and be able to transform it into a unique writing style that emphasizes what you’re already good at and makes it unforgettable. Plus, if you like acting and performing on stage, you’ll have fun with this trick.
Either of those tricks is only emphasized when you try both together. If you can pull off both reading out loud and listening to music, the experience becomes outright theatrical. Moments will pop out that you never noticed before, and you’ll be able to key in to the exact tone and rhythm needed for your book. It does take a while to read through an entire draft, but every time I’ve done it, it’s been absolutely worth it.