/ Articles

Get your free email address:  you@dowse.com

Back to



Writing has been a passion within Tom since the age of 13, when a speech teacher helped him redirect his short and explosive temper from hitting objects to writing stories about what had angered him. Having a short and violent temper was not the only curse young Tom suffered. He was also plagued with a severe inferiority complex so most of his writing was kept secretly tucked away for 23 years. He was so sure that his writing was terrible that he dared not let anyone else read his works. Tom continued to write simply because he enjoyed writing, but he never entertained any thoughts of becoming published despite encouragement from his wife and other family members. In April of 1998 he began writing “The Devenshire Chronicles”, his first attempt at a true Fantasy/Adventure story. Very early on in the writing of the manuscript Tom knew that this project was different from all the other novels, short stories and plays that he’d written before. He knew this one would be the one he would try to get published and ask the “Am I good enough” question. In February of 2001 Tom got his answer. CrossroadsPub.com accepted the manuscript of “The Devenshire Chronicles” Book One: “The Stones of Snamuh” for publication as an e-book.

The one single piece of advice Tom would give to any new, aspiring author is "Never give up. Never stop trying…ever. You aren’t beaten until you beat yourself by giving up. Believe in yourself because if you don’t? No one else will either.”

Reading Aloud: The Indispensable Writing Tool.
Tom E. Sechrist, Jr.

Recently a discussion thread was started by one of the online authors’ discussion groups I am a member of. This thread was about reading your manuscripts out loud as you are writing them. As opinions were posted on both sides of this issue I realized what an indispensable writing tool this was and one I was using without ever really realizing how much of a benefit it was. It occurred to me that other new authors might be over looking this valuable tool as well.

As a rule, people read differently than they talk. When we read, our minds work much faster without the cumbersome task of actually speaking. We read dialogue in a book and our mind doesn’t comprehend it exactly the same way as speech. The same applies to writing dialogue and/or narration. As we write and then read back over what we’ve written, our minds comprehend it the same as when we read any other book. To complicate this situation even more, when we read back over what we’ve written, we, as the author, already know how we want the dialogue to sound, what the narration is supposed to mean and just, subconsciously, assume that our readers will somehow know too.

The results?

Written dialogue will often not seem ‘real’ to the readers. Each person interprets what he or she reads differently and without ever really ‘hearing’ what you’ve written you may be missing some very glaring errors that your readers will pick up on such as stilted dialogue, monotonous narration, characters that all talk the same, or vague narration when much more precise narration is needed.

The solution? Reading your manuscript out loud.

I first started using this method for reasons other than as a tool to improve my writing. For years, when I would write an especially exciting passage (exciting to me, anyway) I would have my wife read it. At first she read the passages silently. Then I wanted to hear her read it out loud so that I could follow along with the words and keep up with where she was, waiting for her to get to the ‘big moment’ of the passage and getting her initial reaction to it.

As she would read narration and/or dialogue I would notice little things that needed to be fixed; a narration that wasn’t clear enough in what I had wanted to convey or dialogue between characters that sounded completely different to my ears from what I had imagined it sounding like.

There were times when my wife didn’t feel like reading aloud and asked me to read a particular passage to her. As I read to her, I also noticed things that didn’t quite ‘sound’ like I had intended them to sound. This was when I began to realize what a valuable tool reading your work aloud was. Many muddled narrations were fixed, monotonous dialogue was spiced up or altered to keep Character A from speaking exactly like Character B and the overall ‘feel’ of each passage read aloud was shifted more in line with what I had imagined in my mind.

Unfortunately, many new authors ignore the value of this time-tested method of improving writing skills. Reading your work aloud builds and strengthens your technique and style. As authors, we (myself included) often make the assumption that since we know exactly what we mean in a passage of narration or in a scene of dialogue that the reader will too. Or we know what we mean to say and it is so familiar to us that we just naturally assume that our meaning will find its way to the reader through the collage of words we use.

Another reason that I didn’t begin using this method for so long was nothing but plain insecurity. In my early years of writing I was sure that my work was so terrible that I wouldn’t dare let anyone read it. It wasn’t until after I got married that I began to actually share what I’d written with anyone. My wife was an excellent sounding board and it was in those early years of our marriage that I began to realize exactly what I’d been missing. Since then I’ve expanded my audience to my children and their friends (that is when I can get them to sit still long enough).

Another good point of reading aloud is using it as a method to gauge reader response. Let’s say you’ve written a particularly funny/sad/humorous/dramatic scene. The emotions are thick, the mood and flow of the scene are right on the money. Then you read the passage aloud to someone or have him or her read it aloud, the climax of the passage comes and…nothing. They finish reading it and then look up at you and say,


The “big bang” of the passage didn’t so much as touch them. Why? Odds are that while you knew exactly what emotions or ideas you were trying to relay, your wording may not have done an adequate job of relaying those emotions or ideas to the reader.

Getting a “Yeah…and?” can be humbling, but it can also point you in the right direction of fixing it. Tell the reader what you were trying to say and then ask them where they missed or lost the feel of the passage. What parts of it didn’t drive your point home? Or you can tell the reader what you were trying to accomplish with the passage and then have them re-read it. A plethora of valuable pointers for fixing a less than sterling passage can be unearthed in this way.

On the other side of this point, let’s say you read a powerful passage to someone and they get exactly what you were trying to say or, even better, much more. These moments can be absolutely delicious. Case in point: I had written a particularly touching scene for my novel, “The Devenshire Chronicles”. I let my wife read it and then read it aloud to a friend of mine. They both cried. The rush of pride and sense of accomplishment that came when I saw those tears was beyond value to me. It told me that I had ‘nailed’ the scene, that I had taken the thoughts and feelings of that moment and more than accurately put them down in words. Again, reading aloud had been an excellent gauge of reader’s response.

Another benefit of reading aloud is learning how to introduce certain characteristics of your character(s). You, as the writer, already know the character(s) intimately. You already know how they think, how they act and react, how they talk, etc. Your readers don’t. They are meeting this person or these people for the first time and reading your work aloud can help you find ways of introducing your reader to your character(s).

Read your work to as many people as you can get to listen to you: a spouse, significant other, a brother, sister, friend or at a writer’s workshop. The more input you have BEFORE you publish your work the better prepared you can be to insure that glaring errors in style, flow, mood, and character development (just to name a few) can be corrected.

If you don’t have anyone to read your work aloud, then fall back on yourself. Read your work into a tape recorder and then play it back. If you don’t have a tape recorder then just read out loud to yourself. Do whatever you need to do to physically hear what you’re writing. The benefits will far outweigh the extra time involved. It can make the difference between a good book and an outstanding book, a book that was a good read and a book that really reached out there and grabbed the reader…and it can, in the long run, mean the difference between an ok royalty check and a great royalty check.

I thought that last one would get your attention.


Tom offers many writing tips and articles in his newsletter, available for free at his website.

Back to Articles Contents Page

Search the web




Dowse Fiction Hub
Dowse Science Fiction and Fantasy Hub
Dowse home - Web Gateway for Creative Minds


We hope you have enjoyed this page. Please go back to the Fiction Hub Contents to read another story or for more information. We believe you will also find that the Dowse Science Fiction Hub has much of interest.


Computing & Internet
Fantasy art
Myths & Legends
News & Info
Science Fiction
Security online
Web Makers Tools
Writing & Publishing

. How to make
  your start page
. Your free email
. Message Bds
   & communities

. Suggest links
. Link to us

. About dowse
. Search the web


Copyright © 2001 dowse.com
all rights reserved


Dowse Articles