Writers – Listen To What You Are Really Saying…

Keep Calm and Shut The Hell Up!

I get asked an awful lot of questions.

Questions like – how can I build abs of steel like that six-pack that you have cleverly concealed beneath your size 42 waistline?

Questions like – how can I sing so I sound as good as you think you sound when you are singing in the shower and nobody is listening?

But mostly I get asked about writing.

Mind you, I would not call myself an expert by any means – but I have about 40 years of experience in the profession and I have learned a few tricks along the way.

Just the other day somebody asked me if I had any advice about word tenses? The person who asked me was having problems switching from present to past tense and found it hard to know ifΒ  they were doing it right or wrong.

First off, I told them to find themselves a good editor.

No, I cannot recommend one – nor even afford one myself – but a writer – especially an indie writer – should DEFINITELY get someone else to go over their work for them.

I constantly run into this tense problem myself – partly because I am often writing a manuscript in short and varied writing sessions – and partly because I have a very free and casual kind of relationship with the English language.

That’s right.

I said it.

Me and the English language have a kind of OPEN relationship.

English understands how it is for me.

Nobody else can understand me – but English sure seems to – or at least that’s how I tell the story.

But what about if you CAN’T afford an editor and none of your friends are smart enough to do the job for you.

That’s not to say that you have dumb friends – but who in their right mind would ever want a writer for a friend anyway? The bastards never talk to you, they are always making things up behind your back and chances are they don’t have two cents to rub together.

(mind you, I’m from Canada – and we gave up our cents some time ago)

To all those writers who are broke like me – just try sitting down and reading your work aloud! Right out loud – and make it a point to LISTEN to yourself as you read. You will catch more goofs that way than through any other technique I can think of.

I absolutely LOVE this technique.

In fact my wife often tells me that I most likely invented this technique because I NEVER get tired of hearing myself talk.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

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21 responses to “Writers – Listen To What You Are Really Saying…

  1. I’ve heard this advice many times but I’ve never had the guts (or sufficient spit) to try it. I suppose one of these days I probably should bite the proverbial bullet, grab myself a Timmie’s, and just do it. Hopefully I’ll sound better than two loonies rubbing together… Little cottage country humour there. Please don’t hold it against me.

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  2. All kidding aside I use this technique all of the time. I usually do it at home in my office. My wife has got used to hearing me talking to myself up there. At the end of the day it is all we writers really do.

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  3. Good point — I should really start doing this. In fact, I recently read a blog post where someone had recorded themselves reading an essay/story. I would expect that listening would be much easier that way. I’d just have to get over the sound of my own voice though, which always sounds like crap on a recording.

    Cheers from a fellow Canadian.

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  4. Wives are always supportive like that. Ever the kind word.

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  5. Reading your work out loud is the very best way to find errors in English. I also belong to a critique group, where we meet once a month and read our work out loud to the rest of the group. There are 4 of us in my group. This is the best thing I have ever done for my writing. They catch things I wouldn’t (as I do for them). Funny, my husband says the same about me!

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    • Glad you’ve got a good group, Darlene. My problem is I do not play well with others. πŸ™‚

      Still, you are right. It is why I always work well with editors. I am quite confident that whatever grammatical mistake there is to be made I most likely will be the one to make it.

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  6. I *totally* do this. I sound like a loon, but I don’t care! I’d rather sound like a loon in private than an idiot in public. Though one does not necessarily negate the other. πŸ˜‰

    Great post!

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  7. Margaret Taylor

    It’s good advice. I call my cousin on the phone and read to her, chapter by chapter. You’d be surprised what I catch and she’s used to hearing, “Blah, blah, blah…” Oh, wait, I need tooooooo…got it. “Despite the challenges…”

    It works…*laughs* And that’s usually before I send it off to my editor, who I bargain with, because I don’t have two cents to rub together either Steve, yet. But, hey, I’m also American, so I could loan you a couple there buddy…if you like. πŸ˜‰

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    • I’ll hold you to that, Margaret. I’ve got a blog entry coming up in the next week or so regarding possible uses for politically extinct pennies.

      Thanks for the comment. I also like the idea of reading to someone over the telephone – although I absolutely HATE talking on the telephone. That’s a “man” thing, I expect. πŸ™‚

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  8. This technique is so easy, it’s hard to believe how well it works.

    I would never have tried it (I hate my real voice and my writing voice), but I have a blind sister who lives in the US and she wanted to ‘hear’ my book. I couldn’t just whip up an audiobook or Braille version, so I spent a week or so reading her a bit everyday via Skype.

    Not only did she help me point out cheesy scenes, plot holes, and melodrama, I was able to find where the flow of my writing got awkward. It’s also easier to spot typos and misspelled words when you have to say them aloud.

    I highly recommend other writers take your advice!

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  9. I, too, haven’t had the nerve to do it. Listening to myself talk to me seems boring but I know it’s effective and you’re inspiring me to do it. In fact, I may or may not have even read this comment to myself πŸ˜›

    Thanks for reading, and talking,

    Sarah Butland
    author of Arm Farm, Brain Tales and Blood Day

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  10. Pingback: Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all. | Ruth Nestvold – Indie Adventures

  11. Jeannine Stevenson

    I had to laugh at his one! Thank you, Steve

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