If you ever take a linguistics class, you will hear this catechism from the first day on:
1) Speech is primary.
2) Speech is universal among human cultures, and separates us from other animals.
3) Speech is innately acquired-â€“-unlike writing, which is a skill that must be learned.
4) Therefore speech (not writing) is the primary material for linguistic study.
Yes, dear NaNoWriMor-ers, writing is important. But speech is the bee’s knees. So when you want to measure your burgeoning novel against a basic human yardstick, read that sucker out loud.
Every week or so, Justine and I read aloud to each other the last few chapters of whatever books we’re writing. We like to entertain each other, but we do have one important rule: the reader is allowed to stop at any time to fix a lousy sentence, even if it leaves the listener hanging.
We’ve found this practice extremely useful for the following reasons:
1) When you read aloud, pacing issues become readily apparent.
2) It is physically impossible to read a crappy sentence without flinching.
3) Reading dialog aloud prevents unintentional hilarity.
3) Drafts are easier to share when no one can see your crappy punctuation and spelling. (In early drafts, you often don’t care about such details yet.)
5) Non-verbal responses like laughter and gasps are invaluable.
6) Novel writing is a lonely process with extremely long lag-times for feedback. Storytelling has the advantage of instantaneous feedback.
7) Loving to tell stories is why we got into this racket.
So the next time you’re stuck, consider finding a friend and reading aloud to them. Surprisingly, a stuffed animal works almost as well, because it’s not the listening that changes everything, it’s the talking.
Speech is primary.
You can still read my chat with Naomi Novik here at Suvudu.com. Don’t forget to check out Justine’s post from yesterday, about avoiding stereotypes, and her new one tomorrow. See you in two days!