This past fall, as I was digging into my copyedits, my son was beginning first grade. He loves books. If he had it his way, he'd be listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks on repeat forever. And he loves when we read to him. But reading on his own was something he was just learning. He was getting better, though. More confident. Then one afternoon he said to me: "Sometimes when we have reading time at school I just don't do anything." "Why?" I asked. "Because I don't know how to read in my head." This got me thinking. About the difference between reading to ourselves, and reading out loud. About the difference between writing to and for ourselves, and writing out loud.
You see, at the exact time my son said this, I was actually in the process of reading my entire manuscript out loud. I'd gone through all the copyedits, but I wanted to make sure everything still flowed. My very smart CP Paula Stokes suggested I get a cup of tea, a glass of water, and ready my voice, because reading out loud was the surest way to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be. I followed her advice (as I do most of the time). But I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Yes, it completely uncovered some typos, problems, and weird phrasings that I never would have caught if I'd been reading it in my head. But it also took so much longer than I thought it would, and it was SO revealing. Somehow, even though I'd done all the hard work of stripping my thoughts and feelings down to the bone and putting them into words on the page, voicing them--putting them out there in the room with me--was something completely different.
So my son's words hit me particularly hard. As I began to go through the mechanics of learning to read to yourself--say the word out loud, then say it in a whisper, then say it in your brain--I couldn't help starting to explain to him how magical it was, reading to yourself. How you could take a story and it could live inside you, and you could add things to it that no one else could, and how it could be just for you--a special, private thing. Most of this probably went over his head (he may be six, but he already knows what "hooking the reader is" and all about character arc), the funny thing is that he started reading to himself the next day.
And I immediately felt a little loss. There's a sharing that's done when we read out loud. There's a bravery, too. In raising your voice. And letting other people hear it.
I'm working on something new now. In order to dig into myself and unearth the truest bits--the things I try to hide, even from myself--about my characters and their motivations, I'm usually writing in my head. Most of the time with my headphones on. And it's just as private and magical as reading to myself. But what if...what if I wrote out loud?
What would that mean? What would it be? I'll get back to you in a few weeks and let you know, if you promise to do the same.