Reading Your Work Aloud

You’ve been invited to give a book talk at the local library, you’re hosting a book signing, or there’s a read-around at your writers group. Whatever the occasion, you have a chance to read your work to a group of people who came for the express purpose of hearing you. Read. Aloud.

Wow! What a scary opportunity. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few clues about how to put your writing across to an audience.

You may be thinking, “I wrote this, surely I can read it.” And that may be true. But oratory is different from authorship. You need to read the piece so that your listeners get it.

Prepare a short introduction to the essay/story if it is needed. Often it is not. However, if you feel it’s necessary to tell how the piece came to be, be brief. Flowery introductions are deadly.

Read rather than recite. Even poetry. Don’t take a chance on failing to remember where you are and what comes next. But also, don’t bury your nose in the text. Be familiar enough with the piece that you can make eye contact from time to time. Read it aloud several times before presentation. If you stumble over a word, change it to something that rolls off your tongue easily.

If you are given a time limit, honor it. Cut your piece rather than speed-reading. In fact, slow your speech a bit so the listener understands every word. Pause for dramatic effect. A pause is worth a thousand words.

Do you write humor? Make sure the punch line comes across clearly. If no one laughs, don’t stop to explain. Just soldier on.

If possible, record yourself and listen with a critical ear. Is there something that could be improved?

PRACTICE! Aloud. Each time you do, you will gain confidence.

Okay. Break a leg!

Dot Hatfield
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