Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Naked Writers

When a critique partner reads my work aloud, I feel naked. Exposed. Not even an octopus has enough arms to cover all the embarrassing parts.

Although it makes me uncomfortable, I realize this is essential to the publishing process. Here are some benefits to letting it all hang out:
  • Detecting funky flow. If the reader stumbles over a sentence, it probably needs cosmetic surgery or amputation. Unless you meet over margaritas. Then you can expect the stumbling.
  • Laughing together at the blemishes. If we have the right attitude, laughing together over the ugly parts helps take the sting out. Plus, our writer friends are willing to help replace that hairy mole with something of the Cindy Crawford kind.
  • Elephant Skin. Writers need thick skin. We want people to read and enjoy our books, but it'll take time and polish to get them ready. Most critique partners offer free makeovers in the form of helpful analysis. See this great post about handling criticism effectively.
Listening to my own words isn't as intimidating as it used to be. Sure, I'm still embarrassed, but I recognize that it's part of the game and I need to get over it.

Can you add any benefits to someone else reading your work out loud? Are your words still buried under a trench coat, or are you a naked writer?

49 comments:

  1. Several decades ago, I was in an MFA program. I heard my stuff read out loud! It's not easy. But HONEST criticism is what we need. I've had friends read my stuff. This doesn't work. I also don't think bloggers are good for each other because, as I've realized, they become our friends.

    I think I'm mostly a naked writer. There is that small percentage that still squirms. It isn't easy to put ourselves "out there."

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  2. I believe Ann brings out some great points. It's hard for a friend to point out our flaws. I do, however have a couple that would do that for me. They're pretty honest and straight to the point. They've read my stuff (poems) and if they didn't understand something we'd look at it and I'd fix it.

    I hope when it's time for someone to read my story, they will feel comfortable enough to point out my errors while remembering it's my child they're talking about.....

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  3. I haven't had anyone read my work out loud yet, but I have gotten over the hump of keeping it to myself. Baby steps!

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  4. I read my work out loud to myself, Julie, may have mentioned this before. It's the only way I pick up on the mistakes, missed words, lack of sentences making any sense. It works for me every time. By doing this I'm sure my child readers will be comfortable with what I've written. Not struggle too much. Hugs..

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  5. right. Reading aloud is a super technique. Especially when it comes to dialogue. Thanks, Julie~ :o) <3

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  6. Yes - it is a feeling of being exposed. Once I separate my emotions from the words being read out loud, I can listen objectively. I often listen for rhythm issues - this is especially helpful in dialogue passages.

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  7. So far no one has read my work out aloud. But I think another writer's feedback is crucial as we are getting a criticism from someone who writes as well as reads and knows what the story lacks, as its easy getting objective where someone else's work is concerned.

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  8. Well said! I love listening to my story read out loud. I catch so much that way that I don't catch any other way. It's an integral part of my revision process now!

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  9. My Kindle has read my work aloud to me - does that count?

    With a trusted crit group, I don't think I'd have a problem!

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  10. I'd say right now I'm in between trench coat and naked... a writer in my skivies. I love having a CP help me in my work, but I've never had her read it outloud. I usually leave the room so I don't see her reactions. Looks like I need to "take it all off." Great post! Thanks!

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  11. There's always the table available to dive underneath.. LOL, I should have known this would be an upcoming topic. You crack me up! But seriously, I've learned that feeling that uncomfortable is GOOD thing. It makes you stretch and grow.

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  12. I've never done this! How terrifying.

    I know I've cringed in the past when my sister has gotten her hands on the novels I wrote in middle school and read them out loud. But then, she read with her "stupid voice" so it all seemed even more horrible than it already was! LOL! She's scarred me for life. ;)

    Amy

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  13. Good post Julie. You know, I always read my own work out loud so I can detect the "stumbling areas" as well. I think that your point about developing thicker skin is an important one. Let's face it, if and when we all do succeed as writers and end up published, we'll still face reviews. . . some of them not as stellar as we'd like.

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  14. I say rip off your clothes, grab your manuscript, run outside and read it out loud yourself. Follow-up with a little boogie dance and then after that, giving the manuscript to your critique partners won't seem so bad.

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  15. It really helps me to hear someone else read my work then I can hear if the emphasis on the words is read liked I meant them to. Then when they critique it it helps me find out how they are understanding the manuscript and I know how to revise to fix it to read like i menat for it to be read.

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  16. The best part is growing a thick skin. And it's better to have been gained from people who like you and care about your writing than a total stranger. :)

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  17. I agree with the thick skin. When we all start out, we are hoping that other readers will find out how wonderful our writing is. That's "naked" time. But as time goes by, I have really appreciated friends that catch what isn't working. I guess by now, I'm looking for "editorial" feedback to catch problems before I blithely submit: If I'm not standing next to an agent or editor to explain my work, what will that editor or agent see in the manuscript? That's what i want to fix before submitting.

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  18. I find it helpful to read my work in front of others as well. Hearing your words does wonders.

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  19. I'm definitely still under the trench coat! Not easy to take it off!

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  20. wow. this is exactly how it feels but I know what you said is true...letting others in...hearing someone read my thoughts...my words is so helpful although still uncomfortable too. Thanks Julie...

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  21. Nice. I cringe when my husband reads through the first draft--can't even bear to be in the same room.

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  22. Thick skin is exactly what every writer needs. I love my critique group, but I sometimes hold my breath until I read their reviews, hoping that they don't tell me I suck.

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  23. I'm still under a trench coat. Exposed is exactly the way I feel when someone else reads my work--but I guess I'll have to hand it to someone else eventually!

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  24. I love having my work read aloud (and hate it) for exactly the reasons you said. I try to read my own out loud, too. It's a great way to catch the funky spots!

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  25. It reveals clumsy sentence structure--just like you said. I read my books out loud as the final revision pass. It's amazing what I have to change!

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  26. Only people I've met online have read my stuff so far. It took a LOT for me to even find crit buddies - but they are awesome and it's well worth it! :)

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  27. I love when someone reads my work aloud to me. It helps me find the inconsistencies. I'm looking for a couple good betas right now. It sounds like you have great ones! I hope I will be so fortunate.

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  28. I like having my writing read aloud to me since it brings it to a different level of our senses. I am always open to criticism but whom I have read my work typically has difficulty in giving the criticism; what to do in that case?

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  29. My critiquers have been invaluable to me. That's why they're both on the dedication page because there is no way my novel would have been as good without them. Cherish a good critiquer!! I just got my first Amazon review and it's 5 stars. Again without my critiquers it wouldn't have happened :)

    The Arrival, on Amazon NOW!
    www.damselinadirtydress.com

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  30. The key is totally trusting your critique partners. Which I do. I have the best critique partners on the planet. We use blunt love. It's a close cousin to tough love, and boy does it work.

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  31. Julie, I linked to your blog post tonight and did a follow up to it:)

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  32. I've never had my work read out loud and I'm a little nervous thinking about it! But you're right, it's invaluable.

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  33. Ah, I remember the first time I heard someone read my words. It was scary and made me a little nauseous.

    Now I love it because I can catch so many things when I'm listening.

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  34. Oh yes totally naked. When someone comes back with a critique, I'm tempted to keep talking over them saying "But but but" (you started the naked theme, not me) only I force myself to listen and then maybe I just might learn something useful.

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  35. Love the pic! Not naked for me anymore. I can take just about anything. Probably from years and years of writing for the newspaper and having people say horrible things about me in their letters to the editor. At one point my husband told me I should change my name so people wouldn't come looking for me with a shotgun!

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  36. I love my critique partners reading my work--sometimes their feedback stings but I know it is meant for me to grow.

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  37. Yep, getting feedback is a necessary evil. It makes my writing stronger, so I bulk up under a layer of elephant skin. Altho now that I think about it, feeling nekkid is a given, even with thick skin!

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  38. I'm working on developing a thicker skin when it comes to critique. I think no matter how many times you get critiqued, you're always going to feel a little "naked." I was critiqued at least once a month for two years while in an MFA program. Tough stuff! But it get definitely gets a bit easier to handle each time.

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  39. Here's a benefit to reading aloud - you'll hear the bits that sound awesome as well! And even if there's only one or two of them, it feels great!

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  40. It's always important to get other people's input of our work before it's sent out. Reading aloud helps. Reading a printed copy helps. But having an educated stranger give their opinions helps a lot!

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  41. I fidgit when my group reads my stuff aloud, good or bad. Not good at that yet : )

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  42. I haven’t had anyone read my book aloud, but I see the positives in it.

    Thx for the advice.

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  43. I've never had this experience and it does sound scary, but I guess necessary.

    I came by to tell you that I have a Publication Party series on my blog, kicked off this week. I'd love it if you could come by and read what authors have to say about getting published. Perhaps you could leave a comment about your publication success to encourage aspiring authors. There are prizes each week. Please come by if you have time. The champagne's free!

    Denise :)

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  44. Sometimes there's a delicious little thrill when the words sound just as I thought they would. Sometimes I feel awkward and embarrassed. Sometimes a 'What were you thinking?!' knocks me out. There's always learning, especially in a supportive critique group which I'm lucky enough to have.

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  45. trying to become less naked.......just agreed to trade writing samples with another writer this week!

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  46. For years I wasn't in a critique group, but I felt comfortable querying and sending my manuscript out. But when it came time to join a group and read my work aloud, I felt naked. There's something about voicing my written words that makes me feel exposed.

    I haven't had someone else read my work, unless s/he is critiquing snippets.

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  47. Hi Julie .. I'm probably a naked writer .. but I need to start with me first! then get it proof read by another .. I'm sure I need to get some understanding in there sometimes to make it comprehensible to others!!

    We want our work and words to sing out .. so others can read them happily - not worth writing them really otherwise .. I'd have said it's essential and I hope when the time comes I can find someone .. Hilary

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  48. I feel EXACTLY the same way. I am never more nervous than when I am listening to someone else read my work aloud - especially if there are others listening too. It is pretty amazing how much you pick up though. There's just no substitute for that step, because we know our own words too well.

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  49. Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

    Obat Kulit Supaya Lebih Bersih Dan Sehat
    Obat Pilek Menahun
    Obat Alami Batu Empedu
    Obat Lupus
    Obat Ginjal Bocor
    Obat Infeksi Lambung
    Penyebab TBC Kelenjar
    Obat Gatal Bibir Vagina
    Cara Menghilangkan Infeksi Jantung
    Obat Penyakit Jantung

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