"I always find if you read fiction out loud you know what you have to change by what you stumble over." - Alice Hoffman.
As anyone who has worked with me knows, I'm a huge proponent of reading our manuscripts aloud. It's critical to do this when your work is a picture book--we can all agree that the most successful picture books are not only those that can be read aloud over and over again, but those that we want to read aloud over and over again. So the very best way to write a picture book is to read it aloud as you go along. It's equally critical, though, to read your fiction and non-fiction aloud. Yes, it will take a lot of time, but this must be part of the writing process because the reading process is itself a multi-layered sensory experience. We don't read only with our eyes--as we read, we feel a story; as we read, we sense a story; and as we read, we hear a story. And so, the very best way to write a novel or non-fiction that will appeal to readers is to read it aloud as you go along.
Saying something aloud makes it more real for us. We can think something, we can feel something, we can wonder about something, we can even write something down. But I've often found it to be true that when we say what we're thinking or feeling, when we give a voice to it, that's usually when it becomes most real, whether we like it or not. We can't take it back. It's out there. It's been witnessed. So too, our manuscripts. We must witness our own stories, we must witness our own writing--and by doing so, we will experience our stories and our writing in new ways, in ways that will reveal flaws, in ways that will reveal poetry, in ways that will reveal what we need to adjust, revise, omit, add.
As we read aloud, we feel our words on our tongues--we taste our words, we taste our stories--and just as there are certain textures and flavors of foods we find delicious or distasteful, so will we begin to recognize what textures and flavors of our writing we find delicious or distasteful. And in so doing, we will be refining our work in ways that will engage the deeper senses of our readers.
We must hear our words. Taste our words. See our words. Feel our words. As we do, our senses will become more acute and we will experience our stories and ourselves more fully, we will share our stories and ourselves more fully.