“On the Milwaukee Journal I had formed the habit of talking aloud to myself as I wrote…. I discovered that talking aloud while writing made the thing more real to me and to the reader. The words came alive.” Edna Ferber
Since Edna Ferber’s birthday was just last week, I thought I’d share a technique that she talks about in her autobiography, A Peculiar Treasure. The book is filled with her feisty tales of derring-do as a reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. It also offers a generous peek at Edna’s writing process.
Her tip about talking out loud as you write really grabbed my attention. I’ve seen advice about reading your work aloud after you write it as an editing tool, but I’ve come across only a few references to saying your words out loud while you’re in the middle of writing. I know that Dickens, for example, used to act out his scenes as he was penning them.
Anyway, I’ve tried this myself in rewriting a section of a draft that was flat. I wanted to create an urgent, scary feeling, but it wasn’t coming through. The scene needed a serious energy transfusion: it was telling instead of showing.
So I tried Edna’s approach and simply started feeling what was happening in the moment from my character’s point of view and then began describing it aloud. The words started tumbling out in a breathless kind of way. Suddenly, I got excited and was off and running! The end result was far more dramatic than my earlier version. What a thrill! Why not try this technique and see if it works for you? If it does, I’d love to hear about it. Write on!
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