One of the final tests the writer should perform before submitting the manuscript for publication is to read the story out loud. It sounds weird, I know, but you’d be surprised what this simple process can reveal. If it doesn’t sound good out loud, it won’t fly with someone reading it.
As most readers absorb a good book, they create pictures in their mind of scenes, characters, and environments. They also will hear certain things created by the imagination. This is why a good work of fiction is so enjoyable. It wisks you away to a little corner of your mind where you, the reader, get to fill in all the subtleties of the story. Dialogue will create voices in the readers head and if the dialogue is cramped, corny or too mechanical, the reader will know it. When you read the story out loud, all of these flaws become apparent. You’ll hear the corny, cheezy, or mechanical flaws and hopefully correct them.
It does take a little getting used to. The first time I tried it, I felt embarrassed even though I was alone. Later, my daughter stuck her head in and looked at me funny. I explained what I was doing and why and she seemed to understand. She pointed out a corny line I had just read and felt somewhat proud of herself. After a little practice you’ll even begin reading the story with some emotion almost as if you were acting it out.
The most important thing you’ll get out of the exercise is the ability to ‘hear’ what your readers are ‘hearing’ in their heads. I think you’ll be surprised at some of the mistakes you will find. Don’t leave this important step of the editing process out.