Jennifer Egan (author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
) won a Pulitzer Prize and
the National Book Critics Circle Award. Because writing and speaking are intertwined, we made a point of seeing her at the Santa Fe Literary Festival. We’re always curious about the process that successful authors use.
We smiled when Egan said that she reads drafts of her work aloud, to herself and her book club. It’s a technique that we’ve espoused for years, especially when rehearsing an upcoming talk. Out loud, you can hear the meter, adjust your tone, phrasing, and pick up content glitches like repetition, too much detail, generalities, and weak opens or closes. It is also relaxing, as you act out speaking to an audience and include movement-- if you are presenting live.
When rehearsing in front of others, use Egan’s book club rule: audience members must give positive and constructive comments, before
saying what can be improved. These techniques make the leap between construction and delivery less daunting, knowing that you have worked through your material in an environment that is close to the real thing.