09/27/2010 02:12 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Making of a Novel: Hearing What I Write

I wrote five pages this morning, pages which may or may not become the opening of my new new novel. I was fishing around for an entry point, looking for a way in, and hit upon the idea of starting with a funeral for a legendary editor. The story is going to be narrated by this man's secretary, and his death is a major blow for her, and also a catalyst for her freedom. She doesn't know the second part yet, but she certainly knows the first. So I imagined her sitting at this funeral, hearing these great writers speak about her boss, feeling the crush of grief, and that's what I began to write.

What I noticed while I was working was how much I was listening to what I was writing. I kept changing words and sentences -- little tiny changes that at first blush would seem more appropriate to a late-in-the-game edit. I was really trying to get the sound right, the rhythm right, the voice right. Story, for me, is so much about the sound.

I work in a very quiet place. I never play music while I write. Sometimes I turn off the phone. The quiet is necessary so I can listen to the sound of my words. I often recite my writing, though not completely out loud. I move my lips, I whisper the words. A lot of writing teachers -- myself included -- urge their students to literally read their work out loud so they can get a clear sense of it. I am at the point where I can hear my writing without having to actually speak it. It's a neat little trick.

Here are a few great entries from other writers who listen to the sound of the writing: