Writing means learning, and learning all the time, for the rest of your life.
In the modern world of publishing, whether you choose the traditional route or self publishing, much is expected from an author. Writing a great novel is only the beginning of the journey if you want your work to have a public audience.
Last week, I experienced some intense learning about reading aloud. And by this I mean what it takes to read your novel or short story in front of an audience. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I won the Audrey Jessup award for short story crime writing from the Capital Crime Writers. Part of being nominated meant reading aloud before the winner announcement was made.
The reading was on June 11th. During the week before the event, I attended the Bloody Words conference in Toronto. A bit of luck, as it turned out, because I heard seven authors read. Then on Monday June 9th in Ottawa, I attended a reading by three Scandinavian authors. That’s 10 readings I could learn from.
Here’s my advice about delivering a great reading:
The advice is slit into 4 sections.
Practice before the event:
- Don’t leave practicing to the last-minute. Practice every day even for short periods of time. If you can, read to an audience.
- Practice pausing for commas, periods, paragraph breaks, and starting new scenes.
- Practice until you can take your eyes away from the words and make eye contact with the audience. This will engage them in your reading. Reading to a mirror will allow you to see if you’re looking up.
- Don’t staple the pages. Stapled pages are noisy when turned and are awkward to hold in place.
- Number your free pages in case you drop them.
- Ask how many minutes you have to read. Then prepare for a few minutes less, the exact amount of time and a few minutes more. If other readers don’t show up, you might be given more time. If the proceedings are running long, you might be given less time, Be ready so you can end with a cliff hanger or a dramatic spot that will leave people wanting more.
- If you’re reading from printed pages, print in font large enough to read. Remember the lighting could be dark or there could be glare from other lights. If the font in your printed books is small, you can always print the pages you want to read and place your book in front of you while you’re reading.
- Ask what the setup will be. Is there a podium where you can set your pages? Will you be holding a mic? Will you be standing or sitting?
At the event, before you read:
- If you’re not first, watch the other readers for what works and doesn’t work. Standing with the mic too close to the sound system can cause feedback, having the mic too far or too close to you mic can make understanding your words difficult.
- Have your material ready. Don’t start looking for the section you want to read after you’re at the podium. This distracts the audience.
During your reading:
- Once you are on stage, thank the hosts of the event. This will make your look professional and give you time to let your voice and your nerves settle before you start reading your story.
- Breathe. This sounds obvious, but breathing will make your speech clear. During the reading, I was so nervous at first, I couldn’t bring air into my lungs. At the end of the first page, when I had to flip to the next page, I moved the mic away from my mouth and took a deep breath. This helped me calm down.
- Don’t explain your work in the middle of reading. Let your words speak for themselves.
- Only brief the audience about the story if you’re not starting at the beginning.
- Speak slowly.
Remember: the audience came to hear you and they want you to succeed, so smile and have fun.
If you have any tips on reading aloud, please share 🙂 I’m always looking for ways to improve.
Thanks for reading . . .
Life before E-books? Try sailing before E-books.
On our Niagara 42, Allura, we sailed from Toronto to Aruba and back. Every summer I would scour the second-hand books stores looking for a year’s worth of reading material. Trying to figure out in August what I’ll want to read in January is difficult. So many things influence what I feel like reading.
You can imagine the storage space all the books took up, not to mention the weight. Throughout our first sailing adventure, I searched for book trades if I needed to add to my library. I left books in many marinas and libraries along the way.
Enter E-books. I bought my first Kindle after one year on Mattina. Imagine the happiness my husband felt when I cleared out the cabinets and storage spaces under the bed. He thought he could have the space for storing important things like tools and spare parts. So the negotiations began, and we shared the space. I used to stuff the built-in bookshelf on my side of the bed with books, now I don’t know what to put there. My Kindle only takes up a tiny space.
With the Kindle, I have an endless supply of books at my fingertips. I thought of this today because I’m reading all of the books nominated for the Arthur Ellis writing awards for excellence in crime writing. Before an E-book, I never would have had access to these books while I was sailing. Isn’t it nice how technology makes our lives more fun.
Thanks for reading . . .
Have you ever read your novel aloud?
Do you know how you sound?
I made a recording of a scene, thinking the process would help me proofread. Then I got side tracked, wondering if I could make a podcast. Many writers have web sites with podcasts and book trailers, so I thought I should build some new skills.
I’ve been trying out Garage Band on my Mac. The first thing I discovered was I read too fast. After practicing with the same scene for an hour, I was finally happy with the tempo, but not with the tone. Oh, and my throat was sore. How to professional readers talk for so long?
The next thing I discovered when I read a different scene aloud was I read too fast. I guess I have to learn to slow down when reading a scene for the first time.
Do you have an easy way to create an audio file? Garage Band has a lot of features I don’t need, and I’d like a quick way to do this.
Now if I ever get lucky enough, maybe I’ll read aloud to an audience and not just to my dog – although by the way he cants his head, I think he’s very interested in what I’m saying.
Thanks for reading . . .
So you’re looking for something to read?
Want to read books by Canadians?
Want to read crime/mystery novels?
Then this list if for you.
The winners of the Arthur Ellis awards are:
Best First Novel
Simone St. James, The Haunting of Maddy Clare, NAL
Giles Blunt, Until the Night, Random House Canada
Lou Allin, Contingency Plan, Orca Books
Best Short Story
Yasuko Thanh, “Switch-blade Knife” in Floating Like the Dead, McClelland & Stewart
Steve Lillebuen, The Devil’s Cinema: The Untold Story behind Mark Twitchell’s Kill Room, McClelland & Stewart
Best French Book
Mario Bolduc, La Nuit des albinos: Sur les traces de Max O’Brien, Libre Expression
Best Juvenile/YA Book
Shane Peacock, Becoming Holmes, Tundra Books
Best Unpublished First Novel, aka The Unhanged Arthur
Coleen Steele, Sins Revisited
Derrick Murdoch Award
During the final proofreading of a novel, a writer can be tempted to change a word, deciding another word is better. I try not to cave to the temptation at this stage, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.
One thing I’ve learned while proofreading is that I need to be very careful during the final reading. It’s easy to introduce a typo, but worse, what if the new word doesn’t fit with the surrounding text?
How to I test this?
First, I replace the word. Then I read the entire scene to determine if it sounds right in the whole context. I often find that I’ve chosen a word already written in a paragraph before or after the one I’ve just altered.
The word change might sound better or it might not, but without testing the scene I wouldn’t know. To make the process faster, I could search for the word, to find out if it’s anywhere near, but I still think it’s worth reading the scene to make sure the change makes the story better.
Are there things you look out for in the final proofing?
Thanks for reading . . .