Monday, June 25, 2012

Audio Books - Another View

Unlike Kathleen, who posted last week about audio books, I have never embraced that technology. Maybe, like she said, it's because I don't process well audibly. Even when I was in critique groups where we read aloud for comments, I would have a hard time focusing if the reading went beyond seven to ten pages.

I have tried to listen to audio books when my husband and I traveled. He seems to be able to focus better and always enjoyed the books. I would find myself glancing out the window at the passing scenery and my mind would go somewhere else. Then I'd realize I missed a whole section of the story. My husband would have to catch me up when we stopped for lunch.

So it was a huge surprise when we decided to listen to the audio version of my book, One Small Victory when we took a recent trip, and I was able to stay with it the whole time. That may be due in part to the fact that I was driving and couldn't gaze out at the scenery and start thinking of some other story.

However, the real reason, I suspect, is because I was listening to my story, my words, and marveling at how hearing them read with the dramatic interpretation was so different from reading words on a page. It was the same thrill I experienced the first time one of my plays was performed on stage.

Talk about a story coming alive.

As I listened to my book, I caught small scenes I'd forgotten about, so that was like listening to something brand new. In other places there was a clever description or a terrific few lines of dialogue, and I'm thinking, "Wow, did I write that?"

At one point I turned to my husband and asked, "Is it okay to say, 'gosh this is good?'"

He laughed and patted my knee. "Yes. You can say that."

Thinking about that experience as I started to prepare this blog post, I realized how important it is for us writers to read our work aloud, or listen to someone else read it. This is done for screenplays and stage plays all the time, and it is amazing how helpful that is in catching the awkward phrasing and awkward dialogue.

In those critique groups I belonged to, we read our own work, but I think I would love to have a group where we read each others work aloud.

Last week Kim Pearson had a post about using Adobe to have your work read aloud.  It is not the same as a dramatic reading, but still a good resource.

Do you read your work aloud? Would you join a critique group where you read each others work?

  Maryann Miller is a novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her latest release is Open Season as an e-book for all devices. To check out her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas. 

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  1. Maryann, your post made me think. I don't do audio books, but I think that's because my mind almost always is multi-tasking (my daughter says I have adult ADD). What would it be like to hear a great reader articulate my words? That might be really cool. I'm going to think about it . . .

    Thank you for this one! I like it a lot.

  2. I always read my own work out loud when I'm editing. It would be interesting to hear someone else read it.

    But I can't listen to audiobooks while I drive. I get caught up in the story and find myself doing a brisk 20 MPH on the Interstate.

  3. I also battle to concentrate on audio books, and even the radio. My husband, on the other hand, prefers to listen to an audio book rather than read.

    I think having someone else read one's work at a critique group would be very valuable, though, because it would highlight areas that a reader might trip over or misunderstand or find awkward. Great idea.

  4. My husband, a former thespian, reads mine aloud! I can really "hear" the writing with his dramatic voice!

  5. Junior and I argue over who "gets" to read the bedtime story each night. It's fun, but I think I'd be awfully nervous about handing over my own words to be read aloud by others. :)

  6. Thanks, Linda, glad you liked the post.

    LD, I laughed at your "brisk 20 miles an hour." I tended to go too fast when listening to my book. LOL

    Elle, I hope you can find a critique group, or even one person, to read your work aloud. It really does help.

    Dani, you are lucky to have someone who knows how to do dramatic reading.

    Silfert, at first it can be a little daunting. The first time I had a reading of one of my scripts I was so nervous I could hardly sit still while the reading was going on. But when I saw how beneficial that was in spotting story problems and awkward dialogue, I was eager to do it again. It does get easier. Honest. (smile)

  7. Maryann, Sorry I missed this yesterday, as I was traveling (radio only, no books, although did take in some NPR, including a Selected Shorts reading by Edwidge Danticat). What a very special experience, to hear your work read aloud by an actor! I'd love to have been in your shoes, I'm sure.

    Was this a contract with a traditional audio book publisher, or did you hire someone? Do you know if it's hard and/or expensive to have self-published works made into audio books?


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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