Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. ~P.J. O’Rourke
The stage was set for the public reading. The host introduced me and I grabbed the author copy of my book Beyond the Tripping Point. I walked up to the lectern, took the mic, opened the book, prepared to read…
And could barely see the words.
No, folks I wasn’t going blind. And my glasses were (and are) just fine.
The culprit was not enough light. Only dim ceiling lights. The restaurant had supplied the lectern and mic but did they forget we would need to see to read? I wasn’t the only one who had problems seeing. Usually I enjoying reading in public and am told I do it very well. Not last Thursday evening’s session in the patio room at a Toronto restaurant. I was reading as part of the Toronto branch of the Canadian Authors Association season launch, which outside of the restaurant’s gaff with the lack of light, went very well and brought in record numbers for the branch. I was proud to be reading as part of the CAA program. And yes I did manage to stumble through the short passage I read (and was actually heard as others told me afterward). However, I was so disconcerted by the lighting situation that I forgot to mention the date of my book launch (November 4, 2012). My publisher did, when he went up to the lectern.
My publisher since told me to print out my reading excerpt from my Word copy double-spaced in 14 point. Another author told me to use sans serif font and print all caps. Not sure whether my eyes could deal with the latter, but the large print sans serif sounds good. I might also bring a flashlight or a clip-on book light – if I can find new batteries for my book light and figure out how to insert them. Never again will I complain about bright lights shining in my eyes as I do a public reading.
Fortunately, this reading was a dry run (as my publisher put it) for the book launch.
This reading experience made me think how much reading out loud can help the manuscript in-the-works. Sometimes hearing what you have written puts your story in a different perspective. And your setup for reading-out-loud can bring out different experiences. If you read out loud, record it and play it back, you can hear your words as if coming from another person. If you merely read out loud, you hear the sound from inside your head.
Both methods can give you excellent feedback. You might discover:
Something in the plot sounds jarring and doesn’t work.
One character’s dialogue doesn’t sound right for the character or for the scene.
The point of view you have used may not work. For example if you wrote it from the third person omniscient – see all and hear all – like looking down from a cloud – it might sound cold and distant for what is intended to be an intimate story. (We will be covering the ins and outs of point of view in an upcoming blog. Soon).
You will hear your word errors – words that don’t fit exactly for what you mean, words left out or repeated.
Reading out loud can be an enlightening experience (pun on word intended). You can hear your characters live, breath, and speak. Reading out loud is an excellent tool to help you improve your writing. Playing back what you read works even better.
And if you are going to read in public, be prepared. Bring a large printout of your reading material and a book light or small flashlight. And practice beforehand. That latter (and my experience reading in public) was my saving grace last Thursday evening. Otherwise, I might have been tempted to walk away without reading.
Sharon A. Crawford
Author of Beyond the Tripping Point