5 Tips For Reading Your Own Work

As you might know, I do some voice acting for the Folk Tale Audio Drama Anansi Storytime where I’ve been everything from a narrator, to (many) Goddesses, to a turtle. Plus, as a writer, looking for an agent, I’m dreaming of that day when people show up to listen to me read my own work (as terrifying as that is).

So, when I see panels on ‘reading your own work’ at conventions, I like to show up and see what else I can pick up. (See here)

Usually, they’re workshops. This year, at Balticon, the session was more of a panel, with a round or so of audience participation at the end. But I learned a LOT of things specific to reading your own work that I didn’t already know.

Here are my top 5 tips for reading from your own manuscript at an author reading.

Girl, hugging her knees, sitting at the edge of a cliff with mountains in the background.

Photo by Pete Johnson on Pexels.com

1. Pick a scene with action, dialogue, and stop on a cliff-hanger

I’d always imagined that you needed to start your reading at the beginning of the book, otherwise you’d surely confuse the readers!

In truth – no matter how your novel actually starts though, when you’re reading for an audience, you want something active that isn’t too full of introspective!

Although, you still want the scene to focus on the main (or one of the main) protagonists.

Girl smiling at herself in the mirror. Orange blouse, brown hair.

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

2. Rehearse

So often, writers (and audiences) believe that since you wrote it, you should know your novel forwards and backward.

But, even if you aren’t a writer, can you remember a joke you made 3 months ago? With the exact wording? Probably not.

I promise it isn’t the marker of a ‘fake’ writer or someone who’s ‘not meant to do this’. Most authors practice.

After several read-throughs, you’ll get to know how many pages will typically take you to the 1-minute mark, the 5-minute mark, or the 20-minute mark, whichever length of reading you’re preparing for.

Make sure to give yourself a little extra script if you need to be sure to fill the time. Nerves and a live audience make most people speed up, no matter how much they’ve practiced.

Feel free to give an intro and talk about the book and yourself and the story — not telling the backstory — but selling yourself and the novel! You don’t have to just read your story during a reading.

Person holding a blue ballpoint pen writing.

Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

3. Print it out and mark it up

A lot of authors print that scene out in the big font, so they don’t lose their place and mark it all up.

Put in pauses, when you raise your pitch, and when you lower your volume.

Highlight the different characters’ dialogue in different colors!

Whatever you need to make the reading more exciting to listen to.

4. Be EXPRESSIVE!

Use multiple voices! (Those ones you just highlighted in different colors)

Use over-exaggerated faces! (If you commit, so will your audience.)

E-nun-ci-ate! Make sure that you don’t turn your story into a mumble.

5 Bic pens fanned out. Green, black, pink, blue, and red.

All of my Bic editing pens. I meant to color code but haven’t really been doing that. Just using different colors for different things.

5. Don’t be afraid to EDIT THE SCENE

Wait. What?

I was stunned and yet it seemed so obvious when they mentioned this tip. I’d always imagined half the audience having the scenes memorized and ready to ding you if you misspoke a single sentence. But that’s not who you’re reading to!

This audience wants you to succeed. They showed up ready to be entertained and to have the experience of the words being spoken by the writer. To have something fresh and new!

If you’ve ever been to a concert, which is more exciting? A set playlist where everything is by the books and they wait exactly 90 seconds of applause before coming out for the ‘surprise encore’.  Or a band with a huge song list, picking and choosing which song they feel like tonight, with a more organic feel?

The audience is there for your take on it: the sound of foreshadowing in your voice, the excitement of the scene, the wrinkled nose in a character’s disgust at kiwi (what can I say, some characters have no taste!).

So make it easy for them to love your reading.

Cut the dialogue tags — especially if you’re using voices.

Do you have asides and mentions of side plots that aren’t relevant for this scene? CUT THEM!

Do you head-jump a lot and don’t have a full reading’s worth from one character’s point-of-view? Clip them together!

Make the scene as stand-alone as you can — except for that cliffhanger ending and leave ’em with your number buy links.


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These notes were taken from the #Balticon52 panel “Reading Your Own Work”. The panelists were Dave Robison, Starla Huchton, Valerie J. Mikles, Steven Howell Wilson, and moderated by Erin Kazmark.

 

If there’s a topic you’d love for me to talk about, feel free to comment below or email me at morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com

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A Starter’s Guide For Fiction Writers Trying To “Establish A Social Media Presence” Part 6

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Bonus  | Part 6

Part 6: Videos – YouTube+

Note: I know I’m talking about YouTube, just days after the San Bruno attacks. My heart goes out to those affected by the attacks.

I’ve talked about a LOT of social media forms. You might have wondered what could POSSIBLY be next?

Google+ or LinkedIn (Nah, although, I do cross-post my blog over there, for people who prefer those social media forms, they don’t seem active enough)

Goodreads? No, although, I’m there and in a few book clubs.I mostly use it to keep a presence, and stay accountable for my book-reading goals.

I’m pretty sure you’re all thinking “Um, Morgan, I think you’ve gone seriously overboard on this social media thing…” and you’re COMPLETELY right.

Today, though? Today, I’m going to be talking about VIDEOS. Both at Youtube and in other social media forms.


 

YouTube

YouTube is second only to Netflicks in using up bandwidth on the internet. It’s huge.

What’s more? Videos go viral all the time. New ones, old ones, quirky ones, it’s hard to know what’s going to be popular.

So, how do you get that to work for you as a writer?

I have a YouTube channel [Subscribe Here!] and, as I say in my episodes, it’s “my online blog, in video format.” So, if you’d rather listen to me ramble while doing other things, you totally can.

How To Start A YouTube Channel

A video channel should be approached like a website.

  • Pick a theme and stick with it
  • Pick an update schedule and stick with it
  • Pick a format and stick with it

(noticing a trend here?)

Step One – Check out the other Writer Vloggers

See what else is out there, see what other writers are doing, see if there’s a niche you can fill or a format you prefer for getting the information.

It’s hard to establish quality content if you don’t know what sort of options there are and what formats appeal to you.

Here’s a list of the top 15 from The Write Life.

Step Two – Set-up To Film A Vlog

Necessary equipment:

  • camera
  • microphone
  • a youtube account
  • preferably some WiFi to upload this thing, cause videos are large

Beyond that, all I use is a Logitech HD 1080p USB camera and 2 umbrella lights – all birthday presents from family – pictured above. Oh, and MS Paint.

Equipment to up your game:

  • umbrella lights
  • a webcam that isn’t built into your computer
  • a quiet space
  • video editing software
  • a microphone (maybe with pop filters!)
  • interesting-yet-not-distracting background (clean up trash, dirty clothes)
  • makeup – maybe even some if you’re not femme presenting. Minimalist suggestions are:
    • foundation to even out skin tone and get rid of shine
    • mascara to make the eyes pop
    • a touch of lip color, to define lips

Step Three – Filming

If you’re using a phone, TURN IT SIDEWAYS. No, really. Please.

I made that mistake my first time and now, for eternity, (or until I rerecord it) I’ll have those stupid black bars to my left and right–or worse, that double-image, zoomed in blur beside me.

  • 5-12 minutes is a standard video length. People have short attention spans.
    • If you have more, cut it into 2 parts! (Or more!)
  • Keep to the same format
  • Look the camera in the eye when you can try not to look like you’re reading your blog post. *looks around innocently*

I like to do 2-5 takes and just roll with the last take. I’m planning on experimenting with video editing software after I move at the end of the month.

A lot of the quality vloggers you see will have done several takes and will clip them together. BUT. They’ll change the camera angle between takes, so you get the feel of ‘time passing’ or something. It’s a format that seems to be popular, plus, it allows you the ability to cut out any dead-air time.

Step Four – Post-Processing

The easiest bit of post-processing I do is take a couple trial photos before I start my video.

Trial pictures let me

  • checks the lighting
  • check the umbrellas aren’t in the camera
  • check I don’t have food on my shirt
  • And? Allows me a couple photos to add my Vlog title to.

I literally open them in MSPaint, Impact size 48 or whatever the title on one side of me, and roll.

Yes, YouTube will give you freeze frames as the preview image, but usually, they’re the most awkward poses I’ve ever seen. Luckily, there’s a handy-dandy “upload preview” button so you can toss your new image in there.

This is when you’d cut together all those different takes from step 3. Maybe add some background music if you like that feel. Maybe just an intro bar or two of notes.

youtubeUploadButton

Step 5 – Uploading To YouTube

youtubeScheduleWhen I upload my videos, I make sure to click the drop-down and select ‘Schedule’. Once you start uploading, you can’t switch and the default goes live as soon as you hit publish.

I don’t want my videos to upload the second I’m done prepping them, I want them to post in the mornings, not somewhere between 10:30pm and 1am the night before the blog post goes live.

This is where you can add that title-added preview image.

Things I like to do with my videos:

  • Schedule them
  • Add preview image with my title on it
  • Add Tags
  • Add the video to my playlist, so people can subscribe to that [like here!]
    • You can have different playlists on the same channel
      • book reviews
      • writer tips
      • guitar playing
      • life updates
      • etc
  • Type up a short twitter-worthy shout-out to draw people in (with hashtags)
  • Give links to my other social media and the original blog post in the ‘about’ field

Things I’ve been testing recently.

  • I found the ‘default settings’ for uploads last week, where you can pre-load all your tags, all your repeated ‘about’ information, etc, so you don’t have to remember what tags you used last week.
  • How do you find out what tags you should use?
    • check out a popular vlogger who shares a lot of the same subject matter
    • in your browser settings, have ‘developer options’ turned on
    • hit F12 to view the page’s source code
    • hit ‘ctrl-F’ to open up search
    • type “tags”
    • copy-paste the list after the word [ make sure it seems to be a list of usable tags, the word may be in the source code more than once. If it’s not what you’re looking for, hit enter to move to the next entry.]

SnapChat and Instagram and Facebook

I’ve already talked about Instagram, but why is SnapChat even on this list?

For those who don’t know, SnapChat lets people message each other and the message immediately is deleted after they view it. It warns you if the other person screen-shots the message.

So, how does this grow your social media presence?

I personally don’t do it, and it may be more useful for artists, but you can upload STORIES. These are images, text, or VIDEOS that are shown to anyone OR everyone on your list–and they stay visible for a day.

If you have a following, uploading a ‘story’ or two a day can be a good way to interact and form a more personal feeling connection.

Instagram also allows stories to be shared and these are promoted posts.

And Facebook? Facebook LOVES videos. Unlike blog links, or worse PATREON links, Facebook doesn’t try to hide these as much.


YouTube and Facebook Live Video

These intimidate me, but they are growing in popularity and are given priority viewing on Facebook. If you find a time that’s good for a lot of your followers (plus, it can be viewed after the fact), it’s a great way to re-engage with your followers and be given priority viewing on both social media sites.

If you’re brave enough.


Putting yourself out there, creating content, and recording your image, voice, and thoughts for all of posterity is intimidating.

Every week, I strive to do a little better (or at least not worse) than the week before.


And that’s it.

The introduction to social media types. ALL OF THEM. (Or at least a good, wide-spectrum of them.)

If there’s any I skipped that you’d like me to talk about, feel free to ask in the comments.

If there are any tips you’d like to share, feel free to reach out!

Vlog – Reading Aloud

I like going to panels on ‘reading my own work’, dreaming about the day when I’m asked to give a book reading of my own.

Here are some tips from a workshop I attended at WorldCon75 entitled “Reading Your Own Work.”