On Being an Audiobook Narrator

Hello, friends! We have guest posts this week and next, both from the ever fantastic Melanie Francisco- part author, part narrator, all awesome!

MicrophoneI wanted to be an actor growing up. I got my first taste of the acting life behind a curtain being a puppeteer in my church’s youth puppets programmers. This is also the same program that turned me into a writer, but I digress. I took acting classes in junior high school the first chance I got, which was in ninth grade, when I had an elective opening. And I loved every moment of being an actor, but I walked away in college for a multitude of reasons. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the semester I went and auditioned for every single production at my college and got, nothing.

I had known for a long time, that acting was a competitive field, and that “No” was heard far more frequently than “Yes.” I didn’t want to be part of the #MeToo movement. I was warned over and over again, to get any kind of regular work, you did what had to be done, you took your turn on the casting couch, and you kept your mouth shut. It was a path I did not want to walk down. So yeah, I was kind of glad to be out. There were things I didn’t want to do. And I figured, if I had any kind of talent, I would have at least gotten one of the background parts. I wasn’t upset about not getting any parts. I just took it as the universe’s way of telling me that I was meant to be on the path I was already on.

Twenty years later, in my capacity as a part time freelance editor, I was researching ACX as a possibility for one of my clients who can voice her own work pretty well. When I looked into what they had to offer, I cruised through the books available and I found one I wanted to narrate. And all of a sudden I realized, I already had everything I needed to try out. So, I did. I didn’t get that book, but I got a near miss in the form of a nice note from the author saying someone else had a bit more skill in pronouncing some of the French words. Since I don’t speak French, I understood and moved on. I found more books that I wanted to read. I auditioned, and auditioned. Like that semester in college, I set myself a time limit for how long I was willing to take the no, and then, I was done. After three more near miss rejections, I landed a contract on my 10th audition, not even a month after I started auditioning. By the time my kids got out of school and I had to shut down production for the summer, I had booked worked all the way through this February.

Working as a freelancer in this field, is much the same as working as a freelancer in any other field. The same set of challenges of trying to negotiate a reasonable deadline based on your ability. Having to learn on the fly a skill you didn’t know you needed until you already took on the contract. And not knowing if your work on this book, or that book, will pay off.

And it has many of the same rewards. I work from the comfort of my husband’s closet, I set my own schedule, and I take off the days my kids need me. I work on both fiction and non-fiction books.  I choose what I want to work on, although, honestly, I’m not all that picky about some things. (Which is my way of saying, there is definitely rated MA work on my profile for language, sex and violence.)  I’m extremely picky about other things, like what kind of theory is being proposed in the non-fiction world. If I can’t get behind the idea of the work, I just let someone else take that one. It isn’t fair to the author to get a halfhearted narrator, and it’s just a slog for me to read hours of stuff I don’t like.  I try to get a good idea of what kind of content I’m being asked to read before I audition, and I have never turned down a offer, yet.

I’ve read works published by independent authors and books that have been traditionally published. After a few such books, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the type of writing a traditional publishing house editor lets out of the door, and how any writer can get better at their craft. They are really great at putting the tension in a scene or a sentence. The job of an editor is to polish the writer’s work, to make the writer sound like the writer, but better. The work of a great editor is to convince a writer that they would sound better if they did a few simple things to strengthen their writing. It’s easy to lose tension in your work, but it isn’t hard to put it back in. You don’t need gimmicks, or to follow the latest slip-shod advice (ever tried to get rid of all of your adverbs.)

So stay tuned for next weeks’ Cheat Sheet…

Can’t get enough of Melanie and her wisdom? You don’t have to wait until next week! Follow her on Twitter  and check out her blog at . Happy writing!

Advertisements

Proud and Not Proud: A NaNo Confessional

nano-winnerSo I did it! Yaaaay! I spent about five days this month not scrambling behind the curve, but one of those days was the 30th, so yeehaw, I’m a winner.

Buuuut… then I spent December 1st going through and deleting all the utter garbage that was only kept around because I needed the words. I had files and files of things that I deleted because it was of no value to the current draft or its future editing. It was just junk. Filler. Fluff.

I’m kind of conflicted about this year’s win. Yes, I wrote over fifty thousand words, and I’m proud of that. But in just that first sweep of cutting the fluff? That was nearly eight thousand words. Eight thousand words. I could have been typing sdf sdf sdf sdf sdf sdf and the final result would have been the same. So… less proud of that.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little hard on myself. A lot of that stuff was freewriting that I did to try and unstick myself from a gunked up corner of some scene that wasn’t going anywhere useful. And for the most part it worked, getting me going on things that actually were pertinent to the story. It wasn’t all completely useless.

But then I must also admit that some of those words I counted were a report for work, drafted up in a file within the NaNo document before being sent off. Not a lot. But certainly more than the 350 excess words I found myself with at the end of the month. There’s no way I can kid myself into thinking those were in any way helpful to my story.

So what do I consider a victory here?

I love NaNoWriMo. It usually comes right when I’ve gotten incredibly lazy with my writing (which seems to happen every fall and early winter). It’s a great kick in the pants to get back in gear and like I mentioned earlier, I have done every session since I first became a mom, so there’s a bit of sentimentality in my doing it as well.

NaNo is wonderful for a lot of reasons. It helps me get back on track with my writing. It is something that I can do with my friends. It forces me to move forward even if I want to stop. It gets me a lot of words that I probably wouldn’t have written otherwise, or at least not nearly as soon or as quickly.

But there is another side to NaNo that doesn’t get talked about as much. In addition to all the awesome things I get from NaNo, I also get really lazy with my craft. Writing more words is always better than writing good words.  I take time away from the people I love and the jobs that are meaningful to me, and I put that time into writing- at least in part- fluff and filler. Standards for the meals I feed my family and the state in which I keep our home fall off drastically. I don’t practice music. I don’t read. I don’t exercise.

The WIP itself has some serious problems too. But since I didn’t possibly have the time to work through the plot holes and figure out consistent and plausible and clever ways for the characters to behave, I just plowed forward and hoped I would think of something later. I wrote an entire book in which I have no idea what any of the characters even look like. Eye color, skin color, hair length, nothing. Because who has time for careful consideration in November? I’m more concerned with churning out endless streams of garbage in a desperate word grab than in actually making something that I’m proud of.

Now, maybe I’m just thinking like this because I’ve been having a hard time with depression this winter. I’ve also been stressed out at work for reasons that have nothing to do with writing. For months, I couldn’t even go to bed without my husband because I would just lay there in the dark thinking about how I’m ruining everything that is important to me. So I can’t completely blame all of these negative feelings on NaNo when my head is clearly not in a good place right now.

All the same, I am well aware of the things that NaNo is good for, but historically overlook the things that it is not good for. Maybe there are times when writing in a mad frenzy of literary abandon isn’t the best thing for my story, or even for me. Maybe sometimes having an ambitious goal can sabotage the very thing I’m trying to achieve. Maybe focusing my efforts on attaining a certain number of words may come at the cost of telling a coherent story.

I love NaNo. (Have I mentioned that yet?) So don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll have many years of reblogging and belly-aching to enjoy while I slog my way through future Novembers. But maybe, just maybe, if one of those Novembers is especially busy and I am especially unprepared, I’ll be a little more forgiving if I feel the need to just sit one out. After all, I didn’t get into writing to churn out words. I got into writing to tell stories.

How about you readers? Do you have any thoughts on NaNoWriMo, or even on just the pros and cons of quantifying writing goals? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your ideas!

Until next time, happy writing!

Watercolor and Fire

Sorry, I had this all ready to post yesterday, but had a long and fierce argument with the scanner instead. (And shortly thereafter gave up on my Epson scanner. I gave up on it years ago as a printer and I’m giving up on it now as a scanner. Anybody want a free doorstop- I mean scanner?)

ANYWAY. I have a writing buddy who is doing a fantastic job at NaNoWriMo this month, but finds herself a tad behind. So I painted her a victory postcard! It is two of the characters from her WIP and I am mailing it to her today.

Dragon Painting

The catch? Well it IS a victory postcard. And the victory IS in question. So if she doesn’t win, she must burn her painting with dragonfire. Or just regular fire, you know, whatever’s around.

So good luck, Anna! Tick tock!

Speaking of, I’m a tad behind as well. Ugh, I think I’ve been caught up for like three days this entire month. Time to stop painting and start writing! (Well, stop blogging and get to work, but I’ll write soon! I promise!)

Update: She won! The postcard is safe! Another victory for truth and science!

A closing note:

The above picture was taken with my phone on my table, despite me being a TERRIBLE photographer. Even with the crookedness and the darkening of my colors, I still thought it was an improvement. For comparison’s sake, let’s look at the Epson scan, shall we?

img011

Yeah, ew.

Reblog: Maximizing Writing Productivity While Working Full-Time

I try to avoid reblogging from Writers Digest because, well, everyone’s seen Writers Digest and I’d rather bring reblogs that I figure a significant chunk of you might have missed in all the vastness of the internet. But I liked this one too much to pass up, and it feels timely. As I’ve mentioned before, I work a full time job in the summer and four small part time jobs during the school year, not even counting being primary caregiver to our three growing boys (and our four chickens, they grow so fast). Time is always at a premium, especially during NaNo months. So without further ado, here is Audrey Wick’s WD article: Maximizing Writing Productivity While Working Full-Time. Enjoy!

Many writers dream of days they can devote entirely to their craft. But the reality is that working a day job in a field often unrelated to writing is sometimes a financial necessity, especially for new and debut authors.

When people learn that I write novels and hold a full-time job, they often ask me, “How?” They struggle to understand the balance of time, but I’ve made it a point to work hard to fulfill my love of both a professional life and my love of a writing life.

Also, what I’ve come to learn is that rather than seeing full-time work as a hindrance to the craft, writers can channel advantages of their situation to maximize writing productivity. Here’s how to do that:

Use time that surrounds your full-time job to think about writing.

For instance, on my commute, while I’m exercising or while I’m cooking dinner, my mind slides to my work-in-progress. During these times are when I flesh out my characters, develop plot points, imagine scenes of dialogue and consider conflict. Once I see these in my mind, it’s much easier to write them later. Also, permitting myself to think about writing during these times helps me stay focused on my full-time job to meet my responsibilities there since I know I’ll be able to come back to my writing later.

Ready to read the rest? Click on through to the other side!

Box of Bones Caste System

Hi friends! So… I’m still doing Nano. Yes, I’ve been behind every single day of the month. Yes, I’ll quite possibly stay that way every single day of the month. But we’re not talking about that.

We’re talking about worldbuilding! So here’s some world building from my current work in progress, Box of Bones. The main characters in this story are from a country called the Grey Islands, a small string of islands poking off the mainland. They have a caste system that I made up mostly over the course of one morning and it is probably stupid, but I’m going with it.

So here it is in all its rambley glory: the Grey Islands caste system! (There’s actually a lot more to it, but I trimmed for brevity’s sake. This post would have been nearly thrice as long if I hadn’t!)

Nearly everybody on the Grey Islands is in some way descended from at least one of the officers or crew of the original ship of first settlers. (Those who are not are not allowed to vote, etc, even if they own a ship. They are considered guests of the Islands rather than citizens, even if they’ve lived there their entire life. The answer is usually to marry into an established line and then your children can have rights.)

People fall into three groupings: noble (veda), high (lira), and low (daru). Each of these is further divided into several classes. Class is very fluid and can even change within a single person’s lifetime. It has somewhat to do with birth, with wealth, with achievements, and with the favor of higher classes.

The three broadest class distinctions (veda, lira, daru) are called a person’s core. The distinctions within that are called scale, and are either high (alto), middle (mid), or low (bas). While it is common enough to move around within a single core, it is rarer to shift from one core to another. The fine distinctions within core and scale are called class and are numbered zero (highest) through three (lowest)- nun, ist, du, and tes. The final marking of a person’s rank is called direction, and is distinguished as rising (rin), stable (kos), stagnant (set), or falling (tol).

Class is highly linked to a person’s status and role, which are both merit based; therefore class, and particularly direction, is more an indication of how you are doing in the world; rising means that you are actively working upward in social ranking by your actions; stable means that you are comfortable moving within your current position; stagnant means that you are trying to work upward but not making any progress; falling means you are sliding backward in standing. Direction has everything to do with a person maintaining or changing class. For the higher ranks, kos is very respectable; after all the monarch (altoveda-nun) is considered kos, since there is nowhere higher to rise. Likewise, within the lowest class (basdaru-tes), there is no tol, since there is nowhere lower to fall.

Separation of classes is called degrees, each class being one degree. Below the royal class (which has its own set of rules), marriage is free within one’s own degree. It is also acceptable to marry someone one degree below or above you. Two is the maximum socially acceptable class gap.

While core is often dictated by birth, scale and especially class are more malleable based on a person’s merits (although there are undoubtedly more opportunities for advancement among the lira and veda than among the daru). Class is often determined by things such as wealth (disposable funds), income (and investments), education, occupation, reputation, etc, and can vary within a family, and even a single person at different points in their lives. Getting a better job can mark you as rin, but selling off your nicer furniture can mark you are tol. Class is highly flexible, and direction even more so, while core and scale are harder to change.

Spouses do not have to share scale, but marrying a lower class person can mark you as falling, unless that person is rising at the time of your marriage. Children inherit the core and scale of their parallel parent (matrilineal/patrilineal), and then typically don’t have a class separate of their parents until they come of age.

Few Islanders are veda, but lira and daru are about equally common. Most Islanders are kos and will remain so most of their lives. Rin, set, and tol indicate exceptional effort with varying levels of success. Rin is glamorous, set elicits gentle commiseration and maybe encouragement, and tol is not where you want to be. Most people would rather stop trying and stick with a nice respectable kos label than risk falling any farther.

About bucking the system: there is a thing called legal death, where a person abandons their caste, clan, and home to live as exiles. Despite being called ‘legal death’, it is definitely in the illegal category, so there is usually a faked death and family hushing, etc. ‘Legal’ in this case just means that the state believes them dead. Since they are dead, they don’t have any rights (even less than so-called guests of the Islands) which leads them wide open to any abuse whatsoever, so they tend to leave the Islands and never come back. This is a step beyond exiling, which itself is a step beyond disowning, both of which would leave the person’s place in the caste system intact.

So there you have it! All the exciting ways they can look down on each other! The MC is a nice respectable upper middle class, with the benefit of not having to think about this stuff a whole lot, but the secondary main is low class and it’s in his face a lot more, you know? Anyway, we’ll be back next week with another reblog and hopefully I’ll be better caught up! Tally ho! *dives at keyboard*

Reblog: The Introvert’s Guide to Writing Conferences

Hey, look at that, it’s November! If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve maybe seen a bit of my drama surrounding NaNo this year. (Will she? Won’t she??) I really want to do NaNo- I love it and I’ve done every session every year since the birth of my first child. I’m kind of a NaNo junkie. But this November, through a series of unfortunate events (or just numerous time consuming events, really) has become incredibly busy, to the point that I don’t know if NaNo is even possible without dropping the ball on things at work or at home. (And I don’t mean just not doing the laundry. I mean like making meals for my children, getting them to school on time, not getting arrested for neglect sorts of things.)

But! Because I am a junkie and don’t know when to say no, I’ve decided to give it one week. The last few days have been… not promising, honestly, and it’s only going to get worse starting today. If I get to the end of week one and find that it’s really not working out, I am allowing myself to quit with minimal guilt. (I mean, this is me so there will definitely be guilt, but I will do my best to minimize it.)

And so it’s reblog time! I found this post by Kerrie Flanagan (via Writer’s Digest) to be helpful while getting myself ready for my conference a couple months ago, so maybe you will too! I’ll let you know how I’m doing with NaNo next week and, until then, happy writing!

 

By:  | 

You did it! You signed up for a writing conference, and now the event is right around the corner. Slight panic sets in as you realize there will lots of people, you might not know anyone and you’d rather walk through fiery hot coals than network with strangers. If you relate to any of these statements, then I’ll go out on a limb and say you are an introvert. The good news is, so are a majority of other writers at the conference and there are strategies you can use that will allow you to enjoy the event and make some great connections.

Set Intentions

A few weeks before the conference, think about what you hope to get from the event. If you are still fairly new to writing or this is your first conference, you may want to take a broad approach, something that gives you a good overview about writing and publishing.

If you have been to writing conferences before or you have certain goals for your writing, consider a more laser-focused approach. Do you want to focus on the craft of writing? The business side of publishing? Building a platform? Finding an agent? Whatever the focus, make your plan with that in mind. Look over the schedule and choose sessions, workshops and other extras (critiques, one-on-one consults, pitch sessions…) based on your goals.

Be Professional

Ready to read some more? Hop on over to Writer’s Digest for the full article!