Cheat Sheet: Prepping Your Work for Narration

Here’s our second week with audiobook extraordinaire, Melanie Francisco. If you missed last week’s post, On Being an Audiobook Narrator, you can find it here. Enjoy!

As I said last week, I feel like I have a handle on what kinds of writing professional editors let out of their publishing houses these days. Most of the things you want to do here should happen in the polishing stage of your novel. Here are my 5 best tips to help you get your best audiobook.

  1. Tighten the tension in your paragraph.
    1. The thing is most people “helping” you tighten your work don’t know what they are talking about. Here’s what you need to do. Delete all words that are implied by the action of the surrounding words. A sentence that reads: The dog yanked on the leash, pulling it taut until it popped out of Lacy’s hand. Becomes” The dog yanked on the leash until it popped out of Lacy’s hand. Because “pulling it taut” is implied by the action.
    2. Make your action verbs strong and delay the point of your sentence to the end. Simply put, in the real world something happens and then you react (or fail to react). It is this tension in every sentence, every paragraph, every scene, every plot that propels your work forward. Keep dragging your reader through your sentences, paragraphs and scenes to end with a punch. Rinse, repeat. Example: Maria wrapped Julie in a big hug, after carefully setting down the doll, when she heard the good news. Becomes: Maria carefully set down the fragile doll to wrap Julie in a hug when she heard the good news.
  2. Trust your narrator. Your narrator wants the best production. It’s their reputation on the line. They want more work, they want to sound good, they want you to sell a lot of audiobooks. They better they sound, the more books you are going to sell.
    1. If you are listening to your book, and they say something slightly wrong, it’s OK to let it go. It’s a balancing act between getting your prose accurately on the recording and the damage I’m going to do if I have to re-record that sentence. It breaks the flow; my voice won’t sound the same; and although you and your listener may not know in the moment that’s what happened, it’s why they won’t buy my next book, or yours. Make sure it doesn’t happen over and over again. I’m not changing your prose on purpose, I’m caught up in your world.
    2. On the other hand, for every hour of produced audio you hear, I’ve probably put in about 10 hours of work. Mistakes get made, things slip through. So, if there is a flub up, speak up. Big ones need to be addressed.
  3. Simple tenses for your verbs, simple present or simple past. I’ve found most editors put out simple past as the default mode. This will help you tighten your sentence tension. Helping verbs usually help you into the passive voice. I just cut them out. (See Tip #1.)
  4. Dialog Tags: Use them or use action. Missing dialog tags actually only happen in very short spaces in traditionally published books. I’ve read loads of them by now, when you include all of the auditions I’ve gone on. Just use the tags. Most frequently what I see, there is dialog, and then there is movement, exposition, or something else in between the dialog.
  5. Download Audacity, and read a chapter of your work into it. Ideally this should be done about 30 days after you think you’ve finished polishing your novel.


I do cheat sheets and technical tips every week on my blog, The Write Hobby.  Come join me.


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