Friday, February 25, 2011

Audiobooks: Same as Reading?

I do a heck of a lot of long distance driving. Good radio stations are sometimes hard to find, and even your favorite itunes playlist gets old after 5+ hours.

A few years ago, I joined an online audiobook club. For a monthly membership fee (around $15) I get one new credit each month. One credit buys most all of the audiobooks on the site (thousands - it's rare that I can't find a title I want). Sometimes a book will cost you two credits (all the Stephenie Meyer books - not sure why, as well as George RR Martin's fantasy series - I get that, they are often 45+ hours of listening joy!)

Of course, even your favorite books can be spoiled by a reader who doesn't quite match the author's "voice". But if the reader is a good fit, the stories that are fantastic on paper are made even more awesome. You can get totally swept into the world, and five hours in the car passes in the blink of an eye.

Someone once said to me that listening to a book read to you is not the same thing as reading (ha, there is defunct Facebook Group that also believes that), and to be a good writer, you need to READ.

I disagree.

NOT with the reading part, obviously. All writers should be ravenous readers, it's the way we see what might work in our own writing, how to improve imagery through metaphor use, for example; how overkill on similes can draw you out, how important voice is, etc. etc. But can you learn these things from listening to an audiobook, rather than reading your favorite novel?

YES. In fact, I almost would say - for me, at least - even more so.

When the reader is a perfect fit, the characters leap to life, the choice of words and sentence structure embed themselves into your mind...You can hear the punctuation, ascertain subtle emotion shifts, listen to the flow - the poetry of the paragraph, and how it brings the world to life.

If the reader is not a good fit, however, well... I usually don't get through the entire book, so I can't say if it would work the same way.

Below are a list of some of the audiobooks I've listened to recently and a couple of reasons why felt they helped me as a writer or why they didn't. So, got a road trip coming up? Try an audiobook. Really listen to it...No conversation with any other passengers, just listen. You'll pick up at least a handful of great ideas for your own work, I guarantee it!

A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords (George RR Martin) - all read by Ray Doltrice
  • Deep world building comes to life, you can see how important even simple language is in relation to that world
  • Doltrice has a difficult time doing the voices of all the characters, leaving the listener somewhat confused. For instance, one character sounds a certain way in one book, and a completely different way by the third. (It must be SO hard to keep all of Martin's characters straight - I'm sure I couldn't do it!)
  • The next books in the series are read by John Lee (who reads Follet's Pillars of the Earth books. So far, I like him better)

Harry Potter series (JK Rowling) - all read by Jim Dale

  • Characters all done in different voices - perfectly! Each one is completely true to the book, in my opinion, which is NOT an easy thing to do!
  • I enjoyed the audiobooks far more than the print books - but did they help me with my writing? Can't think right now what I took away from that series, but if nothing, you should listen to them for the sheer entertainment value!

Undead and Unwed (and all the Betsy Taylor vampire series, by Mary Janice Davidson) - read by Nancy Wu

  • I got through two of these on audiobook, because the reader completely spoiled Betsy by making her sound like Bart Simpson. I do realize the snark had to be there, but it was MUCH better in my own head.
  • What did I take away? Hmm, can't decide. The reader was too distracting.

Wicked Lovely (Melissa Marr) - read by Alyssa Bresnahan

  • I have only listened to the first one of the series and am hesitating on the next because the reader changes, but the dark tone of the story is dramatically conveyed by Bresnahan, and I felt myself hanging on every word, letting the poetry of the sentences sink in.
  • What I took away: style is important - dramatic writing creates drama in the plot - even if plot drama is lacking in some places - it keeps the reader hanging onto every word.

And my favorite one so far, Delirium (Lauren Oliver) - read by Sarah Drew

This reader has a PERFECT voice for the characters, and she makes the book almost musical, interpreting the rise and fall of rhythms so that words embedded themselves in my head. I caught myself saying, WOW on numerous occasions, just for the way the author strung her words together, and her endless metaphors and similes which didn't distract but brings the story to life.

  • Entertainment value also very high - if you are into YA and have not gotten your hands on a copy yet - you NEED to!
  • High concept plot - makes me jealous that I didn't think of it! All great take aways from this audiobook

I might try Shiver on audiobook, but I'm not sure if the reader's voice will ruin what's in my head (although having a female reader do Grace's part and a man do Sam's should help, and I do think they'll work). But, when I read this book, Stiefvater's beautiful writing just floored me. Yes, it's YA, so no, not Homer, not Shakespeare... Just modern and fresh and wonderful. And a great story to boot!

That's all for now - happy reading, happy listening... Happy writing!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Daily Word Count Targets and Goals

Yep, it's Saturday, so this post is seriously tardy.

I think I have set an unrealistic goal for finishing RESET. I wanted to have Ginormous Rewrite #3 finished by the end of March. (Note I say rewrite as opposed to revision, of which there has been more than I can count on my own fingers.)

Now I have a good reason for pushing myself. I never had a brother in the Boy Scouts, but the motto Be Prepared seems like a good, general one for every writer.

Be Prepared.

Since my first 25 pages made the finals in the NTWRA Great Expectations contest, I feel it would be very imprudent to not have Rewrite #3 complete in the event that all the stars align, they discover life on Mars, and I actually get a request.

Yes, I could submit Rewrite #2 but lots has changed in my plot since I began asking the right questions!

However, I am about to enter the land of the employed again, much to my relief and chagrin. Yes, I'll get a paycheck again (kind of important) but it will leave less time for writing.

Rewrite #3 is currently at 62,000 words. I have a lot of scenes that won't require more than a "simple" POV change, but others that are sitting empty. I have written the new awesome ending, but have to answer a lot of my questions in the next 30,000 or so words.

Can I do it?

What goals do you have for yourself and what drives you to push yourself everyday?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Name in the Big Bright Lights!

Er. Well.

I'm late posting to my blog this week. I have a good excuse! (Brag to follow, you can bail now)

I am a finalist in an honest to goodness writing contest!

I entered my Query and First 25 in the North Texas Romance Writers of America GREAT EXPECTATIONS contest with the hopes of getting some good feedback. Of course I was floored when I found out it made the final cut.

I had a week to revise both the pages and the query, and getting it all critted and fixed up. THANK YOU QUERY TRACKER FORUMS and my super awesome Beta Reader, Yannik!

Oh man, queries will be the death of me, really! (Someday, I may post the farce that was my first query!)

Anyway, my final entry is all polished and ready to go.

Whatever happens in the final judging, this contest is a really good one to get useful feedback. I got 2 pages of score sheets back from each judge (every entry was assigned 3 judges) and the comments really told me where both my strong and weak points are.

If you have a query-ready manuscript but are nervous of taking that first step in sending it out in the big bad world, enter a contest! It's fun and highly motivating!

A great, complete list of writing contests can be found at Stephie Smith's site.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Find Your Dream Crit Partner...Maybe?

If you're like me... A writer struggling somewhere between Rank Beginner (defined by me as a writer working on the first draft of their very first work) and published author (no matter how far along that road you are) you know how important it is to get fresh eyes to look at your writing. Let's face it, it ain't easy getting the story on paper to match that epic work of awesomeness that's in your head.

Here's where a crit partner can be your best friend... Or your worst enemy. Or a little bit of both. But regardless which side of that fence you sit on, you have to admit, critiques are NECESSARY.

But you need to find a partner you click with. Preferably someone who also writes (and reads) in your genre, and preferably someone who is a better writer than you are.

Throughout my rewrites of RESET, I've had various critters and Betas. But the one that showed me what a useful critique should look and feel like (to me) was a first page crit I won in a contest put on by the folks over at Bookshelf Muse (and they have several useful posts of crit groups on their blog too. Click here to read them).

Night and Day. So, I am on a mission to find a crit partner.

I'm thinking at this point that a sort of online dating service for finding partners would be useful. You know, like or something. (Okay, that URL could go SO many ways, but you get the idea.)

And then, while browsing my favorite blogs, what do I find?

Over at the Between Fact and Fiction blog, YA author Nathalie Whipple is running a Crit Partner Classified. Go over and check it out. I've sent in my request via email (click on her picture to go to her blogger profile and find her email address). I didn't lie or try to make my manuscript sound tall dark and handsome when really, it's maybe only 5'9" and possibly slightly bald.

Who knows? Maybe I'll find my perfect match!