View Full Version : First reading -- any tips?

03-08-2007, 04:32 PM
I have my first reading next week. :eek: To say that I'm nervous is an understatement!

Any tips from those who've been there? I read for about 20 minutes.

Will Lavender
03-08-2007, 04:43 PM
I just have one thing:

Don't read too fast.

I tend to speed up to to the point where my voice sounds like an auctioneer's when I get nervous. That's...not a good thing.

Good luck! :)

Julie Worth
03-08-2007, 04:51 PM
Chat it up. Segue into the reading. Don't do one long piece unless it is very easy to follow. And whatever you do, come across as positive. Don't say anything negative about your work unless you're a comedian.

03-08-2007, 04:52 PM
There's an excellent book by Bob Monkhouse called "Just Say a Few Words". It's perfect for the nervous public speaker and contains a vast array of tips, help, and aid on delivering the best presentation that you can.

The key piece of advice I can give you is this: Practice. Do your reading alone. Time it. Make sure you're hitting your 20 minutes without rushing. Read through it several times every day until your live presentation. By the time you get there you'll have it so smooth you really won't be worried at all :)

03-08-2007, 04:54 PM
Hmm...I'd advise against over-practising. Several times a day sounds like too much. I often give presentations and I find when I try to remember it word-for-word, I sound stilted.

Julie Worth
03-08-2007, 05:00 PM
Yes, peaches is right about word-for-word. When I practice the non-reading part, I let the words vary all over the place. I avoid memorizing anything, as I know it will come out stilted. The reading part, however, I try to make consistent.

Twenty minutes sounds like a good time slot. Five minutes is the worst. Just finding a bit of writing that's self contained in five minutes is difficult. And then, if you get audience reaction, if they start laughing, what do you do? Do you talk over them, or do you pause and risk going over?

03-08-2007, 05:02 PM
I'm not talking about memorising it, I'm talking about getting comfortable with the sound of your own voice and the flow of the piece :)

03-08-2007, 05:06 PM
Memory schmemory. Make it all up on the spot!

No, seriously. Rehearse until you're fine with the sound of your own voice, but don't overdo it. Just until you're at the point where you're nervous, but no longer scared. Nerves can be good, sometimes.

Julie Worth
03-08-2007, 05:08 PM
Right. Without a certain amount of nervous energy, you'll sound flat. Not too much, but not too little.

03-08-2007, 05:11 PM
And try to show up sober.

03-08-2007, 05:15 PM
Thanks. :) I'll definitely practise at home a few times, timing myself. I'm reading with two other first-time novelists, and I think we're signing after.

Gah! I'm still nervous.

03-08-2007, 05:17 PM
And try to show up sober.

I wish I could have a drink -- in fact, I'm having dinner with the organizers and the other writers before the reading. Alas, I'm nearly 8 months pregnant.

03-08-2007, 05:23 PM
Even better! The nerves will come across as concern over whether or not you're going into labour right there at the reading!!! :D

Julie Worth
03-08-2007, 05:24 PM
"I just stopped in on the way to the hospital."

03-08-2007, 05:26 PM
Best hope your waters don't break and drown the audience.

03-08-2007, 05:54 PM
That would be so awesome... Think of how many people would buy your book!

03-08-2007, 06:42 PM
I had to do this last year and I have a couple things to add that I don't see on the list yet.

While it's admittedly best to show up sober ;) , having something on hand to drink is important. I neglected to have a glass of water within easy reach and I started to get pretty hoarse by the end.

If there are places in the piece you're reading that might be construed as funny, be prepared to give the audience a couple seconds of dead-time to laugh. That wasn't something I'd taken into account when practicing, so I had to adjust to it as I was reading.

I do agree that practicing your lead-in too much can actually be detrimental, but I don't see anything wrong with a lot of practice when it comes to reading the story. Since the story never changes, I've found that a lot of practice helps get my brain used to the word patterns, the way things sound, what the inflection should be like in a particular spot, and then, when it's time to go, I can just get up and read smoothly and naturally without having to think too hard about what I'm saying. You're not memorizing it, exactly, just letting yourself get used to saying it aloud.

Good luck with your reading!

03-08-2007, 09:01 PM
Okay, I blogged about this quite extensively if you are interested. There are 4 entries:

Tips on reading aloud Part Un
Tips on reading aloud Part Deux
Tips on reading aloud Part Trois
There's always something to Add!

If you go to my blog and then to the side bar where they list entries you should be able to find them okay (or just scroll down).

I am an actor and a teacher (and I just did my first official reading myself to rave reviews (okay so the teacher I am sure just wanted to create some busy work, but I did get 20 very adorable letters telling me how well I read and that I 'projected' well), so I figure I have some knowledge on the subject.

So, if you are interested: www.ididntchoosethis.blogspot.com

Most important advice? Have fun!

03-08-2007, 09:05 PM
I hate reading aloud, and I'm not even new to it. First time, I ran off stage after about 2 minutes (seriously not good). Last year, after a long break, I did it again, but was far too quiet and too quick so no one heard it. I'm doing it again in May and am dreading it. My problem is that I don't have any confidence in my work. When I'm reading it out loud (or even not out loud for that matter) I just hate it; it's too embarassing standing there reading it out.

I suppose if you're anyway serious about writing though, it's something you've got to get use to, right?

03-08-2007, 09:09 PM
Anyhow, that's my only tip: don't run off stage after 2 minutes. There was a pretty hot and famous author there at the time who berated me afterwards for it because he said he'd been really enjoying it up until the point when I ran away. So don't do that... :e2smack:

03-08-2007, 09:11 PM
Readings are fun. Really. I really enjoy it, much more than just a plain, boring book signing.

Some tips:

- Pick the right length. If you're scheduled for 20 minutes, don't read for 20 minutes. Read for 8-10 and do a Q&A afterward. 8-10 minutes is about 2-3 pages. No more.

- Pick something that showcase your writing. If you're picking something from the middle of your book, do a brief introduction of the story and the characters

- Pick a passage that would whet their appetite; make them want to read more

- Don't over dramatize but oh please, don't just read the text. That's the most boring thing in the world. Read as if you're really telling a story. No need to do character voices, but it should be clear which character is saying what...

- Don't rush. Savor it. Let your readers savor the words

- Just enjoy the spotlight. It's fun.

03-08-2007, 09:54 PM
Tape yourself and listen to the tape to pick up words you may not be enunciating clearly. Time yourself.

One piece of advice I found worked for me was "look over the shoulders of the people in the back row".

03-08-2007, 10:12 PM
...Or imagine the entire audience nude, and sitting on the loo, doing a big fat poo.

03-08-2007, 11:03 PM
Relax, have fun. Make 'em laugh when you can, don't take youself too seriously. Read something funny if you can (if you can't, then don't worry). Don't linger. Be polite. Don't be afraid of talking too slowly when answreing questions or reading.

03-09-2007, 01:25 AM
- Don't over dramatize but oh please, don't just read the text. That's the most boring thing in the world. Read as if you're really telling a story. No need to do character voices, but it should be clear which character is saying what...

Good advice. I'd also suggest listening to samples out a few audiobooks. Usually the reader will modify his voice to fit the characters he's reading dialogue for.

Also, depending on the size of your expected crowd, you may or may not automatically get a microphone . So, make sure to ask for one in advance. It's possible they didn't plan for one.


03-09-2007, 06:40 AM
Thanks, everyone. Great advice. I'm now a little less nervous about the reading, because I've also been asked to appear on local television and now have something else to worry about.

03-09-2007, 01:54 PM
You'll do fine! Give birth on live TV!!! :D

03-09-2007, 05:14 PM
Oh TV is something else. You will need an extreme makeover.

/just kidding :)

03-09-2007, 07:38 PM
I hear it helps if, when giving birth live on TV, you give birth to the product you want to pimp. Pop a few books out :D

03-09-2007, 08:06 PM
I am pretty shy, but I have taught classes and it's the same situation. You stand alone and have a bunch of eager faces waiting for you to show how much smarter you are then them.

My advice is to not stand up there as yourself.

Stand up there as the author-version of you. This is someone very different. This person is perfect in every way and really knows their stuff. This person doesn't need to worry about a red sock in the white's only wash; never loses their keys; never bounces off the out-door because they pushed when they shoulda pulled.

It's a role you play.

And when you get home, you take off that role, have a large glass of something potent and relax.

Then wonder where you left your keys.

03-10-2007, 07:39 PM
You know, giving birth live on TV isn't really my cuppa tea. But thanks for the suggestion. :tongue

03-10-2007, 09:34 PM
You know, I gave birth on TV once, but that's something I don't want to ever talk about.


03-10-2007, 10:19 PM
I saw that on PPV the other night. You did a pretty good job, Ray.

03-11-2007, 02:15 AM
And you only tore a little bit, right?

03-11-2007, 02:47 AM
I think I pulled something, though.

<---- pulled pork