I had a bit of fun last week in posting a five-part series about my bizarre accident in January and the equally strange ensuing weeks. I hope you enjoyed my tale of woe.
Today it’s back to work, though, on the craft of writing. This post is geared toward writers, but I think we can all learn how to communicate our thoughts more vividly whether in the written word or in our conversations.
Advice from Barbara Kyle
In her email on March 27, 2020, author and writing coach Barbara Kyle gave some welcomed advice for writers having trouble concentrating on their writing during the coronavirus-19 pandemic. She recommended that writers use this time to do research, if they’re having difficulty producing creative words on the page.
In my recent weeks of confinement due to my fractured leg, I’ve worked on some blog posts in advance. That’s the case with today’s post as I continue my sporadic #FixYourNovel series.
Time and place
The more a writer knows about the geography, demographics, history, culture, and people of her story’s location and time period, the better. You don’t have to tell everything you know. In fact, please don’t! You do need to draw from your first-hand knowledge and research to discern which details to give the reader.
Example: The historical novel I’m working on
The historical novel I’m still editing is set in the backcountry of the Carolinas at the close of the 1760s. Specifically, the story is set in present-day Lancaster County, South Carolina and present-day Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, and Rowan counties in North Carolina.
Without knowing what I was preparing myself for, I’ve soaked in the history of this region all my life. My study of local history, colonial American history, and my own family’s history have grounded me in the time and place in which my novel manuscript is set.
Have you heard of en.esosounds.net? (Pardon the pun!)
I recently discovered a helpful website (http://en.ecosounds.net/) as I was trying to add local flavor to the sounds my characters were hearing as they rode along a dirt road in July of 1769. It was a cold, dreary, blustery day as I was trying to transplant my mind and ears to a hot and humid piedmont Carolina day in July. Since I grew up in a rural area there, I know in my head the sounds I want to share with my reader. Putting those sounds on the page can be a challenge. I have to assume my reader is not familiar with the mid-summer sounds in rural South Carolina.
Something I found beneficial as I wrote the sounds my characters were hearing in the countryside on that hot July day in 1769 was this website: en.ecosounds.net. On that site you can listen to recorded sounds form various localities. Listening to a couple of those recordings was the perfect backdrop for me to listen to while I edited that particular scene.
Borrowing the wisdom of Barbara Kyle again
In her book, Page-Turner: Your Path to Writing a Novel that Publishers Want and Readers Buy, Ms. Kyle writes about the importance of using “concrete” words and images in one’s writing. Here’s a quote from chapter seven:
“For example, let’s say you’re describing a man in clothes that are damp from rain. If the reader is given just the appearance of those clothes, the man could be across the room, but if they read that the man’s sweater gives off the musty, wet-dog smell of damp wool, they’re right next to him.”
Ms. Kyle goes on to explain that including sensory details in our writing pulls on the reader’s emotions and thereby makes the writing more memorable for the reader.
Barbara Kyle’s website is https://www.barbarakyle.com/, in case you want to know more of what she has to offer writers.
A case of serendipity
I love when serendipity happens. I had been working on this blog post on March 3 when I changed gears and stopped to read some blogs. I follow Joanna Penn’s Creative Penn blog. I read her March 2, 2020 blog post, ”Opportunities in Audiobook Publishing with Michele Cobb.” (Here’s the link to it: thecreativepenn.com/2020/03/02/opportunities-in-audiobook-publishing-with-michele-cobb/.)
Michele Cobb is executive director of the Audio Publishers Association, the publisher of AudioFile magazine, and a consultant for the audiobook business at Forte Business Consulting.
In an interview Joanna Penn did with Ms. Cobb, they discussed the speed at which audiobooks have caught on around the world and the trend that audiobooks are the thing of the future as people like to listen to books while driving, cooking, crafting, or doing any number of other things.
The thing that jumped out at me from the interview was the following quote from Michele Cobb:
“And when you create specifically for the audio format, you might have multiple narrators, you might have music, you might have sound effects, and you may never want to put that experience into a print format because it wouldn’t work with your eyes.”
Joanna Penn added, “Actually, enhanced ebooks are audiobooks with all the sound effects.”
Maybe such ebooks exist. I haven’t listened to one yet.
I couldn’t help but think about my experience of listening to meadow and forest sounds on en.ecosounds.net while editing that scene in my book. How the book listening experience could be enhanced if there were sound effects on an audiobook! The possibilities are limitless.
In the meantime, a writer still needs to hone her skills in writing sensory details. I think we’ll always have printed books, even if eventually the only “printed” format of books is electronic. If the prose is particularly beautiful, I want to read it over and over again. If I were writing this in 2040 or even 2030, perhaps I’d say, “I want to listen to it over and over again.”
My head is swimming as I try to imagine an audio of my novel with the buzzing of flies and bees, and the chirping of native birds playing in the background as my written words are being read.
I guess you could say I’m “old school.” I just started listening to books on CD a year or so ago, and more recently started downloading MP3 books onto my tablet. In the interview with Joanna Penn, Michele Cobb said that of the CD versus digital books being published today, 4% are on CD and 96% are digital!
Since my last blog post
I’ve sat in my chair with my fractured leg elevated on a stool. My chair is by a south-facing window through which I can watch a variety of birds at one of our birdfeeders. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve watched the maple tree go from bare limbs to tiny red buds that blossomed into green leaves.
I’ve watched a dogwood tree transition from bare limbs to tiny buds to gorgeous white blooms. I’ve watched as the goldfinches almost overnight went from their drab winter US Army greenish brown to their brilliant yellow and black feathers. The Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are due back from Central America any day now, so it’s time to put out our hummingbird feeders. Many of our azaleas are in full bloom.
I am blessed to live where I do. Sunshine streams through my south-facing window every morning. I can see the road on which an occasional car, truck, bicycle, moped, or green John Deere tractor passes. I can see the Carolina blue sky and puffy white clouds. I can see the pollen piling up on my red pick-up truck. I can see my brother’s pine tree farm.
I can see the open meadow across the road that is now harvested for hay to feed local cattle. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the rows of soybeans Uncle Ross used to grow there, but I especially remember the years he planted red clover to replenish the soil – and how the red heads of the clover swayed in a soft summer breeze when I was a child.
What more could a person have than what I have outside my window?
Until my next blog post
I hope you stay safe and well as we all journey through this coronavirus-19 pandemic. We truly are all in this together.
I hope you have a good book to read or listen to while you live under “stay-at-home orders.”
Please tell your friends about my blog.
Let’s continue the conversation
As recently as a couple of years ago I did not like listening to books. Now audiobooks make up probably 75% of my reading.
What about you?
What are the pros and cons of audiobooks?
Have you listened to an ebook that included sound effects?