Friday, January 23, 2009

Hearing them listen

I love reading my work aloud to an audience. In this, I differ from many writers. Also, if I may say so, I'm a darn good reader. Again in this, I differ from many writers.

I learned long ago how much I could improve my writing by reading aloud to an audience and hearing them listen. Hearing when they breathe. When they smile. When they slouch. If you pay attention you can hear line-by-line feedback to your writing. You may learn to your surprise that something you thought was sad is actually funny to the listener; and the funny, sad. I get that a lot. What excites me, bores them. And so on.

Most people hesitate to criticize, so after the reading you hear positive feedback. But while you are reading, you hear the negative. The squirms. The stifled yawns. The coughing. People don't cough when they're being truly entertained (unless they're actually ill). And the shifting of legs, the glancing at wristwatches, leaning forward, sitting straight, the rapt attention or the drifting off, the vacant look - all are part of hearing (and seeing) them listen.

After reading one chapter of Clear Heart last night to about 20 people at Moon News, five people came up and told me they were going to buy the book. Later, I checked with the store. They'd sold two copies.

That's feedback, too.

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