Before you go out on your book tour or attend your first signing, pick out what you want to read. Choose several so you'll be ready whether you're allotted two minutes or twenty. Mark them in your book so they'll be easy to locate. Practice reading aloud. Practice again. And again.
Feel free to mark up the passage. Highlight words you want to emphasize. Mark where you feel a pause would fit, or where you want to be sure to look up at the audience. Got a word you continually stumble over? Write it out phonetically.
Does speaking in public make you really nervous? You might want to go so far as to mark where you want to take a breath. I'm not kidding. Better to mark it and remind yourself to breathe than to pass out from lack of oxygen.
Record yourself, then listen. Did your voice convey the emotions of the piece? What about the dialogue -- were the characters distinguishable from each other? Or did they sound all the same -- like you, instead of different people? You don't have to speak with accents to distinguish characters. Try softening your voice for a woman, or raising the pitch for a child, or turning up the volume slightly for a man. Does a character have a gravelly voice? Try reading it that way.
Most of the time, you'll find you need to slow down. You know these words, but your audience doesn't. They need time not only to hear them, but to digest -- understand -- them. I'm not talking about sounding as though you're on Star Trek, traveling backwards in time. Pronounce your words clearly; don't slur. Don't rush toward what you know will be the climax of the piece. That's like laughing at your own joke before you get to the punch line.
Think about the tone of the piece. Light? Funny? Smile while you read. Serious or scary? Let your expression fit the mood. Sexy? What are your eyes saying to the audience?
Now, I'm not saying you should act out the piece. But to bring your work alive, you have to be alive. You want the people in the audience to jump up when you're finished, grab a copy of this fascinating book, and get in line for your autograph.
SIDE NOTE: Starting tomorrow, my posts may be hit and miss for a few days. I'm off to D.C. for about a week.
5 weeks ago