Skip to main content

How Live Readings Can Help Your Writing

Two years ago I began transitioning from my career as a journalist by tapering off my work for The New York Times. I took my debut novel through several edits and began to explore the complicated road to publication. Social Media provided an opportunity to write for others and vastly expand my network of friends and colleagues. Guest column by Laura Novak. Laura was a television news reporter before writing for The New York Times on business, health and the arts. She is working on the Clari Drake Mystery Series set in Berkeley.

I am working the streets of San Francisco. Nightly, I prowl around Haight-Ashbury and North Beach, the Castro and Tenderloin, Fourth Street and Folsom. I ply my trade with men … as well as women, transgenders, at least one self-described Druid and the occasional mental patient. Oh, and writers, lots of wonderful, polished, professional, prolific, amateurish, awful and eager writers.

My trade is my novel: Finding Clarity: A Mom, a Dwarf and a Posh Private School in the People’s Republic of Berkeley. And reading from it in a wide variety of venues to a complex and varied audience is a ball. I am having the time of my life – and that’s without landing either an agent or a publisher yet.

Image placeholder title

Guest column by Laura Novak. Laura was a
television news reporter before writing for The
New York Times on business, health and the arts.
She is working on the Clari Drake Mystery Series
set in Berkeley. Laura lives in the Bay Area and
you can find her work on Scribd.com or reach
her on Twitter. She also writes the "Medicine &
Manhood" column for The Good Men Project Magazine.

Two years ago I began transitioning from my career as a journalist by tapering off my work for The New York Times. I took my debut novel through several edits and began to explore the complicated road to publication. Social Media provided an opportunity to write for others and vastly expand my network of friends and colleagues.

THE VALUE OF AN OPEN MIC

In less than a year, I have become a top female author on Scribd.com, with 43,000 followers. As a result, the Scribd team invited me to read from Finding Clarity at this year’s Lit Quake festival in San Francisco.

I’d been a television news reporter back in the day. But to prepare for Lit Quake, I decided to scour San Francisco’s “open mic” scene. I figured if performance venues are good for struggling comics, they might just as well be a great idea for an author with a completed manuscript.

A simple Google search turned up a well-organized Bay Area open mic calendar, which meant I had no excuse but to dive in. As with most things in life, the first night was the hardest. But at each reading I’ve made friends, broadened my author connections and learned about the best places to read (the criteria being microphone quality, lighting and available food.)

The words “Smack Dab,” “Melt,” “Brain Wash” and the “Sacred Grounds Café” now roll off my tongue as if I’d been on the scene for decades. I’ve stood elbow to elbow with scruffy young things and their guitars at the Hotel Utah and I bonded with a working girl who gave me her undivided attention while I read from Chapter One in the Tenderloin.

REVISION FROM READINGS

You don't have to wait for "something to happen" in order for things to be happening with your novel. I am out there doing it, living it! And I'm broadening my exposure for my manuscript. Each time I read, I explore my own text, emphasize words differently and take chances on intonation and pacing. I’ve absorbed silence and learned to pause when the belly laughs were so loud and long, even I had to chuckle at my own writing.

I don’t know what will happen with Finding Clarity. All I know is that I love it and love sharing it. And I am delighted that people sit quietly and give me the gift of their undivided attention when my five minutes on stage has begun.

My novel is undergoing a final copy edit as I write this. But I am not on hold. Finding Clarity doesn’t have to come to a bookstore near me for this journey to be complete. I am living my life by reading my words weekly, in all sorts of glorious, wild and crazy places. For me, this is what it is to be an author. And now I believe I just heard the timer. You’ve been a great audience. Thank you so much!

Image placeholder title

Need to sharpen the beginning of your novel?
Check out the great resource Hooked, which is
all about writing an excellent Chapter 1.


Rimma Onoseta: On Trusting the Process of Revision

Rimma Onoseta: On Trusting the Process of Revision

Author Rimma Onoseta discusses how seeing other Black female authors on bookshelves encouraged her to finish writing her contemporary YA novel, How You Grow Wings.

Writer's Digest September/October 2022 Cover

Writer's Digest September/October 2022 Cover Reveal

Writer's Digest is excited to announce our Sept/Oct 2022 issue featuring our Annual Literary Agent Roundup, an interview with NYT-bestselling YA horror novelist Tiffany D. Jackson, and articles about writing sinister stories.

Your Story #120

Your Story #120

Write the opening line to a story based on the photo prompt below. (One sentence only.) You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

5 Tips for Writing as a Parent

5 Tips for Writing as a Parent

Author Sarah Grunder Ruiz shares how she fits writing into her life and offers 5 tips on how to achieve a sustainable writing life as a parent.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 621

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an animal poem.

Why Is This Love Scene Here? How To Write Compelling Love Scenes

Why Is This Love Scene Here? How To Write Compelling Love Scenes

Not sure which way to turn when writing intimate scenes? Author Jo McNally shares how to write compelling love scenes that make sense for the story you’re writing.

How Can I Help You?

How Can I Help You?

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, your character is a high-end retail salesperson.

Phong Nguyen: On Freedom To Invent in Historical Fiction

Phong Nguyen: On Freedom To Invent in Historical Fiction

Award-winning author Phong Nguyen discusses his lifelong dream of writing his new historical fiction novel, Bronze Drum.

Historical Fiction Authors Don’t Expect Their Characters’ Battles To Appear in Modern Headlines, but Here We Are

Historical Fiction Authors Don’t Expect Their Characters’ Battles To Appear in Modern Headlines, but Here We Are

What happens to historical fiction when history repeats itself? Author Addison Armstrong discusses writing about the past and seeing it reflected in the present.