I’m reading at an event tonight in Dublin city centre, and I thought I might share some advice about the art of reading, from what I’ve learned so far. I’m always nervous beforehand and it takes me a little while to warm up into it, so I try to come prepared.
A reading is a performance. Think of it as you being on TV and trying to get people from channel hopping. The only way they’re going to stay with you is if you keep them entertained. So, it’s good to find a passage or chapter in your book that includes a few laughs, if there are any. If you can find a passage that combines a bit of comedy with pathos, all the better.
Rehearse your reading beforehand, a few times. Try out voices for your characters, but don’t make them caricatures. If a character has an accent, give him or her just a flavour of that accent in your reading. Only gently differentiate between who is talking with the voices you try out.
Try to inject drama into dialogue. Imagine you are in a room by yourself, writing the dialogue. Speak it the way you hear it.
The one big mistake first time readers make is going too fast. The urge is to read at a gallop, getting it all out there and getting off the podium as fast as you can. Take breaths between paragraphs. Let the audience settle with little beats between the scenes, or between pieces of dialogue. But don’t make it too long! Choose a chapter or passage that’s no more than 1,000 words.
When it comes to doing the actual reading, if you have actually had a book published in print form, do not read from a kindle or tablet device. Show the people what you are reading from. Readers of books get excited by authors – the proof that you are one helps generate that excitement.
And lastly, always end on a note that makes the listeners want more. Don’t read a chapter from the end, or even near the end of your book. Make them care about the story, then leave it hanging.
They might even buy the book then!