Last month, I did my first reading for Baby Grand as part of the Summer Gazebo Series in Oceanside, New York.
And when I was deciding what excerpt I would choose for the event, I just thought I’d start from the beginning and read Chapter 1 — seemed like a logical place, right?
But I began watching some YouTube videos of authors who had been featured at the Gazebo over the years and realized that Chapter 1 was going to be a poor choice. Why? Well, even though Baby Grand is a thriller, there’s really not much action right off the bat, and my main characters don’t appear until Chapter 2 and beyond. Yes, Chapter 1 is a wonderful beginning to the novel, but, by itself, is by no means suitable as a representation of the entire work. As writer-friend Roz Morris wrote in a recent post about how she went about selecting an excerpt for a reading, beginnings are “for settling down with, not standing up.” I needed an excerpt that not only featured a few of my major players but one that had a little more suspense, something that grabbed listeners and made them want to know more, without giving too much away, of course.
Profanity was also an issue. There are characters in Baby Grand who have a penchant for the F word, so those scenes were out, because I had been instructed to select an excerpt that was more basic cable than premium channel.
What to choose? What to choose? I mean, there are 62 chapters in Baby Grand!
I began to narrow down the possibilities. The excerpt had to be a chapter that was early on in the novel or else too much of the plot could be given away. But it couldn’t be too early, because I needed things to be set in motion to make it more interesting for the listener. There was the profanity issue, yes, and I also had to think about timing — I had been given a ten-minute slot to fill and was told I could not go over, because there would be four other readers (two poets, a fellow fiction writer and a nonfiction writer) there that night as well.
In the end, I decided on Chapter 9, which featured both my hero and villain, was a bit dark and ended on a mysterious note. I timed myself as I read it, and it was approximately seven minutes, which was perfect — I had enough time to introduce myself, my novel, and set up the chapter. Now all I had to do was read it, which gave me heart palpitations the day of the event (I’m more of a behind the scenes kind of girl).
In the end, the reading went fine, although apparently I was the only one — being the newbie — who had taken the time limit seriously. Compared to the others, it seemed as if I was done in the blink of an eye!
Even if you are not scheduled to do a reading, it might be a good exercise to choose an excerpt from your book to use as promotional material on your website or elsewhere. I am currently working on the audiobook of Baby Grand, and when I needed to come up with a retail sample for the book that was five minutes in length, I knew exactly what chapter to use, having already prepared for the reading, and just sliced off a couple of minutes from the beginning of that excerpt to fit the allotted time.
And, no, I’m not narrating the audiobook. Although I let it out for selected special events, I like my reading voice to stay where it belongs. In my head.