I’m a Listener

A special welcome to Reece Hanzon of Jolly Fish Press for this wonderful and personal post about individualized learning and how audios books come into play. Thank you so much for sharing!

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Hi. I’m Reece, and I’m a listener. No, I’m not a character from Star Trek, I’m someone whose preferred method of “reading” is by listening. I have an active Audible.com account, and I usually get at least a couple books per month there. One of my favorite family activities is to sit and listen to my wife read aloud. I am one of many people who find actual reading—you know, with words printed or displayed visually on a page or screen—a lot more difficult than most people. I don’t have dyslexia or anything like that (or at least not that I know of yet); I am simply an auditory learner. My primary learning style, or the way I take in and process information, is by listening.

High school was a breeze for me. I went to class, listened to the teacher, asked questions, did my homework, and did fairly well … and rarely opened my textbooks. When I got to college, however, things changed: what was discussed in lecture was only a portion of what I was required to know for each test. I soon realized that I couldn’t get through college the same way I had gotten through high school, and if I tried, I was going to fail. So I started doing what everyone told me was the correct way to study: I read the assigned pages or chapters, I highlighted the text and wrote notes in the margins, and I took notes as best I could. I even took a class meant to teach me how to study effectively. And when test days came around, I was only marginally better prepared than I was before.

To be clear, I did not fail out of college. I graduated, but not with anywhere near the GPA I was accustomed to in high school, and not with one that I could even be proud of. I eventually began getting together with study groups. Listening to my classmates talk about the material was much more effective for me than reading the textbook. (I am completely serious when I say that my efforts to read the material just ended up putting me to sleep about 75% of the time—even the topics that really interested me.) Even then, I didn’t understand why the “correct” study methods didn’t work for me. It caused me a lot of stress and worry, and no small amount of depression. It wasn’t until several years later that I finally began to understand that my brain simply processes information differently than most people’s brains.

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, there are lots of reasons. These days, there is a significant effort being made to cater to individual learning styles—an effort I dearly wish had been made when I was in college! Audiobooks and podcasts are on the rise. All kinds of people (not just auditory learners like me) are taking up audiobooks so they can learn or enjoy a good story even when they don’t have time to sit down and read. And because of this, audio rights are becoming more important than ever before. And this has a huge impact on writers.

A well-written book is easily converted to audio, but an average book can be much more difficult. And publishers are looking for books that can be easily adapted to as many different formats as possible (film & television, language translation, audiobooks, live performance, book club, etc.). This hasn’t always been very important to writers—after all, film and television require a script or screenplay, which may not even be written by the author of the book. Audiobooks, however, are the author’s very own words, read without alteration. The wrong words can come out sounding awkward or ungainly, or just plain weird. So, it behooves writers everywhere to be aware of how their writing sounds.

When I’m editing a manuscript, I often make notes such as “this sounds odd” or something similar. I often wonder what the author thinks when he/she reads those comments. “Sounds odd? What is that supposed to mean? It makes perfect sense! Who cares what it sounds like?” The point is that I want the author to be aware of things that may not come across very well when spoken. I want them to be thinking about their writing as something that will be heard and not just seen. I think this is the most important part of modern writing: being aware that your work may appear in any of several formats and tailoring your voice accordingly. We cannot rely on and emulate the great writers of the past the same way we used to because we are dealing with vastly different standards and circumstances than they did—it’s an entirely different world these days!

So, while you’re madly editing and revising, take time to read your work out loud. Get a feel for how the words sound, how they work together and flow—or how they don’t. Pay attention to how your mouth feels as you speak the words. If it’s hard to speak what you’ve written, scrap it and start over! It may mean extra work, but it will be worth it in the long run.

By making your writing easy to listen to, you are making your book all the more enticing to publishers. A well-written book is easily adapted to audio, and in today’s market that may be the difference between a book that is published and a book that is rejected.

Reece Hanzon is an editor specializing in science fiction and fantasy. He is especially interested in sci-fi thrillers, space opera, cyberpunk, urban fantasy, sword and sorcery, and epic fantasy. He has a B.A. in communications, with a minor in editing, from Brigham Young University. Reece has been with Jolly Fish Press since 2012, and worked on various projects, including: The Moonlight Trilogy by Teri Harman; The Psionic Earthseries, by Dan Levinson; The Samaritan’s Pistol by Eric Bishop; and Dependent by Brenda Corey Dunne.

Reece’s latest acquisition includes the Tokens and Omens series (JFP, Spring 2016) by Jeri Lynn Baird.

Reece also provides freelance editing services. For more information and references, you may contact him at reece (dot) hanzon (at) gmail (dot) com

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