Up today: Answering a question L. T. Eliot (also known as Lexicon Luvr) posed some time ago:
[Writers creating pronunciation guides for audio recordings] is a new phenomenon to me, and I've only ever heard it mentioned once. How long has that been going on?
I can't speak for other writers and their experiences with their publishers, of course, so what comes below is based on my experience.
For my first five books, Covenant released an audio version on either cassettes or CDs (in one case, both). In each case, the book was abridged.
My first two novels (Lost Without You and At the Water's Edge) are my shortest ones. I had to cut them down to 48,000 words, but since they were each right around 70,000, that wasn't terrible to do. It wasn't fun by any means, but I could cut out descriptions, shorten dialogue, delete actions and tags, take showing portions and make them telling, and the like. Abridging took out a lot of the voice and personality of the book, but the basic story was left intact.
And then . . . well, THEN I had to cut House on the Hill. It clocked in at 102,000 words. Remember, it had to be hacked down to 48,000.
Yeah. Had to cut that puppy by more than half. The final version had entire scenes and subplots stripped out. For example, readers didn't see Abe's father or even know much of Abe's background. There just wasn't time for it.
At the Journey's End was even longer, by more than 10,000 words (I think it was around 114,000 words total). By that point, they were toying with whether they'd still do a cassette version. If not, I'd get to keep an additional 5,000 words because CDs hold more. But the final decision wasn't made early enough, so even though that book is only on CD, I still had to cut it to 48,000.
Spires of Stone was a bit shorter than At the Journey's End, and I got to cut it to 53,000, so it wasn't quite as miserable to cut, but I still hated it.
If memory serves, Spires was also the first book they requested a pronunciation guide for, but what they asked for was relatively minor. I had to clarify any names or terms that might be confusing. I remember writing character personality descriptions, but not much else. That book was released fall of 2007.
In hindsight, had my sister not been the one reading At the Water's Edge (2004),I probably would have needed to submit a guide, because it has Finnish names and words that would totally throw off your average American reader. That's why I requested that Mel read it: she knows Finnish pronunciation as well as I do, so she didn't need a guide.
By the time Tower of Strength came out, a new decision had been made: Covenant heard its customers asking for unabridged books and agreed to do them! (And there was much rejoicing in the land!)
However, there was a consequence to that decision: unabridged books are (obviously) longer. Therefore, they cost more to produce (both in actual CDs as well as in paying for a reader and other costs). Ergo, they couldn't afford to put every book onto audio.
So while they'd have fewer novels on audio, those that got audio versions would all be unabridged.
The result: Tower of Strength (2009) wasn't given audio. I was rather relieved: no butchering of my book! On the other hand, if it had gotten audio, there wouldn't have beena need to butcher it. But cutting it down wouldn't have been as painful, since Tower is my shortest historical.
I didn't have a 2008 release, so between the small guide for Spires in '07 and no audio for Tower in '09, the first "real" guide I've had to do was for Band of Sisters. (Did you catch that? It's on unabridged audio!)
The pronunciation guide for Band of Sisters was rather involved. I was surprised at how many names and terms they wanted me to explain. I had to include actual pronunciation symbols based on Merriam-Webster's style.
I also had to describe the characters, but this time it wasn't only their personalities. I had to describe their voices. Does Nora have a high or low voice? What about Kim? Does Marianne have a noticeable accent? Does Jessie have a unique tone? What about Brenda? Does she talk fast? And so on.
I had to go reread portions of the book to really listen to my characters talk so I could describe their voices. (That probably sounds bizarre to anyone who isn't a writer, but to me, these women are real, and I can hear their voices in my head. No, I don't need medication.)
Back to the question: How long have the pronunciation guides been going on?
Short answer: somewhere in the ballpark of three or four years, and in that time (at least in my experience) they've become more specific and detailed.
That's a good thing, I think. I don't mind spending a little extra time on a guide since I'm no longer sweating over abridgments. And the guides really benefit everyone. The final product is better, since the actor reading the book knows going in how every person should sound and how to say possibly confusing terms, and the listener has a better experience with the story.
The guide avoids problems like the actor finding out 2/3 of the way through the book that whoops, this character has a southern drawl or this one has a gravelly voice, and this one speaks low for a woman . . . and that they've been reading it wrong the entire time!
A lot of writers, other creative types, and even parents worried about their children have asked me about my experience with ADD/ADHD/ADHD-I. It's past time that I put more of my coping strategies in one place.
I first blogged about my ADD experience about two and a half years ago. (That's where I also explained the difference between ADHD and ADHD-I, and how what most people call ADD is actually classified as ADHD-I.)
More than a year after that, I posted a follow-up about one of my favorite tools for getting work done in spite of my ADD: my DIY tread desk.
If you haven't read those posts but are interested in coping strategies, symptoms, and so on, I definitely recommend reading them. I won't go over all of the information in them here.
Rather, I'm assuming you or someone who know has ADHD or a variant, and you know those terms.
For those who have asked, I've compiled a list of things that have helped me and my children in our ongoing battle with ADHD-I:
My older sister and I are similar in a lot of ways. We're both writers. We're both readers. We both majored in English. We both adore good chocolate. And on and on.
We're dissimilar in a lot of ways, but it turns out that one thing I thought was a difference actually isn't.
As an adult, Mel was diagnosed with ADD. The diagnosis made so much sense for her, at least with my limited understanding of the condition. She can jump topics in a conversation like hummingbird flitting from flower to flower, only faster. I can keep up, but I assumed that it was because I grew up around her.
The thing is that Mel's ADD has a bit of the hyperactive ADHD in it, although I wouldn't classify her as hyperactive in the typical sense. She's high energy, for sure. When I've mentioned to close friends that ADD runs in the family, they always follow that up with, "Mel, right?"
And then I have to say that well, yes. She's the one who is buzzing around all the tim…
People joke that I'm the Grammar Nazi.
My critique group says that I know exactly how to use commas (and then they go comatose, and tweet about it, if I try to explain why a semicolon is correct on page 5).
For that matter, rumor has it that when they speak about our group and mention members' strengths, they bring up punctuation as my strength. While I do know my fair share of punctuation rules, I do like to hope that in the 12 years I've been there I've been worth more than fixing comma splices. :)
But yes, I do care about punctuation more than the average reader or writer. Why? Because it adds nuance and meaning that nothing else can. The same words can have a totally different meaning with a few different punctuation marks.
This is true with big issues like pacing, tone, and mood.
But to make my point, I'll go a bit over the top for today's Word Nerd Wednesday.
First off, read Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots, and Leaves (the title of which is a punctuati…