One of the habits I developed while writing and revising Adequate Yearly Progress was listening to specific sections of a few favorite audiobooks before sitting down to write. With a professional narrator’s voice in my head, unnecessary words or unclear phrasing became obvious. I could hear the poetic potential in lines that once seemed straightforward. Often, I’d choose what passages to listen to based on the tone and pacing of whatever part of my own book I was working on that day – kind of an audio-chapter playlist.
By far the most frequent book on this playlist was Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, narrated by Roxana Ortega. The book jumps between the perspectives of at least 20 different fully-fleshed out characters, which made the six perspectives in my own novel seem entirely reasonable.
As a narrator, Ortega managed to embody the energy of each of Jennifer Egan’s characters, including men and women of various backgrounds, ages, and mental states, without actually “doing the voices.” This is a rare skill for a narrator to have; it’s the reason I sent a long email to my editor at Simon & Schuster explaining why Roxana Ortega was my #1 pick as the voice for AYP. (Our matching first names? Just a cool coincidence.)
And… it happened!
Then, because of the same hard-to-explain, nerve-based hesitation that keeps me from ever reading the print version, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to it.
This week, though, I finally hit play on the audiobook, and there it was – the voice that was so often in my head during the writing process, reading the book aloud. Better, actually. Ortega brings even the most minor of characters to life, sometimes in ways I never even thought of.
Don’t believe me: Listen to the sample wherever you get your audiobooks.
You might find some inspiration for an audio-chapter playlist of your own.