Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Behind the Scenes: Never a Dull Moment!

This time, I will open in a round-about way. Do you like an 'open-ended' story? I mean, a story with an end that ties most threads in the yarn but not all, so the story lingers in your mind--so you have to keep looking at it, this way and that, trying to imagine what else happened? By being intrigued, you become the writer of the future events of the story. 

Two of the chapters in Apart From Love are open-ended, and I am not going to tell you which ones--you will have to read the novel, and find out for yourself! What I am going to tell you is the trouble I found myself in, because of these open-ended ends--first, with both of my narrators, and then with ACX, the place where the audiobook is undergoing an intense process of Quality Analysis before it is offered for sale to you.

Most audiobooks are carried along by the voice of a single narrator. Apart from Love is unusual because we have a dual-narration project: he said, she said. For her part, Heather Jane Hogan(who plays Anita) sent me three version of the last sentence, so I may choose the best variation of an unfinished end. And David Kudler (who plays Ben) did a couple of variations on the last sentence in another chapter, before I approved the entire project. In hindsight I have a better way of suggesting to them how to perform this feat: first, extend that last sentence, write something outrageous, horrible, funny beyond the last letter, and then stop just short of it--

Yesterday--taking a short break from chatting with you, and running the launch event--I sent a note to ACX. I was becoming worried that their approval process is taking too long, and started asking myself, Will I have to extend the launch event beyond Mother's Day? Will I have to stop and restart it later? I would hate to do anything like that... So here is what I said:

"I approved the audiobook production of Apart From Love on April 12, 2013, and received a note from you  saying, 'Barring any issues in the quality check, that process should take around 2-3 weeks'. It is over 3 weeks now, and I am eager to let listeners know the audiobook is out. I am at the end of a great launch event for it, I do not want to lose their interest if it takes longer. Please let me know the status of Apart From Love." 
The reply came in later that day:

"Chapter 17 has a truncated audio issue (file cuts off before audio track is finished)"

I replied, as did David from his end, that the end of this chapter is cut off by design, so as to let the reader imagine what happened. In response, they qualified their instruction, which--I hate to admit it--did make a lot of sense:

"Since the 'cutoff' is intentional there still needs to be a certain amount of room tone (spacing between the end of the narration and end of the file). It sounds too abrupt as is.... after being reviewed the files get sent to our encoding team, during this process they examine the files (the book was initially rejected due to the abrupt end of chapter 17)"

With that, came a list of instructions to please revise the audio files, recompile the entire fixed audiobook into a single zip file, with specific naming instruction; upload the zip file to their online dropbox; let them know it is ready for them, and wait for them to review the new submission, which they would do as soon as possible. This opens up so many possibilities for error, that I am biting my nails with each passing moment. Will we succeed in fixing & recompiling the files? Will these files be sent, or by mistake--the old ones? Will we do it on time for the launch event to remain on schedule?

What happened next? At this point, this real-time story is open-ended, too--
Stay tuned


  1. I am following your quest for an audiobook with interest. I hope to do the same with my books.

    As far as books with an open-ended ending, it has to be done right. When a story ends abruptly and leaves the reader asking, "Hey, am I missing some pages?" - not good. But when all the loose ends are tied up and the reader is still left to imagine the rest of the characters' lives, that engages the reader in the story-making process.

    1. Thank you so much Laurie for the insightful comments! And best of luck with your books, too.

  2. That's fascinating. Of course, with a book you can see the page numbers so you know the author's intent. And open-ended is fine because you're going to turn the page. (I like open-ended stories too but I do want to know the author meant it that way.) I can see what they mean about the listening experience--not something I'd have thought of though.

    1. Exactly--they have such an interesting process of QA! Even though I did listen to every word performed, and requested a number of adjustments, this is not something I would have thought of... And Sheila, I totally agree with your comment about wanting to know that the author did what she did by design.