VODCASTING – SHOULD YOU GET INTO VIDEO?

Vodcasting is the latest method by which authors can stay in contact with their readers, by providing interesting and entertaining video content. After 5 years (and counting) producing an audio podcast I’m now branching out into vodcasting.

I’ve always experimented with video. A few years ago, I conducted a number of writer interviews online. It was quite often beset with technical problems, and a number of my interviewees needed help setting up their computers to enable the interview to go ahead. It was interesting for both me and them. although the video and audio quality was a little … basic. [ My chat channel ]

Now we’re in 2020, and availability of equipment was expanded, and it is much easier to create good quality videos without spending too much money. [ My channel ]

So, what do you need to begin creating your own videos? Entry to this arena couldn’t be simpler, and requires no more than a reasonably-modern smartphone, tablet or laptop. You can record your video, with audio, onto your device and immediately upload it to an account on YouTube.

But after a while, you may want to improve things – perhaps edit the video to cut out mistakes, and all those umms and ahhhs and ……… pauses. There is free video editing software around, and if you’re on Mac, iMovie is free, which is what I use. There may be software for PC, too. Don’t make too many jump cuts, which gets exhausting for the viewer. Don’t try to make it too perfect, which just looks unnatural. Play around with it, experiment.

How’s your lighting? The first rule of video concerns … LIGHTING. Get your lighting right. Don’t sit in front of a bright window, so your face is in shadow. Try to use subdued lighting, that doesn’t look too harsh. There are many video lighting systems for low prices available now. Ring lights for close-up videos, panel lights for a wider shot. All LED, mostly powered by rechargeable battery.

The second rule of video is … audio. Yes, I know. We’re coming to cameras, soon. If your microphone is built-in to your recording device, they’ll pick up echoes around the room and other extraneous sounds. And the quality won’t be very good. Lapel microphones (called mics and pronounced mikes) are very low-cost and good value, and will plug into your video recorder. You can also look into ’shotgun’ mics, which have a focussed area of sound pickup, and will cut out much of the room sound.

Finally – cameras. Strangely, the camera on your smartphone or tablet is incredibly good at recording your video. Don’t forget that your video won’t be shown on the local IMAX on a screen the size of a football field. Mostly, it will be viewed in a window on a laptop or phone screen, so resolution isn’t a major factor. Keep the lens clean, and your phone will do a great job at recording video. If you do decide to go to a video camera, look at reviews online. See what other vloggers are using.

For what it’s worth, this is what I use. I choose what is appropriate for each situation, but sometimes, recording something quickly to a smartphone works surprisingly well!
* Canon EOS M50 camera
* Trakstar SGC-598 shotgun mic (fixes to the camera’s hotshoe and plugs into the external microphone socket)
* Boya BY-M1 lapel (lavalier) mic
* MPOW Bluetooth headphones
* Various Neewer tripods
* Neewer 144-LED panel light

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Too famous to edit?

I spend a little part of every day on Twitter. I probably spend too much time on Twitter, if I’m honest. Sometimes, it’s a bit … meh, and sometimes it’s red hot.

Yesterday, someone I followed posted this:

“You know when artists get so famous their work isn’t edited properly …”

and they went on to quote a few pieces of work.
Basically asking if the bigger the author gets, reputation- and following-wise, the more influence they have on the production side of their book. Specifically, editing.

Cue TwitterStorm. “Are you saying long books are rubbish?” No, they weren’t.
“Are you saying books are over-long drivel?” No, they weren’t.

Some authors engaged, on differing sides of the discussion. Some authors, and non-authors, and lots of men, hurled abuse. Leaping straight into abuse is not a good look. That happens a lot nowadays. Any opinion you voice becomes a spark to ignite the powder. No one says “I respectfully disagree”.

Remember the famous quote, often attributed to Voltaire, but was actually coined by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre? In The Friends of Voltaire, Hall wrote the phrase:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

That seems to have gone out of the window now. It’s now “I disapprove of what you say, and you’re a ***ing **** **** * for even having the temerity for saying it. And by the way, you look like a fish”.

And so, to the question. And I’m afraid I’m on the side of ‘aye’. I’ve read books that I thought were over-long – unnecessarily over-long. I’ve read some long books, and really enjoyed them. At the end of the day, the specific word count for a novel doesn’t matter a jot, as long as it meets genre and reader expectations. By and large, romance is shorter, epic fantasy longer. Crime is pretty much in the middle.

I’m reminded of a book club, where we read the latest novel by a Booker prize winner. Our group was about 12 strong, mainly female, with 2-3 men, if I remember correctly. The book we read was over 600 pages long. Not small pages and large type – 600 ‘normal’ paperback pages.

No one finished the book. No one liked the book. I gave up at about the one-third point, when a character was attending a banquet. And the author listed item after item after item. Several paragraphs of foodstuffs, as though the author had Googled “what could be served at a banquet in the mid-1800s” and had then done a massive copy-paste job to boost their word count. Seriously. Call me a Luddite, call me an infidel, call me Ishmael. But no, nothing was gained by inserting that mahoosive list in the middle of a book. It added nothing to the narrative.

Also, I understand that editors can sometimes misunderstand authors, or that they won’t ‘get’ the writing, and can be ‘over-eager’ in their editing suggestions. I’ve had readers misunderstand, or think something is unrealistic, or that there is too much of ‘me’ in the writing (author intrusion).

Yes, I get it. The relationship between an author and an editor is one based on trust. And one thing is absolutely clear – there is not a piece of work written that can’t be improved by a little judicious editing before it’s published. Not one. Find an editor you like, folks, and use them before you publish your novels.

To finish off, here’s a little piece from Anne Rice, author of (amongst many other things) The Vampire Chronicles. She’s had 36 novels published and sold nearly 100 million copies.

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Themes

I want to tell you about themes. When I first started writing (short, literary fiction), I was forever being told about themes, and about how my writing needed more thematic writing in them. I really struggled to work out what a theme was, and how I could get it into my writing without making it look clunky and hokum.

After a couple of years of very minor success, I moved onto writing longer fiction. And, since I read commercial genre fiction (crime / thriller / horror / espionage), I naturally began to concentrate on those areas – writing the sort of books I’d like to read. If they were any good.

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Focus

What does focus mean to you? Something that happens automatically when you use your modern camera or smartphone? A type of Ford car?

I’m talking about personal focus. That moment of clarity, when the fug and fog around you disappears, what’s truly important comes into view.

The life of an independent author – one who doesn’t have a traditional deal with a large or medium-sized publisher – is one of wearing two hats, almost being a Janus figure – looking both ways. Janus, the God of beginnings and transitions. The beginning is the creative side, the writing of a novel; the transition is one of becoming a commercial author.

What are you talking about, Gerald?

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The great disease of 2020

No, I’m not talking about *that* disease. This is a disease which isn’t talked about, except amongst writers, artists and other creatives.

It’s a strange disease, to do with lockdown, to do with anxiety, to do with a general feeling of unease.

And it has meant that us creatives haven’t been very … well, creative. I know, Jemima learnt to play the Flügel horn, and Benedict has been sharpening up his ancient Greek proverbs, but for many of us, we’ve just been feeling a bit … meh.

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New Opening Pages Vlog!

I’d just like to share the fact that I’m now producing 10-minute videos (or so) where I critique the opening section of novels.
For me, the opening scenes in a new novel are THE most important sections of a novel – whether you’re trying to pitch the manuscript to an agent or publisher, or whether you’re self-publishing and you want readers to buy it.

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