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Speech is DONE.

That keynote address I'm delivering this Wednesday at the University of Central Oklahoma's Liberal Arts Symposium XXIV? Done!

(Check out the promo poster they made! Love it!)

One of the most difficult writing tasks is revision - especially when one has to meet a maximum word-count. Even more challenging is when minutes read aloud, not word-count, determines the length. I've not given a one-hour talk before, and it's complicated because one hour thins down to about 40 minutes when taking into account the introduction and Q&A - so it was pure guesstimation on my part about how long it should be. I knew what I wanted to say, the structure and content, but one never knows how long it'll end up after one's research and writing are complete. To get a handle on this, I used some other people's keynote talks as guidelines.

Everyone reads at different speeds, and because I learned to talk in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I speak more quickly than some. I figured I could use a few more words than my models if needed.

My first draft came to 9000 words, quite a bit longer than my generous target. Typical. When I've tried to write short-short stories (or flash fiction), I end up with a couple thousand words. My short stories turn into novelettes, novelettes into novellas, and novels into giant bricks of interwoven stories. Revision usually lengthens them as I enrich the setting or character or fill in plot holes.

Read aloud, 9000 words amounted to about 80 minutes - though a lot of that was stopping to make changes, or hearing clevermanka's feedback. Even so, it would surely run longer than an hour read as-is.


After a revision (that added words) and some cutting, I got down to 8800 words, which took almost exactly one hour to deliver. CRAP.

CR suggested some major cuts, I cringed, but one cannot create time, so back to the cutting table. I targeted about 15-20% shorter, because that's how many minutes I needed to trim.

After two more passes, I got it down to 6900 words. Pretty close. After one more set of brutal cuts this morning, it's down to less than 6500 words: a full 20% off the top.

I can't tell you how helpful it is to have another set of eyes, another perspective, to determine what's really necessary and what just gets in the way. It's also incredibly useful to get the kind of completely honest suggestions that only clevermanka can offer, because she doesn't feel the need to sugar-coat her candor. Ahem. Thanks to her, I now feel confident not only in my delivery (she patiently listened to me read it twice), but also the content.

And, y'know, being able to finish the talk during the time alotted.

Can't wait! It's called, "Science Fiction: Mythologies for a Changing Age." I think it's a really good talk. Hope the audience finds it inspiring.



( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 27th, 2012 07:37 pm (UTC)
I thought they only had conservative arts in Oklahoma. Har-har.

K. [seriously, break a leg]
Feb. 27th, 2012 07:39 pm (UTC)
Haha indeed! Let me tell you, though, that it crossed my mind a few times how some of the things I'm saying will rile up the right-wing types....

Feb. 27th, 2012 11:06 pm (UTC)
In Oklahoma almost anything you say can rile them up. Agreeing with them will rile them up. Lose/lose, so ignore.
Feb. 27th, 2012 08:22 pm (UTC)
What What What are you doing in that picture? You look like you're preparing to ask people to drink toxic Kool-Aid.

Srsly, this is going to make me laugh every time I think about it.


Also, you're very welcome. Kiss kiss.

Edited at 2012-02-27 08:24 pm (UTC)
Feb. 27th, 2012 09:33 pm (UTC)
You should have seen the original - even more hilarious! Love it.
Feb. 27th, 2012 09:44 pm (UTC)
Feb. 27th, 2012 11:06 pm (UTC)
You really should NOT go around handing out straight lines like that ...

Edited at 2012-02-27 11:08 pm (UTC)
Feb. 28th, 2012 04:42 pm (UTC)
Ba-da-boom, tsch!
Feb. 28th, 2012 05:54 am (UTC)
20 mins = 2100 words
40 mins = 4500 max.

At 6,500 words you will be talking for an hour or more, or gabbling.

Believe me on this one. *very* experienced,

Do not attempt to cut.

Go through, and on one page of A4 put a list of headings. Then go through again highlighting the bits you really do need to read (quotations etc).

By this point you will know your paper and be able to go semi free style.

See here: http://www.farahsf.com/howtogive.htm
Feb. 28th, 2012 05:56 am (UTC)
ps. the larger the audience the more you have to pace the talk so people can hear and understand. Talking to one person is quite different and not actually a good test of timing.
Feb. 28th, 2012 12:26 pm (UTC)
That's a very good point, and especially if humor is part of the talk, one needs to have those pauses for the laughter.

Best wishes, Chris, it sounds like it's going to be great.

(I think it looks like you're wearing a lab coat and conjuring up mad scientist stuff!)
Feb. 28th, 2012 04:56 pm (UTC)
Right, I need to prepare for laughter in a few spots, and who knows how much timet that can consume. Hm, the actual talk need to be even shorter than I thought... cutting has commenced.
Feb. 28th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
Fantastic advice, Farah - I'm going to share that page with my students. On your recommendation, I've made further deep cuts.
Feb. 28th, 2012 07:45 am (UTC)
what fun! and what a groovy poster!

I think you'll do great! If you're a little under or a little over, it won't matter because they will be so blinded by your great sassiness.

You are lucky to have someone who can give you real feedback. I know very few people who can do that, and it's really great to have.

Edited at 2012-02-28 07:46 am (UTC)
Feb. 28th, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm going to aim for a little under, just in case.

I've had critique partners before, but where CR excels is in her unvarnished honesty ;-)
Feb. 28th, 2012 06:34 pm (UTC)
I envy your audience.
Feb. 29th, 2012 04:08 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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