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As an audiobook narrator, I encourage every author to get her work into audio. However, regardless of whether you ever want to create audiobooks of your titles, these four tips from other authors about planning your audiobook will make you a better writer.
1. Listen to audiobooks.
This first piece of advice surprises many writers. They may have studied the words of other authors, but they’ve never thought much about how the words actually sound.
Jason M. Hough, New York Times bestselling author of The Darwin Elevator, wrote a terrific blog post that outlines five reasons why writers should listen to audiobooks.
Laura Hillenbrand, the New York Times bestselling author of Seabiscuit and Unbroken, has listened to hundreds of audiobooks. According to her interview in the New York Times Magazine, Hillenbrand said her immersion in audiobooks has actually improved her writing because she hears the musicality of the language.
Stephen King thought about the sound of the words even back in 2007. In a column for Entertainment Weekly, King noted, “Audio is merciless. It exposes every bad sentence, half-baked metaphor, and lousy word choice…the spoken word is the acid test. They don’t call it storytelling for nothing.”
2. Read your work aloud.
To elaborate on King’s point about the spoken word highlighting every error, you could read Chapter 11 from the book Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing, written by University of Massachusetts – Amherst English Professor Peter Elbow.
Jeanette Smith’s editorial in the Guardian Liberty Voice summarizes that chapter, which asserts, “reading aloud is the easiest, most efficient way to revise any written report.”
And as every audiobook narrator knows, when you speak every single word in the text, you will discover:
• grammatical mistakes like subject/verb disagreement
• plot/logic issues
• repetitive words, phrases and sections of text
• typos, including character name changes
• homonyms which are used as part of a visual joke on paper but lose their cleverness when spoken
• sentences full of alliteration that, like homonyms, may look great on paper but are not easy to say, particularly if performed in the character’s accent
• any words or phrases that are difficult or awkward to voice (Audiobook narrators universally would like to remove the words “clasped,” “gasped,” and “grasped” from the dictionary. Say each one followed by the word “the,” and you’ll understand our reasoning.)
In a New York Times editorial titled “Some Thoughts on the Lost Art of Reading Aloud,” Verlyn Klinkenborg further observed that reading aloud helps you understand the meaning of words and their intention.
3. Limit the number of characters in a scene.
This suggestion is one of 10 tips to improve the audiobook experience offered from New York Times and USA Today bestseller Wendy Lindstrom. Not surprisingly, Lindstrom is another author who advises you to read your work aloud.
4. Consider writing strictly for audio.
The explosion in the audiobook market has given rise to a renewed interest in audio dramas. I’m not talking about soap opera-ish, radio plays from the ‘30s or the one performed by Frasier Crane and friends. No, today’s audio dramas are performed by a full cast and have lush music and effects, like on a movie soundtrack.
International bestselling author Jeffery Deaver discussed in this piece how he adjusted his writing style and overcame technical writing problems while creating The Starling Project as an original audio drama for Audible.com. Deaver had to find new ways to present details that are normally explained by a third-person omniscient narrator. A sound clip of the production is included with the article and demonstrates the power of this medium.
By applying these tips and planning how your words will sound to a listener, you will tighten and polish your written words into a beautiful string of the finest pearls!
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