In his Entertainment Weekly column Stephen King recently extolled the virtues of the audiobook. I agreed with his take, especially the stressing that most writing is, after all, about story-TELLING. But it's interesting to me how many writers go about their work without considering how their words will sound as spoken words. We're so used to reading silently in our heads and, of course, that's what most of our readers will do. But thinking about how your book will sound is an important key to ensure that you're writing well. Usually if it sounds good, it is good. Here are a few things to consider...
How Do You Want to Be Heard?
We think so much about story, plot, characters, as we're planning a book, but just as important is this: What do you want your book to sound like? Will your characters speak in dialect? Will your narrator have a unique voice or will he/she sound like all the other characters? Does your book sound right for the time? My current manuscript is a historical novel and my concern is using the correct slang and general tone for the time period. I also want it to have the feel of a woman sitting in a room telling me this story in one sitting in an intimate setting. I always asking myself if that is indeed what is happening with what I'm writing.
If you're confused about how you want your book to sound, listen to a recording of one of your favorite novels. The beauty of audiobooks is that we have so much to choose from when we want to hear what great writing sounds like. As I searched for examples to inspire my own work, I discovered (on iTunes!) a recording of the great actress Ruby Dee reading "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston. Ms. Dee's reading conjured the magic and soul of the book and it gave me great ideas on what I could try to bring that kind of depth to my writing. I'm not sure I would have heard the same thing reading the novel on my own.
For Non-Fiction: Your Voice
Sound is just as important for non-fiction writers. With non-fiction, the sound of the book is your own personal voice. How do you want to sound to your readers? Authoritative? Friendly? Professorial? Humorous? Keep your answers in mind as you write and edit your manuscript. Is your tone consistent or are you changing it again and again? Does it make readers want to know you and stay with your book? Or does your too-serious tone keep readers at a distance or--even worse--drive them away? Your information and personality can't help but mingle to create your tone. But is the mix a good one?
When in Doubt, Read It Out (Loud)!
When I worked at Time Inc. my editors endlessly stressed reading a piece out loud during the writing process. If you didn't, you risked the embarassment of standing next to an editor while they read a few sentences of your story out loud and then turn to you and say, "Does that sound right to you?" It's amazing how ghastly different something can sound in your head versus reading it out loud. Don't be afraid to do it. Find yourself a quiet spot and really speak the speech as though you were giving one. Does it sound awkward? Boring? Totally engaging? If you can't tell, get a friend to read it out loud for you. If they stumble often or if the words seem lifeless, you'll know your marching orders. Time to rewrite!
About the Author:
© 2006 Sophfronia Scott Author and Writing Coach Sophfronia Scott is "The Book Sistah" TM. Get her FREE REPORT, "The 5 Big Mistakes Most Writers Make When Trying to Get Published" and her FREE online writing and book publishing tips at http://www.TheBookSistah.com
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