Writing Your Book to Sound Fantastic

By Sophfronia Scott

I once read a column by Stephen King where he 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 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.

Listen Up!

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!

© 2010 Sophfronia Scott

Sophfronia Scott is Executive Editor of the Done For You Writing & Publishing Company. Learn what a difference being a published author can make for your business. Get your FREE audio CD, “How to Succeed in Business By Becoming a Bestselling Author” and your FREE online writing and book publishing tips at http://www.doneforyouwriting.com/


Tracy said...

My favorite advice is 'read it out loud' I always do this. After I draft an email, I read it out loud to myself to see how it will come across. It's the best advice!

Years ago me and Stephen King crashed into each at Grand Central Station in New York City, and now I'm writing, I think he rubbed off on me, LOL! :-)

Simply Stacie said...

Following you from FFF on MBC!


Tami said...

I've done freelance for a while and am writing a novel. I make sure to read my things aloud for the fact that:

1. Sometimes you type a word you don't mean to, and spell check may not pick it up.

2. Sometimes it just sounds awkward. I don't want to be known as the awkward novelist. Besides, I don't think I'd get published that way!

Following you from MBC/FFF.


furygirl3132 said...

I am a new follower from FFF/MBC and wanted to drop by and say hello! Hope you have a wonderful week!


JaelCustomDesigns said...

Following from MBC (FFF Group)
You can find me at

parenting ad absurdum said...

Great advice - I'll be back for more. I do often read my blog posts out loud before I post them, but I hadn't thought about doing this with my other work. Brilliant :).


Jeanette Huston said...

I am following you from MBC!


Jeanette Huston

Blommi (formerly reddoggie) said...

I agree whole heartedly about reading what you have wriiten out loud. I often do that for blog posts. It tends to lead to a better end result.

Now following from MBC

Turning the Clock Back said...

Hey there! Just stopped by to check out the blog...very nice! As I blog, I find myself becoming more comfortable with the whole writing thing...Found you through MBC FFF. Come follow back if you get the chance!


bridget3420 said...

Swinging by from TwitterMoms and I'm now a follower. I would love it if you would check out my blogs:


supermomplace said...

Following from MBC (FFF Group)
You can find me at

Mom of Many said...

Following you from FFF on MBC. Follow me back at http://nobirthcontrol.blogspot.com. Thanks!

Deb K said...

I am following you from MBC :-)

You can find me here~


Brianne said...

Hi, following from MBC!!


Joanna said...

I'm following from MBC.


Lesa Antone said...

Reading out loud. What a simple concept that so many people fail to do. Not only do you "hear" how your words will sound, but it also offers you yet one more chance to check for spelling and grammatical errors. I always find an error, or awkward sentence structure, when I read my work out loud.

Thanks for this info--great advice!!

from MBC

Melanie said...

Interesting, you know you never really hear about audiobooks in the writing world. I've never even really considered them, having only bought two in my entire life. Yet, you could be right. Especially about the Read It Out Loud part. When I was first beginning my novels, I not only read it out loud, I read and typed out loud. Now I can't do that anymore as my toddler shouldn't be hearing everything I'm writing.^^'.

I used to love reading out loud so much in fact that sometimes I would make myself even more excited reading out loud than I was when I typed it.

Great post subject.^^

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