Audiobooks have taken off in the past couple of years. This is logical since you can now read books and work out or drive to work at the same time. But when you listen to them from an author’s point of view, one question will pop up. Do audiobooks improve your writing skills?
Audiobooks can make you a better writer. Listening to a story can result in a better understanding of rhythm, character voices, and flow. Reading a physical book can help to improve writing skills slightly more since the reader can focus only on the text and has a visual image of the sentence structure.
Even though the brain responds differently to spoken text than it does to a written one, both have their benefits. So yes, audiobooks can indeed help you with sharpening your writing skills. Here’s how.
The effect of audiobooks on your writing skills
When you are actively listening to a story, the auditory cortex in the temporal lobe is activated. Reading, on the other hand, stimulates the frontal lobe. But even though two different parts of the brain are activated, researchers found minimal differences in how we comprehend the information. The brain collects it regardless.
That being said, if you are doing twenty different things while listening, you cannot collect all the information from the audiobook. So even though it might be tempting to do the dishes and listen at the same time, your brain will collect less data than when you sit down. But that sounds logical, does it not?
Listening to audiobooks will give you a fresh new look at the rhythm of a story. You will hear the flow of the sentences, in which order words make the most sense, and notice the difference in the various voices of the characters. And remember, common advice for writers is to read your story out loud.
When listening to the words, you will also become more familiar with vocabulary. Especially since you can often place it in the context of the story. It can help you discover deeper layers of the story since inflictions like sarcasm and puns don’t always translate well in written text. When you become aware of this, you can play with it in your writing.
Is listening to audiobooks cheating?
It’s a very popular saying that you cannot be a writer if you do not read, but also a very frustrating one. Because even when you love to write, reading doesn’t always come naturally. Some authors have dyslexia, others have a shorter attention span, and we all suffer from a notorious lack of time.
Audiobooks can help you to overcome these struggles, which results in more pleasure, motivation, and engagement. This helps with analyzing the book which, on its own, is a learning curve. Which, in my opinion, is the whole purpose of it all. And on top of that, it could just help you to dream away and plot your next novel, or help you to overcome some of your writing struggles. How can that be cheating?
But yes, let’s look at the elephant in the room for a second. Reading does add something else for a writer. You see the words and sentences written down, so you get a better feeling of spelling, grammar, and punctuation. And don’t forget about the story arc. You can see where you are in the story with a physical book. Which helps you determine what the buildup, the peak, and the wrap-up are. Which is helpful.
I’d say both physical and audiobooks have their benefits. If you are a lover of audiobooks, do keep listening! Just grab a book every now and then to stay in touch with our written language as well.
Reading vs listening audiobooks
I won’t lie. I am not a fan of listening to audiobooks myself. Not because I think they are less, but because the voices irk me. When a narrator doesn’t match the reading voice in my head, I get distracted and cannot focus. The stories are often overacted and don’t get me started on changing the voice per character. So I rather settle down with my cat, a nice cup of tea, and a physical book.
My preference illustrates the point I am trying to make. It is not good or bad. Whatever works for you, works for you. If you love stories but struggle to pick up a book, an audiobook can be the perfect solution. When you want to explore new worlds but drive to work for two hours each day, audiobooks are a good opportunity.
We live in a new world, with a lot of new technology. With that comes different or reinvented ways of storytelling. Grab your inspiration from wherever you can. It doesn’t matter if it comes from books, tv, real life, or audiobooks, does it? As long as you search for ways to improve your writing skills, you will find them.
What should a writer listen for in an audiobook?
If you want audiobooks to make you a better writer, you should actively listen to story details. Just as you would actively look for them in written text. Aim for the area in which you want to improve. You know best what to look for.
I often look for things like how engaging the plot is. Does the writer make an effort? Are you sucked into the story right away, and how do they play with the reader? I like to find myself searching for the solution. Just wanting to get to that last page to figure out how the story is entangled.
Another thing I like to zoom in on is the characters. Are they relatable? Do they all have their unique voice? How is the dialogue? I don’t often write dialogue, so it is a learning curve for me to see how other authors handle that. How they make it feel real and come to life.
There are tons of things you can listen to. The fluency of the sentences, word choice, how organized the story is, the structure. You name it. And that on its own should be enough to prove to you that audiobooks are valuable to the author who uses them in the right way.
So, what are you waiting for? Go listen to your favorite story, and then turn it into your next masterpiece!