Can Audiobooks Teach You How to Write a Novel Just as Much as Physical Books? UK Book Editor Reveals
Professional book editor in the UK explores the truth of whether audiobooks can teach aspiring authors how to write a novel as much as physical books, or whether they should only use the latter to hone their craft!
Recently, I've started listening to audiobooks on Borrowbox, a library app that allows you to borrow eBooks and audiobooks for free, but it's got me thinking: can audiobooks teach writers how to write a novel just as much as a physical book?
Although aspiring authors are advised to read as much and as widely as possible, there isn't always the time to sit down with a paperback.
It might be easy to assume that authors have all the time in the world to draft their manuscripts and read piles of books, but that's not true.
Us writers have careers, jobs, extra curricular activities, hobbies, families, friends & other commitments that limit our time to sit and read books, so audiobooks can be a great solution.
However, how much do audiobooks actually help writers to improve their fiction writing skills compared to a hard copy book?
This post will list 6 reasons that prove that audiobooks are just as useful as physical books, and 3 reasons to suggest why they're not.
6 Reasons for Yes 👇
1. A Story is a Story
Despite all the differences in opinions surrounding audiobooks, you can't argue with the fact that you're still following a story, meeting fictional characters and immersing yourself into a new setting when listening to an audiobook.
Just because you're not physically reading the text within the pages of a physical novel, it doesn't mean that you're absorbing any less of a story.
You can still get a clear sense of the beginning, middle and end and the various plot points of the three-act structure, helping you to learn or become more familiar with the overall shape of a well-structured novel. And you can still learn how the author has incorporated plot twists, cliffhangers, subplots and character/story arcs into the book.
Listening to audiobooks can also spark new ideas or inspiration that you may not get by physically reading a novel, mainly because listening triggers a different part of the brain, so you might find that you actually retain more of the information through listening and therefore conjure more ideas of your own.
2. Listening Can Trump Reading
Believe it or not, there are a few benefits that audiobooks can give you that physically reading a book just can't.
For example, you can physically hear where the natural breaks and pauses are as the reader tells you the story, and I know that's the purpose of commas, but when you're reading in your head, you may not take any notice of the commas as you race through the text, but when you're listening to an audiobook, the reader forces you to pause when they pause, forcing you to take notice of them.
As a result, you're more likely to think more carefully about the placement of your punctuation and add breaks & pauses in more natural places.
Another benefit that audiobooks have over physical books is that they can teach you how to pronounce new or unfamiliar words, whether they're in our current dictionaries or a word the author has made up just for their novel.
How many times have you been physically reading a book and stumbled across a word you've never seen before, but instead of figuring out how to properly pronounce it, you just skim past it every time it reappears, your brain making it sound like "asdfghjk" in your mind?
You wouldn't get that with an audiobook.
As someone is reading the story to you, they have to know how to pronounce the words properly, so you're then able to pick them up much faster, and as a result, you've got a few new words to add to your vocabulary.
3. Dyslexic Writers
Although having dyslexia is more than just struggling with reading and spelling, those two obstacles are part of the diagnosis for many people, which has stopped too many people from reading for too long.
However, as there's no cure for dyslexia, audiobooks are a massive solution that helps many more people enjoy stories just like anyone else.
And as for dyslexic writers - yes, they're out there - audiobooks can definitely help them to hone their fiction writing skills and teach them how to write a gripping novel.
You might be wondering how someone with dyslexia would write a novel if they struggle to physically read books, but I desperately want you to know that having dyslexia isn't just about struggling to read or write. And having dyslexia doesn't mean that people can't read or write, they just find it more challenging. Plus, who says you have to sit and physically write a novel now with the current technology we have? A writer with dyslexia could use a speech-to-text tool to assist them with their words.
So yes, audiobooks can absolutely help writers with dyslexia as it's often easier to listen to a story than physically read it.
Related Post: How to Create a Believable Character with Dyslexia
4. Non-native Writers
Audiobooks can also be helpful for non-native speakers who want to write a novel in English, or writers who want to write in another language in general.
One of the best ways for non-native speakers to learn a new language, or perfect their second or third language, is practise and immersion, so listening to audiobooks is a super effective way to learn the language and discover how write a novel in that language.
Of course, a non-native speaker will learn new words, new phrases, and new pronunciations, but they'll also learn the ins & outs of the genre they wish to write.
For example, I learnt recently that romance novels written in Asia are often much heavier in certain areas and themes than romances in the UK and US, so it's those sorts of details that could potentially enlighten a non-native speaker and help them to shape their novel to a certain market.
5. Pace & Emotions
As audiobooks are obviously read aloud by various readers, they allow the listener to physically hear the pace of the narrative and the emotions the characters are experiencing.
In terms of pace, the audiobook narrator may speed up when the tension or stakes are high and slow down when things are calm, allowing you to physically hear which scenes, events and actions should be quick or steady.
Although you can ascertain a fast or slow paced scene when reading, mainly due to the short, snappy sentences, lines of dialogue without tags, and the actions of the characters, it's still up for interpretation.
However, when you're listening to an audiobook, you're forced to listen to the narrator speeding things up and slowing things down, giving you more of an insight of when the pacing should change in a novel.
Similarly with emotions, audiobooks allow you to hear which feelings and emotions are being conveyed. For example, if a character is distraught about something, the audiobook narrator will likely mimic distress, perhaps pretending to sniffle through dialogue or sobbing as a chapter ends. Or if a character has found something funny, the narrator may laugh while delivering dialogue or descend into a fit of hysterics.
Although it's easy to get a sense of these emotions when reading a novel, you often have to rely on lines like "XYZ sobbed into her pillow" or "XYZ guffawed, breaking the silence" to know what the characters are feeling, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's different physically hearing these emotions expressed as opposed to just reading them.
For instance, sometimes when writing, it's helpful to hear various sounds to then know how to write them.
Related Resource: 200+ Character Creation Questions Sheet
6. Less Time, More Audiobooks
Aspiring authors are always advised to read as much and as widely as possible, but if you have a busy schedule that includes a job with long hours, a family to look after or other commitments that take up most of your time, you probably don't have the time to sit and read a new book each week.
But that's why audiobooks can be super beneficial - you don't have to allocate time to listen to them, you can consume them on the go.
I usually listen to them on my commute to different places or when doing tasks that don't require much attention, like housework.
After running my editorial business all week and making the effort to spend time with loved ones and friends, I don't have much time to sit down and read, so audiobooks have been a lifesaver for me.
Now we've delved into the 6 reasons why audiobooks can teach you how to write a novel, let's have a look at the 3 reasons why they can't as much as hardcopy books.
3 Reasons for No
1. Text & Structure
Unlike with physical books, audiobooks don't allow you to see the way the text is structured and formatted on the page.
For example, you can't see where the new lines & paragraphs are, you can't see how the text has been formatted regarding indents & scene breaks, and you can't see which punctuation marks have been used and where they have been placed throughout the story.
All of these things you have to know if you're set on getting a literary agent or achieving success as an indie author, otherwise many people won't take you seriously.
If you don't know how to structure your novel, when to insert a new line or paragraph, or which punctuation marks should be used in which places, you're not going to get very far, either traditionally or independently.
As a result, it's important that you continue to read physical books when you can if you're hoping to learn from other authors, as there's knowledge to be learnt from physical books that audiobooks can't provide.
Related Resource: How to Write a Bestselling Novel From Scratch
Although audiobooks can teach you how to pronounce unfamiliar words & phrases, they can't necessarily teach you how to spell them, which is what physical books can do.
For example, let's take the word 'fuchsia' - you may or may not know this to be a type of flower. If you don't and you've never heard of it before, an audiobook would help you to pronounce it correctly - fu-sh-a - but it wouldn't teach you how to spell it.
However, if you stumbled across the word 'fuchsia' in a physical book and didn't know its meaning, you might be inclined to look it up online, therefore finding out that it's a type of flower. Though, unless you investigate its pronunciation, you may not know how to pronounce it properly, but you'd certainly know how to spell it.
As a result, I'd recommend a healthy mixture of audiobooks and physical books if you want to expand your vocabulary & learn how to pronounce and spell more words.
If you're a visual learner and actively choose books with pictures and illustrations to help you to fully envision the story, audiobooks may prove problematic for you, simply because there's no way to access the book's images while listening, unless you're following along with the physical copy at the same time.
Similarly, most children's books include illustrations that enhance the story, so if you aspire to write novels for children, you won't be able to see the pictures if you're listening to audiobooks, perhaps making it more difficult for you to keep track of where the illustrations should be placed in your own stories.
So, there we have it - 5 reasons why audiobooks can teach you how to write a great novel, and 3 reasons why you should still read physical books when you can.
I hope you've found this post interesting and insightful. If so, share it with someone you think would enjoy it too or comment your thoughts below!
Hey! I'm Chelsea and I'm a professional book editor at Stand Corrected Editing, my independent editorial business in the UK. If you would like to have your manuscript thoroughly edited by myself, please get in touch!
With my book editing and proofreading services, I hope to spread my knowledge and expertise on how to make your novel a success, and be a mentor to others who desperately want to pursue a fruitful career as an author!