Tips for writing and recording

Tips for writing and recording

  • The word count limit is 3000 give or take. That’s because it will take about 20 minutes to read it aloud and, unless you’re a pro with a studio, you will struggle to do that in one sweep without the odd glitch. Unexpected interruptions, gurgling radiators, the door bell, a missed word or wrong inflection, make it tricky to achieve a good clean recording in one go.  Keeping it short is your best chance of ending up with the track, the whole track, and nothing but the track.
  • Think about what you’re writing. Dialogue or Q&As can be confusing if you don’t use your voice to distinguish between speakers*.
  • Stick to the script. This is about supporting people’s reading so using different words in your audio or missing some out isn’t helpful.
  • Read your story, poem, or document aloud as you write it, it helps achieve clarity. Fiction writers and poets know this, fact writers not so much. Try it, your documents will benefit.
  • Practise reading your piece before you record it.
  • Don’t rush*. However slowly you think you’re reading, unless you’re a pro it’s probably still faster than it need be. Listen back – a common problem is not really articulating all the joiner words, the ones that hold the emphasised words together. It’s like leaping over stepping stones instead of sploshing steadily through the stream.
  • Don’t over-articulate** as if you’re in a choir. We don’t need to hear every ‘t’ or ‘d’ as if it‘s the star of the show. Be natural but not sloppy.
  • Pretend you have an audience of one and you’re reading especially for them. The BBC used to (still does sometimes) talk about ‘the listener’; recognising the way people often relate to that voice coming to them in their own homes.
  • Be prepared to record, re-record, and re-record until it sounds good enough and you’re sure it follows the text you’re publishing word for word.
  • Save your file as an MP3 because that’s the kind most people can play on most devices.
  • Listen to your recording through headphones before you send it off. That’s first because it sounds different when it’s directly in your ears, and second because it makes you think about that one person listening to your voice via such a close and intimate connection.
  • If you want to password protect your file, choose something simple. Capitals can be tricky on a smart phone, ditto long complicated strings of characters. So think about your users – who do you want to access your material and who do you want to keep it from? Examples: a research team might want to restrict access to information about their study to people who’ve signed up as participants, while a publisher might choose to password protect material so that it’s only accessible from their book, meaning you have to buy the book first.
  • Equipment: Audacity is a free programme for Windows or Mac; iOS devices have a choice of free apps such as Motiv, Voice Record, Voice Notes, Recorder, Voice Memos. Some will suit better than others depending on your needs. A good condensing microphone will improve your input. Mono is fine. This may be your biggest outlay but still needn’t be huge. Use a pop screen with it to minimise explosive sounds such as the ‘p’ in ‘pop’.

Reading your own work aloud benefits the writing as well as the feeling of connection between you and your reader/listener but for some people, this won’t be possible. If that’s the case and you really, really can’t, then there are voice artists*** who can do it for you. They will charge.

More tips to come as we think of them or you tell us.


*Paul McVeigh, author of The Good Son, talks about the pros and cons of reading his own material with regard to recording his audio book, : If you have 5 characters speaking in one page, are you really good enough to differentiate between them? But that The [added] bonus for the listener is, [as the story is set in Northern Ireland and has some of the vernacular,] the delivery can help with the understanding.

**Some of these tips come from working with voice coach Dorothy Rosser who’s based in the South East and works in a variety of professional contexts.

***Professionals such as Lorraine Ansell who narrates both fact and fiction.