Tag Archives: on writing

Audiobook Adventures Ch. 2: If at First

Last time I encouraged you to think about narrating your tales and extending your platform by creating audiobooks. Whenever you’re ready, here’s a little advice about the next steps.

The Tale is Yours

I won’t spend a lot of time talking about how you want to sound, whether this voice or that is better or if you should try on different tones for your characters. These are purely artistic choices–important sure, but who am I to say? The pace of your reading, whether you speed up or drop your voice, and a million other choices are in your hands, like it or not. Listen to what you’re recording– remember, we KNOW you don’t like the sound of your own voice, we covered that. Listen PAST that, think about whether this would be good to hear if you were hearing it for the first time. Other than that, I don’t think I could advise you.

But once you have a piece of it read into the machine, you’ll find yourself in exactly the same situation you were in that moment you finished writing the draft. You got there, wrote the final word, maybe capped it with “The End”.

But it wasn’t, was it?

You. Have. To. Edit.

And now that you’re reading the tale aloud? Same thing.

Editing the Recording

For those who came in late, I’m using the Audacity utility and a nice Pronomic mike to record and edit the second tale in my Shards of Light series entitled “Fencing Reputation”. I’ll record anywhere from a third of one chapter to the whole thing in an early-morning session lasting around an hour.

Look at the Squiggles. No Seriously, Look

Here’s a clip from what I’ve done:


The bigger, connected blobs are your voice speaking (or perhaps some other noise happening!) and the thinner, radio-wave squiggles over the center-line are “silence” (but really the background of your studio environment). Rather than another thousand words, let me mark it up for you:


  • Don’t worry about making new tracks. You will have to stop, go back and listen, check your sound, etc. And when you come back to record more, the utility creates a new track. But that by itself doesn’t show on the recording.
  • Pause between sentences! Pause between paragraphs, pause for effect. It’s OK to pause! And if you listen to it and discover your pause was, um, too long (ham actors, I’m looking at you) (which means of course, that I’m also looking in a mirror), you can trim it.
  • When you are ready to restart recording, set the cursor with a click a little ways back into your previous track. Then when you hit Record, it will automatically start a new track, and that way 1) there isn’t an obvious “bump” or click between the end of the first track and the start of the new, and 2) you can time the pause better to continue reading just where you left off.

Useful Tools- Just Like Writing

Recording is so much like word processing I almost feel I shouldn’t tarry for these things. Please note as I write:

  • You can click with the mouse to place the cursor anywhere in your recording- just like your WiP
  • You can click-drag to highlight a section for cutting, copying or pasting- just like your WiP
  • You can also click to mark the start of a section, scroll over or down and Shift-Click to highlight a large area at once- and I’m not going to keep saying what this is like, capeesh?
  • Really, this utility is quite Intuitive. And let me emphasize where some of these important tools can be quickly accessed here before continuing:

But, I Mean, It Sucked

You don’t like how it sounded? Of course you can re-record it. There are two methods to use here and I heartily recommend the first one.

  1. By listening to yourself carefully and frequently as you go, you’ll get a good idea whether a take is a “keeper” or not, even as you read. You generally know when you’ve stumbled on a word. Or repeated, or stuttered, or said “s–t”. Take a pause (maybe say distinctly “trying again”) and then begin at the top of the paragraph or sentence. Then you can clip out the bad take rather easily and NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW!!! :: Insert evil laughter here ::
  2. If you somehow miss that this happened until long afterwards– such as when you are finalizing the recording for export– you’re in a bit of a tricky situation. Listen to the “bad” take several times. Then position the cursor maybe a sentence BEFORE what has to go, and hit Record. A new track appears, you listen to the run-up and then calmly read the same bit again right along with yourself. This can be a little unnerving, and you can always Undo, then Record again. Once you have a good second take, highlight that take, Copy it, then highlight the bad take on the track above and hit Paste. Bingo, the good take lays on top of the bad one and completely replaces it. If your new take was longer or shorter it’s fine because the track will bump up or down to fit. Then scroll down to the good-take track and delete the whole thing, you don’t need it anymore. Whew!

Those Darn Clicks

Here, quite honestly, is where I spend almost all my time actually editing a chapter. Little clicks and pops can show up whenever you cut or paste (especially if you’re not careful) and some are just spontaneous. Be sure to listen to the offending section a couple of times to be sure it wasn’t just a figment of your imagination

BTW, Important Point- whenever you click back into your track to listen to something again, you will very likely hear a click or pop, often quite loud. That pop does NOT ACTUALLY EXIST. More later.

As you give the chapter your first full “proofread” (proofhear?), you will likely notice some pop/clicks. I can’t give you a clear rule about what these sounds look like on your track, but you can definitely isolate them by highlighting a small section and playing it to check.

Again, I can’t tell what a click always looks like. But THIS, this here is ALWAYS going to produce a click:

It’s a question of that wave-line touching the center.

That’s the key.

That’s where the mystery-pop comes from when you click back to hear something again, you’re coming into the middle of a wave. But don’t worry about it. Now lining up one of those wavy-thin lines directly on center can be ridiculously tough. Here are some editing tricks I’ve learned that can help, in the order I usually try them.


Remember that you can Zoom In on the track with Ctrl + 1 (zoom back out with Ctl + 3, and use Ctl +2 to return to “normal view”).

  • First Method: Half-Rests and Whole-Rests. See those rectangles that lie either just above or just below the line? In music, the top-box is called a half-rest, the lower one a whole-rest. Here endeth the music theory lesson, but the point is this. When you make a cut to get rid of a click, aim to cut from the middle of a “rest” to the middle of an identical rest. Get it? Either from a bottom-facing box to another bottom-facing box, or vice versa:

This works a high percentage of the time for me, the resulting cut plays through without a pop. But if it doesn’t work, if it creates two new pops, try:

  • Second Method: Pure Cut. This doesn’t work as often but it doesn’t take long. Once you’ve isolated the area of the pop, simply highlight it moving from a “space” to a “space”:

If the offending pop is in there, you can sometimes eliminate it and if you fail (creating a new pop) then you haven’t lost much time trying. Undo and try:

  • Third Method: Fade to Ssshh. This is the trickiest and creates a noticeable effect, but in a pinch it will work, especially if you’re taking a “beat” as actors say, a real pause for effect. Locate the pop as closely as you can. Highlight from before it to just after and click on Effect- Fade Out. Then highlight an area from just before the Fade Out ended to a spot close to your next speech, and click on Effect- Fade In. This will create a brief moment of silence but with the ambient noise fading then rising, almost like fade-to-black in a movie.

Slaying the Click-Dragon

As I said, when you’ve done this, including when you’ve realized there are one or two of these fershlugginer clicks you just can’t get rid of, then you will have a nice raw track of your chapter. I reserve the rest for another installment because effects and prep are either a) optional and/or b) lots of fun, or finally c) mandatory and not fun, but easy.

You are getting there! And so am I- as of this writing my files for The Ring and the Flag are accepted, my artwork has been revised and I’m just waiting for the new version to post. More news about that later this summer too.

Reading your tale aloud is the best proofread, and now it’s rehearsal too! Get on it.

In 2018: Going Long, Working Backwards

{this space left blank to allow time to roll your eyes at another New Year’s Resolution post}


{All good? We continue}

National politics aside, I think it was a very good year. Pessimists, you’re excused from reading the rest of this. I’m becoming a bit less tolerant of you anyway… but at my day-job I showed some progress (some, let’s not get carried away) highlighted by issuing more documents at the head of a small team of co-workers (an activity we refer to as “herding cats”, a slight exaggeration) and by a return trip to South Africa (about which enough could never be said).

With the family, it was twelve more months of enjoying Genna’s progress as a musician on both flute and voice, while my lovely wife “gave as good as she got” in her fight for full health. I still have not written about the incredible trip to Germany we were gifted by a woman who has to rank as the best friend I hadn’t yet met last July. This is not the blog post in which you will be reading about that.

Oh yes, and I completed my fantasy series Shards of Light, getting the third installment out by Independence Day and shipping the finale earlier this month, publishing ASAP. That final book was a pretty big psychological moment for me, wrapping up the threads of an adventure that first saw the world back in 2011 and has been burning in my mind far, far longer than that.

It’s been a year for  long trips and tales.
Come 2018, I start new ones.

Going Long

First in other people’s business, I plan to issue reviews of four long-ago epics, supposedly big influences on LoTR and predating Tolkien’s work. Two are done and dusted as of today, and this is part of what I mean by Going Long. I believe it’s rare for anyone to immerse in such huge stories anymore, which augurs grimly for my own ambitions as an author! Shards of Light was my first effort to bypass that problem, with four serialized tales under the single saga. The first two installments are “bite-sized” to any epic author or reader. But by the time I’m through with you, the story is longer than any other single cover I’ve put out. Try the first one, see if you like where it’s going. Just remember, it’s really going somewhere.

I’ll put my reviews of The Worm Ouroboros and The Well at the World’s End here on the site soon as I can wrap my head around what’s just happened to my soul (each around 300 pages). I’ll try to list arguments why you as a writer or reader would want to do the same (while admitting the reasons you could give it a miss instead). These are both important books in ways I did not expect, but I’m still untangling how much of what I think is personal as opposed to provable.

Working Backwards

And then I’ll dive back into writing, again Going Long with a sequel to The Plane of Dreams, called The Test of Fire. Like so many of my tales, it’s always been “there” back at least to the 1990s, but this particular portion of the canon was the one most recently “triggered” by events in the Alleged Real World, in 2008. This is the adventure that got the whole chronicling thing started: so once you’ve read it, you’ll have a good idea who to blame if that’s your preference.

Test of Fire won’t be overlong by itself, probably about the same as Plane of Dreams (114k words). But it’s actually third in the series, and here’s where I’m Working Backwards because the tale I tackle after this will be the first! Yes, there was a time before the heroes of Plane of Dreams came into Wanlock, the story of how they gained the fabulous wealth and momentary fame they brought into the start of that epic, and I’m going to tell it. Eventually. So far, the only thing I know for sure about the story is that it will have to be titled The Blank of Blank. But for fans of Qerlak Barleybane, Galethiel and anyone who missed hearing more of a certain three young adventurers, plus a pair of new fun-to-hate bad guys, good news in 2018. You’ll have a tale that takes these heroes, if not to the end of the story, at least further into time than I have ever clearly seen before.

After that, we go back to the beginning and tell that story, by which time I’ll need a word to describe the mirror-image of deja vu (when you read about the first time stuff happens yet it still seems familiar somehow). But that’s for another day. Who am I kidding- year.