Recording Under a Train

Recording this TRACKING HAPPINESS novel is about to do me in.

The final take is almost in the can (is that an appropriate phrase for a recorded novel?) I’m laying in bed, worn out. I’ve recorded the durn thing three times. On the first take, the quality sucked. I hadn’t yet found the Amazing Black Box that Eats Ambient Noise (photo here.) After I invested approximately $50 in the Amazing Box, I recorded the entire novel a second time (that’s 26 chapters, 304 pages.)

On the second recording, the voices sucked.

See, if you’ve got lots of characters—as novels tend to do—the listener has to be able to aurally distinguish them. One character can’t start yakking, and the listener think, who the hell is talking? It’s up to me, the narrator, to distinguish the voices. Then—this is the real rub—you have to continue to use the right voice for each character EVERY DAMN TIME SHE OR HE SHOWS UP. That means re-listening to already recorded material to re-familiarize yourself with the character’s voice before you jump back in.

On the second recording, I used one voice for a character that caused the most inexplicable, unpleasant mouth noises. A main character who appeared throughout the novel. Because I’d done the second take in a marathon 3 day session, I didn’t know how truly disgusting the noise was until my sound guy sent me the compressed file. It was terrible.

On to round three.

This time—the third time—I gave myself three weeks to do the recordings. A nice easy pace of 2-3 chapters per weekday. I missed a couple of days and had to trot some to catch up. Each recording session takes much longer than you’d think. Recording—for me— requires a lot of stops. For example, even after recording this sucker three times, in the oral reading, I sometimes make corrections to the written word that are actually improvements. So I have to stop and make a notation to keep my sound guy from thinking it’s an error he needs to correct.

I also stop when I say the wrong word. I stop when I use the wrong inflection. Plus, there’s the dog collar jangles, stomach gurgles, text message dings, water running through the pipes, and the train (yep, I’m recording in Memphis in the apartment that is UNDER THE TRAIN TRACKS—even the Amazing Black Box can’t muffle a train).

It is exhausting.

I blithely undertook recording a novel because, hey, I’d successfully recorded a short story collection. The two works had about the same number of pages. And I’d won a 1st Place Award for Audio Books in the CIPA-EVVY national contest. I could tackle a novel, no problem.

Foolish woman.

All I can hope is that it is worth it. That the frequent stops means errors were caught and erased. That my diligence about voices means listeners hear the characters with no interruption in the pleasure of the narrative. That I can soon declare this over and never, ever again have to lean into a handheld microphone.

At least not until I record A MODEL FOR DECEPTION, the fashion model detective novel. Yeah, I think that’s next on the agenda. After all, once you actually acquire a skill, you need to make the most of it.

Evangeline, wondering when all this recording will be over

being your own narrator, CIPA-EVVY Awards, home recording studio, Indie publishing awards, recording a novel

Comments (8)

  • Oh, Ellen, how fraught! No wonder you’re exhausted. But can’t wait for the gift that will result. Keep on, keep on, your fans are legion!

    • Thanks, I needed these lovely words of encouragement. (I am still in the bed, where I composed this blog post, waiting on my wonderful husband to tell me supper is ready—I’m so glad blogging doesn’t include a FaceTime feature)

  • Ellen, you can do this. And it will be amazing! I was sorta there at the chicken novel’s birthing, so recording under the train is so fitting, it was meant to be. Lordy Lordy!

    • Thank you so much. And nice to remember your involvement in the chicken novel. I have put it “in the can.” Now I wait on my sound guy to not only edit it but bless it, and tell me I don’t have to re-record the whole thing. 🙂

    • You can go a lot of different ways with this. You can hire a professional voice (or more than one). The voice can be affiliated with a studio or independent, but the voice always includes editing services in their price (cleaning up the narration and readying it for submission to distribution services.) It can run anywhere from $4000 to $10,000, depending on what extras, such as music, you buy. You can also buy time at a studio and record it yourself. That seems to run about $1000/day, which for this size novel would be $3000 minimum. You then pay extra for editing services. I went back and forth, back and forth on how to do it. I contacted several services; I didn’t like the “Southern” voices some sent demo tapes on. One of the services I was seriously thinking about using that let you record it yourself in their studio and sold editing services went out of business while I was researching! So I wound up doing it the way I did the short stories: narrating it myself at home and buying professional editing services. That’s the way I did my short story collection, and I received as many positive comments on the reading as on the content (and they won an award for audio fiction.) Still, as usual, I underestimated how hard recording a novel would be!!

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