I actually completely forgot about this last week – it was
about Thursday or Friday before I realised that I hadn’t done it, and by that
point I might as well merge it with the next week’s one.
The last two weeks have been absolutely fantastic. I have
made fantastic progress on the audiobook for On The Subject Of Trolls.
The third story in OTSOT – Fluncg the Indignant – was, as I’ve
said many times, very difficult to get right (both in audio form, and the
original text of the story actually). I expected Hluthg the First to be a lot
easier, and it was.
I had already recorded all of the audio for Hluthg the First
– I did it in two parts – the first many, many months ago, and the second
fairly recently. It was an easier story to read than some of the others. So I
just had to edit it. I did most of this the weekend before last. I went through
all of the audio, and removed all of the takes of lines that I wasn’t going to
use. Then I applied the various audio effects. Then I went through and adjusted
the timings of all of the lines (an essential step, as when you take out the
bad lines, you’re left with completely irregular timings).
I then listened back to it to do a final check. I found that
there were a few lines I wanted to re-record – I thought I could do them better
– so I did. This pretty much left the audio in a finished state – I just had to
do one final listen of the whole thing, then add the music.
And that’s what I did this last weekend. I checked it one
last time, added the music, and it was ready to go.
I also did Plolg the Common this last weekend. Well – there wasn’t
really much to do. I had already recorded and edited the audio for Plolg the Common.
It’s much shorter than the other stories, so it was quite easy to do. I just
had to check it and add the music.
So both stories were done. I made both into videos, and they’re
both going live on my YouTube channel this week. (Hluthg the First went live
yesterday; Plolg the Common is going live tomorrow.)
So finally, after two years, this project is done. I
could not have imagined, when I published On The Subject Of Trolls, that the
audiobook would take so long. On the one hand, this is quite annoying. On The
Subject Of Trolls is not a long book – how could it take two years to create
an audiobook for it? On the other hand, there’s been a huge amount of trial and
error involved in creating this audiobook. I have tried lots of different things
in terms of audio setup, as well as just the process for recording and
editing a long piece of audio, and so it makes sense that it would have taken a
In the beginning, of course, I was much more focused on
creating videos of these stories – not just videos where I read out the
text – videos where the stories are actually performed. This is because
I like the idea of the experience of watching or listening to these stories to
be as full as possible. The trolls are also very physical creatures. But making
these kinds of videos is extremely difficult in itself. They take an
extraordinary amount of time to record and to edit, but then there are all the
usual difficulties in creating a video on top of that, like lighting and colour
grading (which I don’t do yet, but would need to in order for the videos to be
really good). And if these videos aren’t perfect, it can really take away from
I still want to do some videos where I perform these
stories, but I think this might be better suited to livestreams.
I swapped to focusing on just the audio for the stories. But
even this on its own has its complications.
At first, in order to try to get the best audio quality
possible, I decided to try to record in a small walk-in wardrobe that I have.
The wardrobe is in the middle of the apartment, so it has thick walls around
it, but then another layer of thick walls around that. It’s
pretty sound-proof in there – you don’t hear anything from outside.
However, the wardrobe is so small that you can’t sit down in
it – you have to stand up. It’s pretty difficult to stand and perform an
audiobook for more than about half an hour, so I had to record in half-hour
blocks. This is quite impractical – it can take many, many hours to record even
quite a short story – stopping and starting really slows you down. It’s a lot
better if you can sit down while recording.
Ideally, you do also need to be able to see what you’ve
recorded on your computer screen immediately. It makes it easier to tell if
something’s going wrong. In that small wardrobe, I wasn’t connected directly to
So after several attempts at recording in the wardrobe, I
decided it wasn’t the best way of doing it.
There was also a lot of trial and error involved in using
the right microphone. In early attempts, partly because I was in that wardrobe,
I used a small Zoom recorder that I have. I bought it a few years ago, and it can
produce an excellent audio quality. But I realised, over time, that in order to
get that good quality, you have to use the microphone in a very specific
way. You have to be extremely close to it, and it has to be angled towards your
face just right. If you lean away from it, or turn your head, or change the
volume you’re speaking at, the audio quality changes. This is very impractical
for On The Subject Of Trolls. (When I read the stories into the microphone –
particularly the trolls’ lines – I do take on the ‘big’ physicality of the
trolls – I move around a lot. The trolls also shout a lot.)
Eventually I swapped to using my Samson C01U condenser
microphone. I’ve had this microphone for about seven years – it’s been very
useful over that time. I had previously avoided using it, however (even though
it might seem like the obvious choice) because the sound it produced didn’t
really sound ‘audiobook-y’. The sound that it produced just sounded like some
guy reading into a microphone. (Of course, that’s what an audiobook is,
but there’s a certain tone and quality to the sound of an audiobook that that
microphone just didn’t produce.)
It was only after a lot more experimentation with audio
effects that I figured out how to get the audio from that microphone to sound
like what you typically hear in an audiobook. The two key effects are both a
bass boost and a treble boost – that’s the magic. I’m not an audio engineer,
but I would guess that the microphone itself has its greatest sensitivity to
mid-range frequencies, and less sensitivity to higher and lower range
frequencies. So these higher and lower ranges needed to be boosted in the
editing to compensate. Boosting the lower ranges gives a richness to the audio –
it makes it sound like the speaker is in the same room. Boosting the higher
ranges gives a clarity to the audio.
So after all of that I knew where I was going to
record, and what I was going to record with, but getting the process
right took even more trial and error.
When it comes to actually writing stories, my process
is pretty well mapped out. First I have the idea, then I write an outline, then
a detailed plan, then the actual text of the story, then I just keep doing
editing passes until it’s finished. It’s pretty similar to what a lot of people
do. But with audiobooks, I had no such process, and it turns out what you do
can have a drastic effect on how long it takes.
One thing I’ve worked out is that it is generally A LOT
easier to re-record a line than it is to try to record a line perfectly the
first time. If you try to get it exactly right the first time, you’ll end up
having to make several attempts at it. This then gives you A LOT more stuff to
have to sift through when editing to try to find the best attempt, and this is
what takes a lot of time. It might seem like going back and re-recording lines
would take a lot of time, because you have to slot the audio in place, and
maybe re-apply effects, but it is actually less time.
Along with this, every time you have to stop and redo a
line, you lose some of the fluidity in your speech – the intonation won’t quite
match between that line and the previous one, and the pacing might be off.
That, in turn, means you have to make more attempts at the line to get it
right. It’s circular. The best thing to do is, even if you make a mistake, just
carry on – fix it later.
When it comes to editing, it’s tempting to try to do
everything in one pass – to remove the bad takes, record new ones, and adjust
the timings. This is quite exhausting. I now split it into several distinct ‘passes’.
The first pass is just to remove takes that I definitely won’t be using.
Generally after that pass is when I apply the audio effects. On the second pass
I go through and adjust the timings, and it’s now when I’ll re-record any lines
that I want to re-record. And then any subsequent passes are to check it.
This tends to be a pretty quick way of doing the process.
And it means you only have to listen to the whole track a few times. These
tracks can be quite long, so you don’t want to have to listen back to them
dozens of times if possible.
So, as you can see, there has been a lot of trial and error.
And it’s all of this that’s meant this first audiobook has taken two years. The
next one should be a lot quicker. I may also put all of this information into a
So that’s been the last two weeks: a lot of success with the audiobook. I will, fairly soon, attempt to make these audio tracks into an ‘actual’ audiobook, and have it available on Audible.
Also, Friday is the First of October, and three years since
the publication of my first book, Zolantis. The First of October has always
been a special date. I am planning to do some livestreams over this weekend to