Open/close side menu
C.C. Hogan

Preparing a audiobook script for recording

Comment on this article

The tree-friendly approach to scripts

In the good old days, scripts were printed on paper and the voice over would go through the lines with a pen, marking it up so he or she had a better chance when it came to recording.

In our modern world, paper is seen as a waste of trees and many of us work on tablets, though I imagine plenty still use paper scripts. So, how do I prepare my script?

The lovely world of the tablet

One of the nice things about working on a tablet is it is silent. Over the years, even with the best voice overs, I had a constant battle with page turns. The solution to this problem was simple. I would thump the talk-back button and mumble "paper." They always knew what I meant, and would rerecord the line without the accompanying rustle.

Some of the actors who worked in radio drama were wonderful. They would hold the page they were reading delicately and lift it away from them in a big, silent gesture as they read over onto the next page. They would then bend down slowly like a ballerina and gently deposit the page on the floor while the next actor did his or her lines. It would be a wonderful dance.

But the tablet on a stand is much better!  Just make sure it doesn't reflect your voice back at you.  Have it at a slight angle so the sound is reflected off towards a wall.

What markings should I make?

Marking up the script is simply about using a selection of marks so that you know when to pause, what to emphasise, where to change pace, pronunciation notes, and so on. It is important that the voice marks up their own script in their own way for two reasons. One, they know what they marked and why, and two, marking up serves as a rehearsal - a good voice will speak out loud while marking up.

Although I do this digitally now, I use the same rules and methods that I always used on paper. 

/ - single slash. This is like a comma, but it serves to tell me when to breath as much as when to pause. Sometimes breathing at a comma is uncomfortable, but you have to breathe somewhere - the slash tells me the best place that keeps the sense of the sentence.

// - double slash.  Pretty much like above, but this is for a more substantial pause; perhaps letting something sink in.

Underline. This tells me what to emphasise. I sometimes underline only part of a word, especially when making comparative emphasis.  "The man overreacted."

Double Underline. Okay, so this doesn't show up here. I use double underlines to show that this is really, really important.

Highlighting. I am a bit careful with highlighting. On paper, I would sometimes draw a circle around any very important keywords, especially in ads. Highlighting replaces that, I suppose, but I don't use it much, to be honest; it can make the script a little unreadable. It would be useful if you have a complicated conversation section and you use highlighting to make sure which character is which, but if it is well written, this shouldn't be an issue.

Adding Words. I occasionally add little directions to myself. For instance (sarcastic) just before something that is! This may go very wrong if the writer used lots of brackets already, so you might need to try something different.

Adding paragraph breaks. Writers, me included, sometimes have rather long paragraphs. This is fine on the page, but it can be a bit mind boggling for the performer, so breaking up a long paragraph with extra paragraph breaks is not a bad thing.

>> Chevrons for pace. This is something I don't do much. I knew a few voices that used arrows on their scrips to indicate a change of pace, but most of the top-end voices I worked with didn't. However, if it helps you, go for it!

Pronunciation.  When you mark up, any notes about pronunciation can be a lifesaver - even if it is just a reminder.  And not just strange or made-up words, but we all have our pet mispronunciations.  Is it HEEN-ous or HAY-nous? To-MAR-to or to-MATE-o in this script.  As you mark up, just double check if you are not sure.

You can have a lot of fun marking a script up, but I warn you, don't go completely nutty. I remember one actor who spent the previous evening marking his script up with all kinds of marks with a range of felt pens. Come the recording, he couldn't remember what half his marks meant and his script was almost unreadable!

What to use to mark up scripts

Many narrators use iAnnotate and it is very good software with lots of tools - almost too many, to be honest.

But on the iPad, my weapon of choice, Microsoft Word 365 has it's own drawing tools, and these are more than adequate - free too, since you probably already have Word.

And there is an additional advantage if you have an Office 365 account, if your file is saved in OneDrive as part of your subscription, then your markings show up on all devices immediately. 

I have a pen display tablet attached to my desktop, and I can dance between that and my iPad joyfully!

What should I send a voiceover?

I can only speak for myself here, but if you are using me to read your book, send me a Word Docx. It fits into my workflow neatly. No macros or anything clever, just a straightforward, double-spaced manuscript - 1st line indent at 0.9, Times New Roman,  12pt.

Please don't mark anything up!  However, if you have a lot of strange words (especially if it is a fantasy) then please add pronunciation. Give me a list of anything awkward and I will pin it on my wall. The easiest system to use is the one I use on my Dirt website.  It is similar to that used on and Wikipedia, so is quick and simple to use and, from my point of view, easy to read! (The phonetic alphabet is a great way to really annoy me!)

You can find the guide here.



    Please feel free to comment - no anger, no bad vibes, no trashing people. Just sit around, enjoy a flagon of beer and mull over the world. You can login with Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or Google.

    Series One & Two are out now!

    Start series one with Dirt for Free, and start reading the brand new series two with Girls of Dirt for only 99p!

    Girls of Dirt includes a recap of series one.

    Get it now at the Dirt website

    The Stink Is Here

    North London, 1976. The longest, hottest summer on record. The water is running out and the kids hate their parents. Which bunch of idiots would think it is a good idea to start a band?

    The Stink

    Visit The Stink Website