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  • Karina Sokulski

Writing With a Recorder: A Guide to Effectively Hearing Yourself Speak

Have you ever spent time at your desk talking out your latest scene in your book rather than writing it? As an auditory learner, I've always vocalized my latest idea for my book whenever I felt stuck. Talking out my problem and finding the solution out loud was continuously productive. Only, the immediate problem I faced was that I failed to write any of the words I spoke down. All those inspired thoughts, and most would never make it to the page. The ideas had been great enough to get me sprinting for the keyboard, but when it came time to type, the words didn't flow.

The conundrum of this inability to type my thoughts had followed me since I started writing. Even years later, the frustrating habit followed me well through my first manuscript. We've all been there where our overly-critical internal editor shoots down every idea that comes to mind. It's the little monster in our brains that hinders progress and makes us cringe at the site of our keyboards. The writing still needs to get done but how to bypass the fear that your idea isn't a good one? The obvious answer is to have a little more faith in yourself, but the other is to find a way to silence your internal editor.

A fellow writer made a suggestion I'm surprised I hadn't come to on my own. Why not record your thoughts and, while you're at it, get a recording app that transcribes your audio? This method of writing has a solution that works two-fold: the first being that it gives you the freedom of having your words written for you, and the second being that your internal editor has no say in the matter. It surprised me to consider, no matter how overly critical of my writing I was, the little monster never surfaced when vocalizing my way through a problem. Don't get me wrong, the first hurtle of this method was getting used to hearing my own voice. Everyone hates the sound of their own voice when they first hear it, present company included. Even so, enduring the sound of my own vernacular resulted in so many more documented notes to work with.

Great! Now I had a new method of note-taking that shut off the little perfectionist in my brain while I cataloged more notes. Now I had a new method of note-taking that shut off the little perfectionist in my brain that would let me catalog my notes. Only now I had run into a crucial question: what the heck do I say? Do I list what my intentions are? Should I come up with a script that dictates how I should speak into my cellphone's microphone? How uniform do I need to make my audio notes? These questions are what made me shy away from recording my thoughts in the first place because coming up with what works for you with any note-taking method can be difficult.

Luckily, with practice and advice from fellow writers already putting their recorded voices to use, I found my way. I'll admit, developing my recording habit took time to refine, but it came together. At the tail end of developing my new note-taking strategy, it occurred to me how big that hill can look to anyone else trying to give it a go.

A helpful guide to getting started with audio note-taking will hopefully cut your method-building time in half and get you recording much faster. Now, this is not a guide where I'm going to tell you exactly what to say when you click "record," but it will assist you in thinking about what you need to say when you click that red button. Before that, let's consider the advantages and disadvantages of recording because it's better to toss in the forewarning that audio notes aren't for everyone.

Advantages of audio notes:

-Silence the internal editor

-Transcribe voice to text

-Hear your thought process in your own voice

-Great note taking when on the go and you can't write in your journal

-Great editing tool to hear yourself read your writing

Disadvantages of audio notes:

-Audio transcription apps and software aren't free

-Audio recording apps and software all require in-app purchase for features you'll need

-Time will need to be set aside for recording sessions

-Note taking method isn't for everyone

To name a few. The unfortunate truth is I haven't been able to find a phone app that would help my note-taking needs. I'm not interested in paying a monthly subscription of $7.00 or more to record and save my audio files. I did, thankfully, find a solution in the form of a recording device that transcribes my notes and requires a one-time payment. You can find the recording device I'm talking about here: [X]. When choosing your recording device, know what you're willing to pay. The transcribing feature on the device is what sold me, even though that ultimately bumped up its price. Is this a tool you'll be using in your daily schedule? Or Is this going to be a during-travel-only tool? Answering these questions will help you determine which device will be right for you.

Once you've picked your method of recording, you'll inevitably circle back to the most pressing question: what the heck do I write? As I mentioned earlier, a lot of my auditory self-discussion involved working through a problem. Here's an example of my typical recording when dealing with being stuck in my writing:

"So the problem I'm facing today is that [Protagonist 2] needs a better motive for what he/she is doing. Yesterday my critique group pointed out the following problems they found with the motivation I currently have spelled out: [problem 1], [problem 2] and [question 1], etc."

Stay Focused

I always start out my recordings a little uniform, kind of like a syllabus. A syllabus always has a table of contents at the beginning that establishes the talking points. Doing this helps me stay focused on what it is I want to discuss. Let's say this recording is, as the example suggests, focused on a protagonist's motivation. I'll make the recording solely focused on that problem. If there are other topics I want to discuss, they'll get their separate recordings.


I brainstorm in my journal all the time and now I brainstorm via audio files, too. That recording will typically look like this:

"[Protagonist 2] comes from a family line that is affected by [plot point 2]. [Plot point 2] is an affliction that has affected every generation and survived the 200 year gap of the story's start. The fact that the affliction has survived the 200 year gap can be part of why [protagonist 2] is running. Perhaps [protagonist 2] is running from a group that wants to keep [plot point 2] around even though it's a problem."

I listen to my brain storm sessions like I would a podcast. They're not cemented ideas but spontaneous ones. How does solution #1 sound? Solution #2? Should I combine solution #1 & #4? It helps to record what I'm reasoning in the moment, save it and come back to it later to see if I still agree with the me of the past.

Quick Note

"Quick note: be sure to look into researching Medieval surgical practice and herbology as it appears in popular media. Need to figure comprehensive parameters for my book."

Quick notes tend to occur while I'm battling the gas pump that keeps clicking prematurely on me. These notes are quick instructions for myself that help keep me organized. Inspiration can randomly strike and sometimes I need to be quicker than rummaging for a pen.


Outlining tends to be subject of my longer recording sessions. This is where I will outline a protagonist's path through, say, act 1 of the story. Generally, I will list what events take place in what order from beginning to end. I will include asides of what I need a side character to be doing or what plot devices must come into play. With my faithful transcribing tool, this all gets turned into text and I can copy and paste the notes into my Scriverner note pad to refer to. The goal here is to just say out loud what I want to happen so I can make it happen.

Vision Break

Sometimes when I'm writing, my eyes start to hurt from staring at a screen too long. My eyes need a break from my computer screen but I'm in the middle of a burst of inspiration. The migraine isn't worth the risk so time to grab that nifty little recorder that's been charging at my desk and write elsewhere. My transcriber tool will make catching up after a much-needed break a matter of translating notes to narrative.

Chicken-Scratch Script

Sometimes when I'm not sure what to record, I write down a little chicken-scratch script of what the audio file will focus on. This method also helped me when I first started recording in the first place. One of those lists look like this:

-[Protagonist 3] needs to go through ritual to be allowed onto main land.

-[Protagonist 3] will go to mainland, see the world and meet [Protagonist 1] to establish their connection.

-How will [protagonist 1 & 3] meet [protagonist 2]?


Another tip I received from a fellow writer was how much recordings can help you edit. Listening to yourself read your writing can help you spot your errors in grammar and sentence structure. Do this enough and you'll train your brain to memorize your typical habits and drop them all together.

Writing with a recorder is an effective way to increase your word count but does require research before investing. Phone apps will cost money to gain better features, but you can test your willingness to record before buying. If recording your notes works for you, then it's an option worth pursuing. If you find that recording is not your thing, give the audio editing a try.

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