So you drafted those questions, booked your guest, had that meeting, and recorded audio from the conversation. Now it’s time to filter and compress all that info and produce it as a written article. What turned into an hour-long talk now has to be expressed in a limited amount of words and completed by a certain time.
Whether you’re working on a business, school project, a research assignment or it’s for your podcast, audio recordings are extremely handy for accuracy when it comes to your article.
Good listening skills, a knack for note-taking, an appetite for research and clarity in purpose and objectives are key. I’ll add emotional intelligence to that shortlist too because it allows you to sense things that aren’t always obvious or seen, especially when your interview isn’t in person…
When possible, keep the recorded part of your session snug and concentrate your questions to that part of the conversation. No need to click record as soon as you see them drive up and start parking. If you’re given audio to listen through – say from a historical interview or something like that, it’s gonna take some key steps to filter, log and write.
Do a quick test to check your recording gear and digital memory, whether you’re using an iPhone voice recorder/app or a more high-tech setup with mic and mixer. Being in the interview is one thing and being able to save and store the recording is another. The recording (and quality of it) are key to being in a position to comfortably review, annotate and transcribe.
So, how do you write a concise article from a lengthy audio recording?
Type out every – single – word that was recorded?
And how do you choose which quotes to include?
First, no – you don’t ‘have to’ type out every single word unless it’s a transcription assignment. If it is, you can always choose to set aside the chunks of hours and plough through solo-style, or commission someone to take care of that part.
Even if you’re not expected to type out every word from the audio recording, listening and notetaking are an essential part of the process, and yes – it’s gonna take some mapping and time to get it done well.
Say, you recorded a 15-minute interview, try jotting down a summary to each 3-minute section. It doesn’t have to be brilliantly worded at all. In fact, the more basic (to start), the better and faster the listening-and-logging process. If I hadn’t thrown away the first drafts of my interview notes, I could show you just how scratchy they can be.
- In a quiet space, listen through the full audio, with a notebook in hand. Listen as if you’re hearing it for the first time, even if you were the interviewer.
- Write or type your notes from key phrases, topics or quotes that stand out, and jot down the exact time in the recording when you heard them (so you easily find them again.) Ideally, a combo of handwriting and typing works well. I usually handwrite – ok scribble – interesting points, quotes and questions (to clarify later) before typing out points the second time listening. Writing things by hand helps increase the likelihood of committing something to memory.
- Give your brain a rest but listening in a different way. Listen while doing something else, as if it’s a podcast playing in the background. You might be surprised at how much more you hear. Notice which quotes resonate; those are the ones to include.
- Consider some potential headers for your articles. Do research on the topic and draft an intro or two. Check the word count so you can visually gauge what that will look like. (That will either ease your mind about how far you’ve come or be a wake-up call for what’s needed to get it done.) Consider if this person is already familiar to readers so you can decide on how much pre-roll is necessary.
- Listen for points that link well with each other.
- Prepare for meticulous listening, rapid writing or typing, then editing before having someone proofread. (By the way, do you have Grammarly yet? It’s a helpful spellchecking and sentence-structure-suggesting free program that you download and use to help you write better and reduce typos. It’s working right now as I type this post.)
- Remember the focal point and call-to-action or closing point.
- Set your writing rhythm.
- Document and seasonally de-clutter your recordings to suit. Depending on the nature and level of importance of your content for recorded interviews, decide on what you will digitally store/backup, what can be logged in writing, where anything stored will be kept and how it can best be preserved. Other than that, seasonally de-clutter and delete with the option to re-download from wherever it’s stored. I’d advise you to save online links for any deleted files.
Writing can be exhilarating; it can also involve a lot of time and effort.
It’s one thing to listen back to an interesting interview once or twice, but now this becomes a whole new something. The meticulous replaying of the same information to extract sonic gems, nuggets of wisdom (hopefully), and key points to support the main focus of your article.
The research and questions to make sure you’re spelling places, names and business correctly. Transposing the message from audio to text and matching the tone, theme and presentation requirements of the article.
Someone writing a feature for a new artist in a magazine will have a different listening and messaging approach from someone writing a report based on a recorded interrogation with a criminal, or a paralegal reviewing audio clips from client meetings or courtroom sessions.
Know what amount of detail suits the application of your article.
To read more about working on multiple writing assignments with different composition styles, click here. (One of my least favourite things to do, by the way.)
Compressing an hour of audio content into a 1,200 word written article by such-an-such a time can seem overwhelming. You’re right, it will take time, but it is doable. Remember what the focal point of your article or assignment is and pace your progress so you can complete it in time.
And it’s okay to rest your writing brain at intervals. No CAPTCHA box needed – you are not a robot.
Found this post helpful? Feel free to share the link with someone you think will benefit from the info shared.