David Sobkowiak: How I do it!

General Writing Questions:

1. Before you begin writing, do you script out the general outline of plot and characters, or do you let these situations evolve as you write?
While I don’t make a habit of scoping out the whole work before I begin, I tend to have an idea of the major characters and their back stories before I begin.  A lot of my writing is dynamic in the sense that the characters drive the story while I’m writing.
2. I’ve heard repetitively that writers should deal with writing as any other job. Do you have a scheduled or structured writing routine? Please detail.
While I’d love to treat writing as my day job, I already have one of those that demands a lot of my time. I also have a family that eats up most of the rest of my waking hours so i tend to be more of a hooligan writer, or spur of the moment.  I always have something with me that I can write with, be it a laptop, mobile device, or pencil and paper.  When the feeling strikes, or when I have a moment to get a few words down on a story I’m working on, I take full advantage of it.
3. What is your writing environment like? (cats, music, computer, etc.) How has this evolved/changed?
My writing environment as a rule is very quiet.  Music and other distractions make it harder for me to get in to the story and prevent me from writing as much as I can.  I am visited regularly by my cat and dog however.
4. Do you write anything, or have you, that is solely for yourself? (no intention of sharing with a larger audience?)
I’ve written some pieces, mostly when I was younger that were never meant for public consumption.  I’d likely be somewhat embarrassed by them now, not only for their content but for their style.  Luckily I’ve paid several small woodland creatures to paper their nests with the original typed documents.
5. How has social media played a role in your writing?
Social Media is a strange animal.  It gives in the sense that it helps you to reach out and communicate with people that you might never have had the ability to meet otherwise, and it can help you grow as a writer by introducing you to new sources of knowledge and styles you’d never considered.  it’s also a taker.  Social Media can suck an afternoon away from you faster than a newborn drinks a bottle.  if you don’t allow yourself to step away, you can find yourself doing all your writing as tweets or responses instead of your stories.
Podcasting Questions
1. What type of OS do you prefer? Linux, Mac, Windows? What are your machine’s specs?
I have no preference when it comes to OS. I’m more focused on the software I use, rather than the OS as it’s a means to an end. I also try to use software that is cross platform ready so if I have to change mid production, I can with fewer problems. That being said, I have produced several years worth of audio dramas on Windows Vista and Windows 7 machines.  It was what was most readily available and so I used it. I own a Mac and my kids tell me it’s very nice.  I also have an old netbook I picked up for next to nothing, which I’ve loaded Ubuntu 9.x on, and it hums along nicely.  The Windows machine takes more RAM (4GB right now), the Mac is a 2GB iMac, and the Ubuntu netbook has about a GB in it.  All run surprisingly well.
2. Would you please describe your current studio. How has this changed? (What did you start with?)
My present studio is a large closet in my spare bedroom. It’s officially “my studio” as I produce professional work, audio dramas, and soon podcast novels there.  The walls are lined with sound dampening foam, and I have a great little mixing board and mic setup that i’m still tweaking.  Originally, I a Logitech USB mic in my basement with several layers of curtains hung about my desk. It’s a nice change.
3. If you were able to build your dream studio, what would it include?
If I could build a studio. I’d have two rooms. One for recording. Sound proof, with a monitor on the outside of a glass wall and wireless mouse inside to control the computer the monitor was connected to.  I’d have a nice workstation setup for editing and producing. I’m not certain what brand names I’d want to consider at this point.
4. Other than a computer, what piece of HARDWARE would you recommend to a new podcaster?
I’d recommend getting a good quality mic and a mixing board.  A preamp wouldn’t hurt either, but you can get by with production adjustments to your recordings.
5. What have you had to learn for yourself that you wish someone could have warned you about?
The main thing I had to learn was mic levels.  I’m still tweaking after years of voice acting and podcasting and production.
6. What would you consider a “beginner’s mistake” you’ve either experienced or hear others making?
A big mistake many don’t learn early enough is noise reduction. There’s always something in or just outside your recording environment that gets picked up. Pets, children playing up/downstairs, lawnmowers and cars.  Finding out what software  you can use to edit out the background noise is key.  Finding out early is a blessing. I use Goldwave and Soundbooth.
7. How much time does it take, once you have all the elements, for YOU to put together a 30 minute podcast? (please describe your production technique)A 30 minute podcast can take anywhere from 2-6 hours depending on the number of other voices, effects or tracks involved.  I tend to gather all the tracks and break them out in to separate files, clean them and eq them, bring them in to Acid Pro (or something similar depending on the machine) and mix them down, adding in music, fxs etc as needed. Acid Pro is great for this as you can edit each track independently of all the others and apply track fxs as needed (panning, volume, etc).
Casting Questions
1.  What is the hardest part of putting together a casted podcast?
Obviously the easiest answer is getting the cast together. I belong to an audio group that has a very diverse group of volunteer actors and actresses from around the world. I place a casting call and collect the auditions. I have an idea already what I want the parts to sound like, so based on that I select those that get as close as I can find, or those that provide me a take on the role that I really think will work.  Getting everyone to turn in the lines on time however…
2. Do you provide the entire chapter to your talent, or just their lines?
I’ve done full chapters, lines and full scripts for my casts. While I don’t like to let the cat out of the bag, sometimes it’s just easier and I’ve found that many people don’t read the whole script/chapter anyway as they’re only focused on their parts before moving on to their next gig.
3. Is instruction given to your talent on how you prefer the line to be read?
I’ll include notes on accent, emphasis and pronunciation and let them run with it.
4. What do you do with all of that unused audio?
I have TONS of unused audio from second and third takes on parts to rambling out takes that would make a sailor blush.  Someday it’ll make a great big blooper reel.
5.What is the hardest part of putting together a “straight read” podcast?
Straight read podcasts are harder for me cause I have to keep going back and making sure I’m not boring ppl to death with my voice. I have quite a bit of inflection possible, but at times i fall in to a monotonous mode.

6. As far as cast goes, what would you like to try, but haven’t so far?
For casting, I’d like to try to build a multi-media podcast story ala JC Hutchins. Bringing the cast in to more of an interactive role in the telling of the tale and giving them more freedom to act in the role not only in audio, but in vid clips and other imagery.
General Questions
1. If someone approached you with THEIR book, and asked you to podcast it for them for a fee, what would you consider a reasonable rate per episode? (The way YOU do it)
So far with the audio group I’ve worked with we’ve done several novels as both straight read and full cast.  We charged nothing.  If I were to do it myself, I think it would depend on two things. How long the novel was (# of pages etc) an whether or not they were my friend. I do tend to discount my rate on both voice over and audio production for those I know well.
2. Do you podcast as part of a larger plan, or because getting your content out in some manner IS your plan?
Yes.  I podcast for the love of the work, and also so that I can begin to get more name recognition. I’m not expecting miracles, and I know it will take a number of years but I hope to get some of my work published.
3. What is the nicest compliment you’ve been paid or, what keeps you coming back?
I think that getting any feedback on work that I have completed (voice acting or actual production) is the best form of praise I could expect.  Not everyone will like my work, but the fact that they took the time to respond in any fashion shows that i made an impact. I was once told that an audio drama I produced was comparable to stabbing oneself in the ear repeatedly with an Ice Pick.  Not high praise, but communication.  A lot of others told me it was good, but the one comment made me reevaluate my process and improve on some production skills.
4. How important are numbers of downloads/subscribers to you? Do you keep track?
Like everyone else, I’d love to have great numbers for the shows I write, act and produce. It’s an ego thing I think. I try not to pay too much attention to it though so I can focus on the actual part I need to focus on. The writing.
5. How important are reviews left on Podiobooks/iTunes and other venues to you?
Reviews give me an idea of what people like and don’t like. So far they haven’t swayed my writing style or themes. I don’t know that they ever will. I want to like what I am writing, otherwise it becomes work.

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