Sunday, June 7, 2015

My favorite writing podcasts

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Whenever I'm dealing with life tasks that require a lot of my hands and only a little bit of my brain, I love to listen to podcasts. I have a range of favorite types, but as it turns out, quite a few of them are writing podcasts. They keep me focused on craft, updated on the ever-changing industry (well, as much as anything can, I suppose), and they inspire me when my motivation is flagging. In case you're looking for any of those things, here are my favorites:

Helping Writers Become Authors

Host: K.M. Weiland, author of Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story, Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success, Conquering Writer's Block and Summoning Inspiration, Jane Eyre: Writer's Digest Annotated Classics, Dreamlander.

K.M. Weiland uses her experience as a fiction author and an author mentor to give tight, focused craft advice to writers. She covers all aspects of writing craft (e.g., story structure, character development) and touches on the business of writing (e.g. querying agents). Each podcast is a lesson of sorts, well-structed beforehand and then delivered to the listener. While the podcasts are short, she runs them in series as needed to cover larger topics; for example, she did a 15-part series on how to write an effective character arc that went through the inception of the character, each major structural point, etc. I find this format easier to digest than an all-at-once hour long podcast, because the information she gives is dense. She also has recurring topics like ‘Most common writing mistakes’. The style is approachable, and she has a gift for explaining things clearly. 

Length: approx 5-10 minutes
Free-flowing vs. Structured: 4 (pretty darn structured)
Focus: Craft of writing
Features: K.M. Weiland sharing her knowledge & experience
What's unique here: Short, tight, well-organized craft advice
Recent topics: A reactive protagonist doesn’t have to be a passive protagonist; five Necessary factors for weighty fiction; how the perfect midpoint moves your protagonist from reaction to action; Is your prologue destroying your story’s subtext?

I Should Be Writing

Host: Mur Lafferty, author of Heaven (The Afterlife Series), Ghost Train To New Orleans (The Shambling Guides Series), The Shambling Guide to New York City, Playing For Keeps.

The main focus on this podcast is the craft of writing, but often includes information on the writing business, as well. The feel is informal; Mur is a master of making you feel like she's talking with you rather than at you. Originally conceived as a for-writers-trying-to-make-it-by-a-writer-trying-to-make-it, Mur has since built a writing career, and tries to help you build yours. She shares her experience via down-to-earth opinions, advice, and interviews with industry colleagues.  

Length: Varies widely
Free-flowing vs. Structured (0-5): 2-3 (fairly informal)
Focus: Writing craft, some business
Features: Host shares her thoughts, knowledge, experience. Sometimes has interviews/panel.
What makes this unique: An experienced podcaster with an excellent rapport, plus a wide range of industry contacts and experience.
Recent topics: Interview with John Chu, royalties, copyright issues, writers struggling with depression, resistance and the book The War of Art. 

Ditch Diggers

Hosts: Mur Laffertyauthor of Heaven (The Afterlife Series)Ghost Train To New Orleans (The Shambling Guides Series)The Shambling Guide to New York CityPlaying For Keeps.
& Matt Wallace, author of Slingers (Slingers Saga Vol. 1) , The Detective (Galactic Football League)

This is the most you’ll ever laugh while listening to something that makes you want to suck on the muzzle of a Mauser. Mur and Matt (and their guests) are unapologetically truthful about writing as a job; it’s not easy, and they make sure you’re clear about that. Depressing? More like realistic and cautionary. If you’re the sort of person to be put off by the reality that writing for a living is hard, writing may not be for you in the first place and this podcast will save you some time. For the rest, the podcast shares advice from people who’ve carved a path for themselves in the industry, and that advice will save you time and heartache. So pretty much either way, this podcast will save you time; and, it will have you laughing yourself silly along the way. Warning: contents are also unapologetically explicit.     

Length: approx. 1 hour
Free-flowing vs. Structured: 1 (almost completely informal, and highly entertaining because of it)
Focus: Business/industry of writing
Features: Mur & Matt chatting/ranting. Sometimes guests/drunken revelry.
What makes this unique: Extremely honest, uncensored, and potentially offensive. But funnier than Morgan Freeman in his wrapping room. 
Recent topics: when it's NOT OKAY to suck, getting paid via crowdfunding, whether conventions are useful, when it's time to quit. 

The Writing University Podcast

Coming to you from The Writing University, a group of several programs that includes The University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, this podcast features taped lectures by famous authors and other professionals, on topics that run the gamut across the craft and business of writing. If you’ve ever been to a seminar/lecture series at a university, that’s what you’re getting here; if you like that format, you’ll love this, and if you don’t, give it a shot anyway because there’s some excellent information here. 

The podcast is uploaded in true binge fashion—apparently approximately 10-20 episodes are put up in June and July every year; I’m not sure if this is because that’s when the lecture series occurs or because that’s when they have time to load it; regardless, they’re due for more any moment now, and in the meantime have extensive archives. The website also features live feeds to other events associated with the program.

Length: approx. 1 hour
Free-flowing vs. Structured: 5 (Very formal)
Focus: Blended across craft and business
Features: Lectures by authors
What's unique here: You're taking a seminar from a series of famous industry professionals without the tuition or classwork. 
Recent topics: Elizabeth Robinson: ‘You can start a press/publication’; Kelly Dwyer: ‘Better Talky Talky: The art and craft of strong dialogue’; Sarah Saffian: ‘The politics of writing about loved ones.’

A Writer’s Journey

Hosts: Sara Whitford, author of Smuggler’s Gambit, Captured on the Caribbean (coming fall 2015)
& Terrance Zepke, author of Terrance Talks Travel: A Pocket Guide for Adventure Travel, A Ghost Hunter's Guide to the Most Haunted Hotels & Inns in America, Spookiest Battlefields: Discover America's Most Haunted Battlefields, Lowcountry Voodoo: A Beginner's Guide to Tales, Spells, and Boo Hags

Gets down to the nitty-gritty about the craft and business of writing. The co-hosts have a warm, welcoming rapport (and I admit this is enhanced for me by the charming southern accents). They’re well organized and their interviews are very thoughtful and conversational—they guide the guests just enough to allow them to do their thing effectively. Tons of good information here from both the hosts and the interviews. 

Length: 30-45ish minutes
Free-flowing vs. Structured: 4 (fairly structured)
Focus: Business side of writing
Features: Discussion between the cohosts, sometimes with interviews. 
What's unique here: Excellent, conversational interviews, good rapport between the hosts while maintaining excellent focus.
Recent topics: Five steps to getting an agent, Tax deductions for writers, Independent book publishing options, Sydney Strand’s transition from traditional to Indie to Hybrid writer

The Creative Penn

Host: Joanna Penn, author of How to Market a Book, Business For Authors, Public Speaking For Authors, Career Change, Stone of Fire (Arkane Book 1)

Joanna Penn is a fiction author, as well as the author of several non-fiction books designed to help writers be successful in the business of writing. So as you’d expect, she talks about both the craft and business of writing, and does it in a lovely English accent (yes, I love any accent that isn't mine. It's a thing I have. Don't judge me.). She's very personable, and she covers a variety of media, not just books.  

Length: approx. 1 hour
Free-flowing vs. Structured: 3
Focus: Mixture of craft and business
Features: Host discusses a topic and then interviews a guest. 
What's unique here: International perspective and information across media. 
Recent topics: Virtual reality for writers, publishing and gaming with Rob Morgan; Writing horror and making a fulltime living from your writing with Michaelbrent Collings; All your editing questions answered with Jen Blood.

Write For Your Life

Hosts: Donna Sorensen, poet, copywriter, author of Dream Country; Iain Broome, author of A is for Angelica.

This is a cozy podcast, the sort that makes you feel like you’re sitting in a room with a couple of friends chatting. The two co-hosts are both writers, and cover a mix of aspects of the craft of writing and the writing industry with humor, knowledge, and self-deprecation, all in awesome English accents (Yeah yeah I know, me and accents, that's just how I roll). One thing this podcast does a bit more than others is tackle current issues in the writing world; a recent example is the ‘Clean Reader’ app that allows people to bleep out offensive words from their ebooks. 

The podcast is currently on a brief hiatus for childbirth (Donna’s) and book-birth (Iain’s), but will be back soon; take a listen to the archives while you wait, and keep your ear open for my favorite moment in each episode—Donna’s xylophone announcement of ‘Listener’s questions!’

Length: approx. 1 hour
Free-flowing vs. Structured: 3
Focus: Mixture of craft and business
Features: The two co-hosts discuss general topics of interest, and current events in the writing world.  
What's unique here: International focus, and coverage of current events
Recent topics: Removing the pressure to publish, live periscoping and the Clean Reader app, falling e-reader sales

Writing Excuses

Hosts: Brandon Sanderson, author of The Way of Kings, The Mistborn Trilogy, Words of Radiance, FirefightMary Robinette Kowal, author of Shades of Milk and Honey, Of Noble Family, Valour and Vanity
Dan Wells, author of I Am Not a Serial Killer, Partials, Next Of KinHoward Tayler, author of Extraordinary Zoology (Tales From The Monsternomicon Series), Schlock Mercenary: The Tub of Happiness,  Schlock Mercenary: The Blackness Between, Space Eldritch.  

This podcast manages to cover a wide range of topics on writing craft and business (focus on craft), give you an exercise/challenge each episode, and do a quick ‘book of the week’ review, all in 15 minutes while not feeling rushed. Their tag-line gives you a clue to the tone: “Fifteen minutes long because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart!”, but the thing is, they are smart. They have good advice, and they give easy-to-understand examples of what they say; as a teacher myself, I appreciate those who take the time to teach/communicate well. They do, in an efficient, entertaining manner. One example: in a recent episode, they talked about how to avoid info-dump world building, and they gave a series of examples from how to do it poorly to how to do it very well. 

Length: approx. 15 minutes 
Free-flowing vs. Structured: 3
Focus: Craft, with some business
Features: The panel of four discusses a topic, discusses how to do it well, and usually gives a suggested exercise for putting the topic into action. 
What's unique here: Panel that works well together, book review & weekly exercise.
Recent topics: Beginnings, ideas, Hugo awards, writing for fun. 

Happy listening!


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