Tuesday, 12 February 2008

On Writing Podcasts

Writing is largely a very solitary endeavour. It is often a lonely thing to do, and when things don’t go to plan, or fail completely, the writer feels remarkably isolated amidst friends who, while caring, don’t really understand the frustration. You can work for hours on a story, sitting after sitting, and then it hits you after six thousand words that it is going nowhere and should be scrapped. Thankfully this rarely happens to me, but when it does, I take it as a weird personal affront. How DARE these words deny me their fruits? See? An angry writer is far more pompous than a calm one.

It does feel from time to time that there is nobody out there that can understand the problems involved in writing, and in certain cases this can lead to people giving up altogether, unable to get past the mental blocks they have raised around their projects. I am blessed in that my girlfriend is a regularly published writer, who is more than happy to go over my work, even if she does have a grinding dislike of science fiction that always makes me nervous to show her new material. She endures it, and is a great asset and source of discipline.

But not everyone has someone to bounce new work against, which is why the current crop of podcasts in relation to writing are an absolute essential thing to get. You don’t need a n iPod to listen to them, just iTunes. In many cases, podcasts are offered as free direct downloads from websites, but the easiest way to get them is to subscribe via iTunes. Just go to the podcast directory and search for Writing.

My iPod currently gets about a dozen of these delivered to it on a regular basis, all of which are valid in their own way, but there are a few I’d really like to talk about a bit.

The first would have to be I Should Be Writing, presented by Mur Lafferty. This long running show deals with a wannabe fiction writer, Mur, and her adventures in getting work done and out on time. She’s had several fiction sales and a growing catalogue of other published work, and is a pro at the podcast game. Her shows are informative, funny, and inspiring, even when the guests go off at a tangent, as they are sometimes wont to do. The thing is, it is a positive show that points out to all of us wannabe writers everywhere that we aren’t alone, and there are indeed others that understand what we are going through. This is my favourite, and the one I find myself going through repeated listens of.

In fact, it has been ISBW that has opened my eyes and ears somewhat to the actual Podcast market. She’s had work produced by Escape Pod, which I checked out and discovered to be an entertaining, partially dramatized series of science fiction stories, which instantly had me hooked. While the stories aren’t always what I’d particularly go out of my way to listen to, they are well written, well produced and a valuable asset to the SF fan who wants something other than endless TV themes on their iPods.

One brilliant discovery I made in the iTunes podcast directory was a regularly updated podcast under the name of the Odyssey Writers Workshop, which features excerpts from speeches made at the annual Odyssey workshops in the US, focussing on helping people whose work is approaching publication standard write convincing Science Fiction and Fantasy. The speeches, while not always 100% audible (as they are recorded in a classroom) are informative and very useful indeed. A wide variety of authors are presented on the podcasts, meaning there’s generally someone on offer that will interest a listener.

iTunes itself provides a ‘Meet the Authors’ podcast, which is recorded at the Apple store in Soho (US), which is a series of lengthy interviews with popular authors and writers, and a useful resource. It doesn’t concentrate on the business or practice of writing as such, but it is still an important listen for the aspiring writer.

The Writing Show’ is also a good show to get, if a little bit ‘daytime TV’ for my tastes. The writers featured and interviewed are interesting, but the delivery is a little slow for me. The most recent one I heard was fascinating though, featuring a writer who has supplied a great deal of dramatic work to the BBC and Channel four. Hearing a British writer on a US based podcast is a refreshing thing, and the advice given in that most recent episode was very enjoyable and eye opening.

There is a wealth of inspiration to be had out there. If you’re struggling to overcome a block, desperate to find someone out there that understands, or advice on what to do next, these podcasts are a great starting point for listening at home or on the go. You’re not alone, you really aren’t. We may be spread out few and far between, but we’re out there, and we know just how much that character or that scene is frustrating you, and we all know, some of us rather greatly, what it feels like when the rejections come through. Just keep on trying, and if not trying, at least keep on writing, and don’t stop. Never stop. Get those ideas down. Enjoy them. Lose yourself in them, and if you struggle, work at it. When you need a little extra help, just go into iTunes and discover all those people that know exactly what you’re going through, and how to further yourself.

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