Saturday, July 5, 2014

Favorite Podcasts - My Writing Class Room

I am teaching myself writing, or rather it is a learning by doing. This concerns all dimensions you could imagine, from the writing skills to grammar, from vocabulary to understanding how the industry works.

Ambitious, but I'm not alone. There are many helpers out there; fellow writers, editors, agents, all willing to give the community back something and thanks to the Internet they can be found easily.

Since I've started to write I came across a lot of podcasts and I decided to dedicate them a post - not only to thank them, but also to spread the word and hope they help other the way they helped me.

Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Dan Wells provide a 15 minute episodes every Sunday evening, reliable like a Swiss watch. Episodes have a great variety. Sometimes, they have guests in their show, talking about their work and life or participating in the discussion. 

Most of the time it is vivid discussion about what to write, how to write and great examples out of their experience. Listening to them is always a lot of fun. For example, with their pointed examples, they opened my eyes what "show, don't tell" actually means and where telling is ok.

They also have a book tip every episode - based on their tip, I read "A Short Stay in Hell" from Steven L. Peck. It loved it.

Mur Lafferty provides a great mix of talking about specific topics, such as killing darlings, the value of writing, self esteem, having great interview guests, or proving feedback to questions asked over twitter and or e-mail. 

Outside of the great writing advice and the interesting interviews, this podcast gives me a very warm feeling of not being alone out there with my wishes and fears. Last Thursday, the 327th! episode was published and listening is worth every minute.

Among the writing podcasts, Helping Writers Become Authors is probably the most structured one. In episodes of usually 5 to 20 minutes, K.M. Weiland takes you through writing topics from character arcs to plotting and from writing personality to how to get organized. Sometimes, the podcasts feels like sitting in class. Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate it. Interestingly, while I listen to other podcasts aside of doing something else, I have to concentrate more when I listen to this podcast. It almost seems, that other podcasts talk more to my left side of the brain, while K.M. Weiland talks to my right side of the brain. Anyway, I learned a great deal of what it means to write a good story. 

I especially loved an idea she brought up in one episode regarding music. Usually I get into the mood of a scene by listening to specific music; slow for romance, fast and loud for angry moods, melancholic for more sad scenes. She brought up to switch this from time to time - listening to a march or to epic classic music while writing a romantic scene changes the outcome in a surprising way. the same happens when writing a war scene, listening to melancholic music or to rock music.

As an indie author herself, Joanna Penn focuses her podcast more on the marketing and distribution side of a writer's life. She has a lot of interview guests sharing their experience of writing and especially of how to bring a book to the market. For me, as I am not from the business, these episodes help me a lot to understand the industry as well as the current market dynamics. Episodes are between 40 and a bit over an hour long.

The Grammar Girl's podcast focuses on specific grammar topics. The host, Mignon Fogarty mixes fun topics, such as understanding the background of "Little Buny Foo Foo" with more grammar use related episodes, for example about the correct use of quotation marks or the Oxford comma. For me, as a writer in a foreign land, her podcasts are extremely helpful, but I am pretty sure, the same is true for a lot of writers with English as mother tongue. Episodes are usually 5 to 10 minutes long. 

Brad Reed talks in each episode about a specific topic in great detail, for example how to keep characters alive or unreliable narrators. For my part, I love the episode about the techniques for writing dialog. Each episode is between 30 and 50 minutes long. Unfortunately, the podcast is currently on hold (after 13 episodes). However, Brad announced, he will start again soon. I'm looking forward to it.

Thanks to all those who spend valuable writing time on helping other writers by sharing their experience. 

Happy listening,
Your writer in a foreign land

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