Tag Archives: creative writing

8 Great Podcasts for 2017

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Podcasts – what are they?

Podcasts are episodic, usually themed, audio content that you can listen to on the web or subscribe to using iTunes or on your smartphone. They’re almost always free and come in a variety of styles from Audio Drama, How-To Shows and Lifestyle, to Science, Comedy, Music, Current Affairs and True Crime.

Anyone who knows me, reads the blog or follows me on Twitter will probably have noticed my passion for podcasts. I even co-host one with Leah Osbourne – The Joined-Up Writing Podcast, where we interview succesful authors, editors, agents, screenwriters and anyone connected with reading or writing good books.

The range of choice and the quality of this relatively new medium (the birth of the iPod was when things really got going) continues to grow. I seem to find another great new show almost on a weekly basis, but here are my latest recommendations.

8 Great Podcasts . . .

Writing Shows

The Worried Writer – author, Sarah Painter is the self-confessed ‘Worried Writer’ who hosts this monthly show which usually includes interviews with other writers who give the background behind their work and process and offer advice on dealing with the dreaded Self-Doubt.

The Creative Penn – if you are a budding indie writer, chances are you are already familiar with independent publishing poster girl, Joanna Penn and if you aren’t, you should be. Joanna podcasts on a weekly basis and her archive and blog posts offer a wealth of advice and inspiration for independent authors everywhere.

Audio Drama

LifeAfter – a very new 10 part tech thriller that follows Ross, a low level FBI employee who is trying to deal with the death of his wife using a social media platform as a form of digital resurrection. Of course, all is not as it seems. It’s full of twists and turns and I was lucky enough to interview the show’s writer, Mac Rogers for a recent episode of The Joined-Up Writing podcast.

Homecoming – a star-studded cast includes David Schwimmer and Oscar Isaac and everything about this psychological thriller oozes class. The script, acting and excellent sound design help to tell a story about an experimental therapy treatment for traumatised soldiers. This really does show what can be done with the medium and I can’t wait for Season Two.

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My latest binge – Crimetown

True Crime

Crimetown – my current addiction and a superb example of how podcasts can handle true crime stories. Told through interviews with ex-criminals, government officials, police officers and an expertly crafted script, Crimetown is a serialised story of one of the biggest organised crime families in America – in the small city of Providence. Make sure you start at episode one and get ready to binge.

Stranglers – another gripping series that tells that fascinating (but often grizzly) story behind one of America’s most infamous serial killers, The Boston Strangler. Again, start at episode one to follow the story from the beginning and perhaps don’t listen to this one before bedtime, unless you like nightmares.

Science

Science Vs – a fascinating Pop Science show, that tackles topics like Hypnosis, Fracking and even The G-Spot! It never dumbs down, but keeps a light touch in its mission to ‘sift through the facts, so you don’t have to’.

Cinema

You Must Remember This – detailed research and a haunting soundtrack make this an interesting trip down memory lane, focusing specifically on the first century of Hollywood. Each episode tells a different story from Tinseltown’s sometimes glamourous, often mysterious and always entertaining past. Covering everything from the McCarthy Witch Hunts to Buster Keaton and Bruce Lee, this podcast is a must for film fans.

That’s it. For now . . .

I could go on and on and on and you can always check out my post from 2015 for a few more ideas. I’m always on the look out for new recommendations, so drop me a line in the comments to let me know what your latest listening pleasures are. Happy listening!

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Stuck on your WIP? Skip to the end . . .

Stuck on your WIP? Things getting a little like wading through treacle? My advice? Skip to the end! That’s exactly what I’ve been doing after a long spell of procrastination and self-doubt.

Last time I gave you any kind of update, I was still in the honeymoon period of writing my second novel. 25,000 words in. The beginning of the relationship, when everything is exciting and new. Almost a year later, and I’m closing in on 90,000 words, and as we all know, with so much water under the bridge, you have to work a bit harder to keep the magic alive.

Loose-fitting pants . . .

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m a Plantser – I like to have a rough idea of where I’m going but don’t like to spend days and weeks planning every minute detail. These loose-fitting pants have served me well for the current novel (working title: Safe Hands) but, as usual, a couple of unexpected plot events took me by surprise and before I knew it, I’d created several loose ends and was tying myself up in knots. Although I had a vague idea of where I wanted to end up, with every new chapter, I felt I was drifting off course. My output slowed and eventually dried up completely. Anyone familiar with my posts will know that stopping to think for too long kills my momentum and gives rise to the dreaded Self-Doubt. So many times I forget to take my own advice – see Write or Die post from 2014.

Speaking of ‘Skip To The End’ – get to the point!

So, just at the moment I was ready to quit, I remembered my own advice and that of writing friends – WRITE THE ENDING FIRST. As my novel takes place over a week, building toward a heist that my protagonist and his cohorts have been planning, I decided to move directly to the day of the big job and just . . . WRITE. It was slow at first, but as I continued to raise the stakes, the words began to flow freely and without censure (a direct quote from writing friend Maria Smith) and I finally stopped worrying and clung to the fact that I’m writing a first draft. It’s meant to be terrible. The next stage will be editing and I can’t get to that stage unless I actually have something to edit.

The End is Nigh (honestly)

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because I had similar issues with my first novel (still consigned to First Draft Hell). But this is different. It’s a weird feeling. I know I’m tantalisingly close to finishing the first draft, but for once I feel calm and positive about the novel I know this ugly first draft will become. What about you? Do you have to wrestle with self-doubt on a daily basis – ‘of course we do,’ you reply, ‘we’re WRITERS!’ So how do you deal with it? What are your tips for pushing on through to the bitter end? How do you tackle all those plot complications you’ve created along the way? Or maybe you are a planner and merely scoff at all this talk of losing the plot? Let me know in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter.

NaNoWriMo – Why Everyone Should Try Writing a Novel in a month.

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This is the story of how I surprised myself by writing 50,000 words of a novel in less than 30 days, and why I think everyone with even a passing interest in creative writing should give it a try at least once.

I fell in love with writing as a child and even though it’s always been an on-off relationship, with life, work and family often coming between us, you never forget your first love and I always knew we would be reunited again some day.

Although I’ve always kept up a long-distance correspondance by writing lots of songs and the very occasional blog, it’s fair to say it has been quite a few years since I really set my mind to writing anything substantial.

That all changed a few weeks ago when I felt the old desire return, initially with a few short story ideas, and then I stumbled across something called NaNoWriMo and knew the timing was perfect to start from scratch on my failed novel – last abandoned a number of years ago with a wordcount of over 35,000. For the unitiated, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. To take part in NaNoWriMo you need only commit to the idea of writing 50,000 words of your first draft before the end of November. The use of the word ‘only’ being slightly misleading in this instance, as the reality means writing an average of 1667 words EVERY SINGLE DAY for thirty days.

I have a busy day job, a family and I’m a member of a cover band so time is not something I have an abundance of, but never one to shy away from a challenge I approached the task with as much gusto as possible. Whilst I wasn’t particularly confident of being able to reach the full target, I simply treated it as an excuse to get as many words written as possible, to get back in to the habit of writing every day and to kick-start my attempt to write a novel.

I passed the 50,000 mark on November 24th with 6 days to spare and it felt great. Not only because I had reached an arbitrary goal set by NaNoWriMo, but because I had re-engaged with writing again and found my passion for creating characters and worlds for them to exist in. I also found that I still hadn’t reached the end of my story, but having come so far I know I will keep going until I reach the conclusion.

Everyone works differently but for me I think there were a few factors that contributed to my success.

Write every day

Firstly, even on the days where I barely had half an hour to spare I wrote something, anything as long as I made a tiny dent on my wordcount. I think the most pathetic daily wordcount was around the 500 word mark, but it still meant that I wouldn’t have a little zero next to that date and that my novel was just that little bit closer to being finished.

Turn off the inner editor

Ok, so I know that it has become a writing cliche, but that’s for a reason. I realised that when it comes to the first draft, all that really matters is getting to the end of the story – just getting it all out. That means not stopping to finesse phrasing or grammar and not letting a little thing like a gaping plot hole slow you up either. For me, this meant skipping an entire chapter early on because although I knew the character had to get from point A to point B, I had no idea how he would get there and didn’t have the time to sit around waiting for inspiration. I simply jumped to the next scene and motored on – that will need taking care of when I begin draft 2 and the editing process.

Have fun

Again, seems obvious, but if you are not going to try to have fun when doing something as silly as trying to write 50,000 words in a month, then don’t bother attempting it at all. I found that the more I kept writing, the more life my characters took on until some scenes of the book just flowed – seemingly with very little input from me. Hours just flew by and all the time I was creating a story across lots of pages that didn’t exist before November 1st.

Before I started NaNoWriMo, my best case scenario was perhaps reaching 20-25,000 words before December and I would still be very satisfied with that. And that’s the best thing about trying something like this – whether you reach 5,000 or 50,000 words, you will have produced something tangible that wasn’t there before. You will have got back in touch with that wild side of your imagination that seems to become harder to reach as we grow older and more self-conscious, and you never know – you may even end up with a finished novel that you can release in to the world to entertain and inspire others.

So, in short, I will definitely be signing up for NaNoWrimo next year – who’s with me?

You can check out my NaNoWrimo profile here, which includes a synopsis and excerpt from my novel ‘Let Sleeping Gods Lie’.

I would love to hear from others that have found other ways to kick start their creative writing projects or have other NaNoWriMo experiences to share. What’s your story?