Tag Archives: inspiration

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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New Year Goals – don’t say the ‘r’ word!

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New Year’s Day is for nursing hangovers and banishing the regrets of last year, which is why I’m writing this on January 2nd. Yes, it’s that time again. Time to lay out my reso – NO! DON’T SAY IT! Let’s use goals, targets, milestones – anything but the ‘r’ word. Call me superstitious but any time I make a new one of those, it’s nothing more than a distant memory by Valentine’s day.

As this is mainly a blog about Writing, I’ll save all my empty promises of more exercise and less food for my loved ones. Bearing in mind I have to fit my writing around a full time job, here’s a run down of what I want to achieve this year.

THE NOVEL

I will finish a major rewrite (2nd draft) of my WIP by next Christmas. This means having it in good enough shape to either go to a professional editor or be ready for beta readers. This will be no mean feat. I’m currently up to 94k words and I’m pretty sure it will be well above 100k by time I’ve gone back and filled in gaps to complete my first draft. I do this in full knowledge that I will probably lose around 20k after the first major edit. It’s not the most efficient way to write a novel but it seems to be the only way I know how!

SUBMISSIONS

I want to sub AT LEAST one thing every month – to average at least 12 subs over the year. These will include short story submissions for competitions and publications.

NEW WRITING

I want to write 4 brand new short stories by next Christmas. Now, I know that doesn’t sound like much – infact, it sounds pathetic! – but the novel really has to take priority this year. In 2016, focusing on the novel was great, but it was at the cost of my new work and I didn’t write any new short stories.

WRITING PODCAST

With the help of my co-host, Leah Osbourne, I’ll be producing at least one new full-length show of The Joined-Up Writing Podcast. We feature interviews with guest authors, screenwriters, editors and agents. We began the show back in 2014 and it’s going from strength to strength, with 50 full length episodes and more than 30 episodes of our Two Minute Tips (TMT) series. We’re always looking for new guests and ideas for topics to cover so feel free to get in touch. The full archive is available here and you can subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes.

SCREENWRITING WORKSHOP

In addition to all that, I need to write and deliver my first writing workshop to the members of my critique group – a bunch of people I have huge admiration and respect for. No pressure! The working title for the workshop is ‘Screenwriting Tips For Non-Screenwriters’ and I’ll be delivering it in March.

So, I think that’s enough to be going on with – at least a good baseline. Anything else will be a bonus. Who knows what 2017 will have in store for us, but I’m sure with a bit of positive thinking and alot of hard work, we can make it a happy and productive one.

What are your plans for the year? Are you sharing them with the world? Any hints and tips you want to share? Feel free to share links to your own goals and blog posts in the comments below and I wish you all good luck for 2017.

 

 

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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.

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Why you should be listening to podcasts – grabbing inspiration on the move. 

 

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My home podcast studio

Podcasts are a great way to multi-task – getting advice on writing from shows like Writing Excuses, listening to the musings of comedians like Bill Burr or getting hooked  on true crime stories like the brilliant Serial. I’ve been listening to podcasts for several years and as of last December, I’ve even begun to produce my own show, Joined Up Writing, with fellow writer, Leah Osbourne. 

Many people don’t think they have time to listen to podcasts, but the great thing about them is that you can have them on your phone or iPod and listen to them anytime – on the daily commute, in the car, during your lunch break. It’s a great way to multi-task and there are literally thousands of shows on every topic you can think of. Personal finance, news, creativity, music, science, comedy, DIY – you name it, it’s been done. 

You can listen to them online, but the most convenient method is to subscribe on iTunes and have your favourite shows automatically appear on your phone or iPod every time a new episode is released. And did I mention that they’re free? 

They can also be really interactive – most podcasters love to reach out to their audience, to hear their ideas and include their thoughts on their shows. You can even help to shape content and future shows – not something you can usually do with national TV and Radio networks. 

I listen to loads of great shows, but hear are just a few of my current favourites. 

WRITING PODCASTS

Writing Excuses – a great quick-hit of regular writing advice and tips – 15 minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart! 

Narrative Breakdown – Often focuses on different forms of writing, particularly script writing for film and TV. 

Dead Robot Society – quite long episodes, but lots of interesting free-ranging conversation between three genre writers. 

COMEDY, ENTERTAINMENT OR INTERVIEW PODCASTS

Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast – very US-centric and lots of sports talk, but don’t be put off. Bill is hilarious and has lots to say about relationships, modern life and the environment. 

By The Way with Jeff Garlin – Funny and insightful interviews with writers, actors and musicians, recorded in front of a live audience with Curb Your Enthusiasm funny man, Jeff Garlin. 

Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin – more interviews from host Alec Baldwin. Look out for Billy Joel show and John McEnroe. 

Serial – feels like I’m jumping on the bandwagon a little by mentioning this one, but have a feeling most UK readers won’t have even heard of this. It was a massive hit in the US. Brilliantly produced serialised show that covered a true crime story and possible miscarriage of justice. Fascinating stuff and you’ll need to listen from episode 1. 

M is for Maybe I Don’t Need To Know (inspired by Dreams of a Life)

Documentary 'Dreams of a Life' was inspiration for this song.
Documentary ‘Dreams of a Life’ was inspiration for this song.

Another song written with George Odom, ‘Maybe I Don’t Need to Know’ was inspired by the haunting and desperately sad documentary, ‘Dreams of a Life’. You can listen to the song here.

If you are unfamiliar with ‘Dreams of a Life’, it deals with the discovery of the body of young woman, Joyce Vincent, in her tiny London bedsit, 3 years after she died, alone and surrounded by half-wrapped Christmas presents. Nobody noticed that she was missing and the only reason she was found at all was because of being in arrears with her rent. The film examines how this tragedy could have occurred, using interviews with the many friends of Joyce inter-weaved with dramatic reconstructions.

It’s a powerful film that raises as many questions as it answers, including how a vibrant, sociable person could simply disappear without being noticed. It couldn’t happen to you – or could it? I would highly recommend it.

I was inspired to write this song because of one particular character – an ex boyfriend – who is racked with guilt that he didn’t stay in touch with Joyce, believing that he was simply respecting the boundaries of a very private woman. It’s heart-breaking to see him trying to deal with his complicated feelings towards a woman he obviously still cares for.

The post is long enough, without adding the lyrics to the song, but please have a listen and try to seek out the documentary – if you are in the UK, it is still available on 4OD here.

Has a true story or documentary influenced your writing? Have you already seen Dreams of a Life? Share your thoughts below.

This was my 13th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – N is for Night Time of The Soul.