Friday, September 21, 2012

I'm a Moron... And I Can Prove it! (part 1)

I'VE GOT A LOT TO SAY TODAY, apparently. Sorry about that wordcount. But before I first want to point out that Andrew Leon's ongoing Serial about a little boy whose not quite of this world continues with the release of Part 5: The Police Car. I hope everyone has been getting these as they come out, he tends to make them all free for a day or two when first released. Please go check them out. 

I'VE MADE MENTION in the past of how much of a podcast junkie I am. Well, it’s still true. I’ve made lists, recommendations, all sorts of that sort of thing – doing my best to inform he world of all the great stuff that’s out there.  Unfortunately for me, there is a real Darwinian competition for what reaches my ears. I don’t have time to listen to all the shows I want to so I tend to have a rotating schedule. I’ll find something new and something old will get pushed aside, I’ll usually come back around later to pick it back up, but that means I’ve dropped something else from my listening schedule.

Funny about that, as I used to fancy myself a bit of a musician and listened to music almost exclusively. But way back in the day, when I drove my super-awesome car with my extra-super-awesome stereo (a completely badass 10 disk changer with dedicated amps for the speakers…. I had two 12” subs, four 10” subs (to be honest, I got rid of the 10” subs… they tended to muddy up my bass tones and took up tons of space - I put the 12"s in a bigger box and it sounded much better)– several sets of smaller speakers scattered throughout my interior for the high and mid-range portions of the spectrum. I even recall going on vacation and not being able to pack because my car was full of equipment.

All so I could listen to Pantera at volumes that would make my ribs crack.

But after a while I was spending more and more of my drive time listening to a.m. talk radio - political or sports related mostly. My interest in music started to dwindle and fade. It wasn’t long before I was more interested in finding something interesting that was being discussed.

Fast forward a few years (5 or 6 maybe), late nineties I think. Anyone remember I do. I don’t remember the details of what they had to offer, but I recall listening to tons of stuff there: sitting at my giant, wall-sized mainframe of a computer and staring out the window and listening to… well, stuff.

And by the mid two-thousands I was a podcast junkie. I had to wait for the iPod revolution and for the content to fill it with, but once I had podcasts my life was over.

At first I mostly listened to science related things, but as I found more and more niche programming I was able to really start honing in on things that specifically related to writing.

And that concludes this post. The rest is just stuff about some of my favorite writing-centric podcasts. Feel free to ignore.

As of this writing, here are the podcasts I most highly recommend if you’re aspiring to write:

The Roundtable Podcast: MUST LISTEN if you are an aspiring writer and you want to improve your craft. The format of this show is that a writer with a story brings it to the table where the pros listen to their pitch for 5 – 8 minutes, ask some clarifying questions, then start hammering away at the plot until they’ve eked out as much drama as they can for the story. It’s a brilliant show

Actually, that’s on Tuesday. Every Friday, they interview a guest host (a pro author) and discuss writing in a more general since. Still brilliant.

Writing Excuses: MUST LISTEN if you want to understand how stories work. Brandon Sanderson is the real reason this exists, but he shares the hosting duties with several other published writers. They sit around and discuss all sorts of topics that are intended to help the fledgling writer improve. If you ever listen to words, then listen to this. It might be the most listenable of all the podcasts on this list for someone who isn't that interested in the topic. My wife will sit and listen to many episodes with me if we're in the car, she won't do that regularly for any other podcast.

Speculate!: I’d almost give this a MUST LISTEN, but I’ll hold off on that. I’ll give this a STRONG RECOMMEND. Really, I just like writing stuff in all caps. Beyond that, an academic (and Fantasy author) and another author tend to pick a book and over several podcasts really get in depth into the book they’ve chosen. The format isn’t always exactly the same, but generally speaking, they will spend an episode discussing the book’s plot and how well they felt the author did. Another episode is usually an interview with the author, where they discuss the writing process. The final in the series is usually a detailed breakdown of the themes and techniques the author used to tell the story. It’s almost always insightful. I love this.

Dead Robots Society: This is a more free form podcast, where the triumvirate of hosts discuss what they are currently working on and how close they feel they are to achieving their dreams.  The third spot on the panel seems to rotate from time to time for whatever reason, like the drummer from Spinal Tap. I tend to be fascinated as I listen because more often than not, things delve into the self-publishing vs traditional route, as one host has gone the traditional route, with another choosing self-publishing exclusively (making $6300 per month at the last update I heard) with the third (currently) also forgoing traditional publishers, but with much more modest levels of monetary success. Great stuff.

Story Wonk Sunday: This one has a format that took me a bit of getting used to. It’s a pro author and her husband – an aspiring author – as they break down and discuss books and movies and look for the elements that worked well and those that didn’t. Again, the format is a bit odd, and they tend to sound more like a drive-time radio show – something that can be tough to listen to – but they always give wonderful insights into what makes a compelling story. Again, you have to be able to get past the talking over one another and bursts of laughter that seem to come out of nowhere. But if you can deal with that then you’ll be rewarded

Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing: This one gets grandfathered in, the unpredictable release of new episodes (none for a month or more, then two-a-week for three weeks, followed by another drought). Still, I’ve been listening to this podcast more or less since I first discovered it, back in 2007 maybe? Wow. That seems like a looong time ago. Is that right?

Regardless, it was Shaun Ferrell that first figured out that if you wanted to be a published author, it’s probably a good idea to find a published author and ask them how they did it. Well, he probably isn’t the first person to figure it out, but he was the first person I know of that actually did something with the idea… and was kind enough to record the conversations that came out of that.

I love the show, but I get the feeling that the host has a lot of demands on his personal life that keeps him from putting in the hours needed to keep new episodes coming out regularly. The time he had his co-host Sam was the true golden era for this podcast. I miss her snark and wish she’d turn back up.

The host conducts an interview wonderfully and has a charm that makes him hard to not want to listen to more.

There are tons of other podcasts I listen to that feature authors regularly: SF Signal, Sqeecast, The Functional Nerds, Sword and Laser, Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy… but those don’t have a stated goal of helping me improve as an author, and the focus can be different. Still very intriguing though, please check them out.

Also, our very own blogger buddies Vic Caswell and Author Emily White run the Pod People podcast. They aren’t really targeting themselves towards authors, but instead they discuss things more closely associated with the YA fandom. Everyone should give them a listen even if that isn’t your thing.

Phew. That was wordy. Can you believe that was all a preamble to what I really wanted to talk about? Hang in there, part 2 will bring it all together (where my moronic side gets exposed) in a magical way.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm still stuck on listening to Pantera at volumes that would crack ribs...
If I can listen at work, that would be cool. While I'm also blogging. And watching a movie. Yeah, my job really sucks, doesn't it?

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

I think I've listened to one podcast in my whole life. Podcasts and audiobooks just aren't for me for the same reason I hate phones; it's too hard to concentrate on just listening to something so my mind tends to wander and then I'm like, "Wait what'd they say?"

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

The only podcast I listen to is "This American Life."

Andrew Leon said...

Some of these sound really great, but I can almost never listen to... well... anything. There are always kids or something going on that make it so that I can't hear. I end up having to pause and rewind so much that something that's supposed to be 20 minutes takes 2 hours and, then, I've forgotten everything from being interrupted so often.
>sad face<

Thanks for the plug!

M Pax said...

I've listened to a few friends' podcasts, I suppose if I commuted a lot, or sat in a cubicle, I'd be way more into it.

The Golden Eagle said...

I don't tend to listen to podcasts, but some of these sound really interesting. Thanks for the links!

Jay Noel said...

I used to be a podcaster - it was a TON of work, as my podcast was full of all kinds of fun stuff that took a lot of production. Did a bunch of fun parodies and interviews - and my segments were fast and furious to help keep people's attention.

I will have to check out that list of podcasts, as it seems podcasting isn't dead yet!

David P. King said...

Writing Excuses has me in its pocket pretty much, but this is a great list. I'll have to give these others a listen. :)