Late last year, I had an idea. I need to write more. I have two in-progress novels, one will probably never see the light of day, and the other is only in the initial plotting phase, but writing and publishing what you write are two different beasts.
I write, but I rarely let other people see my writing, and I wanted to change that, so I made a deal with myself. Start a podcast that is an audiobook. This is a great way for me to both write on a schedule, and publish more often. I made the commitment small, 1 episode a month. Easy. 30 days to write, record, edit and publish an episode.
Best laid plans, right?
It was a rocky start, and I recently published episode 2 of the first season of Poor Impulse Control, which is techincally episode 5 of the podcast, but once I solidified the concept around the podcast, I started the numbering over and introduced a season numbering.
What did I learn?
This process taught me so many things, mostly around audio engineering, what the hell gain is and how it relates to the noise floor, and other things, but I won’t be talking about that here. Maybe I’ll write a separate post about those things. I want to talk about writing and the practice of writing.
Sit your ass down and write
You might have heard the advice “You should write every day”. I think that’s simple, but midguided advice. It should be “Write often.” I don’t write every day, but I do spend saturday and sunday morning writing and editing the episode text for my podcast.
This has created a ritual for me. My mind, body, and soul knows, I wake up, feed the dogs, make my coffee, and sit my ass in the seat and write. If I have an episode to write, I write it. If I don’t have an episode to write, I work on my second novel. This sometimes even spills into workday mornings, like this morning where I wrote the first half of the first chapter of my second novel.
This ritual is important. I make progress with this ritual because no matter what, I sit my ass on the sofa with my laptop and I write. Now I haven’t quite taken this ritual to the extreme. If I’m out of town, or I had a particularly fun night, I might not write, and that’s okay, as long as I continue the ritual when I’m home and have a clear mind. I never skip the ritual more than once in a row.
Your first draft is shit
I can tell the difference in episodes when recording if I’ve taken the time to revise the first draft. The first draft is shit, and when I don’t revise, I spend more time in outtakes because something didn’t work right, or the wording was clumbsy, or moments of “what the fuck was I thinking?”.
If you listen to the podcast, you might hear some of it, you might not, because I end up revising on the fly when I’m speaking into the microphone.
When that happens, I end up spending way more time in the audio editing process trying to piece things back together. It’s much faster to edit words on the page than audio recordings of those same words.
Let go of control
For the story line of my podcast, I play an RPG called Fate Core. Players determine how their individual characters are going to react to the world. This forms the structure and basis for the story. I’ve released control. When episode 6 comes out, you’ll see what I mean. I can still forge the raw materials into what I want and need them to be to tell a compelling story, but the overall story is out of my hands. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, and that’s weirdly freeing, but scary as fuck.
Add some randomness into your writing. Make a chart for character decisions, something generic, or an outcome, and roll a die to figure out what your character will do, or the outcome of an action. This might be throw away work, or this might take your story in a new and interesting direction, but let go of control, free yourself, and see where the muse takes you.
Now, go write!
Would I recommend a writer starting a podcast? Nope, no fucking way. It worked for me because I’m a masocist and when I get an idea in my head I can’t drop it until I accomplish it. Will I always have my podcast? Probably not, but for the next year or two, it’s a great way to get me writing, shake me out of my normal ruts, and improve my craft.