The Practice of Creativity

Surviving the First Week of NaNoWriMo & Great Writing Podcasts to Inspire You

Posted on: November 10, 2014

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NaNoWriMo update: I’m pleased to say that after the first week of NaNoWriMo, I am on track with a word count of over 15,000 words. And, I haven’t overindulged in caffeine or pulled any all-nighters. I attribute this success mostly to drawing on an outline that I wrote during the summer. As I said in an earlier post, I tend to be a discovery writer (or ‘pantser’). However, for this project I am experimenting with using an outline. I have found Elizabeth George’s Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and The Writing Life extremely helpful on the topic of outlines. She encourages writers to do a step outline (basically a list of scenes), for each section of the book and then write a plot outline. Since I am working on a mystery, where plot is essential, these have been helpful tools. I also have been experimenting with the well-known ‘Snowflake technique’ that helps with structuring a story.

This foundation has been a lifesaver, especially since I missed three days of writing. The other thing I do before I begin writing is to compose a nice note or affirmation about my writing. It’s usually something short and sweet: “Michele, you create magic when you write.” I find that taking the time to say something positive helps my mental outlook. For more thoughts on writing affirmations and how to use them, see this post. Also, NaNoWriMo’s organization and communication with us is great. I have enjoyed receiving emails this week from NaNoWriMo that tell me about ‘writing sprints’ organized on Twitter. The NaNoWriMo website is a treasure trove of help, support and encouragement. When inspiration (and willpower) during the month flags, writers can check out the “Pep Talkers” section, where bestselling authors including Brandon Sanderson (“Mistborn”), Jim Butcher (“The Dresden Files”), and Kami Garcia (co-author of the “Beautiful Creatures” series) will provide encouragement.

One of the ways I treat myself (and also sometimes procrastinate) is to listen to podcasts about writing. I thought I’d share my favorites with you. I hope these stimulate and inspire your creative work. I’d love to hear about any writing podcasts that you adore, too.

I Should Be Writing: host, Mur Lafferty

‘Winner of the Podcast Peer Award and the Parsec Award, this is a show about a writer going from wanna-be to pro. Focusing on the emotional road blocks one finds in a writing career, this show speaks to over 8000 listeners every week. ‘

What I love about it: Mur is a speculative fiction writer and this is one of the longest running podcasts of its kind. Mur’s honesty about the ups and downs of the writing process really speaks to me. She’s very encouraging and a master at sharing tips on how to keep one’s self writing (and why it is important to do so). She periodically conducts interviews and also an occasional feedback show where people can send in questions that she answers.

New Letters on the Air: host, Angela Elam

‘New Letters on the Air is the half-hour radio companion to the literary quarterly magazine New Letters. Each week the program features intimate conversations with contemporary writers who reveal secrets about their creative methods, read a few favorite passages, and inspire the listener’s imagination.’

What I love about it: This podcast makes me feel like I am sitting in the audience, listening to excellent writers talk about craft and read their work. I don’t get to enough readings and this podcast introduces me to many literary poets and novelists that I might not know about otherwise. Angela asks smart and thoughtful questions of each guest.

Writing Excuses: hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells

‘To educate aspiring writers in the ways of the author. Writing excuses is a fast-paced, weekly podcast covering topics related to writing genre fiction.’

What I love about it: This podcast’s tagline is ‘Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart’. All joking aside, this is an insightful podcast hosted by some of the most well-respected and successful writers and artists working in fantasy, horror and science fiction. They work well as a team and cover a wide range of topics about novel writing. And a bonus is that at the end of every episode, they offer a writing prompt.

The Dead Robots’ Society Podcast: hosts, Paul E. Cooley, Jason Macumber, Terry Mixon, and Scott Roche

‘This podcast is by aspiring writers for aspiring writers. The Dead Robots’ Society was created by Justin Macumber in an effort to offer advice and support to other aspiring writers. It was inspired — in part — by Mur Lafferty’s podcast “I Should Be Writing.” Over the course of the show’s storied life it’s had a bevy of co-hosts.

All the hosts, current and former, have writing experience of some kind. They gather on a weekly basis to share stories of their individual journeys and discuss topics important to the world of writing. Occasional forays into the territories of brown dragons, taco eating cowboy space ninjas, or random discussions involving monkeys are all considered rumor at best and none of the hosts are willing to admit any of that actually happened.’

What I love about it: These hosts are funny, bawdy and pretty rowdy. They cover the business of writing (especially about self-publishing and working with indie presses) and also how to stay motivated.

The Roundtable Podcast: hosts, Dave Robinson and Brion Humphrey

‘The Roundtable Podcast is about nurturing ideas, fostering inspiration, and getting the creative juices flowing.  It’s also about mistakes and blind alleys, harsh reality and uncomfortable truths.

Each week we invite publishers, editors, and authors to get on the line with a writer who presents an idea on the table… an idea for a story they want to write.  And then everyone digs in, asking questions, pointing out problems, and proposing solutions.  Characters are dissected or dismissed, plots reinforced or torn apart altogether, and hopefully what started as an idea, becomes something more.’

What I love about it: I’m a new listener to this podcast. I’m captivated by the variety of formats they have: interviews, workshops and themed conversations. They try to create ‘literary alchemy’ with each podcast. I think they do.

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4 Responses to "Surviving the First Week of NaNoWriMo & Great Writing Podcasts to Inspire You"

These are some really fantastic tips, Michelle. Writing little love notes to yourself? Genius! I’m going to do that today. Congratulations on surpassing 15k, too. That’s a hard milestone to make. I also use the snowflake method and really love it! I usually start with a “pitch” and then break it out and fill it out until it’s a detailed synopsis. I like the step-outline method, too, I might try that. Thanks for all these great resources.

Hi Kiersi,
You are welcome! Thanks so much for the support. Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (aka) SARK teaches a whole method around love notes from the ‘inner wise self’ which I have adapted. Still playing with snowflake method and I love how it takes me deeper into answering questions (and trying to solve problems).

Thanks for this podcast information. I appreciate it!

TY! You’re welcome, Amanda! I hope they inspire the new writing you are doing.

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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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