My wife called me over to the garage and pointed down to a piece of machinery the size of a fist. “I think it fell out of the car,” she said. The metal thingamajig was pointy on one end and round on the other. It looked very serious, greasy, and important. It sat in our garage, staring at us in willful silence, daring us to use the car or start the lawnmower and watch the entire contraption fall apart because of one missing piece. It was intimidating, yet not as daunting as having to put the piece back where it belonged. Did I dare enter the sanctity of the car’s engine or undercarriage with the tools we stored in a plastic sandwich baggie?
I’m the owner of many other intimidating thingamabobs that have been flung out of my head and onto hundreds of pages in notebooks which I organize by year. Not all of them are greasy and even less are serious. Plot ideas, a character’s face, or bits of dialogue whiz out of my brain with a puff of purple smoke and squat in my notebooks until I have the proper tools to assemble them into a story.
To graduate from a writer’s sandwich baggie to a writers’ tool chest, everyone has advice: read, keep writing, take classes, get an MFA, read some more, etc. Like most writers, I live multiple lives all at once with different jobs, classes, family duties, chores, and oh…I was supposed to read an entire book this week and contemplate how I can add a new writer’s tool to my collection? It’s not easy, but I’ve found a helpful shortcut: writing podcasts.
Here’s a selection of the writing podcasts to help you learn in little chunks (10-15 minutes) that most people can fit into their day. All are available on iTunes and GooglePlay for listening on popular devices. Subscribe to your favorite, plug in, and take a short but sacred moment to improve your craft.
Best Writing Podcasts to Boost your Craft
A team of five writers answer one craft question per week—and they do it in fifteen minutes, plus provide a writing prompt to get you moving. That’s some serious efficiency. Past topics included: “Brainstorming from News Headlines;” “How to Steal for Fun and Profit;” and “The Problem of Originality.”
This is a sci-fi/horror/fantasy writer’s dream podcast. Lecturers from the Odyssey Writing Workshop give 10-15 minute talks that are usually reserved just for the small handful of people that are admitted to this competitive workshop. You can actually hear some of the participants sneezing and coughing during the recordings, so you can pretend you’re there. Authors like Holly Black, Kiji Johnson, Catherynne M. Valente, Jack Ketchum, George R. R. Martin, and more chat about world building, writing in scene, and how they got an editor to take notice of their work.
If you don’t have fifteen minutes to spare in a day, then this one’s for you! 10 Minute Writer’s Workshop is hosted by New Hampshire Public Radio’s Virginia Precott. Prescott interviews writers from every genre like Joe Hill, Helen Simonson, and Tom Perrotta, among others, to give advice. Joe Hill talks about how scary first sentences are in his writing process, and Elin Hilderbrand discusses the personal writing habits that she finds most productive.
Back in the garage, we’re hunched over and searching for an obvious hole somewhere in the car that screamed “I’M BROKEN!” My wife was diligent (as always) and I was ready to give up (which happens often when it comes to cars). The little metal part was dirty and I didn’t like touching it with sweaty hands. I stood up to stretch and arched my back when I saw the culprit: the right side of the garage door was drooping down. It had lost its wheel. We deduced this in less than fifteen minutes, which is all the time that’s required of you to boost your craft with a podcast and build that tool chest. As of right now, the wheel still sits in our garage, but at least we know where it belongs. Perhaps I’ll listen to a podcast while I try to fix it.