My 3 Favourite podcasts about writing and what you’ll learn from them

This week, writing podcasts can be:

  • As long as a piece of string
  • Chuckle-worthy
  • Heaven on a hat stand
Photo by Wallace Chuck on

My three favourite podcasts about writing

I have tried listening to several podcasts on writing over the years and a lot of them I didn’t stick with.  That doesn’t make them bad podcasts, it just means that they didn’t capture my interest at the time.

These three are the ones I still listen to every week.

I have gone back and listened to them right from the beginning and have not regretted it.

I have learned a lot from them and enjoyed them.

Writing Excuses logo and tag line

Writing Excuses

Hosted by:

Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells and Howard Tayler.

What I like about it:

The tagline for this podcast is ‘fifteen minutes long’ and that’s perfect.  In recent years, they have tended to go over that limit more often than not, bringing it up to about twenty minutes, but it’s still a very small, digestible episode.

It means there is no straying off topic, no rambling, no prevaricating and no searching through hours of drivel to find that one useful gem of information.

Each episode is clearly titled and so you can find the subjects you are interested in (particularly if you’ve listened to them and want to go back to hear about something again).

I also love the fact that there are four main hosts (with long-term or short-term additional hosts) and so, for every topic, you’re guaranteed to get a range of opinions.

The guests and other experts they bring on are interesting and usually addressing a specific question or topic.

My favourite series:

My favourite Writing Excuses series is 11, without a doubt.  It blew my mind. 

I have listened to it several times, just to remind myself of how brilliant it is.  I still think about it so much now.  It’s a year of ‘elemental genres’ and I have never heard anyone break genre down in that way before.

This podcast is an ideas podcast with an ensemble subgenre, blended with humour and a dash of drama.  You’ll get these references if you listen to series 11.

How the podcast is structured:

Each episode is (approximately) fifteen minutes long and is released every Monday.

The four main hosts take part throughout the year, and additional hosts join them on a short-term basis.

These days, each series is one year long and starts in January. 

Each series has a different overarching topic, such as character, worldbuilding or structure.  The episodes that year focus on one small aspect of that topic and, by the end of the year, they will have covered a complete masterclass of that topic.

When I started listening to this and realised it was brilliant, I went right back to the beginning to listen to series 1, episode 1 and worked my way right through.  I didn’t want to miss anything they had to say.

I wouldn’t recommend doing that.  The first few series, though enjoyable in their way, were very much a boys’ own club and much less structured than they are now.  It took them a while to get into their stride but, when they did, it was gold.

I would recommend starting at series 6.  This is when they really began to do what they’re doing so brilliantly now.

What it’s good at:

  • Giving clear, concise advice on specific areas within writing
  • Naming episodes clearly so you can find what you are interested in
  • Having a range of (often differing) opinions to show you a range of styles and personalities
  • Spending several episodes delving into different aspects of one topic to give a really deep understanding of that whole topic
  • Feeling the love and admiration that the hosts have for each other
Tim Clare, Death of 1000 Cuts logo

Death of 1000 Cuts

Hosted by:

Tim Clare.

What I like about it:

What I like about Death of 1000 Cuts is the raw, brutal honesty of the host when he talks about writing and mental health, and how the two are linked.

I also like the imaginative, often shockingly rude metaphors.  Seriously, I was blushing like a maiden aunt for the first few episodes because I was not expecting that level of genitalia talk.

The episodes are longer than the Writing Excuses ones, usually coming in at between one and two hours.  The host is not afraid to talk around a knotty, problematic or nuanced subject and explore it in depth.

Tim Clare is really good at making listeners feel like we get to know him, we are invited into his world and he is a kind host.

My favourite episode:

Some of my favourite episodes are the ones that are sprawling conversations, with a hint of fun in them. 

For example, one of my favourites is series 3, episode 24: StorySmashing with Nate Crowley.  This is a fun episode which focuses on different ways to brainstorm ideas.  The two hosts go ahead and brainstorm three ideas to show us how it’s done.  It might be my favourite because I love the excitement and possibility of creating stories.

There are lots that I love, though.  Every time he does a ‘writing ramble’, he says ‘this might not be for everyone’ but those are some of my favourite episodes, where he digs slowly down into a topic in a way I’ve never heard anyone else do it.

How it is structured:

There are four main types of episodes: interviews, writing rambles, first-page critiques and free writing courses.

There are a huge number of episodes in which the host interviews someone else from the writing industry.  Several writing podcasts do this but it’s always interesting to listen to.  Each interviewer and interviewee bring something unique to the discussion, so you’ll never hear the same interview twice, even if you’ve heard them speaking before.

We all know that, some interviewers are a bit stiff and don’t get the best out of their interviewees, but Tim Clare always seems to.  His enthusiastic approach is endearing and energetic.

He manages to ask interesting questions, questions I’ve not heard other people ask, and still get down to the nitty gritty of writing.

The episodes subtitled as ‘writing rambles’ are focused on one topic and the host talks about his opinions, experiences and thoughts on that subject.  It means these episodes delve deeply into a nuanced discussion of topics that otherwise might get a simplistic overview and reach a superficial conclusion.  I find these episodes really interesting.

What Tim Clare does that I haven’t encountered on any other podcast is the first page critiques.  He takes the first 250 words of someone’s novel (and anyone can send theirs in to be critiqued) and goes through, line by line, giving detailed word and sentence-level feedback.  It’s fascinating to hear his analysis and get that level of critique.  Even though it’s not my writing, I’ve found it incredibly useful to hear that level of detailed editing and have applied it as well as I can to my own work.

In addition to that, there are two whole series of writing workshops.  These are free, online workshops that you can get from Tim Clare’s website or his podcast, and they are entirely worth listening to and doing the writing activities.

If you have always wanted to go to a writing workshop or writing retreat but couldn’t afford it, try these out.

What it’s good at:

  • Nuanced discussions about mental health, writing, social expectations and any combination of these things
  • Demystifying the process of writing, submitting or publishing by having frank discussions with other authors and industry professionals
  • Identifying areas in which mental health, physical health, social expectations and the craft of writing cross over
  • Providing practical support for writers looking to develop their craft, with first-page critiques and free workshops
  • Making the reader feel part of a larger community and like we are friends with Tim Clare
My Dad Wrote a Porno logo

My Dad Wrote a Porno

Hosted by:

Jamie Morton, Alice Levine and James Cooper.

What I like about it:

This is a masterclass in identifying writing techniques and skills.  Not necessarily a masterclass in using them…

It is absolutely hilarious.  Seriously.  Hilarious.

How it is structured:

In My Dad Wrote a Porno, Jamie reads one chapter a week of his father’s erotic novels to his two best friends.

Yes, it is exactly the way it sounds.

The series are about 13-15 episodes long, usually with bonus footnotes episodes.  The episodes come out on a Monday, with footnotes out on a Thursday.  The series don’t run all year – that is a major down-side, that we have to wait for the next series to come round again.

As Jamie reads the latest chapter, with varying degrees of success on the character’s accents, his co-hosts leap in, interrupt, laugh, question and generally look on in disbelief as they dissect what is happening in the novels, what it means for the characters, what specific phrases mean… just generally what it means.

We get two layers to these podcasts: the book itself and the critique from the hosts.

What it’s good at:

It (inadvertently) covers topics such as:

  • Forgetting character names at random in the middle of book 1 (poor Donna)
  • How to block character movements between lines of dialogue (for example, a character putting their shoes in the corner of a room while they talk)
  • Sexuality, queerness and social acceptance
  • The (mis)use of; semi-colons
  • How to use language to create idioms and sayings
  • Introducing characters
  • Maintaining internal consistency with plot and world-building
  • Discussions on craft, language and reader experience

Let me know what your favourite writing podcast is

I’m always on the look-out for more amazing writing podcasts so let me know if there’s one you’ve loved.

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