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The best podcasts for writers

There are so many podcasts about writing now, covering the craft, the business, the pleasures – and the pain. Here are ten of the best.

By Sheryl GarrattPublished 2 years ago 5 min read

So let’s talk about writing.

It’s a process that is interesting to virtually no one except other writers. Luckily, there are a lot of us. And podcasts talking about writing seem to increase by the week now.

These are some of my favourites, covering the craft and the business of writing, the pleasures and the pain. What are yours?

1. In Writing with Hattie Crisell

Each episode sees British journalist Hattie Crisell go deep with a writer over 60 minutes. She’s an excellent interviewer who does her research, so she asks great questions and gets a good rapport with each guest. There are gems, new ways of thinking about writing, in every episode.

I loved novelist Maggie O’Farrell talking about why she has two desks – each for a different project; Lucy Prebble on how the Succession writing room works; and Charlie Booker and James Acaster just being their brilliant comedic selves.

2. Write Now with Sarah Werner

If you’re feeling lonely on your writing journey, this is the place to go. Most of these short (around 15-minute) podcasts are monologues about the writing life, filled with wisdom, vulnerability and discussing the kind of blocks and insecurities that will be familiar to most writers. There are occasional guest interviews, and these are wonderful too. But mainly it’s Sarah Werner, talking with warmth, humour and searing honesty about her own struggles and those of the writers she knows and works with. Whatever your challenge is right now, she’ll have an episode that can help.

3. The Shit No One Tells You About Writing

The format here is the star. The first segment is Books With Hooks, and involves author and creative writing teacher Bianca Marais and literary agents Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra critiquing query letters and the opening pages of works submitted by authors hoping to get representation. If you’re interested in getting an agent or submitting your work for publication, this is a treasure trove of information, insight and intelligent criticism gently focussed on making each author better. It’s followed by more conventional interview with a writer or someone involved in the publishing business. While this is always interesting, the first section is pure gold.

4. The Offcuts Drawer

Host Laura Shavin is a British actor, comedian and also a voiceover artist. She interviews writers about the scripts that never got made, the work that was rejected, rewritten or otherwise never published: then gets fellow actors to read excerpts. It’s comforting to know how many top writers have work that never found an audience. Lisa Jewell’s episode offers down-to-earth insights into the novel-writing and editing processes; crime writer Val McDermid showcases her usual dry, self-effacing wit (I want to see her unmade minimalist TV cop drama); and the scriptwriters leave you awestruck that anything ever gets made for the screen at all, when so many obstacles lie in wait.

5. The Creative Penn

Joanna Penn is a successful independent author of both fantasy thrillers and non-fiction books about writing and self-publishing. Her long-running podcast sees her discussing new developments in the world of publishing and what they might mean for independent authors especially in the first part of the show, then often chatting with another author about the business and process of writing.

If you like this, you might also enjoy The Self-Publishing Show, hosted by successful indie thriller writer Mark Dawson.

6. Writing Excuses

Long-running podcast offering short but information-packed 15-minute episodes in which a guest writer or the rotating list of writer/hosts discuss the business but mainly the mechanics of writing fiction. Is it acceptable to change the geography of a real city to suit your plotline? And you do you build believable worlds? How do you name a non-existent plant or animal? Do side-characters need their own story arc? And how do you make non-human characters convincing? Worth looking at for the titles alone: a recent episode was called The Gun On The Mantel is Actually a Fish.

8. The Writer Files

Dan Simpson is a children’s TV presenter and he brings that somewhat breathless style to his interviews with authors. He doesn’t seem to read a great deal – his 2020 target was 20 books, which doesn’t seem a lot if you’re talking to writers regularly. But with over 200 episodes so far he’s managed to secure interviews with big names like Ian Rankin, Ken Follett. Kate Mosse and Joanne Harris, all talking about how, where and when they write; the tools they use; and even what fonts they choose to write in.

9. Literary Friction

This one is a happy new find for me, as there are 120 episodes to catch up on. It’s as much about intelligent reading as writing. Literary agent Carrie Plitt and her friend, the academic and writer Octavia Bright, interview a writer about their latest book. They then have a more general discussion about the genre/theme (they are fearsomely well-read), before they and the guest each recommend a book. I’ve only listened to a handful of episodes so far, but each led me to order at least one new book (Maggie Nelson’s On Freedom was the latest). I usually binge on a new podcast, but I might have to ration these out!

If you like authors (and other creators) talking about books they love, there’s also Daisy Buchanan’s entertaining podcast You’re Booked. Daisy examines her guest’s bookshelves, and asks about the books that inspire and entertain them – happily including popular fiction as well as more high-brow literature.

10. Longform

Each weekly episode of this long-running podcast sees a non-fiction writer talking in-depth about the story behind their stories. Having worked as a journalist for 30 years, I’m passionate about longform stories, and the need to give writers the space to stretch out and really tell the tale they researched. But this is about more than news reporting. Hosts Aaron Lammer. Max Linsky and Evan Ratcliff ask great questions and gently encourage discussion of craft, ethics, insecurities, career progression, and the challenges of telling the truth in a world addicted to lies.

And finally..

Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors. He also happens to be very wise about the creative process. So his appearance on The Tim Ferriss Show is well worth a listen.

Every morning, from 8-9am I follow Gaiman’s advice and sit at my desk. For that hour, I can stare into space, or I can write. Nothing else. The writing usually wins…

***

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About the Creator

Sheryl Garratt

Sheryl Garratt is a former editor of The Face and Observer magazines, and has written professionally for more than 30 years. She is also a coach working with creatives of all kinds. Find her at thecreativelife.net

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    Sheryl GarrattWritten by Sheryl Garratt

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