5 Writing Steps that Produce Amazing Podcast Episodes
For many years of my life, I tried to find a way around the writing process. I figured if I just worked hard enough to do it right the first time, I wouldn't have to revise it. Of course, if I was truly talented, I wouldn't have to waste any time prewriting either. After all, outlining and such is so boring.
Well, a decade and eleven books (plus over two dozen short stories and countless articles and podcasts) later, I finally get why it’s called the writing process. It is, indeed, a process. A long one. Trying to save time by skipping prewriting exercises and trying to circumvent revisions result in a more stressful experience and an inferior product at the end.
Even in podcasting, we're writers. Whether you extensively script each episode or you work from a general idea and wing it, you are implementing the writing process. The more you put into planning (prewriting), the smoother your podcast recording (draft) will go. Then you re-record what's necessary and edit the audio files into a flow (revision and proofreading), and finally release it to the world (publishing).
Especially if you'd like to include more of a narrative or storytelling element in your podcast to more deeply engage your listeners, consider putting more into each of these steps in the writing process.
Prewriting is an extremely important, multi-faceted step in the writing process. This is the planning phase. The research phase. This is when just at the moment before you fall asleep, you have a wonderful idea for your next show. This is daydreaming at work about how to word a clever turn of phrase. This is talking to yourself in the shower to see how the words will flow. This is looking out the window at Starbucks when you see something pass by that sparks inspiration.
Although prewriting can be brainstorming with a mate over a pint, it can also can be more structured, like writing an outline of the show to ensure you don't forget to include a special anecdote or piece of pertinent research. Whatever of the many methods you use to plan your show, those all fall under the prewriting part of the writing process.
If you put more into this stage, your podcast will have greater focus and more fully engage your listeners.
In podcasting, the draft might be a fully scripted show written out and revised on its own, or it can be a off-the-cuff recording based on research, experience, and/or knowledge. In any case, drafting is the process of getting something down or recorded. It gives us something to embellish or trim, because the bulk of the work, besides prewriting, comes next in the revision process.
If you're including an element of storytelling in your podcast, this is a great time to draft that story or anecdote, to make sure you have it handy when you record so as not to miss any important points. It's also when to test the segue into and out of the anecdote so your listeners can make the same connection or come to the same conclusion that is so clear in your head.
Drafting might be recording something on-the-fly or out in the field. At a conference or on the street. It's getting together all the pieces necessary for the editing (revision) stage because that's when the real work and magic starts. That when you polish your creation into a cohesive whole.
This stage is powerful. There's no other word for it. When editing audio, video, or the written word, this is where you ensure its form will captivate your audience.
About 12 years ago, I made a political documentary, and I remember feeling that power as I crouched over my computer splicing video and sound together. How I organized the footage or what voice over I chose for a specific image had a humongous impact on the tone and message of the piece.
It was pure power. I had in my cave-like editing studio the power to manipulate thought and emotion based on my choices, and it humbled me. I saw in that moment how everything we see in film or on the news, everything we read in magazines or the newspapers, everything we hear on talk radio, have been specifically chosen to be in that order for (often) the sole purpose of getting a message or particular point of view across, of altering thought or perception. It all rests in the hands of those creating the footage. Their choices directly influence (nay, control) our perception and often our beliefs.
In podcasting, we do this as well. Perhaps a podcast about knitting wouldn't have as drastic an effect on culture as a political podcast, but for those listeners who have come to trust that knitting podcaster, it could influence the brand of yarn they buy to which patterns they buy.
All this happens when we sit alone behind our audio editor and put together our show. The music we use, the parts we leave in, and the parts we edit out all come together to convey a particular idea or point of view. That is power. Use it wisely and with integrity.
Perhaps the most boring part of the writing process is looking for all those little typos and grammatical errors. In podcasting, it's listening to your show for any technical tweaks or last-minute edits before you put it out to the world. It's boring, but essential.
I'm sure you don't want to listen to the same thing you've just recorded and edited, often playing the same section over and over to cut it just at the right place, again. You've heard it so much, you're ready to never hear your own voice again. But if you skip this essential step, something will inevitably be missed but by then it will be out there. Forever (and ever and ever).
Take the time and listen with fresh ears, preferably after a good night's sleep or at the very least after a brisk walk to clear your head. You will be glad you did when it goes live to the world.
Finally. You're ready to share your work with the rest of of us. Cyberspace will have one more original creation swimming around in its vast atmosphere, and it will be all because of you and your efforts. People will listen to your words. It's a way to connect with another human being on an intimate level, merging thoughts and ideas into one, sharing inspiration, or just brightening their day.
The writing process can make your podcasts more focused, relevant, and engaging. Each step from prewriting through revision and onto publishing are important to the process of creation whether you're writing a story or scripting a podcast. Work the process. Trust the process. It will improve your end product, which will engage your listeners and keep them coming back.
Certainly you can throw your podcast together or just talk about whatever crosses your mind as an insight into the human psyche, but if you strive to teach, inspire, inform, or even entertain, take the time to incorporate this important process into your podcasts and watch your audience grow.
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