This is Chapter 5 of our Engaging Episodes series on creating hugely engaging podcast content.
A blank page to a writer or an empty canvas to an artist can be daunting. Where do you begin? How do you start? The same questions probably strike you when you’re considering your next podcast episode.
Producing an individual podcast or an entire series isn’t easy. But being a better podcast planner and an efficient writer can increase your podcasting productivity dramatically.
Now, when I use the term writing, remember that the decision on how and what to write is a totally personal thing. Writing in the podcast sense means planning out your episode in whatever way works for you.
That could be a complete word for word script – it could be a detailed bullet point structure, or it could simply be a loose set of topic headers. Whatever it is, it’s still a form of writing, and it will help the planning and structuring of your podcast.
Outline – Write – Edit
Following the simple plan of creating an outline, writing (or planning) the structure of your show and then editing as distinct phases will dramatically improve your efficiency.
Whether you write out or simply use this middle phase as a pure plan, it’s important to write first and edit later. Writing is a creative task while editing is very much a logical one. Write the first draft and ignore the temptation to edit as you go. Instead, take a break, go for a walk, and then revisit your first draft as a ruthless editor.
We touched on the benefits of outlining in Episode 1. To me, as a writer, it’s the most critical stage in the process.
Not only will it make you a more efficient podcaster, but it will also ensure that your final show has a structure that works. I’ve trialled a host of different outlining methods and tools over the years.
Text Based Outlining
You can use any text editor or word processor to create an outline for your show. The simplest way is to produce a bullet point list of the show. Managing, storing and retrieving multiple text documents can be a challenge. If you like the simple text approach, I’d recommend you use Evernote. It works across all devices and platforms and is especially handy for capturing ideas and thoughts and storing them for later.
It’s also what Colin uses to create the outlines for every show The Podcast Host creates..
Old School Outlining
Some of you might prefer the old fashioned ‘pen and paper’ approach. Some people I know prefer this approach as it strips away any technology interference and helps them think more clearly.
You could get yourself a dedicated notepad for outlining and planning your podcast or simply use a sheet of A4 paper. Whatever works for you.
You could even use index cards, where each element of your show has its own card. The benefit of this approach is that it allows you to shuffle the deck, and experiment with changing the order of your show.
This is my personal favourite outlining tool. Again you can sketch these out by hand, but getting one of the excellent MindMapping applications that are available today is more efficient. I use iThoughts, which I have set-up across my iPad, iPhone and MacBook Air. But others are available and will do just as good a job for you.
When it comes to writing your script, or at least the set-piece moments throughout your show, any word processing application (MS Word, Pages, etc.) will do the job. I prefer to write using ‘distraction free’ applications. This basically means the interface is stripped down to just a blinking cursor on a blank screen. Word, for example, has a distraction free mode, but I prefer using iAWriter (Mac).
For more complex projects, particularly the planning of an entire podcast series, a writing tool like Scrivener can save you time and manage the different components of your complete series.
At The Podcast Host, we use Scrivener to create and organise a lot of our writing, from single blog articles to full eBooks. Colin even created a 200+ page thesis using it!
As a writer, I use the web based Grammarly application for proofing and editing short pieces of content. For longer pieces, I’ll usually outsource to a proofreader. For podcasting, though, especially for the scripted parts of your show the web-based Hemmingway application would be a great alternative.
It does a great job of highlighting errors in your text; my personal favourite is its ability to identify repeating words or phrases. It also helps to simplify your writing by highlighting long and complicated sentences. This is particularly good for podcasters and anyone else who is writing content that is to be spoken out loud.
Tools and Tactics
It doesn’t matter what tools or tactics you deploy – the important thing is that you outline, write and edit your podcast content independently. Trust me, it works. Do it, and you’ll never be intimidated by a blank page again.
Over to you
OK folks, your turn. Share in the comments your go to writing or planning tool – better still; why not share one of your actual outlines. I’ve no doubt that there will be other approaches that we can all learn from.
The Engaging Episodes Series Guide
Introduction – Engaging Episodes: The Powerful Podcasting Series
Chapter 1 – The Art of Creating an Invisible Podcast Script
Chapter 2 – Be a teller of great tales. The Power of Narrative Flow for your podcast
Chapter 3 – How to Inject Personality into your Podcast
Chapter 4 – Hooks, Taglines and the power of words
Chapter 5 – Tools & Tips to Podcast Planning Perfection
Chapter 6 – Making Your Podcast Pleasing on the Palate