Improve Your Podcast

Earlier this year I took a new day job. Instead of working from home, I now commute about 23 miles one way. Recently I decided to listen to writing podcasts during the commute and started with some recommended by writerly friends. As I expected, the quality varied.

podcast-microphoneThere are two things that make a podcast successful. Great content and great sound. While every podcast I sampled had the content, the sound quality wasn’t there on many of them. Typically, one of the hosts sounded fine while another didn’t. While I recognize the sound can’t be great every single time, I sampled more than one episode of the suspect podcasts and found each of them consistently had bad sound quality. Despite the good content, I have dropped all of the bad sound ones from my feed.

I spent my high school and college years working at several different radio stations and learned much about sound. For a podcast, there are three primary causes of bad sound.

First up is low quality microphones. If you’re going to have a good quality podcast, get good quality mics. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars. Quality mics are available on Amazon for around $50. Read reviews. Talk to other podcasters. Do your research. Note that most headsets have very poor quality mics, so skip these all together unless you want to pony up the cost for broadcast quality hardware like TV sports announcers use.

Second, make sure you are close enough to the mic. My guess is the poor quality on most of the podcasts I checked out was due to having one mic and the second host was too far away. TV and movies are notorious for doing this in scenes, even where the actor was supposed to be a professional. Get one mic for every person. You don’t need to put your lips on the mic, but it should quite close to you.

Third, make sure you use the mic correctly. Have you ever been to a meeting where the speaker holds the mic in front of their mouth and you still can’t hear them? Some mics are designed to speak directly into the top end, others the side of the mic. Still others are designed to pick up lots of sound. These are called omni-directional. Not good for podcasts as they are more likely pick up your barking dog or the garbage truck outside. Know what kind you have and how to use it.

One final tip to keep that mic in top usable condition. Don’t tap it to check if it’s on. That can damage the sensitive filament that picks up sound. You should speak into it.

There were other reasons why I dropped some podcasts. On one the host would giggle for no reason. It was annoying. But for most, it was due to poor sound.

Infinite Weekend 2018

As a writer, sometimes the best thing to do is get away. This weekend, I am at the Infinite Weekend Writer Retreat at a cabin in the mountains of Utah. I am surrounded by 30 of my writerly friends who are all at various stagings of writing their short stories or novels spanning various genres, mystery, horror, and fantasy.

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What is the retreat all about? Basically it is hitting some writing goals, whether that be actual new words on a page, pre-writing for NaNoWriMo, revising, or editing. We all take turns at preparing and cleaning up a meal. There are a couple of short educational presentations each day. There is plenty of time to hike, sleep, explore, or just think. And at night there are games or movies to rest the brain. It’s also a time to make new friends and see old ones again.

This is my third year at the Infinite Retreat, a testimony to how great this weekend it. Getting a retreat is something every writer should take time for. They are amazing.

LUW Fall Conference

One of the awesome perks of being a member of the League of Utah Writers is attending the annual Fall Conference. This year, it will be October 6-7 at Salt Lake Community College in Taylorsville. dreambig

I decided not to speak at the conference this year so that I can concentrate on learning. With Friday being free for everyone and Saturday featuring special guests Kevin J. Anderson and J.H. Moncrieff, as well as a host of local presenters, there is so much to learn.

Some classes I plan to get to are Get to Work, Law for Writers, Improve Your Online Karma, Scrivener Beyond the Basics: Outlining your Novel, Tips for Beginners, Writing Courtroom Scenes, and Grand Opening: How to Get Your Book Off to a Good Start. And that’s just the first day.

Things will wrap up Saturday evening with the Awards Banquet, where the league hands out awards in many categories. Then there is the Passing of the Gavel, where the new President takes over. I’m excited to see why my friend Johnny Worthen has planned for the league over the next year.

No matter what level your writing skills are at, there will be something for you at the Fall Conference. Please find me and say hello. I’ll be wearing a t-shirt with a funny saying. And above all, take what you learn, and get writing.

LUW 2017 Spring Conference

A year ago I was struggling with my first work of fiction, “Compelled to Kill”. When I started writing, I thought it would be easy. After all, I’d written two books and numerous magazine articles on software development. But I was struggling. It was much harder than I thought. So, I attended the League of Utah Writers Spring Conference.

I met other writers. I met editors. I met agents. I took notes. I learned. I applied. Here we are a year later and I’m still struggling with the story. But the difference is, today I have an idea of what I need to do. And it started at that conference.

What followed is exciting. I got sucked into the Utah writer community and I’m happy I did. I regularly attend two different chapter meetings, Oquirrh and Infinite Monkeys. I attended a writing retreat. I went to the Fall Conference.

Then in January, I started giving presentations at chapter meetings. And today, I’m excited to announce that I will be speaking at Spring Conference. My topic there will be Unintrovertable. I’m thrilled to be chosen. And not only will this be your own opportunity to grow your skills and meet others. It will also be your chance to heckle me. Not something you get to do every day.

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How do you sign up? I’m glad you asked. First, block off Saturday, April 8 on your calendar. Second, plan your route to Salt Lake Community College Taylorsville Campus. Finally, go to www.leagueofutahwriters.com and click on the Spring Conference banner right on the home page. Prices start at just $25, making this a cheap date.

Do it. Now. And I’ll see you there!

Un-introvert-able

Writers sometimes get to make up new words. It’s quite fun. Trust me. In this case, Un-introvert-able, is the name of my new class specifically for writers.

Here’s the synopsis:

Writers are often introverts. And sometimes without preparation you need to say something in public. But fear takes over and you say nothing. In this class, I take what I’ve learned from teaching software developers how to be better speakers and apply it to impromptu speaking for writers.

Topics that are covered:

  • How the introvert’s mind works
  • Overcoming fear
  • Preparing for the impromptu moment
  • The verbal story pitch
  • Asking questions at conferences and seminar
  • Readings and book launches

Class: 1 hour. Lecture style. Some class participation.

If you’re interested in having me present this class at your writer’s group or conference, contact me.

Get Out and Network with Other Writers

It was April, 2016 and I decided to venture out to the League of Utah Writers Spring Conference. This was my first real exposure to a writing community of any kind. I knew no one except Michael Darling, who I have known for 25+ years.

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I’m not introverted like many writers. I did speak up in some of the classes but mostly I sat there quietly, taking in all in. Learning everything I could, even about query letters, agents, and publishing, things I wouldn’t need for a long time as my novel was in its infancy.

Since then I have become a regular attendee at two different league chapters, attended the league Fall Conference, one writing retreat, a handful of write-ins, and some holiday parties. I have even given presentations at both chapters and have another scheduled for March. I have made friends, all of whom I want to get to know better, and met many others that I look forward to getting to know.

But why is this all so important? It’s because these people have shared wisdom and knowledge all that make me a better writer. The in-person contact is much more valuable than the virtual communities I’m part of on Facebook and other web sites.

I know it’s scary when you’re introverted to get out and embrace your community. Not every writer needs to do presentations, but every writer, no matter how long she has been writing, brings something share.

Are you experienced? You know what it takes to write. Published? You can tell others how to do it. Brand new? Your energy is contagious to others, many of whom may have hit the brick wall of writer’s block.

So, thank you, my writer friends, for your energy, advice, and experiences. And to writers I haven’t met. I look forward to meeting you at a conference, chapter meeting, or other event down the road.

Keeping Your Writing Goals

Last night I did a presentation to the Infinite Monkeys Chapter of the League of Utah Writers on Setting and Keeping your Writing Goals. I love this group and I am a regular attendee. It was an honor to present there. The discussion afterwards and additional input from the members was great and I have already updated the presentation.

I started out the presentation by reading a portion of the article Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators from The Atlantic. The gist of this article is that writers are more afraid to turn in something that’s bad more than nothing at all so they miss deadlines, whether real or self-imposed. Writers find any excuse to not write. It’s only when then we realize that it’s worse to meet the goal than not that we meet our goals.

I then discusses dreams, aspirations, priorities, resolutions, and goals. Don’t set the goal too high. It will never be reached. For example, if the goal is “Write a novel this year”, it will never be completed. That goal is too big. Break it down to smaller parts, “Write 10,000 words on my novel this month” or even something like, “Write 2500 words on my novel this week”. These goals make more sense and can be more easily accomplished.

But it doesn’t end there. Continually review the goals to determine if they make sense and to measure your progress. Say your aspiration is to write a novel during the year and your goal to do that is to write 2500 words per week. What happens if you can’t write that many? Either you have to adjust your life to meet the goal. Or change the goal and aspiration. Only by periodic review of the goal and your life can you succeed.

I also gave some tools to help you manage goals and even your time. The first is the Volt Planner. This is not a day planner but rather a goal planner. You make yearly goals then map then across months and finally weeks to complete them. The planner has weekly checkpoints where you review your progress.

The next tool is the Pomodoro Technique. Named for Pomodoro tomatoes, this time management tool has you work in 25 minute increments or sprints. At the end of the sprint you take a five minute break. After three sprints, you break for 15 minutes. If you get interrupted by something during the sprint, you start it over. There are more details to it then this, but I’ve found it effective in my daily non-writing job.

Chapter members recommended other tools to help. I haven’t looked into these yet, but want to get them here for reference:

A Different Kind of Writing Productivity – Blog post from Jamie Raintree.

Write Or Die – A website and/or app to help you write

2,000 to 10,000: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love – Book by Rachel Aaron

5,000 Words per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter – Book by Chris Fox

I will be working the next few months to meet my writing goals. Yes, months. Keeping a goal is not something you can complete in a day. In this case, it takes months of dedication to know you can do it. I also wish you success with keeping your writing goals.