There has been a slight change at Shack’s camp. I am now spending some time with Her Majesty’s government and so I am in the unfortunate position of losing 10 hours a week behind a wheel, 37½ hours manning a computer, but not writing, and five ½ hour periods where I am expected to consume food. That is a total loss of fifty hours from my potential scribbling time.
Now obviously this situation is an intolerable waste of time and if it wasn’t for the other social pressures of keeping cordial relationships with the bank manager and a few other interested parties, it would be a situation well avoided.
However, here I am and I need to do something in order to make the intolerable slightly less intolerable. Making time to write became last week’s utmost priority. Just how can I squeeze it in, when life is conspiring to squeeze it out?
In order to achieve this worthy aim I have turned to podcasts as my main means of transforming ten dismal hours of driving into more productive writing time. True; I will not be doing any actual scribbling during these ten hours, but like any other aspiring author there are lessons I need to learn. By using podcasts to feed me these lessons from some brilliant mentors, I am at least moving in the right direction.
Suitably armed with a basic MP3 player (1GB), budget headphones and rechargeable batteries, I dashed a quick search into Google. The search term “podcast about writing” produced a very pleasant surprise as Google happily claimed to have found 24,400,000 hits. Which was of course total nonsense. Seriously, if we allow that only ten percent are relevant, it will still give me 2,440,000 web pages to sift through, providing I have the time.
Until now I have always reserved my time with podcasts since I can read faster than words are spoken and text has the ability to be scan read for relevance. This meant that I could make better use of my time reading posts on-line than listening to them. I did make an exception for an occasional author video interview and Joanna Penn’s informative interviews and podcasts but apart from those I am a newbie podcast listener.
Amongst the first sites I have taken a close interest in are;
Learn Out Loud ; A lovely list of organised writing podcasts on a wide range of issues
Writing Excuses ; As featured in the wash-up in August. They do 15 minute podcasts
The Secrets ; Michael Stackpole’s brilliant podcasts of how-to’s covering all aspects of writing
The Writing Show ; Very interesting podcasts, well produced, I have listened to two so far and will be going back for more
The Creative Penn ; A list of all Joanna’s podcasts on book publishing and promotion
Grammar Girl. Quick and Dirty Tips ; Mignon Fogarty’s excellent podcast site, and it is not just on Grammar.
To start with I have been jumping around between Joanna’s and The Writing Show’s podcasts, because they are sizable and take very little time to download on to the MP3 player. Not all podcast sites have sizable downloads, some are only a few minutes long and are not worth the investment in time to download and transfer them. If only these sites had some files collected in album files for readers who have similar needs to mine. Ms Fogarty, if you are reading. Please. A monster problem that one other site had, was the same download name for all the different files… Aagh! Too much hassle to rename them. If you remember that I am on negative time here, it means that any site causing me to waste time gets ignored. Shame, because some had cool titles.
So far all is good and I feel slightly blessed driving and walking the streets of Cambridge; having one or other writing guru chatting wise words into my ears as I meander along. Even the problem of occasional street noise drowning out the earphones, has now been resolved by some sage advice from another Twitter user, who explained to me how to use my own equipment. Sheepishly I have resolved to RTFM and I now remember that resolve every time I press the backtrack toggle to re-listen to some interesting point.
Each day my hour drive is now my private tutorial time, covering all aspects on writing, marketing, and platform building.
I have been playing with yet another use of the MP3 player. This one is to play a file made from feeding a non-DRM eBook though a text-2-speech program. For this I have been using books from Smashwords since they only have DRM free books on their site. I already use TextAloud for proof reading my work (see my earlier post Proof Reading Your Manuscript ) and this software will convert a 50,000 word book into an MP3 file in only a few minutes.
Admittedly the sound file is not without faults but most of the wisdom can be gleaned with a modicum of irritation. References to diagrams or tables can be a problem but I just look them up, in the original file, the next time I am near a PC. Tip: Keep your eBook with you in a USB data stick, unless your phone has an ePub application.
When reading reference and “how-to” books the limitations of the text-2-speech software is not a problem. Since I have previously trained myself to interpret the intended meaning when multiple pronunciation words are mispronounced i.e. read sounding like reed when red was correct.
Unfortunately this breaks down on the third MP3 option for productive use of these ten hours. This is the exciting possibility of using the time to listen to other author’s novels. Here though the robotic elements of the natural speech engine come through and it no longer provides an acceptable delivery. I have always found this is not a problem with my own work, where I know ‘how’ it is supposed to sound, but it falls apart when there isn’t an established mental picture.
Fortunately more and more audio books are available for download. Some are free, some via subscription and a wide range that can be purchased. Though for me, even with a human doing the reading, listening to an audio book will always be inferior to reading text. Normally I study the form on the page as I read through and often leave comments behind on post-it notes. However, I must admit to looking forward to my first audio book, I do want to see if it brings out other strengths, ones that, as yet, I have failed to recognise.
I have to call a close here, time you know, but before I go I will just let you know that this blog post has been written in the ½ hour periods when I was expected to consume nourishment. What technology have I used?
I will let you know in next weeks post, Making time to Write, part 2.
If anyone has links to good podcast sites, please, please let me know.
Photo; Boppin to nothin, craigmdennis