Essay–Writing for the Podcast (or not)

Once I got my feet wet in the podcast world, I figured out there’s a way to write FOR the podcast. That means focusing on writing chapters that can be recorded in 2000-3000 word chunks. It means ending those chunks in a cliffhanger of sorts. Basically, it’s all about timing. And if you’re not doing a straight read (I don’t, because I’m an idiot), it means getting rid of all those pesky “said” tags.

But here’s the problem. If you’re not just going to write for audio, you have to actually focus on how people are going to read it. Great audio doesn’t necessarily translate to great prose. They are two very different things and as a content producer, you have to decide which is more important. Or at least I think you do.

I’ve been on panels before where we’ve discussed this. In the last year and a half or so, I’ve decided to stop writing for the podcast. I’m writing for readers. This means having those pesky said tags. This means putting attribution up front. This means paying attention to how readers will read it with the sound of their own voices rather than yours.

I think it’s an evolution of sorts and it has drastically improved my writing. I’ve incorporated it into my style now and I hope people still find it entertaining. I can’t guarantee that, but it seems to be working.

If I could go back and rework Closet Treats and Tattoo, I might. But see, those stories are done. I can waste my time going back and try to rewrite/fix old stories, or I can focus on new ones, the ones my audience wants to hear. I wish I was a better writer when I started. Perhaps those old stories would bring in new audience members. After all, Tattoo brought me a lot of buzz back at the beginning of my podcast career.

But like I said, they’re done. It’s time to focus on things going forward. So I’m no longer writing for the podcast. I can’t. I can’t be worried about having a new podcast episode to put out every week. I’m not going to rush to get something done just so it can get out there. Trying to do those things makes for bad writing and sub-par storytelling. Some may be able to do it and do it right, but I’m not able to. It just doesn’t work for me. And rather than giving you something for your earholes that neither of us will think is great, I’d rather take my time and create a badass story, the way it should be.

You can write for your podcast. I did. It worked. For a while. Now I’m writing for the books, the stuff I can publish, and hopefully one day make enough money to get in the black. Plus, if I tell a really badass story, you’ll be happier as both a listener and a reader. So I’ll remove those pesky “said” tags for the podcast episodes. I’ll make the changes in the script to produce a good audiobook, but that’s always going to be secondary to the prose.

I’m not anywhere near happy with where I am as a writer. I need to focus on the craft. I need to focus on improvement. I need to focus on being a writer first, and a podcaster second. And trust me–I am.

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