Fancast Spotlight: So I’m Writing a Novel

I initially started the Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project to highlight Hugo-eligible fanzines, fansites and podcasts. For more about the Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project, go here. You can also check out the other great fanzines and fancasts featured by clicking here.

The Hugo finalists for 2021 have long since been announced, but I want to keep the project going, because after the Hugo nominations is before the Hugo nominations. And besides, there are still a lot of great fanzines, blogs and podcasts out there that I haven’t covered.

So today, I’m pleased to feature the So I’m Writing a Novel podcast, in which the listeners can follow along as host Oliver Brackenbury writes a sword and sorcery novel.

And therefore, I’m happy to welcome Oliver to my blog today:

So I'm Writing a Novel logo

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

Well, as I like to say at the start of each episode:

So I’m Writing a Novel is the show where you join me, Oliver Brackenbury, on the journey of writing my next novel, from first ideas all the way to publication & promotion.

In this one-man-reality show I’ll share with you my ever evolving thoughts and feelings on how I write, being a writer, and everything that entails at each stage of the process. I’ll also answer listener questions and, sometimes, interview people who write fiction.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to learn how things are made, and get to know the people making them, then this is the show for you.”

The novel is a sword & sorcery short story cycle, meaning it’s a bunch of short stories following a fifteen year period in my protagonist’s life. Each story can stand alone, but readers are rewarded for reading from first to last.

Similarly I do my best to make each podcast episode work in isolation, providing short recaps as necessary, but starting from the beginning and working your way up will yield greater rewards.

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?

It’s all me, though I enjoy using a third person voice in posts and social media to suggest I control a vast multi-media empire. Maybe, if the Patreon really catches fire, one day I’d hire someone to edit this thing, but for now I like that I’m the only person I have to rely on to get it out into the world.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

Many reasons! The main thrust of the idea was figuring out a way to build an audience for a novel as I worked on it, so I could make myself more appealing to publishers and agents when I’m ready to start querying. But also…

  • I wanted to create a virtuous cycle where I need to work on the novel so I have something to talk about on the podcast, and talking about stuff on the podcast gets me excited to work on the novel. So far, it’s working well.
  • A former Youtuber, I missed putting something out regularly online but really just wanted to talk with people…and boy is the workload lessened by not having to worry about visuals!
  • I also missed regularly meeting and interacting with strangers through my work. Please holler at me on Twitter (@so_writing) or submit a listener question to soimwritinganovel@gmail.com, I love it! I’m also down with guesting, or guest hosting, on other people’s podcasts. I’m an extrovert living in a pandemic, help!
  • I was frustrated at not having more money to invest in my writing, or in the work of other artists (boy do I want to commission original illustrations for the book). Thus, the Patreon I launched alongside the podcast (patreon.com/soimwritinganovel).
  • I was starting to have a strong negative reaction to the never-ending glut of writing advice online. Basically I was fed up with overly positive and overly negative voices, listicles, absolutism, “this is what all writers must do in all circumstances, from now until the end of time” stuff…
    This made me want to put something out that I would enjoy listening to. Thus my framing the podcast as a highly transparent sharing of my writing journey, my constantly evolving process and where I’m at in any given moment, being spoken from one peer to another, as opposed to a speaker standing on a stage or at a podium. I also do my best to keep the tone in a sweet spot of being positive, but not saccharine, honest and open, but not oversharing or maudlin.

I could easily add a few more reasons. This project really burst out of me!

What format do you use for your podcast or channel and why did you choose this format?

I’m lucky to have opening and closing music composed by the marvellous Gloria Guns (gloriaguns.bandcamp.com/). After the music, I run through my show intro about what the show is, briefly mention what the previous episode covered, then dive into that week’s subject. Discussing that makes up the bulk of the episode and then, if I have one, I’ll answer the listener question before going into an outro of sorts where I encourage people to submit questions, share the show, sign up with the Patreon etc. Then it’s the final music and we’re out! Regular episodes average 30-45 minutes in length, while interviews hew closer to the 60 min mark.

I choose subjects as they relate to my progress in working on the novel, so in the first episode I talk about the short story which bloomed into the novel project, in episode two I cover my protagonist, and so on. The order of episode subjects doesn’t perfectly match the order of what I worked on in my project notebooks, because often what made the most sense for my brain in working on the book would be a it of a mess for presentation to another human being.

I also strongly encourage those who submit questions to record their question on their phone and send the audio file to soimwritinganovel@gmail.com Then I can cut it into an episode just like a radio call in show, which I love.

I came to this format through recording three and a half different versions of the first episode, getting feedback from trusted pals at each stage, and then sticking with something that felt right.

Interviews happen semi-randomly, for now. I want to use them to break things up now and then, which serves a few purposes, including giving listeners a chance to hear a voice other than my own.

For my release schedule, I do a weekly release on Mondays, and Patreon supporters get to listen to new episodes a week early, as well as a second, bonus podcast called So I Wrote a Novel where I read a chapter at a time from past works, providing “DVD commentary” at the end. I chose this because it felt like a good balance between building momentum for the show and burning myself out. I also needed to balance making the show with writing the dang novel I’m discussing!

It’s probable the release schedule, maybe even the format, will change when I finish outlining the novel and move to writing the first draft. I expect there will be less to discuss for a stretch, then lots to say when the first draft is one, and again when I’m working with a story editor to polish it. So if I switch to bi-weekly or even “When it happens” for certain periods, then go back to regular, weekly updates when it makes sense to do so, that’s fine by me. One lesson I’ve learned both as a former Youtuber and a consumer of various regularly updating things online is that shackling yourself to a specific schedule or format is a great way to eventually produce pretty mediocre stuff, burning yourself out, just to keep the #content spice flowing. I think it’s better to be fully transparent with your audience and just say “Things are gonna change for a bit, here’s how.”, especially when it costs nothing to remain subscribed to a podcast, Youtube channel, or whatever.

Boy this answer is too long. Let’s make it longer! I’ll also say that technically I’m releasing this show in seasons, because if this experiment works out then I imagine I’d do a second season all about the creation of the next novel. But we’ll see!

The fan categories at the Hugos were there at the very beginning, but they are also the categories which consistently gets the lowest number of votes and nominations. So why do you think fanzines, fancasts and other fan projects are important?

Well, where the heck are creators (and the multi-media conglomerates that feed off them) without fans? Going all the way back to things like Amra and beyond – wasn’t there a Sherlock Holmes fan group or fifty back in the Victorian age? They must have made some things. – fans have wanted to create works inspired by what they love, and connect with each other. Hell, I’m sure there were some papyrus fanzines going around Ancient Egypt.

Point being that I think fan culture can be unfairly tagged as being ephemeral, but really it’s not and it is important if only for the long history it has, as much as the vital role in supporting creative works and nurturing various social scenes for people to connect with one another.

It’s funny, I have a few friends that voraciously post about their fav bands. I am not into these bands, but I am into how into these bands they are, if that makes sense? As long as it’s expressed in a non-toxic way, passion is inspiring and life-affirming! Ultimately it’s that raw energy that makes fanzines, fancasts, and other fan projects important, I reckon.

In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online and fancasts have sprung up. What do you think the future of fan media looks like?

I’m the guy who thought Google wouldn’t take off as a search engine because “It’s such a dumb name.” and that bottled water wouldn’t take off because you can get water free from a tap. I might not be the best guy to ask about the future! I won’t say what will happen, but I do hope that we see further powerful strides forward in making fan culture even more inclusive. There’s still work to be done, for sure, but I’m amazed at how different it all feels compared to even just ten years ago.

The four fan categories of the Hugos (best fanzine, fan writer, fan artist and fancast) tend to get less attention than the fiction and dramatic presentation categories. Are there any awesome fanzines, fancasts, fan writers and fan artists you’d like to recommend?

I’m a big fan of the Turnip Lanterns newsletter by Angeline B. Adams and Remco Van Straten. It’s not dedicated to any one specific fandom, it’s more about what inspires and influences them as writers. However if you’re a fan of sword & sorcery, you can count on a good amount of content related to that genre on account of them having written the excellent The Red Man and Others (a new wave S&S novel, one I’d highly recommend). You can read about, and sign up for, it here: https://turniplanterns.wordpress.com/2021/03/22/newsletter/ It also comes in blog form, if you prefer – https://turniplanterns.wordpress.com

Where can people find you?

Search for “So I’m Writing a Novel” everywhere good podcasts are found and it should come up. There’s also the website at www.soimwritinganovel.com, @so_writing on Twitter, www.patreon.com/soimwritinganovel on Patreon, and there’s also a Ko-Fi at https://ko-fi.com/soimwritinganovel.

Finally, there’s a Twitch channel where I’ve done some early experiments with writing streams, found at https://www.twitch.tv/soimwritinganovel. I’m getting better at the technical side, and expect I’ll be doing a lot more there when I get to writing the first draft of the novel.

Thank you, Oliver, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Do check out So I’m Writing a Novel, cause it’s a fine podcast.

***

Do you have a Hugo eligible fanzine/-site or fancast and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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