National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a program that encourages participants to write a fifty thousand word novel over the course of November. I did my first NaNoWriMo ten years ago, but didn’t truly devote myself to the challenge until NaNoWriMo 2018. That’s when I wrote the first season of my series New Winslow, getting in words on my phone in the waiting room at my son’s Early Intervention playgroup. Now, ten books later, I consider NaNoWriMo an essential part of my yearly writing plans and I genuinely can’t imagine my career without it.
NaNoWriMo is designed to be a challenge, but it can be incredibly rewarding. If you’re considering joining the program this year, these podcasts will give you the inspiration you need to hit that fifty thousand word mark!
Deadline City speaks the truth, good and bad, about the writing industry. Acclaimed authors Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles series, The Marvelers) and Zoraida Córdova (The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, Brooklyn Brujas series) talk about life as professional writers. The topics range from writing itself to the quirks of the publishing industry to whatever topics are impacting publishing at that moment. For instance, the show returned at the beginning of September with Season Six, opening with discussion of Penguin Random House’s attempted merger with Simon & Schuster.
As two authors with successful writing careers, Córdova and Clayton provide an honest, open look at what they feel is going right and wrong with the industry. And honestly, they’re just fun to listen to. So if you’re considering traditional publishing in the future, add this one to your subscription list. It’ll keep you motivated and give you a window into the industry as you start on your journey.
Are you considering self-publishing your NaNoWriMo novel? The Creative Penn, hosted by Joanna Penn, is a cornerstone of the indie publishing industry, with a decade-long backlog full of news and interviews to improve your craft. Each week, Penn provides context for current industry news and interviews an expert in some aspect of independent publishing. Like Deadline City, The Creative Penn provides a realistic look at this branch of publishing.
I used to listen to The Listening Project regularly as I did lunchtime DoorDash deliveries. (Stay tuned for my next article: “Why A Writing Career Is a Strong Financial Decision.”) Not only did I love the peek into other people’s lives, but listening to the authentic flow of conversation between the guests helped me to develop a stronger ear for dialogue in my writing. Though The Listening Project has wrapped production as of September 2022, there are over a thousand episodes available to listen to between the podcast feed and BBC Radio 4 website.
Ordinary conversations between ordinary people will set some strong examples that will help you with your own work. Consider the way people talk to each other. But equally importantly, consider the silence that comes with listening, or the ways voices will overlap as the conversation gets more intense. As you write your book, you want people to hear the dialogue you’re creating. The best way to get good at it is by listening.
Host Raquel S. Benedict explores the creative life when she interviews authors and critics about what she describes as the “nuts and bolts of writing.” The podcast approaches its topics with a thoughtfulness that allows them to really dig into it, along with a bluntness that sometimes incites disagreement among authors. No matter your opinions of the ideas put forth by Benedict and her guests, Rite Gud will make you think harder about what story you’re writing, and why you’re writing it.
Sometimes you need a little motivation before you sit down to look at that blank screen. Tiny Leaps, Big Changes has always been one of my favorites when I need a boost. With short daily episodes regarding everything from productivity to self-care, host Gregg Clunis has a warm, approachable way of making everything seem less daunting. As the challenge of putting fifty thousand words to paper sinks in, queue up a few episodes to get yourself motivated.
Publishing as an industry is overwhelmingly white, with all the inherent problems that come along with that. In Minorities in Publishing, Jennifer N. Baker interviews people from underrepresented groups about their everyday experiences in the literary world. Her guests include authors, editors, marketers, and others who all talk openly about their careers with a goal of showing newcomers what they can expect. Whether or not you’re planning to use NaNoWriMo to launch your writing career, it is important that you understand the racial problems within publishing and how people are pushing back against them from within the industry.
It’s right there in the title. The Shit No One Tells You About Writing targets emerging writers with a format that includes interviews with accomplished authors and workshop-style critiques of query letters and book excerpts contributed by listeners. The hosts are all industry professionals who provide an open look at the kinds of things publishers are looking for. By listening to a few episodes before NaNoWriMo begins, you can take the tips they provide and apply them to your novel’s next steps.
How to Win at NaNoWriMo
Finally, here it is, a podcast actually about NaNoWriMo. Kristin Horner and Liz Leo are huge fans of NaNoWriMo and created this podcast to help newcomers have a smooth and exciting first experience. How to Win at NaNoWriMo isn't officially affiliated with NaNoWriMo, but they’re here specifically to help you hit that 50K goal. Episodes include practical tips on storytelling, as well as pep talks to help you through those hardest mid-month writing sessions. NaNoWriMo should be a thrilling experience, but there are hard parts to it. Keep this podcast handy to get you through the days where you want to give up.
This is just a handful of the writing and writing-adjacent podcasts that are out there, but I think they’re some of the most enjoyable and informative options for a NaNoWriMo first-timer. So, as you dream up new characters and get ready to put fingers to keyboard, throw these podcasts on for some motivation. And I’ll see you in November!
Amanda McCormack is an independent author and podcaster who focuses on paranormal fantasy, as well as the culture and folklore of New England. You can find her work at EnfieldArts.com.