By Alex C. Telander
Podcast listeners like to brag about the size of their ‘to listen’ list, how they’re not sure if they’re ever going to get totally caught up, because they keep finding new shows to subscribe to. There are new audio dramas debuting every week. Part of the reason for this is because many new listeners decide to become podcast creators and make their own shows. They either listen to a type of show they would like to try and make, or are encouraged in hearing so many great shows and want to make that idea in their head become a podcast reality.
But wanting to make an audio drama and actually releasing one are two very different things separated by a great divide. There is A LOT that goes into making a podcast, depending on what sort of show you want to make, and how much time and energy you’re willing to sacrifice to make it. Most creators end up sacrificing more than they can afford and steal from things like sleep and doing anything fun.
Let’s quickly list the steps to making a single episode of a show:
1. Write the episode.
2. Revise the episode until you’re happy with it.
3. Cast actors for the episode.
4. Have actors record for the episode, either together or separate.
5. Mix voice acting and dialog.
6. Add sound effects.
7. Add music.
8. Mix everything together so it sounds how you want it to sound.
9. Get podcasting host.
10. Release episode to the world.
So that’s just ten steps in making a simple episode off the top of my head. Yes, it’s a lot of work. For a lot of people – especially those being creative for the first time – it’s daunting and at times seemingly insurmountable.
If only there were some guide available for would-be podcasters to learn how to do it all and get lots of advice?
On August 14th, 2014, the first episode of an audio drama called Wolf 359 was released and podcasts were changed forever. As each episode and season was released, the show grew and grew in popularity, and it is now one of the most popular podcasts around, up there with Bright Sessions and the Black Tapes, boasting a five-star rating on iTunes with 2,150 reviews. The show dropped its last episode on December 26th, 2017.
Since then, the people behind Wolf 359 — Zach Valenti, Sarah Shachat, and Gabriel Urbina – have released a mini-series, Time:Bombs, under the name of Fear of Public Shame. In late 2015, the trio started talking about the idea of doing an online audio fiction course, then they put it on hold until fall 2018 when they started planning and in November they kicked it into high gear. Their goal is to impart some of their knowledge and experience in making an audio drama for those looking to make their own show. After a number months and a lot of hard work, the result is Audio Fiction 101.
It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, whether you’re a complete novice at writing audio dramas, or have been doing it for some time, Audio Fiction 101 will have something for you. Now, it’s important to note that this online course is not about sound design, engineering or anything related to working with sound in podcasting. Audio Fiction 101 is about writing and storytelling and honing your craft when it comes to creating and writing an audio drama. It’s about knowing the advantages but also the pitfalls and hindrances of this genre of podcasting. It’s goal is to give you all the tools you need to make a compelling and popular audio drama.
The course is told through a series of videos over three hours in length, divided into three units. Unit One covers how writers think about storytelling: “Understanding the objectives narrative, shaping audience expectations, and what makes audio unique among storytelling mediums.” It consists of eight videos including: “The Science of Storytelling,” “The Art of Control,” and “The Limits of Imagination.” The introduction video is available for preview.
Unit Two gets into the details: “How to construct settings, write for sound effects, plot and structure, do effective world-building in audio, and more.” The unit features fifteen videos giving full coverage from the strengths and weaknesses of audio dramas to “Designing Great Radio Characters” to “World-Building in Audio.” If you want to check it out, a couple previews are available on the site.
Unit Three is all about getting you ready to start making your show: “How to outline effectively, strategies for getting a first draft of the ground, how to even come up with ideas, and more.” It features ten videos with interesting titles like: “The Fear of Public Shame,” “Outlines Are Your Frienemies?” and “It’s Not Over Till It’s Over.” There’s also a preview video for “Revising and Improving” to give you an idea what this unit is like. In addition to these three units, there are also appendices with resources on “inspiration and writing software choices.”
The practical side to the Audio Fiction 101 course is that all the videos are relatively short, in the five to ten minute range, making it a very versatile course: you can watch videos on your commute, or just before going to bed at night. You can do one a day or one a week and apply what you’ve learned; or marathon a bunch of them together unit by unit. The price tag isn’t too bad either: the whole course for $75, or four monthly installments of $20. There’s even a scholarship option available for those who can’t really afford it.
If you consider yourself an audio drama fan, then you’ve very likely come across the great show Girl in Space and its writer and lead voice actor, Sarah Rhea Werner. You may also know Sarah from her popular writing podcast series Write Now, featuring writing advice and author interviews. Sarah is also one of the few podcast entrepreneurs who has turned all her work into a full-time and successful job. She has been featured in Forbes and had her very own TED Talk. Now she’s going one big step further and offering everything she has learned and experienced in podcasting to you with her very own online course, Podcast Now.
The 12-week masterclass “will guide you, step-by-step, through the entire podcasting process – from strategy to launch and beyond.” What’s neat about this is you can choose an audio drama track or a nonfiction podcast track. It features eight modules with 52 video lessons. There are also downloadable worksheets to be completed and help you along as you complete each video lesson. Throughout the course Sarah will also offer weekly live office hours where you can “ask [Sarah] literally anything you want. No holds barred. Not kidding.”
The course covers the entire process of making your podcast beginning with ideas and plotting and writing, to recording and editing, to eventual publishing and marketing, using a “step-by-step action roadmap” and achievable goals so you won’t get lost along the way or become overwhelmed. As an extra aid, you’ll also get access to the private Facebook Mastermind Community group where you’ll be able to receive personal coaching.
Pricing for this immense and comprehensive course has an estimated value of over $4000, but is currently on offer for the special introductory price of $1500. An installment plan is also available with 12 payments of $150. Enrollment for the course will open once again for the second time June 3rd through the 7th and begin on June 10. After that the course will not be offered again until October when the price will likely increase.
The obvious big difference between the Audio Fiction 101 course and Podcast Now course is the price tag. But the scope of the two courses is different: Audio Fiction 101 focuses on writing and putting together an audio drama with a series of short videos, while Podcast Now course helps you make your podcast, whether its audio drama or nonfiction, from initial idea to creating your show, to making it a success. If anything, both courses compliment each other relatively well, and if you can manage it, taking them both would provide you everything you could possibly need to turn your inkling of an audio drama into a popular and well-rated show.
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