Discover more from BadFiction
Long-form fiction podcasts don't work
My new short-form audio fiction podcast is coming in September 2023...
Last year I wrote, recorded and released Kingdom, an epic eco-fantasy charting the return of humans to the post-apocalyptic natural world, told from the perspective of the animals who live there, as an audio fiction podcast. I loved it. Writing chapters week by week, recording as I went - it gave my fiction writing a much needed boost. I realised I loved reading things out loud. There was something about being able to tell stories with my voice rather than just the pen (or keyboard) that made them feel more authentic.
There’s something special about listening to someone tell you a story.
But writing and recording Kingdom also came with its own challenges. Getting episodes out there on time was hugely difficult, especially when some chapters just seemed to ned more space than I could give them in a single week. If the story hadn’t finished, I couldn’t throw together a half-done podcast episode; the flow would have been totally broken. So the gap between releases became longer and inconsistent. To be sure, I still loved the finished product, but it was frustrating not being able to give the project that level of consistency that it needed to keep the traction going. I had thousands of listeners, but not everyone listened to every episode and so they lost some of the story. Added to that was the fact that Kingdom cycled between characters in different chapters, meaning that by the time you came back to Leap’s story it could have been a couple of months since you had last heard from him. The result was a disjointed experience and I just wasn’t happy with it.
I’m still writing part two, but I plan to leave the recording side of things until the written side of it is all done. That means I’ll be able to record the audio all in one chunk and release it with a little bit of consistency, week in and week out.
But I’ve also learned that long-form fiction on a podcast doesn’t always work. It demands so much from the listener: patience and commitment that simply isn’t required when listening to long-form fiction audiobooks. Audiobooks are great - I listen to them almost every day - but trying to cram that experience into a regular release schedule just doesn’t work for me. I’m sure there are those who can do it and do it well, but for me it meant that there was always a pressure to cut the story short or to change the pacing in order to fit with the schedule. I just couldn’t do that. I had to let the story be what the story wanted to be.
So I’ve decided to change what I do with audio fiction. I still want to use my voice to tell stories because that is just a glorious experience - but rather than long-form storytelling I’m going to start a short-form storytelling project.
BadFiction is a short-form audio fiction podcast. Each episode is its own little story, normally playing around with fun little narrative concepts like the role of the narrator or the finding narrative voices in places we wouldn’t normally expect. There’s going to be a whole host of little experiments in there and it’s going to be a place to try out new ideas before having to commit to multi-year projects to make them happen. A lot of it is going to be good. But a lot of it is going to be bad.
And that’s OK.
We have to be prepared to fail in order to prepare to succeed. All too often I find myself paralysed by insecurities over my writing. It’s part of the normal writing experience for any writer worth their salt. Producing Kingdom, my epic eco-fantasy podcast, was a way for me to get over that feeling and just get my work out there and the feedback has been beautiful. Thank you. Now I want to do that with smaller pieces that don’t demand a lifetime of love and devotion from my listeners. Come, pick out a couple of stories at random, listen to them and leave. That’s it. That’s all.
Fingers crossed we’ll find a diamond needle somewhere in this haystack.
BadFiction is an audio series written and performed by Ollie Francis. It begins in September 2023.
If you've enjoyed this, you might also enjoy Kingdom, an epic eco-fantasy charting the return of humans to the post-apocalyptic natural world, told from the perspective of the animals who live there. Series one available as a podcast to download and keep. To find out more, visit olliefrancis.co.uk where you can sign up to the newsletter and explore other projects.