12.17: Q&A on Style, Diction, and Paragraphing

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard

We fielded some questions on style, diction, and paragraphing:

  • Is it okay to have pretty prose in a straightforward adventure story?
  • How do author voice and character voice differ?
  • How do you prevent paragraphs from rambling?
  • I feel like my writing is derivative of the writers whose work I read. How can I find or develop my own voice?
  • How much does diction play into genre fiction?
  • Is it okay to write in a natural speaking voice?
  • During which part of the writing process do you pay attention to style?

By Way Of Correction: “Unaccompanied Sonata,” by Orson Scott Card, is the story about anxiety of influence. “Tunesmith,” by Lloyd Biggle Jr., is about music, and even has the name “Bach” in it, but it’s not the story Howard described.




Ask your alpha readers for their definition of your voice.

Wayward, Volume 1, by Jim Zub (writer),  Steven Cummings (Illustrator), John Rauch (Illustrator), and Tamra Bonvillain (Illustrator)

Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 Writing Excuses scholarships!

Let me tell you something right up front: our listeners are amazing.

This year we had more scholarship applications than ever before, and the quality was through the roof. Choosing just four applicants out of this unbelievably talented batch was incredibly hard, and incredibly painful. We had fiction submissions this year that are publisher-ready, right now, and still didn’t make the cut–that’s how stiff the competition was. But, in the end, we did manage to narrow it down to four winners, and I am delighted to announce them here:

For the Carl Brandon Society scholarships:
JY Yang
Yasmine Fahmy

For the Out of Excuses scholarships:
Alexander Murie
Shallee McArthur

They have been contacted, and will be joining us on the 2017 Writing Excuses Retreat this summer. If you applied and didn’t get chosen, don’t worry: you’re awesome, and we love you. I’ll be sending emails out today and tomorrow to all of you to thank you personally for applying, and to let you know how much we appreciate you. Please apply again next year, assuming you’re not already published and famous by then–seriously, some of you are that good. And if you didn’t apply but wish you had: awesome! We’ll do this again next year, and we would love to have all of you with us.

And, again, I want to thank the rest of you: our alumni and our listeners and our Patreon supporters. It’s because of you that we’re able to do this, and it’s because of you that these four incredible writers can have this experience. We have a level on our Patreon that literally just says “You don’t get anything extra at this level, we just take your money and use it for scholarships,” and SO MANY of you do it! You’re wonderful! We’re getting so many scholarship donations, in fact, that we suspect we’ll be able to offer an extra scholarship or two next year; no promises, but we’re crunching the numbers and we think it will work. If you love good writing and want to give back to the community, supporting these scholarships is a great way to do it.

Congratulations again to our winners, and to all of you we say: you’re out of excuses, now go write.

12.16: Writing Crime Fiction with Brian Keene

Brian Keene joined Dan and Howard at the World Horror Convention to talk about writing crime fiction, including how he goes about getting readers to feel the things he wants them to feel to drive the story forward.

Liner Notes: The Horror Show with Brian Keene


Experiment outside of your genre for 30 minutes of writing time each day for a week. Focus on the character. At the end of the week, take the character you’ve created and see if they can be fit into something else you’re working on.

The Complex, by Brian Keene

12.15: Pacing With Chapters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley

What makes a chapter? WHY is a chapter? How do we chapter, and do we always chapter the same way? Should our chapters be this many parts of speech? This episode will answer these questions and more, except for that last question, to which the answer is “probably not.”


Examine a book that made you keep turning its pages, and consider how it does that. Then look at a book you did not like, and consider how it nevertheless kept you reading it.

Jed and the Junkyard War, by Steven Bohls

12.14: Controlling Pacing with Structure

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

Let’s talk about the structural tools we use to control pacing. These include sentence length and punctuation.


Also, white-space.


Liner note: Here is the Feb 12, 2017 Schlock Mercenary strip mentioned around the 18-minute mark.

Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered aboard a fleeing generation-ship by Alex Jackson



Change up a piece of fiction of yours by changing the length of paragraphs and sentences.

Tea & Jeopardy: A GeekPlanetOnline Community Podcast, by Emma Newman and Peter Newman

12.13: Beautiful Prose, Purple Prose

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard

The rising, golden sun crested the snowcapped eastern mountains, its first morning rays pouring like molten lemon through the window to glisten and gleam from the chrome grille of the studio microphone. The collapsing energy quanta of joyous photon goodness made no sound, but the microphone’s 4dB SPL-A noise floor changed subtly from cold white noise to the warmer, friendlier pink; a difference similarly found between the sussurus emanating from an air-handling system and the exhalation of a sleeping goddess.

The podcasters talked about writing stuff, and maybe something about adverbs. The microphone didn’t care. It was just happy to be getting some sunlight.


Make a paragraph purple. Maybe make one of our paragraphs purple…

The Devil’s Daughter: Hidden Sins Book 1, by Katee Robert, narrated by Carly Robins