By Writing Excuses | September 14, 2014 - 8:17 pm - Posted in Career, Conventions, Guest, Horror, Live, Q&A, Season 9, World Building

Peter Orullian joins us in front of a live audience at Westercon 67 for a Q&A. The questions include:

  • As a writer, how do you handle reviewing other people’s books?
  • How do you compartmentalize your writing to prevent that obsession from displacing everything else?
  • How do you create frightening, unique creatures?
  • What are the basics about networking at a convention?
  • Is there a yield for the average story idea?
  • What rules do you follow and what rules do you break when writing epic fantasy?
  • What can you do in critique groups to teach craft if you’re avoiding prescriptive critique?
  • How strongly do you believe that the audience won’t remember what you’ve told them, but will remember how you said it?

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Spellcaster by Claudia Gray, narrated by Khristine Hvam.

Writing Prompt: Write about a support group for writers.

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By Writing Excuses | September 7, 2014 - 7:39 pm - Posted in Collaboration, Season 9

Kathleen Dalton Woodbury, the forum moderator at the Hatrack River writers group joined us at Westercon 67 to talk about critique groups. We cover how critiques should be offered, as well as importance of receiving critiques graciously and without defense, and we reflect on lots of the good and bad writing groups and critique groups we’ve been a part of.

This is hard to get right, but once you do get it right your critique group can become the team that helps you turn your work into something outstanding.

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, narrated by Jim Dale

Writing Prompt: A magic system in which the audio you play in your car will give your car superpowers.

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By Writing Excuses | August 31, 2014 - 7:03 pm - Posted in Career, Education, Guest, Season 9

David Farland joins us, along with a live audience at FantasyCon 2014, for a discussion on writing instruction. Dave runs My Story Doctor, and firmly believes that almost anyone can learn to write fiction at a professional, conventionally publishable level.  In this episode we cover some of the methods and exercises used to train new writers, and how writers can use these on their own.

 

Writing Prompt: Writing sprint! Write for 15 minutes. Don't stop to edit or wordsmith. Just force yourself to keep the fingers moving and the words flowing.

Peter Orullian joined us in front of a live audience at Westercon to talk with us about dealing with editors. We usually talk about craft, but this is a business discussion, and it’s about one of the most delicate and important relationships in the business. He begins by telling the short version of the story, and how he managed one of the worst-case scenarios: asking your publisher for a different editor.

We then move into some take-aways, and some additional experiences we’ve had that will hopefully help our listeners manage this sort of thing in the future.

 

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Unfettered: Tales by Masters of Fantasy, Written by: Terry Brooks, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Jordan, Jacqueline Carey, R.A. Salvatore, Naomi Novik, Peter V. Brett, Shawn Speakman (editor) Narrated by: Peter Ganim, Marc Vietor, Bronson Pinchot, Jay Snyder

Writing Prompt: Write a sword-fighting scene, a la Princess Bride, in which the witticisms are part of a magic system, and are part of the fight itself.

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When Writing Excuses was invited to be guests of honor at Westercon 67, we had the opportunity to interview numerous guests of the convention, each of whom were luminaries in their respective fields.

We met Brad Voytek, who is a doctor of neuroscience and a professor of computational neuroscience at UC San Diego, for the first time right there at the show, and immediately knew that we wanted our listeners to have the chance to hear from him. One of his passions is treating science fiction as a gateway to (and in some cases an actual example of) science education.

He starts by talking about Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep, which teaches the reader about the brain by telling the story of what would happen if a zombie walked in to the emergency room. Mary talks about Launch Pad, the NASA workshop for writers. And then Brandon tells us about blending vegetables into junk food…

We grill Brad mercilessly, and have great fun with the whole show as we talk about some of our favorite science fiction, and a few of our favorite starting points for learning actual science.

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The City & The City, by China Mieville, narrated by John Lee.

Writing Prompt: A sapient sheep desperately needs a delaying tactic. If it gets shorn, bad things will happen.

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By Writing Excuses | August 10, 2014 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Artwork, Editing, Q&A, Season 9, Setting, Submitting, World Building

Microcasting!

It’s our Q&A format, in which each answer is like its own, tiny little podcast, only without its own unique URL, intro, writing prompt, or any of the other trappings that would actually make it different from a Q&A session.

Right. So, it’s basically just a Q&A.

Listen to the podcast for the answers… Here are the questions:

  • Are there biases against non-English writers submitting manuscripts in English?
  • What is the most difficult thing Howard experienced when first creating Schlock Mercenary?
  • Are you ever too old to try to get published?
  • What are some pointers for keeping a milieu story focused on the setting?
  • No, you can’t have a sample of our DNA. None of you.
  • If you were to rewrite your early work, what would you change?
  • How do you improve your proofreading and copy editing?
  • How much time do you spend writing each day? Does it matter WHAT you write during that time?
  • Do you add foreshadowing in the editing stage, or are you just that good?
  • How do you improve your craft as a writer?
  • I don’t have time to ask a question, I’m washing my dog.
  • Do you have any writing exercises that you do regularly?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Attack the Geek, by Michael R. Underwood, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Prompt: Introduce a random element--dice, coin-tosses, the i ching--and write a story in which you (the writer) commit to letting the random element make the decisions.

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By Writing Excuses | August 3, 2014 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Plot, Season 9

Let’s adjust sliders again! This episode references our sliding scales for characters, and this time around we’ll be talking about how proactive a character is. We also talk about the verb “protag.” Because protagging is what protagonists should do, especially later in our stories.

Our goal is to be able to consciously adjust a character’s level of proactivity in order to similarly adjust how engaging that character is for our audience. We talk about the techniques we rely on, and some of our favorite stories in which we’ve seen these techniques employed.

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley, narrated by Diane Warren

Writing Prompt: Tie your protagonist up, and then have them protag their way forward in the story with nothing but dialog.

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SPOILER ALERT!

This is our fourth and final SHADOWS BENEATH story critique episode. This episode’s story, “An Honest Death,” by Howard Tayler, is available as part of the aforementioned Writing Excuses anthology, pictured there on the right, which includes the the draft we critiqued in this episode along with the final version.

We still have a few of the first-printing hardcovers left, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the electronic edition at no additional charge.

This week we find Howard in trouble. He is, in a word, stuck.

Can our heroes help him? Can special guest Eric James Stone lend enough of his special guest expertise to complete the rescue?

We start with a discussion of what was working, so that Howard doesn’t accidentally “fix” something that isn’t broken. Then we wade into the weeds and go hunting for the pieces he needs in order to finish the story. And when we say “the weeds,” we’re talking serious wandering. The episode runs a full half-hour long…

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Firebird, by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Katherine Kellgren

Writing Prompt: You have, with actual paint, painted yourself into an actual corner. But the paint and the corner are in a world in which there is magic, and "you painted yourself into a corner" may very well be some sort of a spell.

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SPOILER ALERT!

This is the third of our SHADOWS BENEATH story critique episodes. This episode’s story, “A Fire in the Heavens,” is available as part of the aforementioned Writing Excuses anthology, pictured there on the right, which includes the the draft we critiqued in this episode along with the final version.

We still have one more SHADOWS BENEATH critique episode, so it’s not too late to grab a copy for yourself. Oh, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the ebook at no additional charge.

Mary runs this session like she runs her own critique groups using what’s often called the Milford method in which we each take two minutes to run through our thoughts on the story. We do that for the first half of the episode. During the second half Mary asks us questions, sometimes for clarification about what we said, and sometimes for suggestions.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Rip-Off! Written by: John Scalzi, Jack Campbell, Mike Resnick, Allen Steele, Lavie Tidhar, Nancy Kress, Gardner Dozois (editor) Narrated by: Wil Wheaton, Scott Brick, Christian Rummel, Jonathan Davis, Stefan Rudnicki, L. J. Ganser, Khristine Hvam

Writing Prompt: A brainstorming session spawns life somehow.

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HERE THERE BE SPOILERS! Also, merchandising!

This is the second of our story critique episodes. The story, “Sixth of the Dusk,” is available as part of SHADOWS BENEATH, the Writing Excuses anthology, which includes the finished story (obviously) and the version we critiqued in this episode. SHADOWS BENEATH also includes the stories we’ll be critiquing for the rest of July’s episodes, and some other pretty cool stuff that you can read about here. If you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the ebook at no additional charge.

Can you get a lot out of this episode without having done the reading? Yes! But we don’t know what those things will be. Can you get a lot out of this episode without having listened to Part 1? Probably, but here’s a link to it in case you have doubts.

Having covered the stuff we loved in Part 1, this episode is the big downer where we just focus on the problems we found. But hey, that’s how stories get to be better! We start with the big ones, and then work our way back up to the little things.

We recorded this episode live at last year’s Out of Excuses Seminar and Retreat. Our audience of awesome attendees can be heard cheering when we finally slay the [SPOILERS REDACTED] with our collected powers of [REDACTED AGAIN.]

 

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, by Diana Rowland, narrated by Allison McLemore

Writing Prompt: Have a man who plays the musical saw find more than one additional use for the saw during the story.

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