By Writing Excuses | April 20, 2014 - 10:49 pm - Posted in Business, Guest, Q&A

Eric James Stone joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard to answer questions from our listeners. Here are the questions:

  • Should you submit your prologue along with the first chapters?
  • What do you do when you’ve got some professional sales under your belt, but can’t seem to get more?
  • How do you manage scene/sequel format in a multi-POV novel?
  • Is passive voice really that bad? How do you tell if you’re using it too much?
  • What is the threshold for deus ex machina?
  • How do you maximize the emotional impact of a character depth?
  • If you’re a discovery writer, how do you go about becoming an outliner?
  • When someone asks what you do for a living, how do you answer them?
  • How do you get out of the beat-by-beat, this-then-that blocking of action?

Here is the Grammar Girl episode we mentioned.

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence, by Gavin de Becker, narrated by the author.

Writing Prompt: Write your character doing two things at once, both of which are plot-specific.

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By Mary Robinette Kowal | April 17, 2014 - 9:50 am - Posted in Career, Characters, Conventions, Education, Gender, Lifestyle, Race, Site News, World Building

WtO logo

If you wanted to register for the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat and didn’t get in, I’m hoping that you might be interested in the Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat.

It’s held at the same location, Mary Robinette Kowal’s parents’ house.

Mary will be joined by NY Times Best-selling author David Anthony Durham; Cynthia Ward and Nisi Shawl, the authors behind the book Writing the Other; and K. Tempest Bradford, author and activist.

On Writing Excuses, some of the most common questions come in as variations of “How do you write someone who isn’t like you.” Many authors struggle to write beyond what they know and write the other. While we tackle this on the podcast, fifteen minutes is not enough time to delve into this tricky and nuanced skill. The Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat is designed with lessons and conversations, paired with a retreat, to give participants an opportunity to work on making their characters and worldbuilding deeper and more thoughtful. And David, Cynthia, Nisi, and Tempest really are that smart.

I hope the same urge that makes you listen to Writing Excuses will allow you to consider attending this retreat.

Eventbrite - Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat

What do you do when the ending you’ve planned won’t be emotionally satisfying? You know, when you’ve discovered during the course of writing the story that you’re making promises to the reader that this particular ending won’t keep?

Mary talks about her recent experience with this exact problem in an as-yet-unpublished project. Howard talks about how he had to come up with a new set of concluding moments for Longshoreman of the Apocalypse (which you can read for free here.) Dan weighs the difficulties he’s having with a current project, and how he had to brainstorm what the story was supposed to be accomplishing, rather than simply what the plot was.

We examine the various tools that we use to solve this problem, which probably offers you some motivation to keep filling your own toolbox.

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Vortex: Insignia, Book 2, by S.J. Kincaid, narrated by Lincoln Hoppe (Small world! Howard worked with Lincoln Hoppe twenty years ago, running sound for The Garrens Comedy Troupe while Lincoln was on stage being funny and amazing. You should let Lincoln read to you!)

Writing Prompt: Take a story you've already written, and write a completely different ending for it.

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By Writing Excuses | April 6, 2014 - 7:29 pm - Posted in Career, Season 9

“What are the parts of the job that nobody told you about?”

Or, you know, WARNED you about…

It’s a question somebody sent to us, and we all had different answers, so Brandon put together a list, and we made a whole episode out of it! We talk about reviews, physical pain, dietary excitement, deadline-driven interruptions, and not having leisure reading time.

But this isn’t just us whining. We also talk about our solutions to these problems. You know, in between the whining.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Shambling Guide to New York City, by Mur Lafferty, and narrated by Mur, too.

Writing Prompt: Your main character is a writer, and they want to write but cannot because of some completely bizarre professional requirement that we did not talk about in this episode.

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By Writing Excuses | April 3, 2014 - 9:11 pm - Posted in Business, Gender, Season 9

Let’s poke the Internet!

Of course, we may want to just sit on our hands for a few minutes and think before we poke…

Enough thinking. Let’s talk about talking about things. As 21st-century writers, we often spend time writing the things we think on assorted topics. We might blog these things, tweet them, or post comments to other people’s blogs. And before we do those things, we should consider the consequences, and not just the possible fallout from what we’re saying — all the consequences.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t express our opinions, of course. This is just a reminder that choosing to express is also choosing a bunch of other stuff.

And on the outside chance you find yourself needing to apologize for something you’ve said, well, here’s a link to Scalzi’s Whatever regarding Apologies.

Dave Farland’s Writing Workshops sponsored us for this bonus episode! Both Brandon and Dan have studied under Dave, and we’re all happy to wholeheartedly recommend his workshops to you. If you can’t fly to his place, well, visit MyStoryDoctor.com and take the online course.

 

 

Writing Prompt: Write out a strong opinion on something extreme, and do it three times: Once in a furious tone, once in a helpful tone, and once in a manner that is totally safe for all possible audiences including (as appropriate) your mom. Then delete all three of them. This, no lie, is very valuable practice.

By Writing Excuses | March 30, 2014 - 5:11 pm - Posted in Characters, Season 9

We talk about characters a lot, which is fitting since character are what make things go in most of our favorite books. Brandon introduces a new model for examining characters in which three primary attributes – Competence, Proactivity, and Sympathy – are contrasted. We treat each one as if controlled by a fader or slider, like on a mixing console, and we look at what the relative positions of those sliders do to a character.

It’s only a model, obviously, and it’s not how we go about starting a character, but it has proven useful in troubleshooting characters who aren’t accomplishing the story purposes we want them to accomplish.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Killing Moon: Dreamblood, Book 1, by N.K. Jemisin, narrated by Sarah Zimmerman

Writing Prompt: Come up with a race of creatures in which there is a sum which you're not allowed to push past, and you have sliders on these people that control their attributes.

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By Writing Excuses | March 23, 2014 - 9:30 pm - Posted in Career, Editing, Gender, Guest, Prose, Q&A, Race, Season 9, Style

Aaand we’re microcasting again! A Q&A episode by any other name would sound as neat. Also neat? Eric James Stone joins us again!

  • What writing rule do you break the most?
  • When you review your novel do you print it out and mark it up, or do you edit on the computer?
  • How long do you wait between finishing a novel and starting the editing process?
  • What is the number-one issue that you have to overcome each day in order to put words to paper?
  • How do you feel with the fear of screwing up when you’re writing the other?
  • When giving a book as a gift, how do you decide on a book to give?
  • Any advice for people wanting to write a grand, universal story for their fantasy novel?
  • Is there a place you go to be inspired to write?
  • Do you ever have trouble writing characters out of the story (you know, by killing them)?
  • How do you strike the balance between too little description and too much?

A Note Regarding The Audio: Brandon’s microphone died just before we started, and we didn’t catch it, so if he sounds echoey it’s because we had to get his track from the other three microphones in the room.

 

 

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Between Two Thorns: The Split Worlds Series Book 1, by Emma Newman, narrated by the author

Writing Prompt: The word "sesquipedalian" means 18 inches long, and is usually only used to describe words that are too long. Find a way to work it into a scene so that it fits.

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By Writing Excuses | March 16, 2014 - 9:48 pm - Posted in Discovery Writing, Editing, Guest, Q&A, Season 9

Microcasting! It’s what we call our Q&A episodes, because they’re like multiple mini-casts. Eric James Stone joins us to help out. Here are the questions we field:

  • Should a pantser rewrite their book once they know the whole story?
  • What do you find most useful from an editor?
  • Story creation is cool, but can Writing Excuses talk more about sentence-level work?
  • What advice do you have for pitching to agents and editors?
  • What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
  • How do you encourage a writer-friend who is down on their work?

Give episode 9.11 a listen for our answers.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker, by Kevin Mitnick and William L. Simon, narrated by Ray Porter

Writing Prompt: Something magical is preventing your friend from pursuing their dreams, but you don't know what it is...

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By Writing Excuses | March 9, 2014 - 7:58 pm - Posted in Characters, Season 9

Nancy Fulda joins us for a discussion of engaging characters. We begin by explaining how engaging characters don’t need to be sympathetic, but certainly can be, and then we head into why we find particular characters engaging. We also talk about how this plays into the villain problem, where the villain is more interesting than the hero is.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Star Wars: Heir to the Empire, by Timothy Zahn, narrated by Marc Thompson. Note also the free excerpt of the "Behind the Scenes" recording, featuring Timothy Zahn and his editor, Betsy Mitchell.

Writing Prompt: Put a character in a difficult situation, and then throw away your first three ideas for how they're going to get out of that situation.

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By Writing Excuses | March 2, 2014 - 6:37 pm - Posted in Guest, Research, Sci-fi, Season 9

Nancy Fulda is back this week to talk with us about the truth, and what do to when it’s stranger than fiction. Sometimes real people’s names are just too cool, and if you were to put them in a book nobody would believe it. Sometimes actual, historical events are so ridiculous there’s no way you can get away with putting them in a story that you expect people to take seriously. And sometimes real science is just not going to be believed by your readers.

So how do you get away with using these things, with writing your stories in true places? Sometimes all it takes is the hanging of the right lantern, but in many cases you must go to great lengths to re-educate the reader without breaking the fourth wall or otherwise knocking them out of the story.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Chimes at Midnight: An October Daye Novel, by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Prompt: Run your character through a double-funnel extruder and see what's at the end.

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