By Writing Excuses | May 25, 2009 - 8:05 am - Posted in Ideas, Writing Prompt

And here we are, at the final episode of Writing Excuses, Season 2. As promised, this episode is going to be super-useful to new writers, but it’s going to be extra-super-useful to one new writer in particular, Brandon’s nameless friend who listened to 9 hours of Writing Excuses podcasts and is now too overwhelmed to write.

Have you ever wondered why we only ‘cast for 15 minutes (give or take, usually give, but still…) each week? It’s because you’re not supposed to be sitting there at the computer listening to hours upon hours of advice. You’re supposed to be writing.

For this next fourteen minutes and forty-seven seconds we explain how to make that happen.

Writing Prompt: Write a story about Brandon’s friend Nameless

This entry was posted on Monday, May 25th, 2009 at 8:05 am and is filed under Ideas, Writing Prompt. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

48 Comments

  1. May 25, 2009 @ 8:10 am


    Sorry it’s late, everybody. Convention weekend…

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  2. May 25, 2009 @ 8:20 am


    We will forgive you… This time.

    Posted by WEKM
  3. May 25, 2009 @ 9:20 am


    I heard this question posed at CONduit this past weekend. None of you three were around at the time.

    The response by the panelist was similar to the advice here, but the panelist added that it is okay to write that golden idea and mess it up. It can always be revisited later after trying some other ideas and developing some new writing skills.

    It seems that a lot of authors recycle ideas in later works after they have tried other ideas and learned how to make their old ideas work. Clinging to the old ideas that aren’t ready to be used just holds back all the other ideas yet to come.

    I could be wrong about this, but it seems that no one finds success without quite a few failures behind them.

    At least that’s what I got from other writers. (I don’t mean to insult anyone out there by suggesting that you should listen to anyone other than Brandon, Dan, and Howard.)

    Posted by 42
  4. May 25, 2009 @ 9:48 am


    The response by the panelist was similar to the advice here, but the panelist added that it is okay to write that golden idea and mess it up. It can always be revisited later after trying some other ideas and developing some new writing skills.

    ‘It seems that a lot of authors recycle ideas in later works after they have tried other ideas and learned how to make their old ideas work. Clinging to the old ideas that aren’t ready to be used just holds back all the other ideas yet to come.

    I could be wrong about this, but it seems that no one finds success without quite a few failures behind them.’

    –Posted by 42

    I agree with all of this. I know that I have a few “golden ideas” that I keep passing around (characters, magic systems, etc.) and often when I begin a fresh plot, the ideas will fit better “here” rather than “there”.

    The hardest part is learning to allow yourself to mess it up. How soon we forget what we learned in high school English–write a rough draft first! Too often, the urge is to make it perfect the first time, which isn’t necessarily possible.

    Posted by Jody Speight
  5. May 25, 2009 @ 10:32 am


    I have to say, this was an amazingly topical podcast to me, but from an entirely different direction. I finally got my first long form story done thanks to NaNo last year (52k words, so not exactly publishable from length alone, never mind first novel problems). But ever since I’ve found myself…needing to write. For a while it was short stories, but now I want to go after another Novel.

    Looking back on what worked for actually putting something down on NaNo I gave myself a deadline, much like Brandon suggests. It was a tight deadline, but I had come to realize something. At this point in my writing, there was no way I could effectively outline everything. The odds of seeing all the problems in world building and character design at 90,000 feet was basically 0. So instead I went through a prep method (Stackpole’s 21 days to a Novel is pretty good, but next time I intend to try something else for the experience), and starting Friday morning I just started writing (took a five day from the day job).

    You know what? I’m finding all those problems with the story, just like I expected. So what? Now I know areas I can improve on in preparation for next time. And each time you start doing the big step of putting down the story itself, you’ll find some more of these things. But then, I also find I made a lot less such mistakes compared to my NaNo novel.

    Just… do… it.

    And thanks again you three for putting together such an awesome podcast, it’s really helped me along in the final steps of getting back to my favorite passion outside my day job.

    Posted by Patrick Sullivan
  6. May 25, 2009 @ 11:24 am


    so, wait, Season 3 starts next week? Good, I thought I’d have to go a few months without Writing Excuses. excited to see what happens next.

    Oh, by the way, this was exactly what I needed. I am overwhelmed, and this helped me alot. Maybe I will branch out from my golden idea. Thanks guys!

    Posted by J. Rawlins
  7. May 25, 2009 @ 2:11 pm


    Great ending to season 2. I think this might be my favourite ever of your podcasts. It definitely reflects my own experience of writing. There’s only so many things I can work on in the current story. Once I get those things sorted out and don’t have to think as hard about them I can work on something else in the next story.

    Posted by junkfoodmonkey
  8. May 25, 2009 @ 2:23 pm


    I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but listening to these podcasts makes me want to write. Not the writing prompts… those are usually just silly. But I listen to Writing Excuses, and my fingers start itching to go work on my own project (whether I have time to or not). So essentially you guys’ve saved me from this problem by just existing. ^_^

    Posted by Obi
  9. May 25, 2009 @ 2:39 pm


    when i was studying for an exam this past April, i listed to a lot of episodes, and i did feel overwhelmed, cause you guys have great tips but i had no time to actually use them. it’s a little hard for me to write while working on my degree, because i write one genre and am currently studying a slightly different one.

    but, i’ve actually submitted some bits for publication this year, unlike last year when i just wrote and did nothing. so, yay me. i just have to do a once through for this novel i wrote and debate plugging it to an agent at a local writers conference this fall.

    Posted by Lindsay
  10. May 25, 2009 @ 5:37 pm


    Hey now. Easy on those early twenty-somethings. :P

    I agree completely, though. It’s what got me through the first draft of my first novel (which I finished three days ago, squee): Get it done, THEN you can worry about getting it right.

    Posted by Raethe
  11. May 25, 2009 @ 5:47 pm


    Hey, thank you so much for talking about this! This comes at a really great time for me. I’ve been reading a lot of writing ‘how-to’ articles recently, and I was beginning to be bogged down by all of it. This podcast lifted that weight of my shoulders, and now I feel the freedom to get back to my novels!

    Posted by Cherise
  12. May 25, 2009 @ 9:18 pm


    Congrats, Raethe, that’s awesome! I hope you celebrated with appropriately unhealthy foods.

    Posted by Dan Wells
  13. May 25, 2009 @ 10:19 pm


    Thanks!

    I actually celebrated by… um… going to band rehearsal. (Also, bragging to everyone.) But rehearsal was fun, and it prevented us from making idiots of ourselves at Saturday’s show, so that’s okay. :D

    There WAS a liberal amount of ice cream involved, but that was what got me through the last couple of chapters as opposed a celebratory thing.

    Posted by Raethe
  14. May 25, 2009 @ 10:52 pm


    Yay! I got a Writing Excuses Podcast for my birthday!

    Thank you guys, this podcast was sooo helpful!

    Posted by Caitrin
  15. May 25, 2009 @ 10:56 pm


    A little less conversation, a little more action, huh?
    Dear Nameless,
    So, I little over a year ago three different people signed me up for gift subscriptions to magazines. I had two parenting magazines, and one for women, coming in the mail every month. I hit saturation point after about four months. I no longer wanted to know what little important tidbits in each month’s issue were going to help me be the best mom or hottest and coolest chic on the planet. I was sick and tired of feeling like I was about make the biggest mistake of my life if I didn’t get my kid this or that great thingy. You get to a point when you just don’t want to know how to best go about waxing eyebrows. Talk about fear of faliure to the point of complete paralysis. So, I threw all the magazines away (after I ripped them into tiny little pieces) and did what I wanted to do.
    Nameless, just turn off your tracking system and reach out with your feelings. Just chuck it all – all that advice that is making you feel crappy – and just write your guts out. Have fun and don’t worry about failing.
    You are totally going to fail, and suck, and get rejected. Sorry. You are. You will feel bad about your work, especailly if you give your work to Dan. (sorry Dan) who will rip your heart out and feed it to a pitbull when he tells you that you should just write a new book. Then, you will write that next book. It will be eaiser because you have done it before. The third book will be the funnest because you figured out how to self edit and to not worry what the agents say about your suckiness.
    Writing is so much fun, even if you are the typo queen of all time. Writing rocks, even if you can’t get it to sound the way it does in your head. Writing is the best, even if an agent tells you to write it again and resubmit because you didn’t get it perfect the first time… because you are a first timer.
    Best of luck. Do not fear being a sucky warrior, just have a fun time doing it.

    Guys – When are you going to do the “stuff all the advice and criticism and work on what makes you happy” podcast? – Or the “thanks for reading my work and for all your advice, BUT YOU ARE WRONG-O, and I’m doing the way I want to” podcast?
    How much advice do you really each take from your peers/writing group? What do you keep? What do you toss? What have you kept that you love – that nobody loves but you?
    How do you keep writing fun even when your life may depend on it?
    Fi
    P.S. CONduit was great, although, I must admit, I reached saturation point there, too.

    Posted by Fiona
  16. May 26, 2009 @ 3:10 am


    Well, if ice cream was used to get you through, to balance the cosmos, the only appropriate celebratory food would be BRUSSLE SPROUTS!

    Congrats Raethe.

    Now, I can hardly wait for Season Three!

    Posted by WEKM
  17. May 26, 2009 @ 10:15 am


    Well, I came up with a title:

    Nameless Despair

    and then nothing else… Very suitable, I think… (deep dismal sigh)

    Posted by LRK
  18. May 26, 2009 @ 10:32 am


    As a music teacher, I can’t help but blow my own horn here. The music analogies used are sound (sorry for the pun). As I’ve tackled the challenge of becoming a writer, I am amazed at how many parallels there are between the two arts.

    With my students, I often tell them to divide and conquer. There are two many aspects of both music and writing to be able to focus on all of them at once. You just have to get started by only focusing on one or two weaknesses at a time. Then, when you feel you’ve mastered that, move on to the next area of weakness. This is also how life works. Trying to do it all right the first time is a good way to develop writer’s block.

    After each draft of my novel, I read a book about writing, then try to implement the main concept in my next re-write. Each time, I’ve ended up with a much better draft.

    As far as the “Golden Idea,” I think mine kept me handcuffed for years. It wasn’t until I tried NaNoWriMo with a completely new idea that my writing was revived (of course, I didn’t have Writing Excuses to help me, yet). Now, looking back on my golden idea, I’ve come to realize that it was really just a mediocre idea with far too many cliches.

    Posted by Berin
  19. May 26, 2009 @ 12:25 pm


    You thought my advice was mean before, Fiona; next time I’m going to be mean on purpose.

    Posted by Dan Wells
  20. May 26, 2009 @ 1:18 pm


    Thanks WEKM!

    The way everyone’s talking makes me glad I got my Golden Idea out early. I literally worked on nothing else from the ages of about 12-16. Then I abandoned it, recognizing the Golden Idea for what it truly was: kind of lame. (Actually, now I recognize it for what it really was: hackneyed and lame. I was young, okay?! *tearful sniffling*)

    Then I didn’t do much serious writing for another year or two, because with the Golden Idea put to bed I really didn’t know what else I wanted to write.

    Funny, I don’t have that problem anymore.

    Dan and Fiona make a good point… Hmm. I don’t know that many truly mean people, and finding some sounds suspiciously like effort. I’ll just have to do nasty things to my beta readers before they read my ms, I suppose. And make sure they know it was me.

    Posted by Raethe
  21. May 26, 2009 @ 5:47 pm


    One thing that came to my mind while I was listening to this episode was something that one of my favorite professors tells students who are worrying about essays. “Don’t get it right, get it writ.”

    Posted by H. B. Bisenieks
  22. May 26, 2009 @ 9:58 pm


    Wow. It’s not often that I sit through a podcast or somesuch and think: “Oooh. Oh, hey, that sounds familiar. Guilty. Ouch. Guilty, again. Owwwwguilty.” If I didn’t know better I’d say the podcast was custom built for my situation.

    So you ask the question: do I want to write a book or be a writer? You’ve got some sound advice for the latter, but I certainly fall under the former category. At this time I have no inclination to become a real writer… I merely want to get this idea I’ve been building (and tearing down and rebuilding) in my head for the last 5-7 years out on paper without making it utterly unpresentable!

    What’s your advice for people who are less interested in making a career out of writing and more interested in just telling the story bouncing around in their skulls? Iterate, iterate, iterate? That’s what the programmer in me says, but I’m not sure I can trust him for artistic advice! ;)

    Posted by Ian Morrison
  23. May 27, 2009 @ 2:07 am


    Thanks, guys!
    BTW, I LOVE Brussels sprouts.

    Posted by Linda
  24. May 27, 2009 @ 9:57 am


    Dan’s comments were spot on. It’s all about not wanting to spoil something that seems beautiful in your mind. Like Howard, I get the characters “yammering” in my head, and the worst part of that is that they become people, with a story that NEEDS TO BE TOLD. On some level, I think I’m afraid of not doing their lives justice (read: myself).

    For me scene jumping has been important. When I feel stuck, for whatever reason, I jump to a scene I feel more confident about. Maybe writing out of order will come back to bite me in the butt, but for now it’s keeping me trudging.

    Posted by Eliyanna
  25. May 27, 2009 @ 11:01 am


    I listened to the podcast a couple of times (thanks, by the way…and yes, I also love the fact that next season is only a week away), and what Brandon said left a strong impression.

    Like him, I wrote and didn’t know I ‘sucked’ at first. Unlike him, after a decade or so, I still hadn’t learned the skills and techniques. At the moment, I have throughly understood my suckage and I’m currently re-learning the craft, a little at a time.

    It’s hard. I’ll just give myself another decade or so. :)

    Posted by Jin
  26. May 27, 2009 @ 1:44 pm


    Dan – this is why I don’t leave comments on here. Wasn’t the fox from “The Little Prince” who said that words are the source of all misunderstandings? Sorry. I wasn’t trying to call you mean. (Although, after reading Serial Killer…/ JK) You have been very kind with all of your feedback. In that, I must add that it is difficult for first time writers to recieve feedback, even if it is kindly put and SPOT ON. Sorry if you felt the tiniest bit villified. I love this podcast. I just think that it is hard when one is a novice, to recieve so many opionions and advice. One gets to the point that one doesn’t know what to keep and what to cast aside. I’m very interested in knowing how much advice the three of you take about your writing.

    Posted by Fiona
  27. May 27, 2009 @ 2:00 pm


    Oops! Wrote my comment in the wrong comment section.

    Oh well!

    To put this podcast in perspective I would reduce it to two words:

    JUST WRITE!

    Posted by Rafael
  28. May 27, 2009 @ 5:18 pm


    So is there any chance of getting a sneak peak at the upcoming topics in season 3?

    Pretty please!

    Posted by Dean M.
  29. May 27, 2009 @ 5:35 pm


    @Fiona: I don’t think you sounded mean. Long-winded, perhaps, but not mean. Don’t worry about it. If Dan decides to be mean, it’s not your fault. It’s mine. I’ve been rationing his bacon lately.

    @Ian Morrisson: If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to have written, write. The only difference between the two is that the writer will keep writing after the first blush of “having written” has faded, while the wants-to-have-written person will likely flake out as soon as the book hits a rough patch.

    But either way, write.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  30. May 27, 2009 @ 8:18 pm


    Fair enough. I don’t give up on projects, so I don’t think I’m in danger of flaking out. Moving embarrassingly slowly? Perhaps!

    Alright, then, I’ll just keep puttering in the direction I’m going, then.

    Posted by Ian Morrison
  31. May 27, 2009 @ 9:52 pm


    Not everyone who enjoys having written flakes out. Case in point? George RR Martin.

    Posted by Raethe
  32. May 27, 2009 @ 10:31 pm


    I think that’s why he said “likely flake out” instead of “certainly flake out”. ;)

    I wouldn’t be surprised if flaking out is the norm for those pursuing the result over the craft, though, and that would go for any skill or art form. If programming as a craft hadn’t appealed to me and I’d only wanted to write a specific program, the program would be low quality, on the off chance I even finished it. Ditto for art, music, and all the other things I’ve had a wild time teaching myself about for the last 17ish years.

    Heh. I guess I’ve got first hand experience that points out my approach as being utterly wrongheaded. But I’m having fun with it, so I think I’ll keep hammering my head against that brick wall for the time being! :)

    Posted by Ian Morrison
  33. May 28, 2009 @ 5:48 am


    and a transcript of sorts…

    http://mbarker.livejournal.com/112706.html

    Posted by Mike Barker
  34. May 28, 2009 @ 7:29 am


    Excellent podcast, as usual. Like most writers, I have a Golden Idea that’s been incubating in my head for more years than I care to think about. I’m also a bit of a world builder. My solution to getting started has been to write short stories that are situated in the world I created for my G.I. It might be just using the setting, it might be using a minor character as a view point character, it might be writing a story about a main character in his youth before the events of the G.I, etc. This, first and foremost, gets me into BICHOK(1) mode. It also means that, when I do get around to working on the G.I., I have well developed minor characters and setting, etc. It allows me to write without being overwhelmed by implementing the G.I. while still not feeling like I’m giving up or abandoning it..

    P.S. – I just made my first sale. Not a major sale, just a short story that will be in the July edition of The Lorelei Signal webzine, but it’s a start and it wouldn’t have happened had I not stumbled upon a link to these podcasts on Schlock and gotten inspired to start writing again. Thanks, guys!

    (1)Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard

    Posted by Dan J.
  35. May 28, 2009 @ 9:24 am


    Dan – this is why I don’t leave comments on here. Wasn’t the fox from “The Little Prince” who said that words are the source of all misunderstandings? Sorry. I wasn’t trying to call you mean. (Although, after reading Serial Killer…/ JK) You have been very kind with all of your feedback. In that, I must add that it is difficult for first time writers to recieve feedback, even if it is kindly put and SPOT ON. Sorry if you felt the tiniest bit villified. I love this podcast. I just think that it is hard when one is a novice, to recieve so many opionions and advice. One gets to the point that one doesn’t know what to keep and what to cast aside. I’m very interested in knowing how much advice the three of you take about your writing.

    Posted by PB
  36. May 28, 2009 @ 2:19 pm


    It’s funny you should do a topic on this, seeing as I just got one of my friends into the Writing Excuses and he also marathon played all of Season 1. Now I’m wondering if my nameless friend and your nameless friend are the same person.

    Posted by J.H. Wolf
  37. May 28, 2009 @ 2:46 pm


    Glad to hear the reassuring things you guys have to say! I’ve been throwing away or revising my ideas for ages. It is nice to hear I’m not just completely retarded (as a few siblings have said when I tossed work on the second volume in a trilogy because the first volume came out lacking).

    Thanks. Time for me to get back to writing SOMETHING.

    Posted by Brandon
  38. May 29, 2009 @ 11:25 am


    Great advice. I know I had to put my own Golden Idea to bed for a while as I work on short stories connected to it to help me figure out exactly how I’ll get through the Golden Idea. I know where I want to go with the story, but getting there for me is the difficult part as I want it to be massive, incredible, exciting and different.

    Posted by Clifton Hill
  39. June 1, 2009 @ 5:58 am


    Wah? Where’s Season 3 Episode 1?!?! I need my WE fix!!! My entire life has been turned upside down into a bedlam roil of chaos! This is the worst Monday ever!!!!!!!!!!!

    (Did I mention that I borrowed the Hyperbole Machine from The Onion?)

    Posted by Jen
  40. June 1, 2009 @ 6:49 am


    Wait a minute, Jen. It’s not just your fix. We’re all hanging on by the edge of our fingernails here, waiting for the golden words, the injection of wry humor, the mental stimulation that starts the week and tells us that it will be all right… Do you suppose it’s a test, to see just how addicted we’ve grown?

    Let’s just quietly join in a chorus of that old camp song…

    Where have all the writing excuses gone,
    Long time passing?
    Where have all our episodes gone,
    MP3 players waiting…
    Where have all the writing excuses gone,
    Long time passing,
    Young writers butts in chairs,
    Hands on keyboards everyone
    When will they ever learn,
    When will they post the new episode…

    Is there a candle flickering in cyberspace?

    Posted by Mike Barker
  41. June 2, 2009 @ 10:53 pm


    No. It’s a digital lighter.

    Posted by Raethe
  42. June 3, 2009 @ 4:46 pm


    Thanks, Raethe. I should have known… although burning the digital lighter at both ends just doesn’t stretch the analogy quite the same way, does it?

    Posted by Mike Barker
  43. June 5, 2009 @ 10:49 pm


    I will have to admit that I am one of those aspiring writers who has been working on the same story since my senior year in high school (13 years ago). The reason being I had to set it aside to pay attention to events going on in my life during those years. High School graduation. Parents divorce. Mission. College. But even with all that going on, I still kept at it. As I did, the story evolved into something I believe and hope is better than what I started out with. The original idea I had was this. Four friends go camping, they go swimming in a lake that is laced with toxic waste. lightening strikes the lake causing them to be cursed with immortality. As the years passed I began thinking about this original idea and one of the questions I had asked myself is: Why are they immortal? I was also working on another story at the time and my brother suggested that I some how connect the two books. So with the question ‘Why are these people immortal? and the idea of connecting the two stories sparked more ideas and eventually evolved into what I am currently working as well as fueling more story line ideas. I am actually hesitant to say what my current idea is. I am quite protective of my work and usually only share it with my husband and close friends, which is a flaw I know I need to get over if I ever hope to join a writing group.
    As far as being overwhelmed is concerned, I actually don’t feel overwhelmed. My biggest fear, if I ever publish, is that I will be successful. I’m not saying that I’m any good or think that any publishing companies will want to publish what I want, in fact I think the opposite. But I am going to continue writing, because it’s fun, and at least pitch my stories to different writing companies, just to see if any will publish my books.

    Posted by Tami Richards
  44. June 7, 2009 @ 10:31 pm


    Mike: It doesn’t quite, no.

    Posted by Raethe
  45. June 16, 2009 @ 6:02 am


    For me the problem was trying to get it right on the first try. I believe one of you mentioned that in the podcast. I was able to get over that by participating in Nanowrimo last year, as a few other posters have mentioned above. That got me to just write and not worry about quality. One result was a 66K word first novel that needed a lot of work, but another result was the sense of accomplishment that I could actually do it. Now I’m doing a rewrite and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay if it isn’t any good. I can always scrap a chapter and rewrite it. The new problem for me is trying to judge between good enough to move on, and needs to be rewritten.

    Posted by Tyson P
  46. October 23, 2009 @ 7:56 am


    I like the G.I. abbreviation for “Golden Idea”. It’s also the abbr for gastrointestinal (ie. digestive tract). Metaphor: The longer you sit digesting your Golden Idea the more it turns into crap. Just get it out early and free yourself up for a new idea!

    Thanks Writing Excuses hosts! This podcast (series as well as this episode) has been very educational and inspiring for me!

    Posted by bobman
  47. February 25, 2012 @ 7:44 pm


    I listened to all of the first season again last weekend, and all of the second this one. So I guess I WASN’T supposed to do that. :)

    Posted by Andrew
  48. November 10, 2012 @ 2:31 am


    I have a lot of ideas, that is not the issue. I’d compare writing from the idea, a bit like getting a good idea, and then having a teacher tell you “Why don’t you write a book report on it!?” They ask you to write down such much you get tired of the idea.

    Posted by Sarah