By Writing Excuses | August 21, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Demonstration, Theory and Technique

It is Howard’s turn in the critique box! Brandon, Dan, and Mary dissect a 21-year-old manuscript from 22-year-old Howard, this time with an eye to making descriptions do more than one thing.

Since the manuscript runs for six pages before colliding with any inconvenient dialog, it’s a perfect fit. It might also be perfect because of how much work it needs.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, narrated by David Colacci

Writing Prompt: Start with Howard’s concept and write your own story. The complete chapter whose pages we dissected can be found here in RTF format.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
Visit for a free trial membership*.
*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.


This entry was posted on Sunday, August 21st, 2011 at 6:00 pm and is filed under Demonstration, Theory and Technique. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. August 22, 2011 @ 5:36 am

    The wind of criticism rushed over Howard’s rapidly thickening skin at several kilometers per second…

    Posted by Michael Winegar
  2. August 22, 2011 @ 7:00 am

    leaving behind a horrid rash that would require yet another round of anti-rejection tablets.

    Posted by me
  3. August 22, 2011 @ 9:45 am

    Poor Howard.

    I actually thought this chapter wasn’t too bad. I certainly liked the concept and the main character was intriguing, though the plot had some issues.

    I also had some fun doing the prompt for this week (linked here if you’re curious but it made me wonder where Howard intended to take the plot. Does Jones die at the end of that chapter? Because it seemed like he did to me.

    Posted by Pat Hulse
  4. August 22, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

    (I’m so tempted to continue the above as a round robin story, but it’s Monday morning and my brain won’t work.)

    Thanks to Howard for putting himself up to be shredded. I could almost see him cringing. (Don’t worry, Howard, we all know you write much better than this now – and I’m actually intrigued by the story itself, which is far more important.) It’s always interesting to hear these, so Howard’s pain wasn’t in vain. ^_^

    And if I didn’t know Howard was the most dangerous of you all, with the possible exception of Mary, I’d feel sad about all the Make Fun of Howard. As it is, Howard can say three against one is about even. ^_^

    Posted by Laurie
  5. August 23, 2011 @ 6:44 am

    Loved the podcast and Howard’s Fiction. If it came out when I was still in high school I would have latched onto it like there was no tomorrow. Makes the little that I wrote in college (that were not term papers) pale by comparison.

    Also what podcast did you guys go over Brandon’s first novel?


    David Lein

    Posted by David Lein
  6. August 23, 2011 @ 7:25 am
  7. August 23, 2011 @ 9:11 am

    4.31 was Brandon’s. 5.16 was Dan’s.

    I guess that means Mary is up next?

    Posted by Sariah
  8. August 23, 2011 @ 10:21 am

    They also did Brandon’s in 4.29. (I posted links, but they got caught in the spam filter.)

    Posted by Katya
  9. August 23, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

    Thanks. I look forward to them on my coffee break.


    David Lein

    Posted by David Lein
  10. August 23, 2011 @ 11:38 pm

    and in case you’re looking for what was said, here’s your transcript!

    Posted by Mike Barker
  11. August 24, 2011 @ 4:27 am

    I like the idea of an augment to play with someone on Venus while you work.

    Posted by Matt Larkin
  12. August 24, 2011 @ 4:54 am

    Yeah, where’s the critique of Sanderson’s earliest writings? Hmm, I forget where . . .

    Posted by dirty wizard hunter
  13. August 24, 2011 @ 4:59 am

    PS Congrats on the Hugo, Mary. These podcasts really needed a permanent female writer’s perspective, especially one with such a beautiful reading voice. I enjoy listening to your perspective on things. That said, Brandon is still my favorite . . . HUGGGGGGE Sanderson fan!!! Anyway, thanks for pulling w-excuses to the next level, Mary.

    Posted by dirty wizard hunter
  14. August 24, 2011 @ 8:15 am

    […] Writing Excuses 6.12: Revising For Description. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  15. August 25, 2011 @ 11:45 am

    Great podcast—Poor Howard!

    Hey, question for you guys: I just finished reading the sequel to I am Number Four (called The Power Of Six), and saw some character regression in the MC. How do you avoid that?

    Posted by Erynne
  16. August 25, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

    Hey all,

    I’ve been listening to WE for a while now and I’m finally getting off my ass and adding to the comments, doing the prompts and actually contributing.

    Love the cast, love all your guys’ (and gal’s) work. Saw most of you at Renovation, congrats to Mary! So awesome!

    Thanks to Howard for letting us use his early stuff. I liked a lot of the concepts he had.

    Here’s the link to my new site for this week’s prompt:

    Posted by TemporalSword
  17. August 26, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

    […] 6.12: Revising For Description […]

  18. August 27, 2011 @ 5:19 am

    I thought they were going to post Howard’s manuscript. I’d like to see it!

    Posted by mike
  19. August 27, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

    I am really enjoying the podcasts on CD. I need to find if I can buy more past the first three years. Makes me admire Howard all the more.

  20. August 27, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

    Hi all,

    I’ve been listening to WE for a while now and I finally decided to get off my ass and do the prompts, comment and just generally contribute.

    I love the cast, it’s been a big help. And congrats to Mary!

    Here’s a link to my blog for my prompt this week:

    Posted by TemporalSword
  21. August 27, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

    Loved the podcast! You mentioned the wind being an irritation, but would that mean the character could feel pain should something attack the ship, or maybe a nervous tic or muscle twitches for parts of the ship that require maintenance? Intruiging possibilities…

    Posted by Nathan Garrity
  22. August 27, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

    Psst? If you go over here

    you can buy the DVD of the first five seasons!

    Posted by Mike Barker
  23. October 27, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

    I finally got around to reading this manuscript. The fact that all I find wrong with the first two sentences is a missing Oxford comma means I need more of these critique episodes!

    Posted by Duke
  24. February 26, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

    Found this really helpful. Thanks for taking one for the team Howard.

    Also, my heart lifted when you recomended The Sparrow.

    Posted by stanford