Writing Excuses 6.17: Writing Assistants

Peter Ahlstrom, assistant to Brandon Sanderson, and Valerie Dowbenko, assistant to Pat Rothfuss, join Brandon and Dan to talk about what they do for “their authors.”

While this may seem like an incredible luxury — most of you listeners aren’t going to rush out and hire an assistant — there are things that can be farmed out from the earliest stages of your career as a professional writer. The goal, of course, is for the writer to find more time to write.

It’s also a lot of fun to hear Peter and Valerie talk about how they keep Brandon and Pat writing, and to listen to them talk about some of the unusual things they do as part of this job.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton

Writing Prompt: First person once removed — give us a story from the perspective of a first person narrator who is NOT the cool person.

The Shoes, Pat Has All of Them: Because that’s what Valerie did for him.

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Writing Excuses 6.16: Gender Roles–Black, White, and Gray

Keffy Kehrli joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard in front of a live audience at WorldCon 69 in Reno. He’s a Writers of the Future winner, a few votes short of being a Campbell Award nominee, and a female-to-male transsexual.

Mary leads us into this discussion, starting with how gender roles and gender identity lie along a continuum, defying the convenient descriptors that people typically employ, and how this can inform our writing. Keffy offers valuable tips, talking about what gets done wrong, and how to write it correctly.

We also talk about how this can apply to world-building, especially in fantasy where extended gender identities usually are not a consideration.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch, narrated by Michael Page

Writing Prompt: Take something that you do, something unique to you (and perhaps to your gender), and hand it to somebody in your book who appears unqualified for that task. Then qualify them for it.

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Writing Excuses 6.15: Writing Other Cultures

In our second WorldCon 69 episode we’re joined by Lauren Beukes, whose novels Moxyland and Zoo City are excellent case studies for writing in other cultures. It’s a difficult subject, and anybody venturing down the actual path in practice should be aware of the metaphorical minefield ahead of them.

But perhaps it’s not as bad as all that. Fundamentally, we’re talking about writing from the mind-set of characters who are not like us in some key way, which writers have to do all the time. Lauren walks us through her process and her approach, and Dan, Brandon, Mary, and even Howard have interesting and useful things to contribute.

It’s a great discussion. We learn what a “fixer” is in South African parlance.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Fangland, by John Marks, narrated by Ellen Archer, Simon Vance, Todd McLaren, and Michael Prichard.

Writing Prompt: Take some aspect of your neighborhood and twist it around, perhaps in the same way District 9 twisted the township of Soweto into an alien reservation.

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Writing Excuses 6.14: Suspension of Disbelief

Patrick Rothfuss joins Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard at WorldCon 69, where we recorded before a live, enthusiastic audience.

The topic? Suspension of disbelief, specifically, how to get your readers to do this. Patrick leads us off with verisimilitude, and how the reader will accept the fantastic if you’re presenting the mundane in a believable way. We talk about laying groundwork, about Chekov’s gun, the promises we have to make to our readers, and the dramatic tool bathos.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss, narrated by Nick Podehl.

Writing Prompt: Make the reader believe one impossible thing. If you can’t think of something on your own, start with teleportation.

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