Writing Excuses 7.54: Four Ways the Industry is Changing

And now, for the very last episode of Season 7, we shall chance taking a look forward. Is this prognostication, or reckless abandon? Neither! We get asked a lot about how the industry is changing, and how we’re adjusting to what we see happening. This isn’t us predicting the future: this is us interpreting what we’re seeing, and then describing how we plan to react.

  • Mary suggests that we’re seeing a swing from Fantasy to Science Fiction as the dominant speculative genre, and but she doesn’t plan to start writing nothing but sci-fi as a result.
  • Dan calls out a trend towards supplemental materials — shorts that tie in to flagship novels. He’s already taking part in this, and plans to keep doing it.
  • Howard hits the hot-button of “e-publishing,” and calls it “shortening the value chain.” He’s been making a living with it since it was basically brand-new, but he plans to continue to exploit the disruptions it creates — sometimes by lengthening the value chain.
  • Brandon sees increasing pressures for authors to promote themselves, (largely the result of exceptional cases of authors with good platforms), but suggests that the time can still be better spent writing more books.

And that’s it for us until 2013! We’ll be back next year with Season 8, and you’ll only have to wait a week for it to start airing.

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Figure out what you would like the future of writing to look like. Now write a story about how we get there.

The Last Light of the Sun, by Guy Gavriel Kay, narrated by Holter Graham

Writing Excuses 7.53: Secret History

Hey, guess what 2012 has fifty-three of? Mondays! So you’re getting a fifty-third episode of “Writing Excuses” this season. (You’re also going to be getting a fifty-fourth, because we stuck an extra in there a few weeks back.)

Hopefully this excuses (no pun intended) the fact that this episode is a full three days late. Merry Christmas!

Let’s talk about secret histories. A secret history is a subset of alternate history, in which historical events are given new explanations, typically fantastical ones, but in which the reader is invited to believe that this is the world we all currently live in.

We mention Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Tim Powers’ Last Call, and Jo Walton’s Among Others, and why secret history has the appeal it does, especially when it’s done well. And because you want to know how to do it well, we spend some time on that, as well as discussing some of the ethics of creating secret histories in the first place.

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Take a popular piece of entertainment, grab a side-character, and give us their secret story.

A Short Stay in Hell, by Stephen L. Peck, narrated by Sergei Burbank

Writing Excuses 7.52: Microcasting

We’re drawing to the close of Season 7, so here’s some microcasting (that’s what we call a fast-paced Q&A) where we field your questions. Here are your questions:

  • What are your embarrassing early projects?
  • How do you tell if your idea is too big for the story you’re working on?
  • How do you avoid discouragement?
  • How do you handle multiple magic systems in one book?
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Two different characters, two different magic systems…

Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor, narrated by Anne Flosnik

Writing Excuses 7.51: Brainstorming with Mary

We try. We really do. But sometimes, in our efforts to make sure we’ve got a large enough queue of episodes to keep you edutained and entercated, we get things out of order. Badly.

Our last two episodes (49 and 50) made reference to this one, which was recorded before they were, and many of you were confused. We were even confused! But enough about the behind-the-scenes recording process. On with the episode!

Mary pitches us three story sketches, and we pick one to brainstorm. This, by the way, is also how Mary works with her agent. After the pitches, we select the one that doesn’t have much of a story yet.

And then it’s a brainstorming session. If you’ve ever wondered where we (or anybody else) gets their ideas, and more importantly, how they refine them, this is a must-listen.

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In a setting in which magnetic fields are dramatically different between locations, give us a story about traveling between those locations.

The Broken Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin, narrated by Casaundra Freeman

Writing Excuses 7.50: Outlining the Mary Way

Mary has a distinctive outlining methodology, and this episode is all about it. She tells us about roadmaps, layers, thumbnails, under paintings, synopses, and more, in the order in which those elements usually appear.

The discussion of pacing vs. plot is particularly useful. Especially if you’re Howard.

Mary then takes us through the process of outlining a specific short story which, as of this cast, she had not yet written. Also, this episode is part of a sequence that was recorded in a different order than that in which it aired. Our bad! Here’s the one you probably wanted to listen to first.

The outline itself can be found here.

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Give us a magic system in which the thumbnail, the under painting, the other imagery are the basis for the magic.

The Dragon Factory, by Jonathan Mayberry, narrated by Ray Porter

Writing Excuses 7.49: Beginnings Revisited

We haven’t discussed beginnings this in a while, and when we did, we summed it up with “in late, out early.” Now we’re going to talk about what needs to be present when you’re “in.” We talk about tone, and how the tone you set in your beginning is a promise made to your reader, using examples from George R.R. Martin and David Brin. We also talk about how useful (and how dangerously trite) a labeled prologue can be, and how important it is to establish a setting, especially in genre fiction.

This episode appears out of order with something else we recorded which we refer to, specifically a piece Mary is working on. Tantalizing, yes? Here is the episode you probably wanted to hear first.

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Start a new story. Give us character, place, and sense of tone. Do it one sentence, and do it within 13 lines (which is what typically appears on the first page of a manuscript.)

The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages, narrated by Julie Dretzen