By Writing Excuses | February 24, 2013 - 8:03 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Season 8

Robison Wells joins us again to talk about personal health, and his brother Dan joins us from the couch where (as of this recording session) he’s suffering from the recent removal of a body part. Eeew!

We start by talking with Rob about his well-chronicled mental health issues, how he dealt with them, and how he used them to inform his writing. We ask the obvious question — are there more mental illnesses to be found among creative folk, or are we all under confirmation bias?

Mary and Howard chime in with their own mental wellness struggles, and we talk about the importance of letting other people know how we’re feeling, and why we might be feeling that way. We also talk about our physical health, and how important it is for us as writers to keep track of that. Dan, Brandon, and Mary all have standing desks, and Brandon’s is affixed to a treadmill (and as a result of this ‘cast, Howard tried a standing desk for a month and but then gave up on it.)

This episode doesn’t offer much in the way of crunchy, nuts-and-bolts writing advice, but hopefully it helps some of you deal with the issues that you now know some of the professionals suffer from as well.

Those Pictures You Wanted: Howard promised to get pictures of Brandon’s tread-desk. He lied, or at least cannot find the pictures anywhere. As a consolation prize, here is a link to Robison’s blog post about mental health.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Our pick, Imagine, by Jonah Lehrer, has been pulled from Audible because the author made some stuff up! So not only can you not believe everything you read, you can't believe everything you listen to.

Writing Prompt: Take an outline, and make a list of the questions you are going to ask your readers at the beginning of the book. Then make a (hopefully shorter) list of the questions you leave unanswered by the end of that book.

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By Writing Excuses | February 17, 2013 - 2:08 pm - Posted in Other Podcasts, Season 8, Suspense

Double the Wells brothers for double the fun! Robison Wells joins us for a discussion of cliffhangers. Rob and Dan can be found together on another podcast called Do I Dare to Eat a Peach.

Rob’s first novel, Variant, ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, which is resolved in Feedback, the second novel. Rob confesses to us that he likes leaving readers wondering about portions of the world-building — that’s the 90% of the iceberg invisible beneath the surface of the water. He also withholds lots of information from the reader, and does so without cheating since the POV character has no way to know these things.

We talk at length about how we keep information from the reader, and how the less we tell, the more suspense we can provide.

The Variant cliffhanger is a particularly sharp one. Rob defends it for us, and talks about why he and his editors decided to conclude the first book in the series the way they did. Mary discusses how she handles pacing with internal cliffhangers at chapter breaks. Dan tells us about some interesting reader reaction to Partials.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Variant and Feedback by Robison Wells, both narrated by Michael Goldstrom

Writing Prompt: Write the story of the scary, scary shade from Phantom of the Opera.

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By Mary Robinette Kowal | February 16, 2013 - 9:32 am - Posted in Site News

It’s been a long few months of writing, applying, and nervously waiting, but the time has come. We have carefully reviewed your applications—all 73 of them—and painstakingly narrowed the field to a few exceptional finalists. Of those we have chosen one winner, whom we notified yesterday, and now that she has accepted it our great pleasure to announce that the 2013 “That’s a Pretty Good Excuse” scholarship goes to Alissa Leonard.

The quality of the applications was higher than we expected, all across the board, but not only did Alissa win the most votes, she won ALL the votes: the four podcasters and our mystery sponsor picked her application unanimously. She will receive full tuition to the 2013 Writing Excuses retreat, a free room in the nearby hotel, and up to $500 for airfare to get her there. Her writing samples show a lot of promise, and we hope this retreat helps her hone her skills to an even higher level.

Those of you who didn’t win, we still love you! You are amazing writers and amazing people, and we hope you continue working hard on your dreams. Keep writing, and make sure to say hi if we ever see you at another convention or conference.

To Alissa and the other retreat attendees, we’ll see you in June!

By Writing Excuses | February 10, 2013 - 7:08 pm - Posted in Characters, Outlining, Plot, Research, Season 8

Retellings are pretty popular right now. Game of Thrones is a retelling the War of the Roses. The Thirteenth Warrior is a retelling of Beowulf, and The Lion King is a retelling of Hamlet. Why do we write these? What do we like about them?

Familiar stories let us explore things in new ways, both because we know what’s coming, and because we don’t need to be brought up to speed on the story.

The line between retelling and adaptation is a blurry one, though. For writers, a good approach, especially early on, is to grab a great story, peel everything away to the plot and key characters, and start writing something new.

On This Date Five Years Ago: the very first episode of Writing Excuses appeared online. 260 weekly episodes later, here we are.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, narrated by Rebecca Soler

Writing Prompt: Do a retelling of a Bible story in a science fiction space setting.

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By Writing Excuses | February 3, 2013 - 9:35 pm - Posted in Characters, Dialog, magic, POV, Sci-fi, Season 8, Setting

Oh yeah, it’s time to break some rules! We’ve said that you’ve got to learn the rules before you break them, but here, eight seasons in, you probably already know them. So let’s make with the breaking!

We talk about some of the rules we’ve broken, and some of our favorite broken rules in other people’s work. We also talk about why any of us got away with it.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Holes, by Louis Sachar, narrated by Kerry Byer

Writing Prompt: Here is a rule for rule-breaking: The best format for experimenting with rule-breaking is the short. So! Pick your three favorite rules and break all three in a short story.

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Get an audiobook of your choice, free, with a 30-day trial. After the trial, your paid membership will begin at $14.95 per month. With your membership, you will receive one credit every month, good for any audiobook on Audible.

Cancel anytime, effective the next monthly billing cycle. Cancel before your trial ends and you will not be charged. Check out the full terms and policies that apply to Audible membership.