Writing Excuses 8.13: Fake It Till You Make it

What does it mean to “fake it till you make it?” For this episode we talk about the things that we do, or that we have done, that help us (or helped us) feel professional. Howard explains the origin of his legendary online buffer, and how eight years later he changed his wardrobe. Mary tells us the story of the omitted first line of Glamour in Glass, and how her reaction to it was destined to shape (or solidify) the image she wanted others to have. Brandon talks about his first time on the NYT Best-Sellers List.

Obviously the thing we should all be doing, first and foremost, is writing, but there are professional behaviors you can engage in that will help you feel more like a professional writer.

But! There is a logical fallacy to avoid, however. “Affirming the consequent” is when we look at the things our favorite authors do, and do them without realizing that those are consequences of being professionals rather than precursors. We talk about some of the consequences that we, as authors-aspirant, might find ourselves affirming.

Finally, we talk about “imposter syndrome,” and there’s good news on that front: even many full-time, award-winning professionals suffer from it.

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This is a submission prompt! Submit a story to a high-level market that you think you’ll never sell to.

A History of Warfare, by John Keegan, narrated by Ian Stuart

Writing Excuses is a finalist for Hugo Best Related Work

We are delighted to announce that Writing Excuses Season 7 is a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Related work. We are all excited and honored to be in this list of fellow nominees.

  • The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature Edited by Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge UP)
  • Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis (Mad Norwegian Press)
  • Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who Edited by Deborah Stanish & L.M. Myles (Mad Norwegian Press)
  • I Have an Idea for a Book… The Bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg Compiled by Martin H. Greenberg, edited by John Helfers (The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box)
  • Writing Excuses Season Seven by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson

In addition to this, Brandon received a nomination for his novella, The Emperor’s Soul. This is is first Hugo fiction nomination. His fellow nominees for Best Novella are:

  • After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
  • The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
  • On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
  • San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • “The Stars Do Not Lie” by Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)

You can also listen to Project In Depth from Season Seven, in which we take a close look at Brandon’s process of writing this novella.

And Howard is nominated again for Best Graphic Story with Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia. Well done!

  • Grandville Bête Noire written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse Comics, Jonathan Cape)
  • Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
  • Saga, Volume One written by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (Hypernode Media)
  • Saucer Country, Volume 1: Run written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton and Goran Sudžuka (Vertigo)

Writing Excuses 8.12: Project in Depth — Deus ex Nauseum

Brandon, Dan, and Mary interview Howard about how he assembled “Deus ex Nauseum,” the bonus story that appears at the end of Schlock Mercenary: Emperor Pius Dei.

Howard begins with the story’s genesis, which was sort of a science-fiction Sherlock Holmes story, but which wasn’t working very well. He explains why it wasn’t working well, and the point at which he decided to change it completely.

Then the questions begin. We have a fascinating discussion about deus ex machina as a literary device, and how this story plays to that type, and plays against that type.

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Take one story and discard every other page. Use that as framing material for a second story.

The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, edited by John Joseph Adams with stories by Robert J. Sawyer, Christopher Roden, Michael Moorcock, Anne Perry, Neil Gaiman, Anthony Burgess, and Laurie R. King, narrated by Simon Vance and Anne Flosnik.

Writing Excuses 8.11: Abnormal Psychology

Robison Wells joins us again, this time to help us with a discussion of writing characters with abnormal psychology. What are our resources for describing these characters in compelling, believable ways? What are the tricks, the pitfalls, and the landmines.

Brandon frames the discussion with some terms from his abnormal psych class, but let’s lay down a caveat right now: none of us are experts in abnormal psych. We have done lots of research in lots of different fields, we all love learning things, but we’re not doctors.

And that’s where you need to start — love learning, and research this heavily. This is an exercise in “writing the other.” Rob helps us with this research by describing what’s going on with his panic disorder, giving us helpful insight into the sorts of details we’ll need to make any mentally ill character believable.

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Take Rob’s explanation of what it feels like to be him, and write a character from that POV.

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, by David Eagleman, who also narrates.

Writing Excuses 8.10: Brainstorming With Howard Again

In this episode Brandon, Mary, and Dan help Howard brainstorm a story for a comic!

Howard begins with an uplift-related setting, and a couple of characters, and then the group takes off on a delightful demonstration of brainstorming within very specific constraints. The constraints in this case: existing setting and canon, existing characters, and (Howard’s favorite constraint) a limited page-count.

Disappointment of Epic Levels: Howard struggled so much with this story, even after the brainstorming session, that he decided to abandon the Bonus Story option for this book, and instead write a dozen new footnotes for the existing strips. This is no reflection upon the story itself. Brandon, Dan, and Mary did a great job. This story may see life someplace else, but not between the covers of “The Body Politic.”

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An uplifted creature wants to get his/her entire species downlifted.

Fragments, by Dan Wells, narrated by Julia Whelan

Writing Excuses 8.9: Brainstorming with Howard

In this episode Howard pitches three story ideas to the group, and they pick one to brainstorm. The selection process is itself educational (which is good, because it runs for a third of the ‘cast…)

The story selected is near-future science-fiction with extra-dimensional, magical elements. As the brainstorming continues, we grab some fun secret-history elements, and successfully deepen the conflict. We also learn that there are two stories here, and Howard has to choose which one of them to write.

And For Your Disappointment: As of this time the story laid out in this ‘cast remains unwritten, so you can’t read it.

But to Make Up For It: Howard got distracted and wrote a horror piece instead! Here is a sample! (Note: this wasn’t one of the pitches, but it DOES demonstrate that Howard really, really wanted to get out of his comfort zone.)

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Pick a major event in history, and then write a secret history in which Death returns to take over.

Feedback, by Robison Wells, narrated by Michael Goldstrom