Writing Excuses 8.26: Space Opera

This week’s episode covers the perjoratively-named sub-genre, space opera. These are adventure stories in which the setting is futuristic, but in which the science is secondary. The lines are blurry, as they are with any definition of genre, but we’re pretty sure that Howard writes space opera.

A possible definition? Space Opera is when the author uses science to justify the cool stuff he or she has come up with.

We talk about the decisions that go into writing a space opera, how Howard has gone about it, and what you might focus on in order to write a compelling, adventurous romp.

Pithy Howardism: “If I pee far, it’s because I stand on the shoulders of giants.”

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Posit a faster-than-light drive that nobody else has thought of. Or at least that you haven’t heard of.

The Warrior’s Apprentice, by Lois McMaster Bujold, narrated by Grover Gardner

Writing Excuses 8.25: Middle Grade with E.J. Patten

Eric Patten joins us for a cast on Middle Grade fiction. His series, The Hunter Chronicles (Return to Exile and The Legend Thief have both been released) is delightful.

As Dan points out, there’s no faster way to start an argument among publishers, editors, and authors than to ask them to define “middle grade.” That said, Brandon’s definition is pretty helpful. Paraphrasing:

Middle Grade books are those which a school librarian gives to a child, rather than the child buying it for him or herself.

Nevertheless, we argue a bit about the fuzzy line between YA and Middle Grade, and we recount where we were getting our books at that age.

Eric talks to us about how he writes Middle Grade, and how it differs from writing YA, specifically with regard to the process of change. We cover some of the escapist elements, and how they differ between the age groups. We also talk about simplifying things without “dumbing them down.” Eric’s Return to Exile comes in at 115,000 words, which is more than twice what most Middle Grade books weigh in at.

Production Trivia: While this was not the last one recorded, this episode is the last one to air from our 2012 mega-session. Back in May of 2012 we recorded forty-plus episodes in the course of five days. Our hope is to never, never do that again…

Episode What Now? (Yes, yes… the number that Mary says at the beginning of this episode is not the one that this episode actually uses. Producer Jordo and byline-writer Howard disagreed on the episode order, and Howard neglected to tell Jordo that he’d made a snap decision while wielding admin access…)

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Write a Middle Grade book with a four-year-old protagonist.

The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan, narrated by Kevin R. Free and Katherine Kellgren

Writing Excuses 8.24: Project in Depth–Kiss Me Twice

Mary’s story “Kiss Me Twice,” is a murder mystery featuring an artificial intelligence using Mae West as an avatar. It appeared on the ballot for the 2012 Hugo Awards in the Best Novella category (our early discussion to the contrary, we totally did NOT air this episode in time for 2012 Hugo voting. Yes, we recorded this episode a full year prior to airing it.)

Mary walks us through the process of creating the story, and then cutting it down from novel-length to the novella-length at which it currently appears, as well as a bunch of the work that went into creating a compelling, character-driven mystery with an A.I. as a critical character. We also get a fun “what-if” argument as the cast talks about what we liked best about the story, and how we’d change it if it got bigger.

Public Service Announcement: Voting is now open for the 2013 Hugos. The ballot can be seen here. If you purchase, or have already purchased, a membership to LoneStarCon 3, you are eligible to vote on the 2013 Hugos, and will have access to the entire Hugo Voting Packet — a collection of all nominated works. Voting closes on July 31st. (Obligatory disclaimer: Brandon and Howard are on the ballot in the Novella and Graphic Story categories, respectively, and Writing Excuses Season 7 is on the ballot in the Best Related Work category.)

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Pick your favorite actor or actress, gather your favorite quotes from them in their films, and string them together in a single character’s voice in a new context.

Empire State, by Adam Christopher, narrated by Phil Gigante

Writing Excuses 8.23: Microcasting

Microcasting! It’s what we’ve taken to calling a Q&A. Eric Patten joins us for this one. Here are the questions:

  • What’s your first step in the rewriting process?
  • How do you write Artificial Intelligences as characters?
  • Tactful promotion: how do you get nominated for a Hugo or Nebula?
  • How do you decide whether or not to take an offer from a publisher?
  • Do you use a writing notebook? How, and for what?
  • What methods do you use to test the “coolness” and/or viability of a story idea?
  • What genre or style do you read that is outside of the one(s) in which you write?
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Two words: “Flying Caldecott.”

Red Storm Rising, by Tom Clancy, narrated by Michael Prichard

Writing Excuses 8.22: Pre-writing with E.J. Patten

E.J. “Eric” Patten joins us for a discussion of pre-writing. His first book, Return to Exile, came out in 2011, and The Legend Thief released in March of 2013.

What is pre-writing? Eric walks us through his process for developing a story, beginning with the high-concept world-building inspired by the phrase “Cthulhu for kids.” He talks about the importance of getting the characters right, and how this process precedes plot development. Each of us handles this a little differently, and we talk about how that goes.

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Kids get magical powers from their Halloween costumes…

E.J. Patten’s books aren’t available on Audible, but if you’re looking for Cthulhu that isn’t for kids, H.P. Lovecraft’s classics “Call of Cthulhu” and “Reanimator” can be found in H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 2, narrated by Garrick Hogan.