Writing Excuses 9.8: When is your Handwavium Good Enough?

Eric James Stone and the Wilhelm Scream join us for a talk about “handwavium,” that stuff that you use instead of through-and-through hard science. It’s that part where you wave your hand and say “don’t pay too much attention to this bit.”

When does it fail, though? When is it good enough? Like so many other things, this hinges upon whether or not the reader is knocked out of the story by implausibility. We talk about post-trans-uranics, reversing the polarity, inertial dampeners, and internal consistency. We also talk about how we, as writers, make our decisions regarding handwavium.

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Write some technobabble that explains how turtles have hyperspace.

The Incrementalists, by Stephen Brust and Skyler White, narrated by Ray Porter and Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Excuses 9.7: Last Pass Revisions with Eric James Stone

Revision, revision, revision. It’s easy to tell when you’re in the thick of it, but how do you know when you’re at the end of it? What does the last pass of revisions look like?

Eric James Stone joins us to talk about this. Brandon talk about his last pass of Words of Radiance, Howard throws down a code-base analogy, and Mary explains why Brandon is comfortable adding scenes during his last pass. Our goal is to help you develop a process that works for you.

Liner Note Linkage: “By the Hands of Juan Perón

 

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All of the caffeine in the world is suddenly turned into another substance…

Before They Are Hanged, by Joe Abercrombie, narrated by Steven Pacey

Writing Excuses 9.6: The Experience of Time

Mette Ivie Harrison joins us again for a fun discussion of how we experience time. This episode runs a little differently. Howard shares an experience he had driving on black ice, Mette shares an experience about a bike accident during an Ironman, and Mary shares a story about falling down a flight of stairs.

Each of these stories point up the way that our perception of time can change. There are physiological reasons for this, and knowing just a little bit about that physiology can help us write this actual, real phenomenon in a way that does not seem cliché. We talk about how we can write time compression or dilation phenomenon in ways that seem fresh.

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Take something you’ve already written where you relied on cliché (bonus points if it’s time-related) and rewrite it using different tools.

Déjà Dead, by Kathy Reichs, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat.

Writing Excuses 9.5: Hijacking the Knowledge You Already Have, with Mette Ivie Harrison

What are those things you already know, but which you might not be using in your writing? How do you identify those things and put them to work for you? Mette Ivie Harrison joins us for a discussion of how you might “hijack” (okay, “repurpose”) the knowledge you already have in order to make you a better writer. We hear a lot about the 10,000 hours of practice required to gain expertise in a given domain. It’s possible that you’ve already spent some of those 10,000 hours in activities that you didn’t realize were related.

Mette leads with her love of history. Mary directs us a bit with a metaphor from Jim Henson. Brandon talks about what is, by any other name, fanfic, and Howard talks about his degree in music composition. We also talk about how we leverage the knowledge we’re acquiring in other activities to flesh out the things we’re writing — in effect, letting that stuff serve as research without it being part of the actual research we do.

 

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Look at your own life. Take some skill, activity, or piece of esoteric knowledge that seems completely unrelated to your writing, and then incorporate it in the next thing that you write.

Dangerous Women, by George RR Martin, Gardner Dozois and several others (including Brandon Sanderson), narrated by a long A-list of voices.