All posts by Howard Tayler

The Out of Excuses Writing Retreat II: The Retreatening

*drum roll*

We are thrilled to announce Out of Excuses II: the second annual Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat! Our event last year was a resounding success, so we’ve polished our microphones and carved out our schedules and we’re raring to go. And we want you to join us!

What is Out of Excuses?

One full week of classes, workshops, and open writing time, all with the (Hugo award-winning!) cast of Writing Excuses: Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells. We’ll teach you, we’ll talk to you, we’ll hang out, we’ll record live podcasts, we’ll even make you dinner. Imagine waking up to a character class with Mary Robinette; writing all afternoon and then getting advice from Brandon about the chapter you just wrote; eating a delicious dinner artfully grilled by Howard while you talk through your plot outline with Dan. That lucky writer could be you!

Mark your calendars for these two dates:

  • January 18th, 2014: Registration opens at 9:00 am EST
  • September 29 through October 5, 2014: Out of Excuses II

And now, the pertinent details…

Registration opens January 18, and will likely close on January 18th as well. Last year we sold out in 9 minutes, and this year we’re reducing the number of memberships from 30 to 24, so expect the retreat to fill up fast. Memberships will cost $750 per person plus housing (around $500 at the hotel around the corner; more if you want one of the rooms on campus, less if you can arrange your own housing somehow). You will need to arrange your own means of travel. Watch this space, and listen to the podcast, for more details on how to register.

Scholarship:  One of those 24 memberships will be reserved for a scholarship recipient. This will be based on merit, need, and diversity, and we expect the competition to be fierce. If you can afford the normal retreat price, please don’t wait and hope you’ll get the scholarship, because you won’t. The scholarship will pay for a membership, a slot in the hotel, and up to $500 for gas or airfare. We’ll provide more information before registration opens.

The 2014 Out of Excuses Writing Retreat runs from September 29 through October 5. There will be three days of writing classes and workshops, followed by three days of blissful writing time, capped off by a closing half-day filled with wonder and amazement. All meals will be provided, and every night you’ll have the chance to sit in as we record live episodes of the podcast. The retreat will be held in Tennessee, at the Kowal family estate, which is even more gorgeous and wonderful than you can imagine. Last year we watched Jaws, played a crocquet LARP, and chatted with a few surprise guests. What will we do this year? You’ll have to come and find out.

Attendees can fly into Chattanooga, or can fly into Atlanta and catch a shuttle to Chattanooga. Hopefully this provides you with enough information to determine your travel budget. Once you get to Chattanooga, we’ll handle getting you to the event.

Writing Excuses Retreat: Scholarship Deadline!

Last year we announced the first ever Writing Excuses Retreat, and an awesome scholarship to go along with it. We’ve never done an event like this before, but we feel pretty good about it, and we think it will be a big help to a lot of writers, and we don’t want that group to be limited by money. If you’re a good writer, eager to become better, but can’t quite afford a week-long conference, we want to give you our scholarship. But there’s only one week left.

The scholarship application deadline is January 15–just a few days away. If you were thinking about applying but never got around to it, there’s still time! If this is the first you’ve heard of it, jump in and go for it! The application process is involved, because we want to make sure this goes to the right person, but we really think it’s worth it. Read all the application info here (http://www.writingexcuses.com/2012/11/05/the-out-of-excuses-writing-retreat-and-the-thats-a-pretty-good-excuse-scholarship/), follow those instructions exactly*, and let’s make this happen.

Good luck!

(*Note: Seriously, follow the instructions exactly. We winnow applicants the way publishers winnow slush…)

Writing Excuses 7.41: Seven-Point Story Structure

If you’ve ever had difficulty outlining something, this episode might be a perfect fit for you. We discuss the Seven-Point Story Structure, an outlining system Dan uses in which the story moves forward along seven sequential points.

Dan originally acquired this from a role-playing book, but it also sees regular use in screenwriting. Dan walks us through the system, and we hold his feet to the fire on behalf of Lou Anders, who once privately confessed to Howard that he just couldn’t get this thing to work.

Here, without any flavor text, are the seven points:

  • Hook
  • Plot Turn I
  • Pinch I
  • Midpoint
  • Pinch II
  • Plot Turn II
  • Resolution
While these are (obviously) not the only seven things that happen in your book, these are the key things that are working together to move you from hook to resolution.
After an explanation of the system, we brainstorm this on Dan’s “I.E.Demon” story in order to demonstrate the tool for you. Also, for Lou.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Enchanted, by Alethea Kontis, narrated by Katherine Kellgren

Linkage: Dan Wells Seven-Point Story Structure on YouTube

Play

Try out the seven-point story structure for yourself. Outline something!

Writing Excuses 7.39: Death

Death! DEATH!!

Let’s talk about killing characters.

Howard starts by relating a time when he did it poorly, and why he feels like it didn’t work. Brandon discusses the academic, clinical aspect of the matter, and how he in particular handles planning (or not planning) for character death. Dan talks about the email he gets about page 267. Mary talks about the differences between deaths in the various genres in which she writes.

There’s lots more. If characters risk death in your writing, this ‘cast will certainly affect their odds for survival.

Play

Find a way to kill a character. Then write it in three ways: sad, heroic, and accidental. As an alternative, take a story you’ve already written, and write a different ending so that someone dies instead of living, or lives instead of dying.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, by Mignon Fogarty, narrated by the Grammar Girl herself

Assorted Administrivia: Hugo Nominations, WordPress Upgrade, and Superstars Seminar

First and foremost: a close examination of the rules for Hugo Nominations reveals that Writing Excuses Season 4 is eligible to be nominated under the “Best Related Work” category. If you attended WorldCon in Melbourne, or if you already have your Renovation membership, you’re eligible to do some nominating. So, for your consideration, Writing Excuses Season 4. It ran from January 2010 through August 2010, and the full content is available online at this site. The easiest way to surf it all is to use the date widgets over in the right sidebar. But for heaven’s sake don’t do it all in one sitting. Those episodes probably add up to at least nine full hours of us not being that smart because you’re in a hurry.

Secondly: We just performed a WordPress upgrade, and upgraded the plugins we use as well. If you see weirdness, let us know so we can figure out what we broke. (And by “we” we actually mean “Howard.”)

Third: This Thursday, Friday, and Saturday we’ll be variously attending (Dan and Howard) and presenting (Brandon) at the Superstars Writing Seminar in Salt Lake City. We hope to record a few interview episodes while there, because the list of presenters for that event is pretty stellar.