By Writing Excuses | April 21, 2008 - 6:39 am - Posted in Business, Liner Notes, Season 1

So… you’re ready for the big-time. You’re a writer, and the writing is almost paying the bills. Hurray!

Now, how do you balance your life so that you can make the jump to writing full-time? How do you manage your time? How do you keep your artistic side from accusing you of selling out? The Writing Excuses Crew answers these questions and more, as we explore the business side of writing.

Also if you listen closely you’ll hear Smart Howard somewhere in this podcast. We think he’s like Howard’s evil twin.

And this week from Tor, The SFWA European Hall of Fame

By Writing Excuses | June 22, 2008 - 9:09 pm - Posted in Business, Guest, Liner Notes, Live, Plot, Q&A, Season 1

Writer Eric James Stone joins the Writing Excuses crew for our third Conduit installment. We tackle questions from the audience again (except for when Brandon throws a question AT the audience, which still had Mike Stackpole in it.)

Are plot twists necessary? How does the web change the market for writers? How do you make protagonists as interesting as the villains are? How much should you charge for your work?

We ran a little long on this one. “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we can’t count to fifteen without getting to eighteen first.”

Liner Notes:

Eric’s Website

Bob Defendi’s Website

Anthology Builder

http://www.ralan.com/

This week’s episode is sponsored by Hold on to Your Horses, by Sandra Tayler

By Writing Excuses | August 24, 2008 - 10:38 pm - Posted in Business, Guest, Live, Season 1

So what exactly does an editor, do, anyway? We’ve already talked about the process of submitting to an editor; today we talk about the millions of vital things that happen after an editor says “I want to buy your book.” Not only that, but we get to hear it all straight from the mouth of Lou Anders, the Hugo-nominated editor from Pyr Books, who this year alone helped create a Hugo-nominated book and two Campbell-nominated authors. In other words: when this man talks about editing, you listen.

Lou Anders

Pyr Books

By Writing Excuses | September 2, 2008 - 8:32 am - Posted in Business, Editing, Guest, Live, Plot, Season 1

Last week we talked to an editor, this week we talk to OUR editor: Brandon’s and Dan’s editor at Tor, Moshe Feder. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about how an author and editor work together to help make a book the best it can possibly be. We also talk a lot about revision in general, which is one of the least-liked but most important tasks in the writing process.

Eric James Stone joins us for our final Mountain-Con episode. This Q&A covers writing part-time (and Dan disqualifies himself from answering this question in future episodes), setting deadlines for yourself, writing plot twists, and providing character description within that character’s viewpoint.

Dave Wolverton joins us for a third and final episode, and the Writing Excuses team pumps him for information before letting him escape. We find out why he uses two names (David Farland and Dave Wolverton), how to name characters, and why writers don’t jump between genres much. Dave discusses the state of the genre-fiction publishing business, and prognosticates a bit on its future.  As a special treat, Dave explains how he broke into the industry, so be the first to listen to that bit and get a leg up on everybody else with this proven (and slightly bloody) strategy.

Writing Prompt: Juan and Gregorio Watanabe are in medieval England–and they belong there.  Explain why.

By Writing Excuses | January 11, 2009 - 9:23 pm - Posted in Business, Lifestyle

We get asked a lot about our writing habits. So your Writing Excuses hosts spend the whole ‘cast discussing their schedules, their work environments, and the things they do to make themselves more productive while keeping themselves creative. Peace and quiet? Clothing? Distractions? Pants? We answer these questions and more. Will any of this work for you? You tell us! The comments are a great place to discuss.

Howard mentioned PeopleWare, by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister. You can buy it here.

By Writing Excuses | February 2, 2009 - 12:31 am - Posted in Business, Writing Prompt

Our producer Jordan Sanderson joins us for this week’s installment, in which we likely make all kinds of enemies among the authorial community by exposing the many things they’re doing wrong with their websites.

The fact that you, fair listener, are here reading content on our website shows that you have fine taste in these things, and trust us to lead you right. And we will! We’ll do you proper on blogging, domain names, hosting, connecting with fans and editors, and taking care regarding your rants.

Writing Prompt: Write a story about the worst website ever.

Liner Notes: It should be pointed out that John Ringo‘s website has come a long way since Howard last looked at it. Good work, John!  We also mentioned websites from George R.R. Martin, David Farland, John Scalzi, and of course Brandon Sanderson. Brandon also mentioned holaservers.com. Congratulations, Earl!

By Writing Excuses | February 22, 2009 - 8:27 pm - Posted in Business, Guest, Writing Prompt

Howard takes the moderatorial lead on this episode in which he, Brandon, and Dan are joined by Rob Wells for a discussion of marketing.

What is marketing? What’s the difference between marketing and PR?  What’s the difference between a marketing manager and a publicist? How can knowing this help a creator position his or her work? We’ll answer these questions and more…

Writing Prompt: Come up with 25 words that distill everything you want to say about your next work.

“Branding,”  not “Brandon,” just so we’re clear. Brand-ING.

We open with the definition of “branding,” talking about what it is, and (just as importantly) what it is not. With that out of the way we forge ahead and talk about author brands, brand messaging, and why any of this really matters. We throw down a few examples, and use them to help the listener arrive at a decent author-branding strategy.

Writing Prompt: Pick your favorite author and in 50 words or less write down what you think their brand is, then compare it on the forums with what others write.

Tracy Hickman joins us again at “Life, The Universe, and Everything,” and in this episode we let Brandon ask him random questions while Dan and Howard chime in with comments that hopefully don’t detract from the discussion.

During the interview Tracy mentions his latest project, XDM: Extreme Dungeon Mastery, but he doesn’t mention the very latest news about it. That news is that Tracy and Curtis Hickman (the authors) have contracted with Howard Tayler to illustrate and publish it. So that bit about Tracy doing it in his basement? It’s no longer accurate.

This week’s Writing Excuses is brought to you by I Am Not A Serial Killer by our very own Dan Wells. The book is only available in the UK, but you can get now from http://www.bookdepository.co.uk which has free shipping to anywhere in the world.

Writing Prompt: Give us Winnie the Pooh’s big death scene. On a destroyer in the South Pacific.

Nancy Fulda, assistant editor at Baen’s Universe and  editor-in-chief and founder of Anthology Builder, joins us again while Dan Wells is out celebrating his birthday. We discuss the rise of digital SF magazines, and touch on concepts like user-generated content, the Superconducting Copy Machine, and disruptive technology. We talk about print-on-demand vs. self-publishing, we laugh as Nancy puts her foot in her mouth, and then we argue over whether free online content can generate income for authors, as opposed to webcartoonists.

This week’s episode is 20 minutes long, because you’re not in as much of a hurry as we originally suspected, and Nancy made us at least a little smarter.

This week’s Writing Excuses is brought to you by I Am Not A Serial Killer by our very own absent-two-weeks-running Dan Wells. The book is only available in the UK, but you can get now from http://www.bookdepository.co.uk which has free shipping to anywhere in the world.

Writing Prompt: Write a story that convincingly describes the death of the traditional publishing industry 25 years from now.

This the third in our series of retrospective episodes. The most important thing Dan learned this year? Being a full-time author is a lot different than he thought it would be.

How different? What was Dan expecting? Was he really imagining silk pajamas and a notebook computer on the beach? We talk about the types of non-writing work that we’ve found ourselves doing, and why those things are so important to us and to our careers. We discuss how our publishers’ schedules impact our own, and why writers are often expected to drop whatever they’re doing in order to handle something for their publisher.

During our discussion we mention a new local novelist Aprilynne Pike, whose debut book Wings is available now, and made #6 on the NYT Bestsellers List for Children’s Chapter Books.

Episode 32 has been brought to you by “A Snack.” But hurry! We don’t pause for long!

Writing Prompt: Write the first page of a story, stop, write a first page of a different story and then go back and finish the first story.

Larry Correia is either the guy who did everything wrong and then broke into publishing anyway, or he’s the exception who proves the rule. He self-published Monster Hunter International, and then got picked up by Baen Books.

If you’re considering self-publishing, this is the podcast for you.

This week’s episode of Writing Excuses is brought to you by Scenting the Dark by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Writing Prompt: A self-published book becomes a threat that will end the world…

By Writing Excuses | January 31, 2010 - 7:56 pm - Posted in Business, Career

We’re going to wade into a recent e-brouhaha, but it’s not going to be the Amazon vs Macmillan one. No, this is the one where Dean Wesley Smith argued that authors do not need agents. But you don’t need to read that to appreciate this ‘cast.

So… do you need an agent? This depends on the operating definition of “you” and “agent.” What kind of contractual experience do you have? What kinds of things will your agent do for you? And if you decide you do need an agent, how do you go about identifying the agent who is right for you? We’ll cover all of this and more!

Unrelated to agents (but definitely in the “and more” category): Howard reveals deeply personal information in this podcast!

Audiobook Plug: The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

Writing Prompt: Write a story in which a bestselling recluse author dies, and his agent scrambles to keep the career alive without telling anybody. Skin in the game, baby!

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.

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Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | June 27, 2010 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Artwork, Business, Conflicts, Editing

James Dashner and Julie Wright join Brandon and Dan for an episode about what Lou Anders called “Mating Plumage” back in this 2008 episode of Writing Excuses recorded at Denvention. Lou was just referring to covers, but for this ‘cast Dan has extended the metaphor to include  titles and first lines.

These are the three things that are best positioned to quickly “sell” a book. But to whom? And why?

The crew talks about their experiences with each of these. Yes, we judge books by covers, and no, writers don’t have any control over them. We have a little more control of our titles, and still more over our first lines.  Humorous and tragic anecdotes follow, along with a great example of a first line from Barbara Hambly.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

Writing Prompt: Julie Wright, when offered the chance to use the word” monkey,” came up with “I can’t believe you did this to me.” James suggested “Brandon and Julie go on safari and get attacked by monkeys.” Plenty of material there. PLENTY.

Big Hugs One Last Time: With the absence of Producer Jordo and Former Audio Engineer Howard (neither of whom could make it to CONduit) Revan and Malek of Dungeon Crawlers Radio stepped up and made each of these last FIVE EPISODES of Writing Excuses possible. We owe them big-time, and you should go check out their podcast.

I bet it’s about puppies: I Don’t Want to Kill You, by Dan Wells.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.

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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | August 22, 2010 - 8:17 pm - Posted in Business, Characters, Editing, Ideas, Plot

Recorded live at Dragons & Fairy Tales, this episode is for anybody who has a novel or two (or more) sitting in the bottom of their trunk. What are the best ways to re-use old material you’ve set aside? We talk about rewriting entire novels, repurposing plots or characters, and moving stories from one place to another.

Sometimes we do this because an idea is just too good to let sit, but the execution on that idea (at least the first time around) wasn’t good enough. And sometimes we shouldn’t do it at all.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Feed by Mira Grant – it’s 1/3 zombie novel, 2/3 political thriller.

Writing Prompt: “Interspeciated workplace.” Go!

Prompt #2: You just got a “Cease & Desist” from a webcartoonist…

Audience Noises: Delivered on cue, thanks to cleverly positioned signs…

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.

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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | August 29, 2010 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Q&A, Submitting

The last of our three recorded-live episodes is also the last episode of Writing Excuses Season 4. We took questions from the audience, and answered them with ABSOLUTE APLOMB.

Questions asked include:

How did we, as beginning writers, manage to write while holding down day-jobs and/or going to school?
What is the process for getting published?
How do you portray the various dynamics of an ensemble cast?
How do you keep tension up when death isn’t a problem for your characters?
How do you make the transition from writing fan-fiction to writing original fiction?
How important is it for an author to stay in touch with the fans online and at events?
What do you do when your cast of characters has grown too large for you to manage it?
What was the biggest stumbling-block for our creativity, and how did we overcome it?

You want the answers? Have a listen!

Writing Prompt: You walk out of a bookstore into torrential rain, and Howard attacks you with the POWER OF THUNDER.

By Writing Excuses | October 10, 2010 - 4:58 pm - Posted in Business, Characters, Q&A

You’re going to love this one. This fast-paced episode of Writing Excuses goes out to everybody who thinks Writing Excuses isn’t already fast-paced enough.

We’ve done Q&A episodes before, but this one is special. This time we applied our “shot clock” to each question we fielded, and set out to knock each one down within three minutes.

The Questions:

What’s the right way to kill a character?

Who are the authors who have influenced you the most, and why?

When do you quit your day-job?

Brandon, would killing you and partaking of your flesh grant the killer your powers?

What do you do when you discover you hate a character you’re writing?

How do you respond to accusations of having written Mary Sue characters?

What are some basic tools for ensuring that all characters in a story have different voices?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

Writing Prompt: Two critics who reviewed Dan Wells’ book and who had completely opposite reactions actually read two different books…

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

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Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | January 30, 2011 - 6:12 pm - Posted in Business, Characters, Guest, Plot

Mary Robinette Kowal and Dave Wolverton join Dan and Howard for a discussion of movie considerations and formulas. Dave explains the three-act structure to us, and we talk about how this applies for transitioning stories to the screen.

And on the subject of screens, Moses Siregar III of Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing captured us on video as we recorded this ‘cast. It’s up on YouTube.

We talk about taglines, and for an example Mary tells us that Shades of Milk and Honey would be pitched as “Jane Austen with magic.” She then relates to us the tale of how Lou Anders Hollywood formula saved the ending of her book.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Runelords, by David Farland, narrated by Ray Porter. The first four books in the series which are available now in audio format.

Writing Prompt: Come up with an eight-word tagline for your novel or short story. It needs to be pithy, punchy, memorable, and easily comprehensible.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

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Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | February 13, 2011 - 8:14 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Ideas

Kevin J. Anderson, multiple New York Times bestseller, joins us for a discussion of becoming productive, and how this is a reflection of our commitment to our readers.

He starts by telling us about his work day, and it’s pretty obvious that he never lets up. Kevin J. Anderson is known for hitting his deadlines, fulfilling his contracts, and being prolific, and his work day is part of how that happens.

We talk about what it really means for an author to have a contract with a publisher, and how being a writer really is a job, just like any other. Which leads us to a discussion of the mathematics of productivity, and some good suggestions for new and old writers alike.

We close with a the idea that we as authors have a contract with our readers, and that contract is both a privilege and responsibility.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Island Realm: Crystal Doors, Book 1, by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta

Writing Prompt: Envision a world in which writers are subject to the whims of their readers via a pleasure-pain induction system… in real-time.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

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Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | March 6, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Guest, Lifestyle, Submitting

We’re joined again by Sherrilyn Kenyon for a discussion of perseverence, at her request no less. Sherri tells us about how the struggles she’s had, even after having bestsellers and 98% sell-throughs. And many of us have heard stories like this from other authors.

We talk about breaking in, about how each of us have had discouraging spells, and how important it is to persevere throughout it all. Hopefully the advice we offer will help some of you through the grind as well. Never give up. Never surrender. By Grabthar’s Hammer, even.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Born of Night: A League Novel, by Sherrilyn Kenyon, narrated by Kelly Fish.

Writing Prompt: Somebody wrote a novel about an alien invasion. One year later the aliens invade exactly per the details in the novel.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

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Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | March 13, 2011 - 6:18 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Editing, Guest

Recording in front of a live audience is a treat. Doing so while interviewing one of our heroes is a rare treat. Having two of them on stage with us at once is so rare as to be a unique delight.

Dave Wolverton (aka David Farland) and Tracy Hickman joined Dan and Howard in a lecture hall at Brigham Young University during Life, The Universe, and Everything XXIX, and we managed to capture the session on a handheld recorder.

Our topic? Ebooks and e-publishing. We talk about New York publishing, syndicated comics, and how electronic publishing has disrupted these markets. Dave and Tracy both offer insights from their long careers as professional writers.

We then talk about what all this means to you, the creator. We offer advice that can be applied equally well at the beginning of your writing career and during those happy, established, halcyon days. This isn’t the be-all, end-all, predict-the-future-of-publishing podcast that the industry is hungry for, but we’re not trying to predict the future of publishing. We’re trying to help you shape your future as a writer.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Golden Queen: Book 1, by David Farland, narrated by Peter Ganim.

Writing Prompt: Write something. Oh, it may seem trite, it may seem like a joke we played on our guest, but it sprang from the mind of Tracy Hickman himself, so, you know, get on it.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

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Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | June 19, 2011 - 7:00 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Lifestyle

As you may or may not know, Mary Robinette Kowal is currently the Vice President (a volunteer position) of SFWA, the Science-fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. And after killing two minutes talking about acronyms and the composition and pronunciation thereof, we start into the actual topic — professional organizations, why or why not to join them, and what they offer.

We spend a lot of time talking about SFWA specifically, which is hopefully useful to anybody who might want to write genre fiction. We talk a little bit about the National Cartoonist’s Society (of which Howard is not a member), and about NASE (the National Association for the Self-Employed) to which Howard and Sandra do both belong.

Mary then gives us some considerations for joining any professional service organization — personal reasons (what can the organization do for you specifically), and societal reasons (what additional clout can your participation in the organization generate.) Dan talks to us about the Horror Writers Association, a group with the awesome “horror.org” domain.

If you’ve ever wondered what SFWA or other professional organizations have to offer, this ‘cast may be helpful.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Cryoburn, by Lois McMaster Bujold, narrated by Grover Gardner. This novel has been nominated for the Best Novel Hugo Award this year.

Writing Prompt: Come up with a way for Howard to join SFWA. It must involve rappelling.

Professional Organization Links of Note: SFWANCS, and NASE, the Horror Writers Association, and Webcomics.com.

Mary’s Herculean Task: Get 952 science-fiction and fantasy authors to vote on the upcoming SFWA ballot.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

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Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | June 26, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Humor, Lifestyle, Plot, Q&A, Structure, Submitting

Microcasting! It’s our high-speed Q&A! Here are the Q’s, listen to the ‘cast for the A’s.

  • Is it still safe to go the commercial publishing route?
  • How do you find the balance when writing serious stories with silliness in them?
  • What are the alternatives to three-act structure?
  • Do you ever lose your drive, and what re-inspires you when you do?
  • How does your writing life affect your non-writing life?
  • What was the defining moment in your life where you decided to become a writer?
  • How effective are book trailers?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: 1421: The Year China Discovered America, by Gavin Menzies, narrated by Simon Vance

Writing Prompt: Give us a story in which writers are using actual fantastic creatures in the process of writing fantasy — ink from unicorn horns, elf-skin parchment, etc.

Promised Liner Note Links: Dan’s 7-point Story Structure,

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Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | July 3, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Business, Career

Dan and Howard had the recent opportunity to interview Dan’s agent, http://saracrowe.com/index.html, who works with the Harvey Klinger agency. We decided to address a topic that is by far the most-requested (and under-addressed) topic on our list: query letters.

Dan begins by reading the query letter he sent to Sara four years ago. Sara then explains why she accepted him as a client. The letter had something to do with it, yes. Sara talks a bit about what she likes and doesn’t like in query letters, and this leads us into a nice discussion of what does and doesn’t work, and why.

We then further deconstruct the letter, and Dan’s decision-making process in writing it. We discuss the synopsis he included, and how well the hook of the novel was presented. We then distill this into some basic points for query-letter writing.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences, by Brian Yansky, narrated by Alexander Cendese

Writing Prompt: Write a query letter based on your current project.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

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Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | July 24, 2011 - 6:10 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Editing, Submitting

Agent Sara Crowe joins Dan and Howard again to talk about what an agent does. This simple, off-the-cuff episode offers a nice, inside look into what a literary agent can offer you, your manuscript, and your career.

Sara Crowe represents both Dan Wells and his brother Robison Wells. You can find her on Twitter at saraagent.

There’s no book-of-the-week this week. Audible only needs four of these per month from us, and five episodes will air in July. Listen for a book-of-the-week in Episode 9 on July 31st.

Writing Prompt: Your agent is actually a warlock using magic to make your book sell. Unfortunately, something about your book means this process is going to go horribly, horribly wrong.

By Writing Excuses | October 9, 2011 - 6:53 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Plot, Submitting

Pitching your work… authors often have difficulty with it. Even authors who have no trouble spinning a fantastic story may find themselves at a loss telling people ABOUT that story in a way that makes it compelling.

We cover three kinds of pitches — the one-liner or “elevator pitch,” the three- or four-paragraph explanation, and the in-depth synopsis. We also talk about the sorts of situations in which you’re going to need these.

Few skills are as important to new authors, and few weaknesses can be as career-limiting.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin, narrated by Don Leslie

Writing Prompt: Take three of your favorite books and write one of each kind of pitch for each of those books. Now convince a friend of yours to read one of those books using one of those pitches.

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By Writing Excuses | March 11, 2012 - 6:43 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Editing, Genre, Plot, Q&A, Season 7, World Building

It’s again time for us to do a Q&A by any other name!

  • Is it better to include romance, horror, SF, or other genre elements to flesh out a story, or should the story stand alone?
  • Any tips for developing an idea without getting caught in Worldbuilder’s Disease?
  • Any NaNo WriMo tips? (yes.)
  • What did you to do build an audience before you got published and famous and stuff?
  • How do you create sub-plots without overshadowing the main plot?
  • What are the most important things you learned as writers during 2011?
  • How do you stay motivated (especially during editing) when it seems like everything you wrote is crap?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Persuasion, by Jane Austen. Note that there are lots of available recordings. We recommend something unabridged, like the version linked here.

Writing Prompt: Listener Bill Housely provided this one—a lone woman who runs an orbital refueling post makes first contact when some aliens arrive in desperate need of fuel.

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By Writing Excuses | May 27, 2012 - 5:27 pm - Posted in Business, Characters, Pacing, Plot, Q&A, Season 7

A microcast is our word for an asynchronous Q&A episode: you ask us tons of questions online, either through twitter or facebook or our listenermail account (on the sidebar), and we want to answer as many of them as we can. Not every answer can fill an entire episode, though, so we take the smaller ones and cover a bunch of them at once in a microcast. This week we take a brief, pithy look at the following:

  • Prologues and epilogues
  • Using drawings to get across settings
  • Simple tricks for naming things
  • Would you self publish if you had a do over?
  • How do you keep a powerful character interesting?
  • Foreshadowing
  • Trimming
  • Flashbacks

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley

Writing Prompt: Write a flashback, in a prologue, with a mirror scene. Yes.

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By Writing Excuses | October 21, 2012 - 9:33 pm - Posted in Business, Fantasy, Guest, Season 7

James L Sutter  joins us before a live audience at GenCon Indy for a discussion of tie-in fiction. James is a writer and editor, and is one of the co-creators of the Pathfinder system. He is the author of Pathfinder Tales: Death’s Heretic and is the editor in charge of all of Paizo’s Pathfinder fiction.

James leads by telling us that if you want to write for Pathfinder, the first thing you need to do is write something for somebody else. As the editor of that division at Paizo, he’s the gatekeeper, and that’s the first hurdle you need to clear. He also talks to us about what he’s looking for in an author.

We talk at length about the Pathfinder line, its genesis, and James’s mission with Paizo regarding the tie-in fiction. He tells us about the things that turn him off in a submitted manuscript, and what sorts of work he does with his writers to help make the tie-in fiction actually, you know, tie in.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Railsea, by China Mieville, narrated by Jonathan Crowley

Writing Prompt: Write a story in which all the characters are simultaneously the good guy AND the bad guy.

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By Writing Excuses | December 30, 2012 - 6:20 pm - Posted in Business, eBooks, Fantasy, Sci-fi, Season 7

And now, for the very last episode of Season 7, we shall chance taking a look forward. Is this prognostication, or reckless abandon? Neither! We get asked a lot about how the industry is changing, and how we’re adjusting to what we see happening. This isn’t us predicting the future: this is us interpreting what we’re seeing, and then describing how we plan to react.

  • Mary suggests that we’re seeing a swing from Fantasy to Science Fiction as the dominant speculative genre, and but she doesn’t plan to start writing nothing but sci-fi as a result.
  • Dan calls out a trend towards supplemental materials — shorts that tie in to flagship novels. He’s already taking part in this, and plans to keep doing it.
  • Howard hits the hot-button of “e-publishing,” and calls it “shortening the value chain.” He’s been making a living with it since it was basically brand-new, but he plans to continue to exploit the disruptions it creates — sometimes by lengthening the value chain.
  • Brandon sees increasing pressures for authors to promote themselves, (largely the result of exceptional cases of authors with good platforms), but suggests that the time can still be better spent writing more books.

And that’s it for us until 2013! We’ll be back next year with Season 8, and you’ll only have to wait a week for it to start airing.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Last Light of the Sun, by Guy Gavriel Kay, narrated by Holter Graham

Writing Prompt: Figure out what you would like the future of writing to look like. Now write a story about how we get there.

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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 | March 31, 2013 - 7:38 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Lifestyle, Season 8

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.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: A History of Warfare, by John Keegan, narrated by Ian Stuart

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

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By Writing Excuses | July 14, 2013 - 5:46 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Season 8

We haven’t talked much about contracts in the past. Why not? Well, we’re not lawyers and we’re not agents, so our experience with contracts has been as parties to them. But there are things we can still offer without delving into the baffling legalese.

So we offer them: we talk about how we approach contracts, how we value ourselves when entering into a contract negotiation, and what sorts of resources we have. We talk about some terminology, some of the clauses to review, and the incentives in front of the publisher and the author.

Note! Any advice you hear from us must be qualified based on your situation — your publisher, your agent, your market — and especially based on when you’re listening to this ‘cast. If it’s not 2013 right now, the odds are pretty good we’re wrong.

Audio Note: Yes, there’s a long lead-in there. Jordo will fix it eventually, I’m sure.

Profanym of the Week: “Schick a Brit.”

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Without a Summer, by Mary Robinette Kowal, narrated by Mary herself

Writing Prompt: Write, as part of whatever story you're working on, a contract that is both horrible and magical.

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By Writing Excuses | July 21, 2013 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Business, Discovery Writing, Outlining, Season 8, Structure

We recorded this episode in front of our live audience at the first-ever Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat. Here are the questions (you’ll have to listen for the answers):

  • To Dan: How did you go about selling your first trilogy in Germany before selling it in the US
  • To Howard: did you consider doing a separate storyline on Sunday strips? Why or why not?
  • Have you transitioned between outlining and discovery writing?
  • To Brandon: Why is John Scalzi your evil nemesis?
  • To Dan and Howard (and Mary): When you had full-time work, what did you do to “reset” when you came home from work, especially since your job used the same parts of your brain that writing does?

A Humble Suggestion for the Name of John Scalzi’s Next Band: Neil Gaiman’s Eagle Balls

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Human Division, by John Scalzi, narrated by William Dufris. (We were told that Wil Wheaton would be narrating this, but according to Audible the narrator is William Dufris.)

Writing Prompt: Someone is doing a puppetry move so extreme they end up hospitalized.

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By Writing Excuses | August 11, 2013 - 5:00 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Editing, Genre, Lifestyle, Live Audience, Q&A, Season 8

Microcasting! It’s what we call a Q&A, because it’s like several little podcasts in one! Here are the questions (you’ll have to listen to the show for the answers):

  • How do you manage your workload?
  • Are writing contests worth it? Which ones are good?
  • How do you make it clear that the weird aspects of your world are done on purpose rather than just being bad science?
  • How do you know when to take a break from your writing?
  • What are your word count suggestions for various markets?

Some Worthy Links: Writer Beware, Writers of the Future

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Madman's Daughter, by Megan Shepherd, narrated by Lucy Rayner

Writing Prompt: Keep track of your hourly word count for a day's writing. Then set goals to beat that word count in subsequent sessions.

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By Writing Excuses | August 25, 2013 - 6:22 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Season 8

When people who have succeeded at a given endeavor speak about their success, we are inclined to listen because hey, we’d like to succeed there as well. It’s critical to recognize the bias here. Survivorship bias is the skewing of the data that occurs when you examine and seek to emulate successes without considering failures in that same space.

Here at Writing Excuses we suffer from it. So in this podcast we’ll talk about the places in which our experiences may just not apply to you because we got lucky. Sure, there are things we’ve done right, and clearly in some cases we’ve been able to exploit good fortune to our advantage, but in this episode we’ll focus on the non-reproducible aspects of our own success with an eye toward helping you to focus your own efforts on the things that actually matter.

The Liner Notes We Keep Promising You: Here is Tobias Buckell’s post on Survivorship Bias (note: contains strong language)

Word of the Week: “Rothfussian,” which means “writing something so awesome on your first go that success cannot be denied to you.”

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: We plugged Michael Moorcock's Elric series for you, but those are no longer available on Audible. You might consider Moorcock's Blood: A Southern Fantasy instead.

Writing Prompt: A very successful author or artist has a fan who decides to emulate that creator's life in crazy, cargo-cult detail in an effort to become similarly successful.

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By Writing Excuses | September 22, 2013 - 6:41 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Lifestyle, Live, Middle Grade, Q&A, Season 8

This was recorded at the “Out of Excuses Retreat,” and the questions came from our attendees. Here are the questions! (You’ll have to listen for the answers.)

  • How have your opinions on self-publishing changed in the last few years?
  • What did you find difficult early in your career? How did you address this?
  • What do you now find difficult? How do you address it?
  • Do you put Easter Eggs in your work that only your friends recognize?
  • How much do questions/comments from readers influence you?

And the question we did NOT answer, but it’s a great one for speculating…

  • Where would Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard be, career-wise, if their paths had not crossed?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Troubletwisters, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams, narrated by Miriam Margolyes

Writing Prompt: Where would Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard have ended up if Writing Excuses hadn't brought them together?

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By Writing Excuses | October 6, 2013 - 8:12 pm - Posted in Business, eBooks, Guest, Publishing, Season 8

Bill Schafer, co-publisher at Subterranean Press joins us for a discussion of publishing. He talks to us about how this small press fits into the overall market, and why they’re thriving in spite of the current market disruptions.

Bill explains to us what the publisher’s role is. We’ve spoken with plenty of agents and editors, but Bill’s our first publisher, and the distinction is an important one. We also talk about why it’s important for you, as a writer, to understand this. He also weighs in on the future of publishing, and puts a couple of stakes in the ground.

Steelheart Tweeting Thingy: Per the episode intro from Howard, we’re giving away three more Steelheart audiobooks, courtesy of our sponsor Audible.com. Tweet us your epic power, and how it will enable you to win this contest! Here’s the format:

“{MY EPIC POWER, AND HOW IT WILL HELP ME CLAIM} the STEELHEART audiobook from @WritingExcuses.”

Obviously you’ll want to replace the stuff between the {braces} with something clever. You have ninety-four characters with which to hone your message. Also, you should follow @WritingExcuses on Twitter so we can Direct Message you if you happen to be one of our three lucky winners.

Start tweeting now. We’ll cut things off Wednesday morning (our time – Mountain) and then we’ll announce the winners by the end of the day Thursday.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Legion, by Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Oliver Wyman

Writing Prompt: Your main character is a small-press publisher, and his storeroom has been flooded.

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By Writing Excuses | October 14, 2013 - 1:03 am - Posted in Business, Q&A, Season 8

At the Out of Excuses Retreat we took some questions from our listeners, and then answered them before a live audience. Here are the questions:

  • How do you find beta readers?
  • Legal and IP issues? Should you copyright your work before submitting?
  • Advice for a discovery writer?
  • As a fan, what is the best way to pay my favorite authors?
  • Can chapters be too short?
  • How much time do you spend reading?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake, narrated by August Ross.

Writing Prompt: "Neon sniper gnome."

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Happy New Year, and happy new season of Writing Excuses!

Eric James Stone joins us to talk about his latest book deal. These things are different for everyone, and the marketplace is changing so quickly that it’s worth noting the differences and the similarities between our deal experiences (three of us were sitting on brand-new deals as of the recording of this podcast.)

Eric in particular walks us through the chronology of his current book deal, from the original writing, through the agent representation and multiple rejections and revisions, all the way to the current contract. Did Eric’s Nebula win (for a different story) help this deal along a bit? Oh, it may very well have done exactly that.

Liner Notes: Here’s Jim Hine’s “First Novel Survey” results page.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ender's World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender's Game, a collection of essays by numerous writers, and narrated by lots of narrators. Both Eric and Mary wrote for this collection. (Note: it's currently not appearing on Audible's site, but Amazon shows it as being available through Audible. Weirdness!)

Writing Prompt: Write a story about someone who has amazing, incredible, wonderful news, but they're not allowed to talk about it.

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By Writing Excuses | April 3, 2014 - 9:11 pm - Posted in Business, Gender, Season 9

Let’s poke the Internet!

Of course, we may want to just sit on our hands for a few minutes and think before we poke…

Enough thinking. Let’s talk about talking about things. As 21st-century writers, we often spend time writing the things we think on assorted topics. We might blog these things, tweet them, or post comments to other people’s blogs. And before we do those things, we should consider the consequences, and not just the possible fallout from what we’re saying — all the consequences.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t express our opinions, of course. This is just a reminder that choosing to express is also choosing a bunch of other stuff.

And on the outside chance you find yourself needing to apologize for something you’ve said, well, here’s a link to Scalzi’s Whatever regarding Apologies.

Dave Farland’s Writing Workshops sponsored us for this bonus episode! Both Brandon and Dan have studied under Dave, and we’re all happy to wholeheartedly recommend his workshops to you. If you can’t fly to his place, well, visit MyStoryDoctor.com and take the online course.

 

 

Writing Prompt: Write out a strong opinion on something extreme, and do it three times: Once in a furious tone, once in a helpful tone, and once in a manner that is totally safe for all possible audiences including (as appropriate) your mom. Then delete all three of them. This, no lie, is very valuable practice.