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 Howard Tayler | February 21, 2010 - 6:32 pm - Posted in Career, Conventions, Education, Guest, Live, Plot, Q&A

Recorded live at LTUE 2010, here’s a high-energy Q&A session with the Writing Excuses crew and our special guest James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner. We cover outlining vs. discovery writing, the return to the hairy palate, education for writers, killing people, whether or not we want a bagel, pragmatic approaches, authors who don’t inspire us (and by “us” we mean “James Dashner”), and cooking up complex plots.

Note: Brandon says “Episode 6″ but he was totally wrong. This is 4.7, for real.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: James pitches one of his favorites to usFalse Memory by Dean Koontz

Writing Prompt: You’re flying in an airplane when a wing falls off… but the plane keeps going.

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 28, 2010 - 7:17 pm - Posted in Career, Editing, Guest

Jessica Day George, author of The Dragon Slippers and a host of other things, joins us to talk about working with editors, and she’s got stories to tell. But so do Dan and Brandon. And hey, surprise! Even self-published Howard has an appropriate anecdote here!

What should you expect when you work with an editor? Are they going to ask you to add sex and violence, or are they going to demand that you tone everything down? Are they going to buy your book and then force unconscionable changes down your throat, or are they going to warn you before the contract is signed?

The answer is, not surprisingly, yes. Editors may do all this and more. Or less. More or less. Have a listen…

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, by Jessica Day George

Writing Prompt: An author and an editor are disagreeing on a matter that nobody else would ever think to disagree on.

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 | May 2, 2010 - 8:00 pm - Posted in Career, Lifestyle

Sandra Tayler, Dawn Wells, and Kenny Pike  take over the ‘cast with some coaching from Dan (and heckling from Howard)  to talk about what it’s like to live with an artist. We cover the ups and the downs, and share embarrassing anecdotes because we know you want to hear them, and we’re not afraid of the fact that the Internet Never Forgets.

Beyond the fact that Sandra and Dawn are stay-at-home moms, and Kenny is a stay-at-home Dad, the three of them each have important roles to play in their spouses’ careers, and those roles go far beyond mere cheerleading and moral support. We talk about that, and then Sandra, Dawn, and Kenny offer advice to those who may find themselves as significant others to creative types.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Wings, by Aprilynne Pike, in which a 15-year-old girl discovers that she’s a fairie, and it’s nothing like the storybooks suggested.

Writing Prompt: From the desk of the Fake AP Stylebook — write something involving a blue, Italian, rocket-propelled, monkey-piloted dirtbike.

Bit Jordo Accidentally Left In: IRS agents will delight in the dirt that runs from 10:43 to 10:54. Whoopsie!

Spanish Pun We Didn’t Use Even One Time: “Writing Esposas.”

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

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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 | December 12, 2010 - 8:17 pm - Posted in Career, Collaboration, Genre, Lifestyle, Submitting

Well, we’re back, and we’ve rescued our time travel episode. Unfortunately, almost all mentions of Lincoln have been redacted, and his gold is conspicuously absent. Instead, Brandon, Dan, and Howard all travel in time (sort of) to offer advice to our past selves.

What do we have to say to our earlier incarnations?

  • Stop playing video games.
  • What you’re doing is actually working. Keep doing it.
  • Stop waiting on your collaborator.
  • Don’t try to write to the market.
  • Try outlining all the way to the end.
  • Try new things.
  • Stop worrying.
  • You can make a living as an artist.

So… there’s the advice. Now listen to the ‘cast and get all of it in context.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett

Special Plug: Superstars Writing Seminar — Brandon will be presenting this January with Dave Wolverton, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, and Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Writing Prompt: Go forward in time and get next week’s writing prompt.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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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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By Writing Excuses | February 20, 2011 - 6:46 pm - Posted in Career, Guest, Setting

Kevin J. Anderson joins us for a discussion of writing in other people’s universes. After the opening shots (and an obligatory Jar-Jar joke), we tackle the question “how do you get to write a Star Wars book?”

Our discussion ranges from the general to the practical, and presses the Fanfic hotbutton more than once. We discuss Kevin’s career with numerous licensed properties, and Brandon’s experience with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Hidden Empire: The Saga of the Seven Suns, Book 1, by Kevin J. Anderson, narrated by George Guidall

Writing Prompt: A group of aliens come to a writing conference to learn to write stories that humans will want to read.

That Noise In The Background: The hotel staff was vacuuming the room behind us.

Best Metaphor Ever, Courtesy of Kevin J. Anderson: As authors in other creators’ universes we are Lando Calrissian borrowing the Millenium Falcon and promising to return it to Han Solo without a scratch.

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

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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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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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 | July 31, 2011 - 8:29 am - Posted in Career, Characters, Liner Notes, Plot, Scenes

Microcasting again! The questions we fielded from the Twitterverse include:

  • How do you hold the whole story in your head when it’s a thousand pages long?
  • What steps do you use when creating a character?
  • As an outliner, when do you start putting in the details?
  • How do you patch plot holes?
  • How do you come up with names?
  • Is there one writing skill you’d like to get better at?
  • Writing groups: what do you look for?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Hard Magic, by Larry Correia, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

As Promised, Here is a Link: The Everchanging Book of Names

 

Speaking of the Twitterverse: The Writing Excuses team is BrandSanderson, MaryRobinette, HowardTayler, JohnCleaver (Dan), and MonkeySloth (Producer Jordo).

Writing Prompt: Someone has to save the world from an intercontinental ballistic hairball, but their keyboard layout has been changed.

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 | September 25, 2011 - 4:13 pm - Posted in Career, Guest

Peter Ahlstrom, assistant to Brandon Sanderson, and Valerie Dowbenko, assistant to Pat Rothfuss, join Brandon and Dan to talk about what they do for “their authors.”

While this may seem like an incredible luxury — most of you listeners aren’t going to rush out and hire an assistant — there are things that can be farmed out from the earliest stages of your career as a professional writer. The goal, of course, is for the writer to find more time to write.

It’s also a lot of fun to hear Peter and Valerie talk about how they keep Brandon and Pat writing, and to listen to them talk about some of the unusual things they do as part of this job.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton

Writing Prompt: First person once removed — give us a story from the perspective of a first person narrator who is NOT the cool person.

The Shoes, Pat Has All of Them: Because that’s what Valerie did for him.

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 | 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.

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 | November 6, 2011 - 5:02 pm - Posted in Career, Guest, Writing Prompt

Jonathan Maberry joins Howard, Dan, and Mary to discuss pigeonholes — specifically, not ending up in one. Jonathan was enthusiastic to address this subject, which he treats as serious career advice. Ray Bradbury said “A writer writes,” and Jonathan advises us all to consider that though we may be on fire about a particular genre, sub-genre, or even one given story, the market may not offer an open door for that project. Don’t let rejection keep you from writing, and don’t be unwilling to branch out and try writing something else.

We offer examples from our own careers, and Jonathan talks about the many, many different things he has written during the course of his career, which includes martial arts texts, magazine articles, and sarcastic greeting cards.

And of course we talk about how we’ve worked to broaden our own horizons, diversifying our income streams, and what specific tricks and techniques have helped us.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dead of Night: A Zombie Novel, by Jonathan Maberry, narrated by William Dufris

Writing Prompt: Jonathan writes one page to a writing prompt every day, pushing himself out of his comfort zone. Today his prompt for you is to write the opening scene of a steampunk version of Alice in Wonderland.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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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 | January 6, 2013 - 4:38 pm - Posted in Career, NaNoWriMo, Q&A, Season 8

We’re back for 2013 and Season 8, so let’s start it off by answering all your questions! That’s right, it’s time for a fast-paced, lightning round of microcasting! It’s like eight very, very short podcasts in one.

  • Why do some authors only ever come out with one or two books?
  • What’s your process for writing fast under artificial deadlines (NaNoWriMo)?
  • How do you avoid getting bogged down in explanation?
  • What happened to your Hero of a Thousand Faces episode? (Whoops! See below.)
  • Are there concerns or pitfalls regarding the use of metaphors and similes in genre fiction?
  • What are some pitfalls to writing short stories?
  • How do you write sex scenes? (Note: This particular question resulted in an entire episode back in Season 7. Shanna Germain to the rescue!)
  • Have any of you included original poems in your work?

Whoops! We lock-stepped this episode to the release of A Memory of Light, but we ALSO locked it to air after our Hero of a Thousand Faces discussion. Crass commercialism trumps continuity! You’ll get the hero’s journey next week.

Incidentally: If you’re eligible to nominate things for the 2013 Hugo Awards, here’s a list of the things we’ve done which are eligible.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: A Memory of Light: Wheel of Time, Book 14, by  Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading.

Writing Prompt: What does SFPA stand for?

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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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The number one request we got when we asked you what you’d like us to talk about? Short story writing. Mary is our resident expert, and if she weren’t already a member of the cast, she’d our go-to expert for an interview. Convenient!

We begin by addressing the popular notion that writing short stories is a good way to practice for writing novels, and selling short stories is a way to break in and sell novels. We then return to the M.I.C.E. quotient (first addressed by us in 6.10) and discuss how the quotient (or model, or formula) helps you understand what to cut from the telling of a story to make it a short story.

Mary then walks us through her process for turning an idea into a story concept, and then distilling that concept into a short story. She also invites us to explore her 950-word short, “Evil Robot Monkey,” free of charge!

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Language of Moths, by Christopher Barzak, narrated by Paul Michael Garcia

Writing Prompt: Being "bi-textual" is a controversial lifestyle choice...

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By Writing Excuses | June 9, 2013 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Career, Demonstration, Editing, Guest, Ideas, Q&A, Sci-fi, Season 8, Uncategorized

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?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Red Storm Rising, by Tom Clancy, narrated by Michael Prichard

Writing Prompt: Two words: "Flying Caldecott."

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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 | 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 15, 2013 - 7:37 pm - Posted in Career, Season 8

What do you do when something goes wrong, really wrong, with your career? What happens if it’s your fault? What about if it’s someone else’s fault?

Mary leads by talking about the Glamour in Glass misprint — the first line was omitted in the hardback — and the difference between her private and public reactions to the issue.  She likens this to similar sorts of situations that might happen on stage in live theater, and how those teams are expected to behave.

Dan tells us about the issue in I Am Not a Serial Killer, which gave some readers fits because it was edited in such a way that readers didn’t know there were supernatural elements in the story until chapter 10.

From these and other experiences, we extrapolate some behaviors you can use, and some things to steer clear of.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Blinding Knife, by Brent Weeks, narrated by Simon Vance.

Writing Prompt: Write a character who really screws up, and then take them to the moment where they realize they need to apologize.

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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 | November 3, 2013 - 2:27 pm - Posted in Career, Editing, Publishing, Season 8

Tom Doherty, founder, publisher, and president of Tor books, joins us to talk about publishing. If you’ve ever wondered what a publisher does — not the company, the human being to whom the editors report — this is the episode for you. Whether you want to work as an editor, want to find the right editor, or just have a burning curiosity about this industry, Tom has the answers. He talks to us about the history of the industry, the changes it’s currently undergoing, and the direction it may take in the future.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki and Harlan Ellison. As Tom points out during the cast, it's unusual for a book to make The New York Times Best Sellers list twenty-eight years after its publication.

Writing Prompt: Write a story about a publisher trying to predict the next trend, and the technology he's using to do it.

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By Writing Excuses | November 17, 2013 - 4:53 pm - Posted in Career, Conventions, Editing, Guest, Live, Research, Season 8, Submitting

Aeryn Rudel, publications manager (it’s like the editor-in-chief) of Privateer Press‘s Skull Island X imprint, joins us to talk about editing. Obligatory disclaimer — Aeryn is Howard’s boss when Howard writes things like “Extraordinary Zoology.”

Aeryn begins by explaining to us what it is that he’s looking for in works, in the authors with whom he works, and how writers might prepare themselves for this kind of work, but his real job here on the ‘cast is to talk to us about the role of the editor. Much of that role deals with continuity of to the setting and the tone of the piece, but there’s plenty more.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Blade Itself: The First Law: Book One by Joe Abercrombie, narrated by Steven Pacey

Writing Prompt: Hell's copyeditor.

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Mette Ivie Harrison joins us again, this time for a cast about productivity. She’s written an eBook, 21 Reasons You Think You Don’t Have Time To Writewhich is currently free on the Kindle store. Here is the full list of 21 things, since we could spend an entire cast on just the first one.

The point here is to help you, the writer, to recognize the mental states and attitudes that are coming between you and your writing. It’s our hope that you’ll end up more productive, and we can’t think of a better thought upon which to end Writing Excuses Season 8.

Here is to a 2014 in which you write more, write better, and are happier doing it.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Metatropolis: Green Space, in which Mary has a story. Lots of writers, lots of narrators. Go have a look!

Writing Prompt: Come up with a reason why the writer in your story absolutely cannot write, then have your writer manage to write anyway.

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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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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.

 

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

Writing Prompt: 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.

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By Writing Excuses | March 23, 2014 - 9:30 pm - Posted in Career, Editing, Gender, Guest, Prose, Q&A, Race, Season 9, Style

Aaand we’re microcasting again! A Q&A episode by any other name would sound as neat. Also neat? Eric James Stone joins us again!

  • What writing rule do you break the most?
  • When you review your novel do you print it out and mark it up, or do you edit on the computer?
  • How long do you wait between finishing a novel and starting the editing process?
  • What is the number-one issue that you have to overcome each day in order to put words to paper?
  • How do you feel with the fear of screwing up when you’re writing the other?
  • When giving a book as a gift, how do you decide on a book to give?
  • Any advice for people wanting to write a grand, universal story for their fantasy novel?
  • Is there a place you go to be inspired to write?
  • Do you ever have trouble writing characters out of the story (you know, by killing them)?
  • How do you strike the balance between too little description and too much?

A Note Regarding The Audio: Brandon’s microphone died just before we started, and we didn’t catch it, so if he sounds echoey it’s because we had to get his track from the other three microphones in the room.

 

 

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Between Two Thorns: The Split Worlds Series Book 1, by Emma Newman, narrated by the author

Writing Prompt: The word "sesquipedalian" means 18 inches long, and is usually only used to describe words that are too long. Find a way to work it into a scene so that it fits.

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By Writing Excuses | April 6, 2014 - 7:29 pm - Posted in Career, Season 9

“What are the parts of the job that nobody told you about?”

Or, you know, WARNED you about…

It’s a question somebody sent to us, and we all had different answers, so Brandon put together a list, and we made a whole episode out of it! We talk about reviews, physical pain, dietary excitement, deadline-driven interruptions, and not having leisure reading time.

But this isn’t just us whining. We also talk about our solutions to these problems. You know, in between the whining.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Shambling Guide to New York City, by Mur Lafferty, and narrated by Mur, too.

Writing Prompt: Your main character is a writer, and they want to write but cannot because of some completely bizarre professional requirement that we did not talk about in this episode.

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By Mary Robinette Kowal | April 17, 2014 - 9:50 am - Posted in Career, Characters, Conventions, Education, Gender, Lifestyle, Race, Site News, World Building

WtO logo

If you wanted to register for the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat and didn’t get in, I’m hoping that you might be interested in the Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat.

It’s held at the same location, Mary Robinette Kowal’s parents’ house.

Mary will be joined by NY Times Best-selling author David Anthony Durham; Cynthia Ward and Nisi Shawl, the authors behind the book Writing the Other; and K. Tempest Bradford, author and activist.

On Writing Excuses, some of the most common questions come in as variations of “How do you write someone who isn’t like you.” Many authors struggle to write beyond what they know and write the other. While we tackle this on the podcast, fifteen minutes is not enough time to delve into this tricky and nuanced skill. The Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat is designed with lessons and conversations, paired with a retreat, to give participants an opportunity to work on making their characters and worldbuilding deeper and more thoughtful. And David, Cynthia, Nisi, and Tempest really are that smart.

I hope the same urge that makes you listen to Writing Excuses will allow you to consider attending this retreat.

Eventbrite - Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat

By Writing Excuses | April 27, 2014 - 8:50 pm - Posted in Career, Dialog, Editing, Fantasy, magic, Season 9, World Building

Microcasting! A Q&A by any other name. Here are the questions we fielded:

  • Can I have a rule-based magic system and a mystical system in the same universe?
  • What are your pre-writing methods? (Can of worms — it’s going to get its own episode)
  • What’s the first thing you do once the first draft is done?
  • When approaching real-world issues, how do you avoid being preachy?
  • What’s the best advice you can offer to someone who’s just starting to write?
  • Does it help you to experiment with weird narrative styles?
  • What are your least favorite tropes?
  • Should you fully edit your first few “practice” books?
  • How do you know if you’re writing too quickly?
  • How do you tell the difference between a weakness in your craft, and a story that requires stylistic rule-breaking?

 

In other news, Writing Excuses Season 8 has been nominated for the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Related Work. We’re thrilled to appear on the ballot, and are excited to be in such good company there.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Martian, by Andy Weir, narrated by R.C. Bray

Writing Prompt: Paranormal fantasy: We've had enough of vampire and werewolf romances. Give us a protagonist who falls in love with a shoggoth.

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By Writing Excuses | May 11, 2014 - 6:06 pm - Posted in Career, Season 9

This topic breaks down into two parts:

First: sometimes you create something, and when you hand to your fans, it becomes their thing. How do we as creators deal with this when it happens, and how do we prepare ourselves, and our works, for this eventuality? And how does this impact our desire to foster a sense of community with our fans?

We talk about our experiences with this, which have been surprising, eye-opening, confusing, and a whole bunch of other things, including exceedingly rewarding.

Second: what’s the difference between liking something someone has created, and liking that person as a creator? Is it possible to not like a creator, while still enjoying the things they’ve made? Where do we draw the lines?

(Aside: when Mary called “can of worms” on “how to express an opinion,” she didn’t know that our recording of that can of worms would air before the recording of us opening of the can. It’s Episode 9.14, right here!)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Monstrous Regiment, by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs

Writing Prompt: One of your creations has gained a life of its own, and it's something beyond the merely metaphorical "life of its own" that we talked about in this podcast. How did that happen? What happens next?

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By Writing Excuses | May 25, 2014 - 6:57 pm - Posted in Career, Characters, Q&A, Season 9, Submitting

Microcasting! It’s a Q&A, with each question serving as its own little micro-podcast. This week’s questions:

  • Should you include your prologue as one of the three chapters you send in a submission packet?
  • How do you get out of the spot where your protagonist has no motivation?
  • What’s the best way to prove to a spouse that your writing is more than a hobby?
  • How do you get back into a project after taking a break from it?
  • Where do you start research for historical fiction?
  • Let’s say you sold your first book. How do you tackle book 2 in a series?
  • How do you go about writing an overarching setting, like Brandon’s “Cosmere?”
  • What part about being a writer do you most enjoy, besides the actual writing?

Those are the questions. You’ll have to listen for the answers. Fortunately they’re not hidden or anything. We just come right out and say them.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Fall of the Kings, by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, narrated by Ellen Kushner, Nick Sullivan, Neil Gaiman, Simon Jones, Katherine Kellgren, Robert Fass, Richard Ferrone, and Tim Jerome

Writing Prompt: Look around, identify an everyday object, and then create a post-apocalyptic setting in which that object is currency.

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Peter Orullian joined us in front of a live audience at Westercon to talk with us about dealing with editors. We usually talk about craft, but this is a business discussion, and it’s about one of the most delicate and important relationships in the business. He begins by telling the short version of the story, and how he managed one of the worst-case scenarios: asking your publisher for a different editor.

We then move into some take-aways, and some additional experiences we’ve had that will hopefully help our listeners manage this sort of thing in the future.

 

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Unfettered: Tales by Masters of Fantasy, Written by: Terry Brooks, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Jordan, Jacqueline Carey, R.A. Salvatore, Naomi Novik, Peter V. Brett, Shawn Speakman (editor) Narrated by: Peter Ganim, Marc Vietor, Bronson Pinchot, Jay Snyder

Writing Prompt: Write a sword-fighting scene, a la Princess Bride, in which the witticisms are part of a magic system, and are part of the fight itself.

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

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By Writing Excuses | August 31, 2014 - 7:03 pm - Posted in Career, Education, Guest, Season 9

David Farland joins us, along with a live audience at FantasyCon 2014, for a discussion on writing instruction. Dave runs My Story Doctor, and firmly believes that almost anyone can learn to write fiction at a professional, conventionally publishable level.  In this episode we cover some of the methods and exercises used to train new writers, and how writers can use these on their own.

 

Writing Prompt: Writing sprint! Write for 15 minutes. Don't stop to edit or wordsmith. Just force yourself to keep the fingers moving and the words flowing.

By Writing Excuses | September 14, 2014 - 8:17 pm - Posted in Career, Conventions, Guest, Horror, Live, Q&A, Season 9, World Building

Peter Orullian joins us in front of a live audience at Westercon 67 for a Q&A. The questions include:

  • As a writer, how do you handle reviewing other people’s books?
  • How do you compartmentalize your writing to prevent that obsession from displacing everything else?
  • How do you create frightening, unique creatures?
  • What are the basics about networking at a convention?
  • Is there a yield for the average story idea?
  • What rules do you follow and what rules do you break when writing epic fantasy?
  • What can you do in critique groups to teach craft if you’re avoiding prescriptive critique?
  • How strongly do you believe that the audience won’t remember what you’ve told them, but will remember how you said it?

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Spellcaster by Claudia Gray, narrated by Khristine Hvam.

Writing Prompt: Write about a support group for writers.

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

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Cancel anytime, effective the next monthly billing cycle. Cancel before your trial ends and you will not be charged. Check out the full terms and policies that apply to Audible membership.