By Writing Excuses | June 20, 2010 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Collaboration, Demonstration, Guest, Ideas, Plot

James Dashner and Julie Wright join Brandon and Dan at CONduit in Salt Lake City, and may end up wishing they hadn’t. Brandon throws sets of story concepts at the crew, and asks them to quickly frame serious stories with a solid settings and cool characters.

The  first set of story elements:

  • Church accountant
  • contact lenses that ruin your vision
  • brain implants

The second set of story elements:

  • Hell for English Majors
  • Key that will lock any door

The third set of story elements:

  • Janitors are trying to take over the world
  • They’re going to be stopped by a superhero with no arms
  • It can’t be silly

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan

Writing Prompt: This whole episode was made of writing prompts. Pick one!

Fun Random Fact: Howard worked as a church accountant for a while and he owns contact lenses that do, in fact, impair his vision.

Freaky Bonus Thanks: We couldn’t have recorded this episode without help from our friends at Dungeon Crawlers Radio.

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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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Okay, let’s have some fun. Not that we weren’t having fun for the previous 150+ episodes, mind you. But this is extra-fun.

Brandon, Dan, and Howard take the urban fantasy writing prompt about big-box stores and decide to brainstorm a story out of it. When we begin this ‘cast all we have is the prompt.

Then we brainstorm, plowing through setting, character, conflict, and story.

By the end of the ‘cast we’re ready to make a pitch to an editor and sell the book.

Okay, maybe not. But the book is totally ready for us to sit down and write. Or, better yet, for YOU to sit down and write.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Kitty and the Midnight Hour, by Carrie Vaughn, narrated by Marguerite Gavin

Writing Prompt: Take what we’ve done in this ‘cast and try to come up with a plot and an ending. Alternatively, take the list of competition films from the most recent Sundance Film Festival and pick six that are somehow part of a Fey plot.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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By Writing Excuses | July 17, 2011 - 5:07 pm - Posted in Collaboration, Demonstration, Genre, Ideas, Setting

Here’s a brainstorming episode in which Brandon throws random concepts from a textbook of his on gods and goddesses, and we attempt to brainstorm a cyberpunk story from these elements.

The elements thrown at us include clay, Sanskrit, fire god, and Buddhism.

If you’ve ever wanted to watch professionals wrestle with story genesis, this is the episode for you.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: A Scanner Darkly, by Phillip K. Dick, narrated by Paul Giamatti.

Writing Prompt: Come up with a cyberpunk world using the seed “penguins.”

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By Writing Excuses | December 25, 2011 - 6:58 pm - Posted in Collaboration, Pacing, Plot, Season, Season 6

Merry Christmas! Here’s the last episode of Writing Excuses Season 6! We decided to end the season with a discussion of endings. Specifically, we answer cries for help that we’ve gotten. The cries answered include:

  • I’m 90% done and I’ve painted myself into a corner! How do I end this book without resorting to deus ex machina?
  • The best part of this book was 75% of the way through! I need the highlight to be at the END!
  • My outline isn’t working here at the end! How do I know when to abandon it?
  • Help! I want both a satisfying ending and room for a sequel! (hint: we use an object lesson here…)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. Try it narrated by Stephen Fry, or try out the original radio teleplays!

Writing Prompt: Dan needs a hamburger. What's stopping him? And what is he going to end up with instead of a hamburger? (Hint: it should be more satisfying than the end he had in mind at the beginning...)

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We’re doing something new, and Howard gets to go first.

The plan is to take something one of us has completed, and which you’ve had ample time to read, and grill the creator about the project. Obviously there will be spoilers. Also, we’re going to run a bit long on these.

First up in our “Project In Depth” series: Howard’s most recent online volume of Schlock Mercenary, Force Multiplication. You can read it for free at the link above. It’s been nominated in the Best Graphic Story category for this year’s Hugo Awards, this entire episode features Howard on the spot answering questions about the project from Brandon, Dan, and Mary.

The biggest issue discussed is the female perspective. In Force Multiplication Howard challenged himself by casting all of the leads for the story as women, and it changed the storytelling process for him significantly.

He also talks about the setting — Haven Hive — and how he needed the setting to functionally isolate a small ensemble cast. He talks about naming a little, and finally talks about how he turned a sterile-sounding high-concept plot into an interesting story.

Next up on our Project In Depth series: The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson. You have been warned. We’ll also be doing Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamour in Glass and Dan Wells’ Hollow City. We’re NOT doing this back-to-back. You’ve got a little time.

Thing That Would Make Howard Sound Smarter: Remove every last “you know” from his dialog. (Note that this would not actually increase Howard’s IQ.)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs

Writing Prompt: Do this with your own work—have your friends interview you in depth about something you've finished, or something you're currently working on.

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By Writing Excuses | March 10, 2013 - 6:07 pm - Posted in Collaboration, Demonstration, Season 8

In this episode Brandon, Mary, and Dan help Howard brainstorm a story for a comic!

Howard begins with an uplift-related setting, and a couple of characters, and then the group takes off on a delightful demonstration of brainstorming within very specific constraints. The constraints in this case: existing setting and canon, existing characters, and (Howard’s favorite constraint) a limited page-count.

Disappointment of Epic Levels: Howard struggled so much with this story, even after the brainstorming session, that he decided to abandon the Bonus Story option for this book, and instead write a dozen new footnotes for the existing strips. This is no reflection upon the story itself. Brandon, Dan, and Mary did a great job. This story may see life someplace else, but not between the covers of “The Body Politic.”

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Fragments, by Dan Wells, narrated by Julia Whelan

Writing Prompt: An uplifted creature wants to get his/her entire species downlifted.

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By Writing Excuses | April 28, 2013 - 5:31 pm - Posted in Collaboration, Liner Notes, Q&A, Season 8

You love ‘em, we love ‘em, and there’s never a shortage of questions so here’s another another fast-paced Q&A. Here are the questions that we field in this episode:

  • How do you prepare to write?
  • How do you write stories that are important without being heavy-handed?
  • Magical realism vs. Fantasy — what’s the difference?
  • Do you have recommendations or techniques for serving as a beta reader? (Here’s the promised liner-note bit from Mary.)
  • Is it possible to do a serial with short stories and novellas all in the same setting?
  • Why do publishers say they want crossed-genre books, but they’re not publishing crossed-genre books?
  • Picture books and books for beginning readers: can you ‘cast on this for us? (Answer: not until we’ve got an expert guest in that field. If you want that info, go to SCBWI.org)
  • Can you do a ‘cast on reading aloud? (Answer: yes. This is not that ‘cast.)
  • What is the primary thing you’ve learned from reading Literary Fiction that has informed your Genre Fiction writing?

Writing Prompt: "Kittenpunk."

This is the first of our DANGER SPOILERS AHEAD story critique episodes. The story, “Sixth of the Dusk,” is available as part of SHADOWS BENEATH, the Writing Excuses anthology, which includes the finished story (obviously) and the version we critiqued in this episode. SHADOWS BENEATH also includes the stories we’ll be critiquing for the rest of July’s episodes, and some other pretty cool stuff that you can read about here. Oh, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the ebook at no additional charge.

Sure, you can totally listen to this episode without having done the reading. We cannot stop you! Howard looked around for a full hour, but there’s no “stop playback for people who have not done the homework” button anywhere here.

This is also the first half of a two-part episode. We spent about 40 minutes hammering on Brandon’s story, and that’s just too much Writing Excuses for one week. Oh, and we recorded this episode live at last year’s Out of Excuses Seminar and Retreat. You’ll hear our audience of awesome attendees responding to us.

We run this session like Brandon runs his critique group — we begin by talking about what we liked, so that the writer knows what not to accidentally remove during revisions. Then we drill down on the things we have problems with, and you know what? There were a bunch of those things! Like most writers, Brandon’s first drafts are imperfect things that have problems in them.

We also run this session in a way that we don’t actually suggest you run your critique groups, at least not until you’ve put a bunch of critique sessions under your belt.

That Thing Howard Said to Brandon Between Sessions has been lost to time. Or repressed memory. Sorry.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov, narrated by Scott Brick. (Note: This version of the audiobook has the Will Smith movie cover, but it's also the best-ranked version.)

Writing Prompt: A setting in which you can vote through time for things.

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HERE THERE BE SPOILERS! Also, merchandising!

This is the second of our story critique episodes. The story, “Sixth of the Dusk,” is available as part of SHADOWS BENEATH, the Writing Excuses anthology, which includes the finished story (obviously) and the version we critiqued in this episode. SHADOWS BENEATH also includes the stories we’ll be critiquing for the rest of July’s episodes, and some other pretty cool stuff that you can read about here. If you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the ebook at no additional charge.

Can you get a lot out of this episode without having done the reading? Yes! But we don’t know what those things will be. Can you get a lot out of this episode without having listened to Part 1? Probably, but here’s a link to it in case you have doubts.

Having covered the stuff we loved in Part 1, this episode is the big downer where we just focus on the problems we found. But hey, that’s how stories get to be better! We start with the big ones, and then work our way back up to the little things.

We recorded this episode live at last year’s Out of Excuses Seminar and Retreat. Our audience of awesome attendees can be heard cheering when we finally slay the [SPOILERS REDACTED] with our collected powers of [REDACTED AGAIN.]

 

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, by Diana Rowland, narrated by Allison McLemore

Writing Prompt: Have a man who plays the musical saw find more than one additional use for the saw during the story.

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SPOILER ALERT!

This is the third of our SHADOWS BENEATH story critique episodes. This episode’s story, “A Fire in the Heavens,” is available as part of the aforementioned Writing Excuses anthology, pictured there on the right, which includes the the draft we critiqued in this episode along with the final version.

We still have one more SHADOWS BENEATH critique episode, so it’s not too late to grab a copy for yourself. Oh, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the ebook at no additional charge.

Mary runs this session like she runs her own critique groups using what’s often called the Milford method in which we each take two minutes to run through our thoughts on the story. We do that for the first half of the episode. During the second half Mary asks us questions, sometimes for clarification about what we said, and sometimes for suggestions.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Rip-Off! Written by: John Scalzi, Jack Campbell, Mike Resnick, Allen Steele, Lavie Tidhar, Nancy Kress, Gardner Dozois (editor) Narrated by: Wil Wheaton, Scott Brick, Christian Rummel, Jonathan Davis, Stefan Rudnicki, L. J. Ganser, Khristine Hvam

Writing Prompt: A brainstorming session spawns life somehow.

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SPOILER ALERT!

This is our fourth and final SHADOWS BENEATH story critique episode. This episode’s story, “An Honest Death,” by Howard Tayler, is available as part of the aforementioned Writing Excuses anthology, pictured there on the right, which includes the the draft we critiqued in this episode along with the final version.

We still have a few of the first-printing hardcovers left, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the electronic edition at no additional charge.

This week we find Howard in trouble. He is, in a word, stuck.

Can our heroes help him? Can special guest Eric James Stone lend enough of his special guest expertise to complete the rescue?

We start with a discussion of what was working, so that Howard doesn’t accidentally “fix” something that isn’t broken. Then we wade into the weeds and go hunting for the pieces he needs in order to finish the story. And when we say “the weeds,” we’re talking serious wandering. The episode runs a full half-hour long…

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Firebird, by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Katherine Kellgren

Writing Prompt: You have, with actual paint, painted yourself into an actual corner. But the paint and the corner are in a world in which there is magic, and "you painted yourself into a corner" may very well be some sort of a spell.

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By Writing Excuses | September 7, 2014 - 7:39 pm - Posted in Collaboration, Season 9

Kathleen Dalton Woodbury, the forum moderator at the Hatrack River writers group joined us at Westercon 67 to talk about critique groups. We cover how critiques should be offered, as well as importance of receiving critiques graciously and without defense, and we reflect on lots of the good and bad writing groups and critique groups we’ve been a part of.

This is hard to get right, but once you do get it right your critique group can become the team that helps you turn your work into something outstanding.

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, narrated by Jim Dale

Writing Prompt: A magic system in which the audio you play in your car will give your car superpowers.

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