By Writing Excuses | June 8, 2008 - 9:13 pm - Posted in Characters, Guest, Live, Q&A, Season 1

While at CONduit, we recorded three episodes of Writing Excuses in front of an audience, and this is the first of those. In this episode we have Dan Willis join us as we take questions from the crowd. The four of us discuss voicing characters, naming things, writing Act II, and how you set about finishing your book.

Oh, and for all of you who have complained that fifteen minutes is not long enough… we ran clear out to 17:30 on this one. Enjoy!

Liner notes:

You can find Dan Willis’ website here: http://www.dansrealm.com/Dans_Realm/Home/Home.html

Orson Scott Card’s Essays on naming:

http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/lessons/2003-03-05-1.shtml and http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/lessons/2003-03-05-2.shtml

And this week, Writing Excuses is sponsored by The Well of Ascension: Book Two of Mistborn Mass Market Paperback by Brandon Sanderson.

By Writing Excuses | June 15, 2008 - 9:08 pm - Posted in Guest, Liner Notes, Plot, Season 1

Michael Stackpole, author and podcaster, joined us at CONduit, and the four of us tackled plot twists in front of a live audience. Whether you write from a solid outline or discover your plot as you go, we’ve got tricks and tools for you. We talk about “surprising yet inevitable,” the fine art of making our characters miserable, and the importance of foreshadowing (but not telegraphing) the twist.

Liner Notes:

Michael Stackpoles’ official website, and the site where he hosts his podcasts.

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 18, 2008 - 6:21 am - Posted in Genre, Guest, Live, Season 1

This is the first of five episodes recorded on location at WorldCon 66 in the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. Brandon, Dan, and Howard are joined by Phil and Kaja Foglio, and we discuss writing for webcomics… no, wait… writing for “sequential picture-assisted storytelling.”

Phil and Kaja are the creators of Girl Genius, the web’s foremost hunk’ o’ steampunk — and we here at Writing Excuses are big fans. During our short time together they help us understand the nuances of creating Girl Genius pages, writing to the outline of the story, and crafting their dialog. The Foglios (and Howard) have a little bit of advice for folks looking to start their own webcomic, too.

(Mmmmm…. Grizzly Bear Soup!)

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.

By Writing Excuses | September 7, 2008 - 9:40 pm - Posted in Genre, Guest, Live, Season 1, Submitting

One of the biggest areas of professional creative writing these days is game writing, and who better to talk to about it than Steve Jackson–yes, THE Steve Jackson. We start off trying to talk about game adaptations, and the challenges they present for writers, but then we devolve into a more straightforward discussion of writing for games.

This week’s Writing Excuses is brought to you by The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

In this, the last of our WorldCon 66 episodes, Brandon, Dan, and Howard interview Name of the Wind author Patrick Rothfuss. We discuss exposition, and how not to bore people as you move them through the learning curve. We start by covering some “don’ts”  – including the essay, the police-artist sketch, and the thesis statement.

And then we work into the “do’s” – show-don’t-tell, focus on character, and don’t write stuff the readers don’t care about.

   This week’s Writing Excuses is brought to you by Schlock Mercenary: The Teraport Wars  by Howard Tayler

You didn’t think we’d just keep going with the same old stuff forever, did you? Well, actually we are, but now we’re calling it Season 2. This season begins with a series of episodes recorded at Mountain Con in Layton, UT, each of them rife with wisdom and wonder.

This week Writing Excuses is brought to you by the Writing Excuses Season One Collection on CD.

By Writing Excuses | October 19, 2008 - 10:28 pm - Posted in Genre, Guest, Live, Season 2

Kids these days with their long hair and their love of reading. It’s like, get off my lawn, am I right? But in other news, kids (meaning anything from chapter books to mature YA) read a TON, and somebody has to write those books, and it might as well be you. Learn how to write for children with the Writing Excuses team and special guest star Brandon Mull, author of the wildly successful Fablehaven series.

Brandon Mull’s website

This week Writing Excuses is brought to you by the Writing Excuses Season One Collection on CD.

By Writing Excuses | October 27, 2008 - 8:05 am - Posted in Characters, Guest, Live, Season 2

No matter how grand your setting, how intense your conflicts, or how tight your plot, at some point you’re going to need characters. Join us as we discuss what makes a character interesting, memorable, and unique. Once again, the team is joined by Brandon Mull of “Fablehaven” fame.

Brandon Mull’s website

This week Writing Excuses is brought to you by the Writing Excuses Season One Collection on CD.

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.

Howard, Dan, and guest Bob Defendi open this episode with some high literary humor. Bob fills in for Brandon as we discuss formulas writers use in crafting stories. But how do we prevent those stories from feeling formulaic? Can the formulas themselves help? We discuss (at a high level) the three-act format, the hero’s journey, the romance, the two-act format, try-fail cycles, and others.

This week’s episode is brought to you by the podcast audiobook Death by Cliché, by Robert J. Defendi. We didn’t plug it very hard in the episode itself, but oh, MAN you need to listen to it. Howard hasn’t laughed that hard in a long time.

With Brandon still mysteriously missing, Professor Bob Defendi returns to take Dan and Howard on a magical journey through the three-act format: every step, every element, every nuance of this very common and very helpful writing structure. The only way you could conceivably learn more is in a magic school bus, and frankly we don’t think that’s very likely.

This week’s episode is brought to you by Bob’s podcast audiobook Death by Cliché, by Robert J. Defendi. No matter how hilarious you think this is going to be, it’s actually more hilarious than that.

Writing Prompt: Plot out a three act structure for a current project or a new one.

By Writing Excuses | December 7, 2008 - 9:22 pm - Posted in Characters, Genre, Guest, Season 2, Writing Prompt

This week (and for the following two weeks) the Writing Excuses crew is joined by author Dave Wolverton, who also writes under the name David Farland. This week’s topic? ROMANCE. What can four adult males possibly have to say about the subject? The answer: We tell you absolutely everything we know in just sixteen minutes and fifty-one seconds. And there was time left over in there to stick in an advertisement.

This week’s Writing Excuses is brought to you by Rokit Fuel. That ad Howard recorded was powered in part by two bags of the stuff. They sent us samples, and we plowed through them like a tornado through a trailer park.

 

Writing Prompt: And now, the Writing Prompt: Your character walks into a room and sees three people whom he or she could end up with. You don't know which one it will be. Keep the reader guessing (and interested!)

By Writing Excuses | December 14, 2008 - 8:15 pm - Posted in Guest, Scenes, Season 2, Writing Prompt

Dave Farland, aka Dave Wolverton again joins the Writing Excuses team, and helps us discuss boredom. Specifically, we cover how to deal with it, how to go about writing those “boring parts” that come between the exciting bits that fuel your writing passion.

We talk about skipping ahead, switching viewpoints, following the pain, and trying to do this in a first-person narrative. And for an episode that claims to be about the “boring parts” this one is fairly action-packed. 

Finally.

Writing Prompt: Kill the main badguy in every chapter.

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 | 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.

By Writing Excuses | March 1, 2009 - 9:16 pm - Posted in Conflicts, Guest, Scenes

 Rob Wells joins the Writing Excuses crew for a second ‘cast, this time dealing with fight scenes. We talk about good blocking versus a bad blow-by-blow, and cover a few of the factors that may dictate the right style of description for that wicked-cool fight you’ve pictured in your head.

This episode is fast-paced and, well… punchy. No, really, it is. Seriously, that seemed like the right word there, pun notwithstanding.

Writing Prompt: Write a fight between two people who have never been in a fight before.

“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.

We took Writing Excuses on the road last month for “Life, The Universe, and Everything,” the symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy at Brigham Young University. The Guests of Honor were Tracy and Laura Hickman, and poor Tracy agreed to join us for a podcast or two, recorded in front of a live audience.

After the initial introductions we dig into clichés, starting with characters – specifically, how to avoid these kinds of problems in our characters. What’s the difference between a cliché and an archetype? Tracy saves us time and again with great answers that beg a dozen or more podcasts. It’s a good thing Tracy and Laura have their own podcast.

This episode has “clipping” problems. We need to buy some good audio gear for Jordan so he can fix problems like this. Or maybe some audio gear that will let him prevent problems like this.  But don’t discuss that in the comments. Discuss clichés, please.

Writing Prompt: Howard gets attacked by monkeys.

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 fills in for Dan for this week’s episode (he was sick, she was in town, huzzah!) but she’s more than just “filling in.” She’s FEATURED. Nancy is the assistant editor for Jim Baen’s Universe, and as such is probably the one who rejected your story. Nancy is also the editor-in-chief and founder of  Anthology Builder, where you can create collections of short stories you want to read, and have them printed and bound for you. She tells us the sorts of things that will get you rejected, maybe after a page, maybe after a paragraph, and perhaps even before the very first line has been read.

This week’s episode is brought to you by Schlock Mercenary: The Scrapyard of Insufferable Arrogance. Pre-orders are open now!

Disclosure: Nancy is, in fact, Howard’s sister-in-law. That might be why her stuff is getting so dang much relevant linkage in this entry.

Writing Prompt: Write about a passionate egg.

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.

By Writing Excuses | June 14, 2009 - 8:41 pm - Posted in Characters, Guest, Live, Plot, Setting

This episode was recorded live at CONduit in Salt Lake City with special guest Aprilynne Pike. Our topic: How do we “keep it real” when writing speculative fiction? What does that even mean?

(Okay, it means making the stuff that exists in real life seem real.)

Short answer: Research. We talk about how we go about researching the “real” elements of our various works, all the while trying hard not to go “squee” with our very first #1 New York Times Bestelling guest. We also discuss many of the shortcuts and tricks we fall back on.

This week’s episode of Writing Excuses is brought to you by editor Stacy L. Whitman and her World-Building in Middle Grade and Young Adult Speculative Fiction Seminar. The seminar will be held at the Provo Library in Provo, Utah from 1:00pm to 5:00pm on Saturday, June 27th, 2009. The deadline for registration is June 19th.

Howard here… I’ve learned that it’s a really bad idea to run out for a bio-break between podcasts. When I returned to the packed panel room I could tell that everyone’s attitude towards me was subtly different. It wasn’t until we started recording that I realized Brandon had turned our Q&A panel into a “Stump Howard” panel. Our good friend Eric James Stone joined us for the fun.

As silly themes go, this one works well. So well, in fact, that we went six minutes into overtime. The questions were all good, and yes, according to the rules (of which I was not apprised, I should add in my defense) I got stumped one time. It was the question about making aliens seem alien. Go figure.

Writing Prompt: Start with a device that vaporises water, ala Batman Begins, and turn it into a believable superweapon which is not being used to destroy the world.

Aside from being a delightful author and a Campbell award winner, Mary Robinette Kowal is a professional puppeteer. She joined us at WorldCon 67 in Montreal, and totally schooled us in front of a live audience.

I mean it. TOTALLY SCHOOLED.

If you want to learn something new about writing, and I mean something really NEW you need to listen to Mary talk about puppetry. You can’t see the perpetual looks of astonishment and epiphany us jaded professionals wore during this recording, but I assure you they were there. We learned so much from Mary we decided to record two more episodes with her. Not because we felt like you, our listeners, necessarily deserved it. We wanted these recordings for ourselves.

Mary required us to share. It was part of the deal.

By Writing Excuses | September 6, 2009 - 3:47 pm - Posted in Guest, Live, Q&A

Mary Robinette Kowal joins us again, live at WorldCon 67 in Montreal! This time we fell back on that tried-and-true “Questions from the Audience” format, so the topic is pretty much what the audience asks for on the fly.

If the questions were all over the map, our answers require a new school of cartography. It all kind of fits under “process,” though, so for categorization purposes, we’re calling it that. Also, we failed to discover the Northwest Passage. Maybe we’ll find it next week, when Mary joins us for a third episode for more questions from the WorldCon 67 crowd.

In completely unrelated news, something cool happened to us at Dragon*Con on Saturday. We’ll talk about it in an upcoming ‘cast.

By Writing Excuses | September 13, 2009 - 4:54 pm - Posted in Characters, Guest

John Brown, debut author of Servant of a Dark God, joins us for this discussion of  the avoidance of self-insertion. In polite company we call this the “Mary Sue,” because it’s difficult to say “self-insertion” in polite company, much less with a straight face.

In broader terms, what we’re covering is voice, and how to make our characters sound like themselves rather than us.

This week’s Writing Excuses is Brought to you by Servant of a Dark God by John Brown.

Mary is back! We still had a Mary Robinette Kowal episode from WorldCon 67, and now you have it too! We take questions from the audience, and then answer them. Here are the questions:

  • What do you do if your characters revolt and start to take over the story?
  • When you became a writer what most surprised you with its difficulty?
  • How do you build the history for the worlds your books are set in?

Three huge questions, TWELVE answers. Enjoy!

Oh… and your writing prompt: write about The Predestined Monkey.

By Writing Excuses | September 27, 2009 - 9:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Guest, Theme

John Brown rejoins us for this discussion of  repetition. How do we, as writers, avoid repeating ourselves? We’re not just talking about the literal re-use of words and phrases here. We’re interested in avoiding the re-use of themes, character arcs, and plotlines.  Forget the problems Howard might have coming up with a new joke… he (and all of us) need to reach further than that to keep things fresh.

This week’s Writing Excuses is Brought to you by Servant of a Dark God by John Brown.

Writing Prompt:  The princess is trying to eat a pie, but someone is trying to stop her. Oh, and the fate of the world depends on the outcome.

By Writing Excuses | October 4, 2009 - 5:53 pm - Posted in Guest, Writing Prompt

John Brown joins us again, and tells us that fiction “is all about guiding an emotional response in a reader.” We begin with a discussion of depression, which John (like many of us) had to deal with. He tells us about the paths for emotional response, and how a beginning writer can end up in the depths of depression just by looking at the work of successful writers.

But working through that, especially with cognitive therapy, can provide the writer with fantastic tools for informing his or her writing. And those tools are really why you’re here. Listen closely!

Writing Prompt: Give us villainous heroes, romance, and something that evokes terror.

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 | February 14, 2010 - 6:39 pm - Posted in Guest, Horror, Humor, Live, Pacing, Structure

This episode was recorded live at Life, The Universe, & Everything 28, The BYU Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy, and features, among other things, our largest audience ever.

Oh, and James Dashner, our friend and the author of The Maze Runner.

It also features what has to be our roughest start ever. We don’t get to actual content until around four minutes in. Seventeen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re pretending this was an object lesson. Also, we love picking on our friend James.

Pacing! What do we do so that people keep turning pages? Which useful tricks do we hate? Which subtle methods do we prefer? And most importantly, what does James Dashner do? We talk about reveals, punchlines, cliffhangers, chapter length, and the “Brandon Avalanche.” Also, we talk briefly about the look on my face, and the roof of James’ mouth.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ender’s Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition by Orson Scott Card

Writing Prompt: Someone opens a door, and finds a wet, seeping cardboard box on the doorstep.

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

Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*.

*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 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.

Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*.

*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 | 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.

Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*.

*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 | March 7, 2010 - 8:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Guest

Jessica Day George joins us again, this time to tell us how to write men.  Brace yourselves for the bandying-about of generalities, for painting with broad brushes, and for assorted other potential points of offense!

Let’s say, for a moment, that you’re not a man. How do you go about writing men? Now let’s turn the question around… suppose you ARE a man. How do YOU write men? And now let’s cut to the heart of the matter by comparing these two processes. Are they different? Should they be? And where do knitting and superconductivity enter into the picture?

This is why it’s so cool to have Jessica with us Y-chromosome types. We all get to learn stuff.

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

Writing Prompt: Alternative history! Take an absurd 19th-century folk belief, treat it as absolute fact, and write a story hinging on that principle.

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

Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*.

*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 | March 14, 2010 - 3:14 pm - Posted in Characters, Conflicts, Genre, Guest

Jessica Day George joins the Writing Excuses crew again, this time for a discussion of writing for young adults, and maybe for teens, or even middle-grade readers. This isn’t a podcast about rigidly defining the boundary between the YA and middle-grade genres, though. That’s publishing. We’re talking about writing.

If you enjoyed last week’s discussion with the sweeping generalizations and the appropriate application thereof, this ‘cast should be every bit as intriguing. What are teenagers interested in, and how is that different from what interests adults? Do stories need to be simplified for teenagers, or are we underestimating them when we do that? How does the age of your protagonist determine the age-group to whom your publisher will market the book? Why is it genre-appropriate for Dumbledore to repeatedly withhold crucial information from Harry, Hermione, and Ron?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen, because a pit-fighting dragon is way cooler than the dragons of Christopher Paolini.

Writing Prompt: Take a protagonist younger than about 16 and put him or her in charge of a group of adults.

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

Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*.

*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 | June 6, 2010 - 5:45 pm - Posted in Characters, Conflicts, Guest, Lifestyle, Live, Q&A

Recorded live at CONduit with the inestimably valuable help of our friends at Dungeon Crawlers Radio, here’s an episode full of the randomness that is “questions from the audience.” These include:

  • What do people get wrong when they write military science-fiction?
  • How do you develop action sequences?
  • What makes a good foil character?
  • How do you schedule your time as a writer?
  • How do you write good, true-to-character dialog for each of your characters?

Our podcasters for this episode were Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, L.E. Modessit Jr., and Robison Wells.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Haze by L.E. Modessit, Jr.

Writing Prompt: Why does she NOT sound like the guy she’s interested in?

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

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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 | November 7, 2010 - 7:00 pm - Posted in Dialog, Guest, Ideas

The now cancer-free John Brown joins us again, this time for a discussion of the creative process. John has presented a seminar on this subject in the past, the focus of which is to teach people to unlock their creativity. At the core of this is the problem-solving we all engage in at some point. You have a problem, so you sit down and try to solve it. BAM. Creativity.

With John’s help we set out to de-mystify creativity, showing how everybody has to be creative on a regular basis, and how this skill set can be broadened through certain types of behavior, and immersion in particular domains. We explore strategies for developing what feels like a good idea, tactics for getting un-stuck when we’re bogged down, and finally figuring out when we’re done.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold, read by Marguerite Gavin

Writing Prompt: A person gets surgery so in order to imitate He Who Never Sleeps…

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By Writing Excuses | November 21, 2010 - 7:46 pm - Posted in Characters, Conflicts, Guest, Plot, POV, Structure

How do you write the second book? Zombie John Brown joins us for a discussion of that second novel.

(Note: As of this writing, John Brown remains NOT DEAD. Not UNDEAD, mind you. NOT DEAD. John D. Brown, author, is alive and well, and his nose is healing up quite nicely.)

We’ve got three possible approaches to take. The first is “your second unpublished novel.” The second is “your second published book.” The third is “the second book in a series.” All three of these are worth discussing, so of course we give the second one a wide miss.

We start with that second unpublished novel. This is the book where you move past the momentary validation of finishing the first novel, and sit down at the keyboard again. The lessons learned during the first novel are applied quickly. We talk about some of those lessons, and how they applied to each of us.

We then talk about the second book in a series. We look at what works well in sequels, in second acts, and subsequent installments in an ongoing series. We talk about the dangers of sequel-itis, especially as Hollywood suffers from it, and how we can avoid falling into these traps.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Good Guy, by Dean Koontz, narrated by Richard Ferrone

Writing Prompt: The growth on your nose… is it an alien, is it occult, or are you going to tell a love story?

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By Writing Excuses | November 28, 2010 - 7:12 pm - Posted in Artwork, Guest, Scenes, World Building

Scott Westerfeld joins Brandon and Howard for a discussion of the visual components of novels. His novel Leviathan is set in an alternate history 1914, and is designed to look like a book from 1914, complete with illustrations. Keith Thompson designed the art to look like period art, and it adds a significant dimension to the book.

Brandon talks about how he employed these same principles in The Way of Kings, which has in-world maps and in-world illustrations throughout its thousand pages. And of course Howard points how these things apply in the illustration-dependent Schlock Mercenary.

We move into a discussion of how the illustrations affect both the publication process and the storytelling, and how things like deck-plans and engineering diagrams feed back into the story.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, narrated by Alan Cumming

Writing Prompt: Draw the floor plan of the house or building you’re in. Knock out a wall, and write an action scene involving that.

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By Writing Excuses | January 23, 2011 - 7:00 pm - Posted in Alternate History, Fantasy, general, Genre, Guest, World Building

Mary Robinette Kowal and Eric Flint join Howard and Dan for a discussion of writing Alternate History. Eric divides the sub-genre into two categories for us. Dan adds a third category for us later. Summing up:

  1. Our history, but with a key change occurring (the “branching point.”)
  2. Our history, but with a time-traveler going back and changing something (aka “duck, Mister President!”)
  3. Our history, but with magic (usually with said magic being the key change at our branching point)

Mary’s first novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, grew out of a love for Jane Austen’s work and a love for the fantasy genre. Eric’s alternate histories (including the wildly popular 1632 series) grow out of the fact that he enjoyed history enough to obtain a Master’s degree in it. Write what you know, and write what you’re passionate about.

During the second half of the ‘cast Eric and Mary give us advice on how to go about writing alternate history. We talk about research, about when to sweat the details and when not to, and about some of the biggest challenges Mary and Eric faced during these projects.

At 22 minutes and 39 seconds it’s clear that we ran a little long on this one.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week (Two-for-One): Crown of Slaves and Torch of Freedom, both by Eric Flint and David Weber. These books fit in Weber’s Honor Harrington universe, but don’t require you to have read all the Honor Harrington books.

Writing Prompt: Pick a major event in history that you love, and make it come out differently.

Session Notes: We recorded seven guest episodes while at the Superstars Writing Seminar in Salt Lake City. This is the first of these. Brandon was absent for the first three sessions, but joined us for the last four.

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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.

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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.

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By Writing Excuses | February 27, 2011 - 10:11 pm - Posted in Characters, Guest, Horror, Humor, Setting, Suspense

Sherrilyn Kenyon, a multiple New York Times bestselling author of all kinds of novels, helps us tackle the tricky work of making the reader fear for the characters in the book.

The first step? Make the reader sympathize with the characters. Then make the reader love them. And then? Then you put them through the wringer while your readers bite their nails bloody in horror.

Here in the blurb we make it sound easy and formulaic. Listen to the ‘cast for pointers on the difficult bits.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Night Pleasures: The Dark Hunters, Book 1, by Sherrilyn Kenyon, narrated by Carrington MacDuffie

Writing Prompt: Take a Lovecraftian beastie and shove him into The Shire.

Legal Note: The Lovecraftian beastie may lie in the public domain, but The Shire most certainly does not. Additional points for making your Shire and your Hobbits C&D-proof with clever name changes and a shave of their feet.

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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.

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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.

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By Writing Excuses | March 27, 2011 - 7:08 pm - Posted in Guest, Live, Scenes

Dan and Howard are joined by Larry Correia and Robison Wells (Rob is the younger of the Wells brothers), and with the enthusiastic support of a live audience at LTUE they discuss writing action.

Larry’s books are made of action (and no small amount of gunplay.) Howard’s comics feature mercenaries (and sometimes elephants.) Robison’s latest book, Variant, doesn’t have any experienced fighters in it, but the characters still manage to get into action-oriented trouble. Dan’s action scenes are personal, visceral, and confusing. And so we talk about how we do it.

We also talk about how we’ve seen others do it in books and in film. We discuss the scene/sequel format, blocking, and how “write what you know” need not be an obstacle to writing about sword fighting against dragon. Or Howard’s dog.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia, narrated by Oliver Wyman

Writing Prompt: Write an action sequence that you can appropriately title “Flaming Slapfight.”

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By Writing Excuses | April 3, 2011 - 9:59 pm - Posted in Guest, Live, Other Podcasts, Scenes

Sarah Eden and Robison Wells join Dan and Howard at LTUE to talk about writing romance. Sarah writes in the romance genre, but we’re not focusing on the genre — we’re talking about writing romance within the context of whatever else we might happen to be putting on the page.

We lead with how to do it wrong, because nothing is as much fun to talk about as bad romance. It’s also educational.

More importantly (and more usefully) we talk about formulas for doing romance correctly. One of the most practical is to pair characters up by finding emotional needs that these characters can meet for each other. We look at examples from each of our work: Sarah’s The Kiss of a Stranger, Dan’s I Don’t Want To Kill You, Howard’s The Sharp End of the Stick, and Rob’s Variant.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: I Don’t Want To Kill You, by Dan Wells, narrated by Kirby Heyborne. It’s true, this book has some great romance in it. Also, murder.

Writing Prompt: Create a character, and then create a complementary character who both meets a need and provides unwelcome challenge.

Everybody’s Lisp: Brought to you by the noise reduction software we used. Sorry about that. It won’t happen again.

The Bonus Game: Bad Romance! Enjoy!

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By Writing Excuses | May 15, 2011 - 7:16 pm - Posted in Characters, Fantasy, Genre, Guest, Humor, Live

Jim Hines joins Brandon and Howard at Penguicon for a discussion of parody, satire, and why things are funny.

We start by defining parody and satire, and then Jim tells us why he wrote his he-calls-them-satirical Goblin novels, and why aspects of gamer culture so badly need to be satirized. Howard provides his formula for delivering the satire in Schlock Mercenary, and then we begin bandying about the terms “absurdification,” “commodification,” and “DisneyficationTM.”

And believe it or not, we manage to discuss humor in a way that is actually funny, at least some of the time.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Eyes Like Stars, by Lisa Mantchev, narrated by Cynthia Bishop

Writing Prompt: Start with a highly magical, pseudo-medieval fantasy setting. Now… how do you deal with baldness?

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By Writing Excuses | May 22, 2011 - 6:21 pm - Posted in Characters, Dialog, Genre, Guest

John Scalzi joins Brandon and Howard at Penguicon for a discussion of writing dialog. John’s advice begins thusly: “start reading outside Science Fiction and Fantasy.” It’s good advice regardless, but John’s justification for it is fascinating.

Dialog in prose is not very much like real-life dialog. Your goal as a writer is to convince the reader that it is. And that’s what we’re going to try to teach you how to do. Or at least how to learn how to do.

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Fuzzy Nation, John Scalzi’s reboot of H.Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy, narrated by Wil Wheaton

Writing Prompt: Write a dialog between someone ordering at a drive-through and someone taking the order, but the person taking the order is being held up at gunpoint.

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By Writing Excuses | May 29, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Conventions, Fantasy, Genre, Guest, Humor, Live

Filk.

It sounds like a bad word.

Okay, what it actually sounds like, provided you’ve fallen in among actual filkers, is AWESOME. It’s music named after a typo, and sung around subjects near and dear to genre fans.

Tom Smith, filker extraordinaire and musician magnifique, joins Brandon and Howard at Penguicon to talk about writing music, and to talk about the Filk genre in particular.

Our only episode with actual music in it, this is the last episode of Season 5, and Tom Smith sends us home with a brilliant little song he made up using requests from those in attendance. Tom, we expect an eventual epic song-cycle centering around “The Wizard of Wheat.”

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs.

Writing Prompt: Tom ended up singing his response to our writing prompt. What can you do with the words “wizard” and “bakery?”

Additional References for Filk: The FuMP, Filk resources on the Internet, and (per Tom’s suggestion) a YouTube search for Filk.

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By Writing Excuses | September 4, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Fantasy, Guest, Setting

Patrick Rothfuss joins Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard at WorldCon 69, where we recorded before a live, enthusiastic audience.

The topic? Suspension of disbelief, specifically, how to get your readers to do this. Patrick leads us off with verisimilitude, and how the reader will accept the fantastic if you’re presenting the mundane in a believable way. We talk about laying groundwork, about Chekov’s gun, the promises we have to make to our readers, and the dramatic tool bathos.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss, narrated by Nick Podehl.

Writing Prompt: Make the reader believe one impossible thing. If you can’t think of something on your own, start with teleportation.

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