By mistborn | February 10, 2008 - 10:16 pm - Posted in Ideas, Liner Notes, Season 1

Brandon, Howard and Dan discuss where their ideas come from and Howard tells us a little too much about his love of Pepsi.

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By Writing Excuses | February 24, 2008 - 11:16 pm - Posted in Editing, Ideas, Liner Notes, Season 1

How do you make your novel better? Sometimes you have to cut out the part you like best. Don’t believe me? Before I posted this I had attached an image of a chimp wearing a tux.

Brandon’s Deleted Scenes

Howard’s Original Time-Travel Outline

By Writing Excuses | May 25, 2008 - 8:13 pm - Posted in Ideas, Season 1, Writing Prompt

Howard kicks this off with his own sure-fire cure for Writers’ Block, “BIC HOK:” Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. The Writing Excuses team takes off from there, discussing the different kinds of Writers’ Block, and how to overcome each of them. We cover free-writing, re-reading and reviewing, and focusing on your motivations for writing… and for NOT writing, which is often the heart of the problem.

This week from our sponsor Tor, check out Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.

By Writing Excuses | July 20, 2008 - 7:25 pm - Posted in Ideas, Season 1, Writing Prompt

How much research do you do? Howard’s answer: “Just enough to get by.” In this podcast we talk about why we research, how we research, and when we feel like we’ve researched enough. We also discuss hiding a lack of knowledge, and finding ways to get by without doing truly exhaustive research. Listen closely and you’ll learn why you’ll never be able to know enough, why the epic fantasy horse is a lot like a motorcycle, and whether or not one of us really needs therapy.

This week’s Writing Excuses Book of the Week: Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson

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By Writing Excuses | August 10, 2008 - 8:46 pm - Posted in Ideas, Season 1, World Building, Writing Prompt

The Writing Excuses team sits down to talk about religion as a world-building device: your characters probably believe in something, so what is it? How does it affect their lives? How does it change their thoughts and motivations (and swear words)? And when you’re developing a fake religion, how do you avoid religious bias and keep from offending people? Is it best to develop something completely new, or make a few changes to a real Earth religion?

Writing Prompt: Develop a religion where people worship something that no one would ever worship in our world. And it can't be silly.

By Writing Excuses | September 29, 2008 - 7:46 am - Posted in Ideas, Plot, Scenes, Season 1, Writing Prompt

Like all right-thinking people, we loved The Dark Knight–but because we are also writers obsessed with the craft of storytelling, we liked it for very specific, very nerdy reasons. Join us as we take a journey through What The Dark Knight Did Right: strong characters,  excellent dialogue, a layered plot that blended perfectly (and unexpectedly) with the central themes, and more.

Writing Prompt: Pull out an old piece of writing from the last year or so. Pick a dialogue scene and try to take each piece of dialogue up a half of a notch, evoking a little more character. The outcome or conclusion of the dialogue scene should remain the same.

By Writing Excuses | January 18, 2009 - 9:46 pm - Posted in Ideas, Scenes, Writing Prompt

When do you know when you’re ready to begin? What does that question even mean? Apparently Brandon gets asked it a lot, though, so he posed it for the group. How do you know when that story in your head is ready for you to start writing it? Or maybe, how do you know you’re ready to start writing that story that’s up in your head? Or perhaps, when do you know when in that story in your head you should begin writing it, assuming you’re ready?

Confused yet? If you’re ready to begin listening, we’re ready to begin making more sense.

Writing Prompt: Write an ending, and start your book with it.

By Writing Excuses | May 25, 2009 - 8:05 am - Posted in Ideas, Writing Prompt

And here we are, at the final episode of Writing Excuses, Season 2. As promised, this episode is going to be super-useful to new writers, but it’s going to be extra-super-useful to one new writer in particular, Brandon’s nameless friend who listened to 9 hours of Writing Excuses podcasts and is now too overwhelmed to write.

Have you ever wondered why we only ‘cast for 15 minutes (give or take, usually give, but still…) each week? It’s because you’re not supposed to be sitting there at the computer listening to hours upon hours of advice. You’re supposed to be writing.

For this next fourteen minutes and forty-seven seconds we explain how to make that happen.

Writing Prompt: Write a story about Brandon’s friend Nameless

By Writing Excuses | October 25, 2009 - 4:23 pm - Posted in Conflicts, Demonstration, Fantasy, Ideas, Plot, Setting

You are going to love this episode. Seriously.

Brandon throws an idea at Dan and Howard, and then we spend 15 minutes expanding on that idea as if we were going to base a story around it.

You people who keep asking where we get our ideas? You’re asking the wrong question. Ideas are easy to come by — everybody has them. The right question is “how do you turn an idea into a story?”

This podcast skips to the important part of answering the question: demonstration. Enjoy!

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Your writing prompt: Bugs are now magical. Ohcrap.

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By Writing Excuses | February 7, 2010 - 8:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Ideas

Roll for initiative, folks! Brandon, Dan, and Howard all play tabletop role-playing games, and sometimes even play together. The question of the hour (well… quarter-hour) is “how can these games help your world building, storytelling, and anything else having to do with good writing?”

If this ‘cast doesn’t make you want to play RPGs with your friends, congratulations on a successful Saving Throw vs. Dark Podcast Magic. If this ‘cast doesn’t make you want to sit down and start writing, you have our condolences. That’s not the saving throw you were supposed to make!

In the spirit of not-necessarily-related personal information: This week we learn that Howard is moister than Dan.

In related news, see the Writing Excuses crew this coming Saturday, February 13th, at the Life, The Universe and Everything Symposium at Brigham Young University in the Wilkinson Center. We’ll be there for the full symposium, but on Saturday we’ll actually be recording in front of an audience. You’ll also get to meet Bob Defendi, who gets mentioned at least three times in this episode.

Audiobook Plug: Nation, by Terry Pratchett

Writing Prompt: Don’t write about players being sucked into their RPGs. That’s been done a lot. Suck the RPG characters out into our world, and see what happens.

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By Writing Excuses | March 21, 2010 - 7:47 pm - Posted in Ideas, Plot

Let’s mix things up a bit, shall we? Your Writing Excuses hosts are going to brainstorm for you, and we’re going into it completely cold. By “cold” we mean to say that we have no idea what fodder we’re getting before the cast starts.

Producer Jordo reads quirky news headlines. Brandon, Dan, and Howard take these headlines and brainstorm them into plot, setting, and/or character ideas. And yes, if you want to use one or more of these yourself, go right ahead.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Writing Prompt: Brainstorm your own from this headline: New Zealand Woman Sells Souls To The Highest Bidder… but don’t spoil the process by looking up the actual article.

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By Writing Excuses | April 11, 2010 - 5:45 pm - Posted in Ideas, World Building

Our last brainstorming ‘cast was so well-received we decided to do another one. This time we grabbed articles from a New Scientist article called “13 More Things We Don’t Understand.”

Dark flow, hybrid life, the bloop, the lithium problem, the nocebo effect, and  noise from the edge of the universe all lead us to interesting places and other universes, and we get visits from dishonest serial killers, the Space Goat, and Cthulhu.

If any of these ideas strike your fancy and you manage to successfully sell a novel, congratulations! We don’t want a cut, but a mention in your acknowledgements page would be nice.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Noble House, by James Clavell

Writing Prompt: Start with the noise from the edge of the universe” article and brainstorm a good story.

Thing to Not Do, Lest We Were Not Clear Enough There At The End: Do not actually commit nor advocate the commission of suicide no matter how depressing your discovery about the nature of the universe may be.

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By Writing Excuses | May 9, 2010 - 5:58 pm - Posted in Artwork, Genre, Ideas, Plot, Setting, World Building

We here at Writing Excuses have talked about the Anxiety of Influence before, we’ve discussed genre-blending, and we’ve talked about where ideas come from. Now we’re going to blend all of those in one ‘cast as we talk about stealing stuff without plagiarizing.

You can call it “borrowing” if you want to, but as Howard Tayler once said, “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” (Note: It’s possible that Pablo Picasso also said this.) We offer examples from books, film, music, and the visual arts — done right, done wrong, and done award-winningly well. If you’re coming up short on ideas, this is the ‘cast for you. It’s probably a good ‘cast even if you’re NOT coming up short on ideas.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Neil Himself, which is a great example of stealing (from Kipling in this case) and getting away with it (and getting a Hugo Award in this case.)

Writing Prompt: Hit the button labeled “click here to be randomly teraported into the archives” at Schlock Mercenary (it’s under the calendar navigation to the right of the comic), read three or four strips, and steal from them to create something new.

Funny Song That Would Have Been Funnier If We’d Mentioned Baloo The Zombear: “Brain Necessities.”

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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 | July 18, 2010 - 7:21 pm - Posted in Conflicts, Ideas, Plot, Structure

When Oscar Hammerstein wrote “Let’s start at the very beginning // A very good place to start” he was talking about teaching children to sing, not writing a novel. Sometimes the beginning is the very worst place to start, so in this ‘cast the Writing Excuses crew starts at the end.

Dan leads with a reminder that we should all watch his five-part lecture on story structure, and then hits a couple of the high points in his process. Brandon points out that he and Dan both start in the same way, even though Dan usually discovery-writes his way to the selected ending, and Brandon typically outlines towards it in advance of putting chapters down. Unsurprisingly, Howard starts in the same place.

So what are the problems with working backwards? How do we prevent those things from happening? What are some great things about working backwards? How can we ensure that those happen every time?

That’s the first half of the ‘cast. The second half is a right treat, as you get to listen to Brandon, Dan, and Howard attempt to brainstorm a great ending from which they can work backwards to a beginning. Producer Jordo provides a pair of headlines as prompts, including programmable matter, Harley Davidson motorcycles, and a thrown puppy.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Furies of Calderon: Codex Alera Book 1, by Jim Butcher — a book that Brandon tells us was written when somebody dared Jim Butcher to build epic fantasy around Pokémon.

Writing Prompt: What’s the character arc for our mathematical analyst biker dude? Yes, you’ll have to listen to the ‘cast in order to figure this prompt out.

Sound Effect of the Week: George Jetson’s Harley

Weekly Feature You Won’t See Every Week: Sound Effect of the Week.

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

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

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

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

Writing Prompt: “Interspeciated workplace.” Go!

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

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

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By Writing Excuses | October 24, 2010 - 8:00 pm - Posted in Ideas

We’re off to a great start, with a dangling preposition right there in the title.

We end each podcast with the tagline “you’re out of excuses, now go write,” but many people still come up with plenty of excuses. How does the professional writer deal with these sorts of things? We talk about the absence of the muse, the wrong space, the absence of ideas, discouragement, lack of time, distractions, and pants.

Howard’s pants, of course.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Hyperion, by Dan Simmons.

Writing Prompt: You need to change your shoes, or something awful is going to happen.

Full Circle: Pants at the beginning and the end. Oh, good. That means we wore them the whole time.

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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 | 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.

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By Writing Excuses | June 5, 2011 - 5:00 pm - Posted in Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Ideas

One of our most popular guests ever, Mary Robinette Kowal, finally joins Brandon, Dan, and Howard as a full-time cast-member. And now that she’s with us, we’re going to go back and revisit the very first topic we attempted to record (in a lost episode you can only hear in the bonus material on the 1st Season CD), which is whether or not creativity can be taught.

Mary says aspects of it can be taught. Howard’s inner Zen master says nothing can be taught, but anything can be learned. And from there we dive all the way in.

And you know what? Mary totally rescues the discussion, bringing perspectives that we were missing in that first session back in 2008. Especially right at the end, where she gives us some awesome creativity exercises.

Welcome to the team, Mary Robinette Kowal. We’ve needed you for three years.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1 by George R.R. Martin, narrated by Roy Dotrice

Writing Prompt: Take one of the creativity exercises and run with it. Alternatively, use this mash-up: “The Silence of the Mexican Herbie Part 2: The Two Towers.”

Pearl of Wisdom Not To Be Taken The Wrong Way: “Stealing from children is an awesome tool.”

Liner Note Link: Here is the narration and context exercise Mary mentioned.

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By Writing Excuses | July 10, 2011 - 5:56 pm - Posted in Genre, Ideas, Sci-fi, Setting, World Building

Cyberpunk: What is it? Why is it? We’ve mentioned it before, but we’ve never attempted to tackle it.

We begin with an attempt to define cyberpunk (the literary genre), which is typically near-future SF, anti-establishment, early dystopian fiction featuring connectivity, body modification, and culture shifts. We argue a bit over the finer points, which fits the topic perfectly.

We move on to discuss how you might set about writing cyberpunk, which is, as Dan points out, the SF genre we’re catching up to. We almost live in that world already. You’re going to need to do some research, reading up on the genre and looking closely at where current technology is taking us.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson, narrated by Jennifer Wiltsie.

Writing Prompt: A cyberpunk setting in which tattoos are the equivalent of implanted tech… and somebody has hacked your tattoo.

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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 | August 7, 2011 - 5:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Genre, Ideas, Setting

Orson Scott Card’s M.I.C.E. quotient is a concept from his books Character and Viewpoint and How to Write Science Fiction. M.I.C.E. stands for Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event, and can serve as a way to identify what kind of story you’re telling, and which elements you might need to spend more time fleshing out.

Mary walks us through each of the M.I.C.E. elements, and then we discuss ways in which writers can apply the quotient for improving their writing.

Then we try to take the Billy Goats Gruff tale and spin it as four different stories, one each for the M.I.C.E. elements, but that proves to be a pretty ambitious undertaking for us. Oh, the stumbling.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Enchantment, by Orson Scott Card, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.

Writing Prompt: Apply the M.I.C.E. quotient to Red Riding Hood, and write at least one page of story per element. Wow, this sounds a lot like homework.

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Let’s talk commo! How does the ubiquity of communication tech affect your story? How far out of your own experience do you need to step in order to build a culture whose communications are believable?

We talk about the Great Wall of China, Napoleon’s visual semaphore, the Brin P2P Plan, and cell-phones in the X-files. Our goal? To get you to think about how the people in your stories communicate with each other, and how those communications can fail whether you’re writing fantasy or science-fiction.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson, narrated by Jonathan Davis.

Errata: The Ringworld is not 93 million miles in diameter. That was the approximate radius. Also, Howard got the circumference wrong. If only we’d had instant access to some sort of database, some network of computational resources while we were recording this episode…

Writing Prompt: Start with a fax machine, make it a 3d-printer/prototyper, and run from there…

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By Writing Excuses | October 23, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Demonstration, Ideas

We’ve done brainstorming casts before. This time we’ve prepared something quite a bit different. It’s different, in fact, because we prepared it — in advance, even.

Producer Jordo provided your hosts Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard with four wacky news headlines. From these, we each hammered together rudimentary bits of story, and we did so independently. You get four different takes on this four-headline mashup.

The four headlines:

  • Wary of Iguanas, Bored Germans Finally Venture Out
  • Heroic Mailman Saves Three Lives While On the Job
  • Dolphin Charged With Battery Against Girlfriend
  • Austrian Power Company Tells Customer She is Dead

Mary goes first and sets the bar rather high with an entire story outline.

Brandon goes next, and gives us a magic system.

Then it’s Howard’s turn. What looks like story shrapnel turns out to be the prologue.

Finally, Dan gives us a nice, post-apocalyptic piece, or at least the robotic skeleton of one.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, narrated by Tom Weiner.

Writing Prompt: No prompt this week. Not unless you want to try your hand at these headlines.

Those Bullet Points from Brandon: Nope, not in Howard’s email. We’ll get them eventually. Or maybe not.

 

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By Writing Excuses | November 13, 2011 - 6:24 pm - Posted in Genre, Guest, Ideas, World Building

Andrew P. Mayer joins Howard, Mary, and Dan at Dragon*Con 2011. Andrew’s has one book out, The Falling Machine, and the second book in this “Society of Steam” series, Hearts of Smoke, comes out on November 22nd. Andrew describes them as “steampunk superhero” novels, which nicely takes us into our topic, which centers around taking a ridiculous, over-the-top concept and using it to create brilliant and realistic literature.

We discuss a number of concepts which seem, at least on the surface, to be completely ridiculous, and which have been turned into wonderful stories, books, and series of books. We also talk about how to pull this off, and what writing skills we need to bring to bear.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Mainspring, by Jay Lake, narrated by William Dufris

Writing Prompt: Give us a story about a character who discovers that there exists a pill to grant you the powers of a god.

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By Writing Excuses | July 2, 2012 - 9:34 am - Posted in Ideas, Season 7

It’s important to be original, but is it possible to be TOO original? Further, is it possible that we over-value originality?

Dan raises the question in regards to James Cameron’s Avatar, which made lots of money and was widely enjoyed, but which was also roundly criticized for being a story we’ve already heard before. Christopher Paolini’s Eragon is similarly criticized. It is solid execution upon a story cycle that science fiction and fantasy fans are already intimately familiar with.

Howard talks about borrowing “uplift” from David Brin, Mary points out that David Brin borrowed it from Christian Missionaries in Africa, and Brandon then ponders aloud whether this ‘cast is going to be of any use to any of you.

Each of us have struggled with this. It’s exceedingly unlikely that you won’t. The point? Originality is not the be-all, end-all some make it out to be, and authors need to take care not to pursue it to the point that they miss other objectives.

Meme of the Week: “If I pee far, it’s because I stand on the shoulders of giants.” — Howard Tayler

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Sharpe's Rifles, by Bernard Cornwell, narrated by Frederick Davidson

Writing Prompt: Regarding riding mounted beasts -- make the cost to the rider so high that it's almost never worth it. Now create circumstances under which it's always worth it.

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By Writing Excuses | September 2, 2012 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Demonstration, Ideas, Plot, Season 7

Dan needs to write a military thriller. It’s just a short story, but still, it’s a bit outside his area of expertise, and he needs help. So in this episode Brandon, Mary, and Howard will endeavor to help him.

The working title? “I.E.Demon”

You can’t read this story yet, but we’ll let you know when you can.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, by John Scalzi, narrated by Wil Wheaton

Writing Prompt: Google military three-letter-acronyms (IED and RPG are off-limits.) Swap out one of the words for a supernatural descriptor beginning with the same letter. That's your story seed.

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By Writing Excuses | November 25, 2012 - 7:44 pm - Posted in Characters, Conflicts, Ideas, Pacing, Plot, Season 7

A while back one of the former storyboard artists at Pixar, Emma Coats, (@lawnrocket on Twitter) started tweeting the “22 Pixar Storytelling Rules” And now the cast of Writing Excuses reviews them, and offers some applications.

These rules cover character development, plot structure, process, and much more. No, we weren’t able to give them all deep coverage, but this serves as a great refresher on lots of things we’ve covered in the past.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Foundation, by Isaac Asimov, narrated by Scott Brick

Writing Prompt: "The Multi-Tentacled Space Goat cannot come and save us again."

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By Writing Excuses | December 16, 2012 - 6:58 pm - Posted in Ideas, Q&A, Season 7

We’re drawing to the close of Season 7, so here’s some microcasting (that’s what we call a fast-paced Q&A) where we field your questions. Here are your questions:

  • What are your embarrassing early projects?
  • How do you tell if your idea is too big for the story you’re working on?
  • How do you avoid discouragement?
  • How do you handle multiple magic systems in one book?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor, narrated by Anne Flosnik

Writing Prompt: Two different characters, two different magic systems...

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By Writing Excuses | January 13, 2013 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Conflicts, Education, Fantasy, Ideas, Outlining, Plot, Prose, Season 8, Setting, Structure

Beowulf didn’t kill Grendel on a day trip, Luke didn’t overthrow Emperor Palpatine in just one season, and here at Writing Excuses, we didn’t get around to properly discussing the Hero’s Journey until we were well into the second decade of this century.

Sorry about that.

The Campbellian Monomyth, as defined in Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces, is a system of comparative mythology that, for better or for worse, gets used a lot by writers. We talk about some of our favorite examples, and immediately begin arguing over terms. Hopefully this is delightful to you, and educational for everyone. Especially since the monomyth is not a checklist, and it should not be taken that way.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: At the time we recorded this, Hero With a Thousand Faces was available on Audible. It's not anymore. So... go find something else educational?

Writing Prompt: Take Goldilocks and the Three Bears, apply the Campbellian Monomyth, and give us a short story.

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By Writing Excuses | March 3, 2013 - 5:48 pm - Posted in Death, Demonstration, Ideas, Season 8

In this episode Howard pitches three story ideas to the group, and they pick one to brainstorm. The selection process is itself educational (which is good, because it runs for a third of the ‘cast…)

The story selected is near-future science-fiction with extra-dimensional, magical elements. As the brainstorming continues, we grab some fun secret-history elements, and successfully deepen the conflict. We also learn that there are two stories here, and Howard has to choose which one of them to write.

And For Your Disappointment: As of this time the story laid out in this ‘cast remains unwritten, so you can’t read it.

But to Make Up For It: Howard got distracted and wrote a horror piece instead! Here is a sample! (Note: this wasn’t one of the pitches, but it DOES demonstrate that Howard really, really wanted to get out of his comfort zone.)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Feedback, by Robison Wells, narrated by Michael Goldstrom

Writing Prompt: Pick a major event in history, and then write a secret history in which Death returns to take over.

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By Writing Excuses | April 7, 2013 - 5:28 pm - Posted in Demonstration, Ideas, Sci-fi, Season 8

As if he needs the help, Brandon challenges Mary, Howard, and Dan to help him brainstorm an A.I. short story. Brandon hands them some setup, and off they go. The ground may have been well-tread in the past, but this particular brainstorming session is full of great ideas that incorporate religion, cargo cults, puzzles, and aliens…

The big challenge here is finding a tale that’s interesting enough and original enough to be worth the telling…

Mary’s Hugo-nominated Novella: “Kiss Me Twice” which appeared in Asimov’s.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dragonsinger: Harper Hall Trilogy Volume 2, by Anne McCaffrey, narrated by Sally Darling

Writing Prompt: Come up with a better resolution for this story than we did.

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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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E.J. “Eric” Patten joins us for a discussion of pre-writing. His first book, Return to Exile, came out in 2011, and The Legend Thief released in March of 2013.

What is pre-writing? Eric walks us through his process for developing a story, beginning with the high-concept world-building inspired by the phrase “Cthulhu for kids.” He talks about the importance of getting the characters right, and how this process precedes plot development. Each of us handles this a little differently, and we talk about how that goes.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: E.J. Patten's books aren't available on Audible, but if you're looking for Cthulhu that isn't for kids, H.P. Lovecraft's classics "Call of Cthulhu" and "Reanimator" can be found in H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 2, narrated by Garrick Hogan.

Writing Prompt: Kids get magical powers from their Halloween costumes...

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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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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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