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

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.

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By Writing Excuses | June 22, 2008 - 9:09 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Guest, Live Audience, 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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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By Howard Tayler | February 21, 2010 - 6:32 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Guest, Live Audience, Q&A, Theory and Technique

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.

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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.

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.

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

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

Questions asked include:

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

You want the answers? Have a listen!

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

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By Writing Excuses | October 10, 2010 - 4:58 pm - Posted in Q&A, Theory and Technique

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

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

The Questions:

What’s the right way to kill a character?

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

When do you quit your day-job?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Writing Excuses | November 14, 2010 - 7:50 pm - Posted in Q&A, Theory and Technique

It was so popular when we did it the first time, we decided to do it again. Here’s a second rapid-fire Q&A, with questions coming to us from Twitter, Facebook, and email.

  1. How do you do bad things to your heroes and not feel bad about it?
  2. How far into writing a novel should you begin letting others read it and provide feedback?
  3. Do the bad things you do to your characters always have to suit the story?
  4. How do you design frightening creatures?
  5. How far into the outlining process do you actually start writing?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk, narrated by Jim Colby. Content warning! This book has naughty words and some very adult concepts in it. Dan recommends it anyway.

Writing Prompt: You have decided to start “Zoo Club,” and you just punched an elephant REALLY HARD.

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.

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By Writing Excuses | June 26, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Q&A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Writing Excuses | February 26, 2012 - 6:48 pm - Posted in Q&A, Season 7, Theory and Technique

Microcasting! This is a fancy word for “Q&A” — we pick some questions from Twitter, and do what amounts to nine mini-episodes of Writing Excuses with a side of bacon. This time around the questions were:

  • What do you do if you dont like your characters?
  • How do you keep your plot on track?
  • Is it better to use real locations in an Urban Fantasy?
  • What do you do about plot holes?
  • How do you know if you should abandon a story and move on to something else?
  • How do you ensure the answers to mysteries are satisfying?
  • What are some language-level mistakes that mark writing as amateurish?
  • What should a scene consist of?
  • What kind of bacon is best?
  • Why is Schlock, who looks like a pile of poo, lovable instead of disgusting?

Dan Has A New Book Out This Week: Partials releases this Tuesday, Februrary 28th.

Howard Has An Actual Birthday This Week: Wednesday, February 29th. There will be a sale on at schlockmercenary.com, and it will involve the numbers 11, 29, and 44.

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Prompt: Write what one of your characters would write if that character had a blog.

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

By Writing Excuses | March 11, 2012 - 6:43 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Q&A, Season 7, Theory and Technique

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

  • Is it better to include romance, horror, SF, or other genre elements to flesh out a story, or should the story stand alone?
  • Any tips for developing an idea without getting caught in Worldbuilder’s Disease?
  • Any NaNo WriMo tips? (yes.)
  • What did you to do build an audience before you got published and famous and stuff?
  • How do you create sub-plots without overshadowing the main plot?
  • What are the most important things you learned as writers during 2011?
  • How do you stay motivated (especially during editing) when it seems like everything you wrote is crap?
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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Persuasion, by Jane Austen. Note that there are lots of available recordings. We recommend something unabridged, like the version linked here.

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

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

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Audible Free Trial Details

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

By Writing Excuses | May 6, 2012 - 9:33 pm - Posted in Q&A, Season 7

James Dashner joins us for a Q&A at Utah Valley University during Life, The Universe, and Everything.

The first question starts out amazingly rough, but the 12-year-old asking it manages to stick the landing. The questions include:

  • Why is the ARC of James’ first book so different from the later books?
  • How do you handle paragraph- and sentence-level edits?
  • How do you plot your stories?
  • How do you craft endings that are both satisfying, and leave the reader wanting more?
  • What do you do when your compelling villain threatens to take over the whole book?

That Panel Howard Talked About: It’s actually at the end of Massively Parallel, and you can look at it right here.

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Everneath, by Brody Ashton, narrated by Amy Rubinate

Writing Prompt: You get kidnapped and put in an asylum for the criminally sane.

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

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Audible Free Trial Details

Get an audiobook of your choice, free, with a 30-day trial. After the trial, your paid membership will begin at $14.95 per month. With your membership, you will receive one credit every month, good for any audiobook on Audible.

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

By Writing Excuses | May 27, 2012 - 5:27 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Q&A, Season 7, Theory and Technique

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

  • Prologues and epilogues
  • Using drawings to get across settings
  • Simple tricks for naming things
  • Would you self publish if you had a do over?
  • How do you keep a powerful character interesting?
  • Foreshadowing
  • Trimming
  • Flashbacks
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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley

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

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

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Audible Free Trial Details

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

By Writing Excuses | June 24, 2012 - 6:23 pm - Posted in Live Audience, Q&A, Season 7, Theory and Technique

Recorded live at Utah Valley University, here’s another Q&A episode from the LTUE Symposium!

The questions:

  • What was Brandon’s plan with Mistborn and the themes regarding establishment?
  • Why does Kelsier shrug so much? (This leads into a fun discussion of “tells.”)
  • How do you know when to stop a chapter? What about expanding it?
  • How do you make your prose more transparent?
  • How do you decide who and what to cut?
  • What do you do to filter out the extraneous ideas that come while you’re writing?
  • What can collaborators do in order to create a single “voice” for the book?
  • What’s the best way to tackle a long back-story?
Want answers? You’ll just have to listen…
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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Partials, by Dan Wells, narrated by Julia Whelan

Writing Prompt: From Earl K. Hill, our cameraman: tell a whole story from the view of the sidekick.

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

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Audible Free Trial Details

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

By Writing Excuses | July 22, 2012 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Q&A, Season 7, Theory and Technique

Microcasting! Again!! Now with exclamation points!!! You’ll have to have a listen for our answers, but here are the questions:

  • How do you deal with bad reviews?
  • How do you apply Brandon’s magic system rules to science fiction?
  • Dan, will you do the marshmallow voice for us again?
  • How do you keep tension high without exhausting the reader?
  • You’ve made your manuscript as good as you know how to. Now you need to make it even better, based on feedback. What do you do?
  • Any tips on creating suspension of disbelief?
  • How do you deal with annoying fans?

“Oddly, no. Sometimes you guys are dull.” 5:22, Mary Robinette Kowal.

Mary’s Shmoozing 101 Link: Right here.

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, narrated by Jenny Sterlin

Writing Prompt: The story of the writer and her VERY ENTHUSIASTIC alien fan who is impossible to escape.

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

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Audible Free Trial Details

Get an audiobook of your choice, free, with a 30-day trial. After the trial, your paid membership will begin at $14.95 per month. With your membership, you will receive one credit every month, good for any audiobook on Audible.

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

By Writing Excuses | December 16, 2012 - 6:58 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, 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?
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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor, narrated by Anne Flosnik

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

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

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Audible Free Trial Details

Get an audiobook of your choice, free, with a 30-day trial. After the trial, your paid membership will begin at $14.95 per month. With your membership, you will receive one credit every month, good for any audiobook on Audible.

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

By Writing Excuses | January 6, 2013 - 4:38 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Q&A, Season 8

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

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

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

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

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

Writing Prompt: What does SFPA stand for?

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

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Audible Free Trial Details

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

By Writing Excuses | April 28, 2013 - 5:31 pm - Posted in Q&A, Season 8, Theory and Technique

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?
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Writing Prompt: "Kittenpunk."

By Writing Excuses | June 9, 2013 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Demonstration, Guest, Q&A, 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?
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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Red Storm Rising, by Tom Clancy, narrated by Michael Prichard

Writing Prompt: Two words: "Flying Caldecott."

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

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

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

Some Worthy Links: Writer Beware, Writers of the Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Where would Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard be, career-wise, if their paths had not crossed?
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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Troubletwisters, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams, narrated by Miriam Margolyes

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

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

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

  • How do you find beta readers?
  • Legal and IP issues? Should you copyright your work before submitting?
  • Advice for a discovery writer?
  • As a fan, what is the best way to pay my favorite authors?
  • Can chapters be too short?
  • How much time do you spend reading?
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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake, narrated by August Ross.

Writing Prompt: "Neon sniper gnome."

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By Writing Excuses | November 10, 2013 - 6:13 pm - Posted in Guest, Live Audience, Q&A, Season 8, Theory and Technique

Wesley Chu again joins Brandon, Mary, Howard, and a live audience at GenCon Indy, this time for a Q&A. The audience handed us the following questions:

  • How do you write 1st-person POV from a gender other than your own?
  • Do you have a set schedule for writing time?
  • How do you boost your word count without padding, AND without adding characters?
  • How can prose be used to convey emotion without stating character feelings outright?

Those are the questions. Listen to the episode for the answers!

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Chimes at Midnight, by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Prompt: Revoke your right to use "thought" verbs, then communicate thoughts, knowledge, and awareness in your POV character. The original challenge for this prompt came from this blog post by Chuck Palahniuk.

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By Writing Excuses | December 15, 2013 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Guest, Q&A, Season 8, Theory and Technique, Uncategorized

Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes the stars align and serendipity is made manifest. And sometimes Mercedes Lackey happens to be hanging around at the same convention you’re recording podcasts at, and sits herself down to answer questions with you. Or rather with us.

Here are the questions. You’ll need to listen to the podcast for the answers:

  • (For Mercedes) How do you stay relevant through the numerous changes in the industry?
  • How do you go about creating a title for a project?
  • Is blending 1st-person and 3rd-person viewpoints cheating?
  • (For Howard) Should marketing research be done before launching an online story?
  • When, where, and how do you end chapters?
  • How can you tell if you’re overusing narrative language?
  • How should a young writer balance their writing time against other activities?
  • What are the parts of being an author that you hate (specifically the non-writing parts)?
  • (For Mercedes) What advice do you have for finding alpha & beta readers?
  • Is it distracting to write out a character’s accent?

 

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Bastion: Collegium Chronicles Book 5, by Mercedes Lackey, narrated by Nick Podehl.

Writing Prompt: Eavesdrop on a conversation at the coffee shop, then go home and write the end of that conversation.

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By Writing Excuses | March 16, 2014 - 9:48 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Guest, Q&A, Season 9, Theory and Technique

Microcasting! It’s what we call our Q&A episodes, because they’re like multiple mini-casts. Eric James Stone joins us to help out. Here are the questions we field:

  • Should a pantser rewrite their book once they know the whole story?
  • What do you find most useful from an editor?
  • Story creation is cool, but can Writing Excuses talk more about sentence-level work?
  • What advice do you have for pitching to agents and editors?
  • What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
  • How do you encourage a writer-friend who is down on their work?

Give episode 9.11 a listen for our answers.

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker, by Kevin Mitnick and William L. Simon, narrated by Ray Porter

Writing Prompt: Something magical is preventing your friend from pursuing their dreams, but you don't know what it is...

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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By Writing Excuses | April 20, 2014 - 10:49 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Guest, Q&A, Season 9

Eric James Stone joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard to answer questions from our listeners. Here are the questions:

  • Should you submit your prologue along with the first chapters?
  • What do you do when you’ve got some professional sales under your belt, but can’t seem to get more?
  • How do you manage scene/sequel format in a multi-POV novel?
  • Is passive voice really that bad? How do you tell if you’re using it too much?
  • What is the threshold for deus ex machina?
  • How do you maximize the emotional impact of a character death?
  • If you’re a discovery writer, how do you go about becoming an outliner?
  • When someone asks what you do for a living, how do you answer them?
  • How do you get out of the beat-by-beat, this-then-that blocking of action?

Here is the Grammar Girl episode we mentioned.

 

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence, by Gavin de Becker, narrated by the author.

Writing Prompt: Write your character doing two things at once, both of which are plot-specific.

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By Writing Excuses | May 25, 2014 - 6:57 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Q&A, Season 9, Theory and Technique

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

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

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

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

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

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By Writing Excuses | August 10, 2014 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Q&A, Season 9, Theory and Technique

Microcasting!

It’s our Q&A format, in which each answer is like its own, tiny little podcast, only without its own unique URL, intro, writing prompt, or any of the other trappings that would actually make it different from a Q&A session.

Right. So, it’s basically just a Q&A.

Listen to the podcast for the answers… Here are the questions:

  • Are there biases against non-English writers submitting manuscripts in English?
  • What is the most difficult thing Howard experienced when first creating Schlock Mercenary?
  • Are you ever too old to try to get published?
  • What are some pointers for keeping a milieu story focused on the setting?
  • No, you can’t have a sample of our DNA. None of you.
  • If you were to rewrite your early work, what would you change?
  • How do you improve your proofreading and copy editing?
  • How much time do you spend writing each day? Does it matter WHAT you write during that time?
  • Do you add foreshadowing in the editing stage, or are you just that good?
  • How do you improve your craft as a writer?
  • I don’t have time to ask a question, I’m washing my dog.
  • Do you have any writing exercises that you do regularly?
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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Attack the Geek, by Michael R. Underwood, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Prompt: Introduce a random element--dice, coin-tosses, the i ching--and write a story in which you (the writer) commit to letting the random element make the decisions.

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By Writing Excuses | September 14, 2014 - 8:17 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Guest, Live Audience, Q&A, Season 9, Theory and Technique

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

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

 

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

Writing Prompt: Write about a support group for writers.

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By Writing Excuses | December 7, 2014 - 7:09 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Q&A, Season 9, Theory and Technique

If there’s a crowd with good questions, it’s the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat attendees.

  • Given the trend toward moral ambiguity, is there still a place for an unquestionably evil character?
  • Should you publish a first book that isn’t in the style or genre that you’re ultimately interested in?
  • Is it possible to write epic fantasy with a single POV?
  • Of all of the myriad talents of the literary agents you work with, what’s the one that makes you stick with your agent?
  • How do you maintain your writing chops when you’re buried in the research phase of a project?
  • What are some issues a short story writer should be aware of when tackling a novel?
  • How do you go about discovery writing characters?
  • When you build a story, does the foreshadowing go in during the first pass, or in later edits?

Our sponsor, Audible, is giving away Legion: Skin Deep, by Brandon Sanderson between now and December 24th. Follow that link and get a free audio book!

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Angelmaker, by Nick Harkaway, narrated by Daniel Weyman

Writing Prompt: "Everywhere I look, everyone is covered with ketchup."

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By Writing Excuses | January 25, 2015 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Q&A, Season 10, Theory and Technique

At the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat we premiered the Season 10 concept, and we invited our attendees to give us the questions we need this month. (They’ll also be the ones providing our questions for February, but we’ll cast our net wide for questions in March.)

  • Ideas are hard! Is it ever acceptable for inexperienced writers to write derivative works?
  • How do you keep from being discouraged when something similar to your idea comes out?
  • How do you know when your idea is a novel, vs. when it’s a short story?
  • Should you only write for themed anthologies if you already have an idea ready in that theme?
  • How can you practice description when your idea is set someplace completely unfamiliar to you?
  • When should you abandon an idea you love?

Liner Notes: We talked about novel-length vs short-story-length ideas in Season 6, Episode 10 when we covered the M.I.C.E. quotient, and again in Season 8, Episode 20, when Mary talked about short story structure. Also, the anthology into which Howard was drafted on the basis of a spur-of-the-moment idea is Shared Nightmaresand his story is called “U.I.”

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett, narrated by Alma Cuervo

Writing Prompt: Take one of the ideas you're excited about, and then audition five different characters for the lead role in that story. Make sure they're all different from each other.

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By Writing Excuses | February 22, 2015 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Q&A, Season 10, Theory and Technique

It’s time for a Q&A on characters! The questions for this episode were provided by the attendees at the 2014 Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat:

  • How do you have a character grow in power and/or expertise without needing to ridiculously overpower the villains?
  • How do you give a flawed character a growth arc without changing what originally made that character likable?
  • When you have a 1st person POV, how do you convey the emotional complexity of the non-POV characters?
  • How do you create an interesting an engaging story with a main character who is not the protagonist or hero of the story?
  • Is there an easy way to tell when the plot is driving the character instead of the other way around?
  • How do you write a character with egregiously offensive views without you, as the author, appearing to espouse or condone those views?
  • How do you write a character who has a belief that is different from your own?
  • What are some tips for writing a sympathetic antagonist?

 

Liner Note: The Tumbler to which Mary referred is Diversity Cross-Check.

Note: We offered to take questions on Story Structure during March, but we’ll be recording that episode two days from right now. Send us your story structure questions now! Do not delay! If you tweet them to @WritingExcuses they’ll pile up in a space where we can quickly find them.

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Furies of Calderon, by Jim Butcher, narrated by Kate Reading.

Writing Prompt: Sketch out the events before and after your dead-drop scene from last week and three weeks ago.

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By Writing Excuses | March 8, 2015 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Demonstration, Guest, Q&A, Season 10, Theory and Technique

Wesley Chu joins us for a literal shake-up of our structure for one episode. We had loads of fun with this one.

The I Ching is a collection of poems which you consult with numbered sticks. You ask a question, shake a random stick from the cup, and the corresponding poem holds your answer. In writing The Man in the High Castle, Phillip K. Dick used the I Ching to make plot decisions at crucial points. We decided to turn that, and our format, on its head, so we used the I Ching to ask us questions.  Understanding exactly what the I Ching was asking was at least as much fun as answering the questions we inferred.

Here are the I Ching’s questions.

  • Although he reached a great position, Wise Liu did not care for earthly things. He brewed instead the pills of heaven, forging immortality in his earthly crucible.
  • Marriage is a blessed union indeed, when done in accordance with Yin and Yang. The dragon and the phoenix coil together, uniting in a sweet dream of love.
  • All names in Heaven are unique, and even earthly things cannot be the same. Your future is set within the book of fate, which never confuses praise and blame.
  • Emperor Ming slew his one true love, but a shaman took pity, and eased his heart with dreams of roaming upon the moon, his beloved mistress forever at his side.
  • Two scholars went to the capitol for examinations. One passed, and stayed. One failed and returned, carrying a letter from his friend. He fell ill, but eventually, thank Heaven, came home.

 

Important Cultural Note: The I Ching is far more complex than we’ve been able to describe in this podcast, and is worthy of a lot more attention than we were able to present to you in this ‘cast.

Want more Wes Chu? Wes didn’t say a whole lot in this episode, possibly because he was exhausted from the grilling we gave him earlier. This episode was recorded directly it AFTER recording a guest episode with him that will be airing in coming weeks.

Audio Notes: Many of you have complained about the audio quality of the show, especially in the last few months. We went to significant additional effort and expense to make this latest set of sessions sound better. If you like the changes, please let us know.

 

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Man in the High Castle, by Phillip K. Dick, which was available on Audible when we recorded this episode, but which is NOT available as of this write-up.

Writing Prompt: Competing fiercely to become Spring's queen, the garden flowers blossomed to their full beauty. Who will win the golden crown of glory? Among them all, only the peony stands out.

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Wes Chu joins us again for a Q&A about this month’s topic: story structure! Here are the questions:

  • Do you make a conscious decision about how to structure your story before you begin writing?
  • Is it necessary to use multiple structures (three-act, Hollywood formula, etc) in order to ensure that your story works?
  • What tools do you use to view your story’s structure?
  • What do you think about cliffhangers?
  • How do you come up with plot twists for your stories? (Answer: A blast from the past with Michael Stackpole! Season 1, Episode 19!)
  • What structures should I use to add variety to my writing?
  • Is there a specific amount of time you should spend on your introduction before getting to the inciting incident?
  • What do you do when you’re halfway through with a story before you realize the structure is wrong?

 

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin

Writing Prompt: Make a list of all the awesome things you want your story to accomplish. Then put them in the order in which you want them to happen.

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By Howard Tayler | April 26, 2015 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Q&A, Season 10

We’ve talked about beginnings this month. Now we’ll answer some of your questions on the matter. Here are the questions:

  • What are there differences between the beginnings in different forms?
  • How do you begin in media res when you’re not writing action?
  • What’s the biggest mistake that can be made when plotting the beginning?
  • I see a lot of big-name author beginnings that aren’t all that strong. Why should I spend time making my beginning awesome?
  • How do you balance the need to have something happening right away against the need to have the reader know something about the characters?
  • In creating a character, where do you start in the development process, and what do you begin revealing first?

 

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Shepherdess of Sienna: A Novel of Renaissance Tuscany, by Linda Lafferty, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Prompt: Take the world-building you've done, write your beginning, and then secretly write down your "gee-whiz." Now run that beginning past some alpha readers, and have them attempt to identify the "gee-whiz." Compare their answers with your own.

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By Howard Tayler | May 24, 2015 - 3:17 pm - Posted in Q&A, Season 10, Theory and Technique

We went to you for questions about world building, and you had some really good ones. The questions are listed below, and our answers are secreted within MP3 file.

  • Has there ever been a piece of world building that you didn’t include, and regretted not including?
  • How do you remain consistent?
  • How do you decide between writing a secondary world fantasy, and creating an historical fantasy?
  • Can you avoid cultural appropriation while still using elements inspired by other cultures?
    • (This one is getting a can of worms: there’s an entire episode on cultural appropriation coming up)
  • What’s the minimum amount of world building required?
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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Prompt: Our next master class episodes are on description. Take a scene that includes some things that you've world-built, and rewrite that scene using completely different words.

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We close June’s Master Class episodes in the usual manner, with a Q&A from our listeners and followers on Twitter.

  • How do you “Show, don’t tell” a character’s thoughts?
  • How do you describe a character’s appearance when they’re in their own POV?
  • What’s the difference between scene and setting?
  • How does your writing environment affect the scene you’re writing?
  • Can an evocative fantasy setting be described effectively in a short story?

 

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, by Patrick Süskind, narrated by Sean Barrett

Writing Prompt: Next month's episodes focus on middles. Go to a friend and describe to that friend why the middle of your book is going to be awesome. Not the beginning, not the ending... the middle.

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

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

Audible Free Trial Details

Get an audiobook of your choice, free, with a 30-day trial. After the trial, your paid membership will begin at $14.95 per month. With your membership, you will receive one credit every month, good for any audiobook on Audible.

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By Howard Tayler | July 26, 2015 - 5:43 pm - Posted in Q&A, Season 10, Theory and Technique

Marie Brennan joins us again, this time to help us field your questions about middles. Here are the questions we collected from the various social media feeds:

  • How do you maintain interest without having something explode every other chapter?
  • In short fiction, how do you prevent try-fail cycles from bloating the story?
  • How do you prevent the introduction of POVs during the middle of the story from being jarring?
  • How do you keep subplots from turning into side quests?
  • In longer stories, how important are “breather” chapters that ease the tension?
  • Do you have methods for weaving plot and subplot threads together? Do you outline this, or keep it in your head?

Fifty-Cent Word: Proprioception, which serves as an excellent metaphor for what expertise with a set of tools feels like. Thank you, Marie, for simplifying the whole “the tool should be an extension of your hand” thing.

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson, narrated by Rebecca Mozo and Lincoln Hoppe

Writing Prompt: Murder the Middle Darling: Remove an element (subplot, side character, location) from the middle of your story, and see how that changes the pacing of your story.

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

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

Audible Free Trial Details

Get an audiobook of your choice, free, with a 30-day trial. After the trial, your paid membership will begin at $14.95 per month. With your membership, you will receive one credit every month, good for any audiobook on Audible.

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