Brandon, Howard and Dan discuss where their ideas come from and Howard tells us a little too much about his love of Pepsi. wikidPad Home Page
How do you know when your setting of high school kids solve supernatural mysteries becomes cliché? Brandon, Howard and Dan discuss how you create unique concepts by blending familiar topics with something new and original and how to avoid possible pitfalls.
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
The first line of any story is the most important. People get drawn in to a book because of the first line. Brandon, Howard and Dan talk about how to start a book and what’s important about the first line.
What makes a good hero? Why is Dirk Pitt so cool? Why do people like Superman? And why does Howard-with-a-chest-cold start to sound like Barry White? Some of these questions are answered in this episode while others are better left unexplained. LINER NOTES: Howard repeatedly invoked John August’s blog post about heroes, protagonists, and main … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 5: Heroes and Protagonists
Is there a difference between the two? How do you use each appropriately in your writing? And how lovable can a group of mercenaries be?
Are flaws necessary for villains? What traits make for a really good (err… evil?) villain? What’s the difference between Sauron and Gollum? (“That’s the LAST time I send you out shopping for Gollums, son…”) Liner Notes: The Evil Overlord List, a handy reference for tropes to avoid (or, as the case may be, exploit…)
If you’re new to Writing Excuses, or if you’re just curious about some of the terminology we use, let us break it down for you. These are the rules/tricks that we use to keep ourselves on task.
In the first of our series on genres, we discuss why people write Sci-Fi, what you need to know to write Sci-Fi, and how much we all love unicorns.
This week we continue our discussion on Science Fiction with a discussion of various Sub-genres, why they’re different, and what you can do to make sure you know your audience. Sub-genres covered: Space Opera, Military, Hard SF, and Cyberpunk. Sub-genres not covered: Dystopia, Steam-punk, and whatever it is Philip K. Dick writes. Ad: Tor Book … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 9: Sci-Fi Sub-Genre
Pacing… it’s all about keeping the tension up, keeping things snappy, and keeping the reader interested. This week the Writing Excuses crew delivers some tips, tricks, and tools you can use to get your story flowing in all the right ways. Also, on Sunday The Salt Lake Tribune posted an article about Podcasting in Utah. … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 10: Pacing
So… you’re ready for the big-time. You’re a writer, and the writing is almost paying the bills. Hurray! Now, how do you balance your life so that you can make the jump to writing full-time? How do you manage your time? How do you keep your artistic side from accusing you of selling out? The … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 11: The Business of Writing
This week, special guest Stacy Whitman joins us from Mirrorstone books (an imprint of Wizards of the Coast). Stacy works there as an editor, and helps us understand the submission process, including acting like a professional, doing your research, following submission guidelines, and all sorts of things NOT to do with your submissions. Stacy also … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 12: Submitting to Editors Part 1
In part two of our chat with editor Stacy Whitman, we discuss more about how to interact with editors: how to approach them at cons, how to inquire about work you’ve already submitted, and how to butter them up by asking about their current projects. To cap it off, we ask Stacy about her current … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 13: Submitting to Editors Part 2
Does magic need rules? Sometimes yes and sometimes no; our intrepid podcasters talk about how to know which situation is which, and explore the pros and cons of each method. We’ll also yak for a while about the differences between Superman and Gandalf, which makes us, if nothing else, huge nerds. Liner Notes: Sanderson’s first … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 14: Magic Systems and their Rules
This week the Writing Excuses team discusses magic again, this time focusing on the cost of magic. Whether or not your magic system has internally-consistent rules your readers can follow (per Sanderson’s First Law and last week’s ‘cast) you need to consider the ramifications of using magic in the worlds you create. Or at least, … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 15: Costs and Ramifications of Magic
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… … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 16: Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard
The Writing Excuses crew tackles writer’s block again, this time approaching the “This Sucks And I’m A Horrible Writer” mindset. Dan relates his Neil Gaiman anecdote, Brandon explains why he’d written so many books before getting published, and Howard throws down the gauntlet on neverending Chapter One revisions. If you’re stuck because you think your … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 17: This Sucks and I’m a Horrible Writer
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 … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 18: Q&A at Conduit
Michael Stackpole, author and podcaster, joined us at CONduit, and the four of us tackled plot twists in front of a live audience. Whether you write from a solid outline or discover your plot as you go, we’ve got tricks and tools for you. We talk about “surprising yet inevitable,” the fine art of making … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 19: Plot Twists
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 … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 20: More Q&A from Conduit
Enough of this highbrow literary crap–make with the funny! Or, if you’re Howard, do both. In this this episode we talk about why to write humor, how to write humor, how to recognize humor in others, how to steal from learn from what they do, and, in the end, what makes things funny in the … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 21: Humor
As a writer it’s sometimes difficult to decide between doing things the readers want, and things that are right for the story. But as Dan says, writers can get away with doing things to readers that readers would never do to themselves. Beware! This podcast contains spoilers for The Lord of the Rings, Return of … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 22: Doing The Unpopular
You’ve heard about viewpoint, but do you really know what it means? Discover along with Howard the magic world of person, tense, and omniscience, and how you can use them to tell your story. It’s a short journey, as quests go, but we’ll all learn a valuable lesson about writing–and about ourselves.* *Heartfelt lessons about … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 23: Viewpoint
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 … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 24: Research
Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson
We are pleased to present the second half of “Viewpoint and Tense,” which, as we all know, is Tense. Part 1 was Viewpoint. It’s not two podcasts that both talk about tense and viewpoint, it’s two totally different podcasts that share a title for some reason. Why didn’t we just do two separate podcasts, one … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 25: Viewpoint and Tense Part 2
What is horror? Why is it scary? HOW is it scary? Forced by their grandfather’s will to spend an entire night in his spooky mansion, our podcasters gather to discuss the nuts and bolts of what horror is (and isn’t) and how it works behind the scenes. Here’s a hint: as with pretty much everything … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 26: Horror
A descent into madness written from the first person point of view. You are going to descend into madness, your writing will become gibberish or something horrible will happen, and then Brandon will scream.
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 … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 27: World-Building Religion
Develop a religion where people worship something that no one would ever worship in our world. And it can’t be silly.
This is the first of five episodes recorded on location at WorldCon 66 in the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. Brandon, Dan, and Howard are joined by Phil and Kaja Foglio, and we discuss writing for webcomics… no, wait… writing for “sequential picture-assisted storytelling.” Phil and Kaja are the creators of Girl Genius, the web’s … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 28: Writing for Webcomics with Phil and Kaja Foglio
So what exactly does an editor, do, anyway? We’ve already talked about the process of submitting to an editor; today we talk about the millions of vital things that happen after an editor says “I want to buy your book.” Not only that, but we get to hear it all straight from the mouth of … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 29: Talking Publishing with Lou Anders
Last week we talked to an editor, this week we talk to OUR editor: Brandon’s and Dan’s editor at Tor, Moshe Feder. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about how an author and editor work together to help make a book the best it can possibly be. We also talk a lot about revision … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 30: Talking Revision with Moshe Feder
One of the biggest areas of professional creative writing these days is game writing, and who better to talk to about it than Steve Jackson–yes, THE Steve Jackson. We start off trying to talk about game adaptations, and the challenges they present for writers, but then we devolve into a more straightforward discussion of writing for … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 31: Talking RPG and Game Writing with Steve Jackson
In this, the last of our WorldCon 66 episodes, Brandon, Dan, and Howard interview Name of the Wind author Patrick Rothfuss. We discuss exposition, and how not to bore people as you move them through the learning curve. We start by covering some “don’ts” – including the essay, the police-artist sketch, and the thesis statement. And … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episodes 32: Talking Exposition with Patrick Rothfuss
Just as no burger is complete without its fries, no protagonist is complete without his sidekick, or his mother, or his entomologist, or whatever side character you decide to give him. This week we talk about why side characters are important, and how to do them well. Liner Notes Elantris Mad Prince Deleted Scenes Dan’s … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 33: Side Characters
Bring a side character from the future, bring them back to the past and write a story about them.
This week’s Writing Excuses is brought to you by Schlock Mercenary: The Teraport Wars by Howard Tayler
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) … Continue reading Writing Excuses Episode 34: What The Dark Knight Did Right
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.
Everyone says you can’t teach style–each writer just has to figure it out on his or her own. Well, we here at Writing Excuses have never met an ultimatum we didn’t immediately challenge, so today we take it head on. Can you teach style? Can you learn tone? What makes each writer’s voice unique?
Take a scene and write it as Dan would write it, then write it as Brandon would write it, and then write it as Howard would write it.