Season 09 Archives

Writing Excuses 9.1: Chronology of a Book Deal with Eric James Stone

Eric James Stone joins us to talk about the book deal chronology for UNFORGETTABLE.

Write a story about someone who has amazing, incredible, wonderful news, but they’re not allowed to talk about it.

Ender’s World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender’s Game, a collection of essays by numerous writers, and narrated by lots of narrators. Both Eric and Mary wrote for this collection. (Note: it’s currently not appearing on Audible’s site, but Amazon shows it as being available through Audible. Weirdness!)

Writing Excuses 9.4: Artificial Intelligence with Nancy Fulda

Nancy Fulda talks Artificial Intelligence with Brandon, Mary, and Howard.

Go to the Internet and look up Bayesian learning, neural networks, and genetic algorithms. Yes, it’s more of a reading prompt.

Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge, narrated by Eric Conger

(note: Howard got this wrong — no apostrophe at all! And yes, a lantern got hung upon that particular missing bit of punctuation.)

Writing Excuses 9.5: Hijacking the Knowledge You Already Have, with Mette Ivie Harrison

Mette Ivie Harrison joins us to talk about how to “hijack” the knowledge you already have in order to make you a better writer.

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.

Dangerous Women, by George RR Martin, Gardner Dozois and several others (including Brandon Sanderson), narrated by a long A-list of voices.

Writing Excuses 9.10: Engaging Characters

What makes characters engaging, and how is that different from them being sympathetic?

Put a character in a difficult situation, and then throw away your first three ideas for how they’re going to get out of that situation.

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire, by Timothy Zahn, narrated by Marc Thompson. Note also the free excerpt of the “Behind the Scenes” recording, featuring Timothy Zahn and his editor, Betsy Mitchell.

Writing Excuses 9.11: Microcasting

Eric James Stone joins us to answer questions about editors, pitching, pantsing, and encouragement.

Something magical is preventing your friend from pursuing their dreams, but you don’t know what it is…

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 Excuses 9.12: Microcasting! Twice in a row!

A Q&A covering editing, rule-breaking, writing the other, gift-giving, and more.

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.

Between Two Thorns: The Split Worlds Series Book 1, by Emma Newman, narrated by the author

Writing Excuses 9.14: How to have an Opinion as a Public Figure

We talk about expressing controversial opinions on the Internet. And just talking about it might be controversial…

Write out a strong opinion on something extreme, and do it three times: Once in a furious tone, once in a helpful tone, and once in a manner that is totally safe for all possible audiences including (as appropriate) your mom.

Then delete all three of them. This, no lie, is very valuable practice.

Writing Excuses 9.16: Coming up with a New Ending Halfway Through

What to do when you discover your planned ending isn’t actually going to work…

Take a story you’ve already written, and write a completely different ending for it.

Vortex: Insignia, Book 2, by S.J. Kincaid, narrated by Lincoln Hoppe

(Small world! Howard worked with Lincoln Hoppe twenty years ago, running sound for The Garrens Comedy Troupe while Lincoln was on stage being funny and amazing. You should let Lincoln read to you!)

Writing Excuses 9.23: World Building Without Breaking Viewpoint

How do you describe water from the point of view of a fish?

Come up with a really nifty, high-tech setting, and then present it using POV characters who have no idea how all these wonders work, and who take them for granted.

Extraordinary Zoology: Tales from the Monsternomicon, Vol. 1, by Howard Tayler, narrated by Scott Aiello

Writing Excuses 9.24: Side Quests

Side quests come in a couple of forms — they may be something inside the book that takes the characters away from the main plotline, or they may be adventures that take place outside of the book itself. We talk about the first type, and how to make sure they’re in the book for the … Continue reading Writing Excuses 9.24: Side Quests

Create a story in which you have an incredibly powerful character, and a sidekick, then flip the relationship so the sidekick is in charge.

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, by Christopher Healy and Todd Harris, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Writing Excuses 9.25: Adjusting Character Sympathy

In which we discuss adjusting how sympathetic the reader is toward a particular character…

Take something that you’ve written recently. Swap out all of the dialog with completely different words (you can keep articles and pronouns) but retain the meaning.

The Butcher of Khardov: The Warcaster Chronicles Volume 2, by Dan Wells, narrated by Marc Vietor.

Writing Excuses 9.28: Part 1 of 2, Critiquing Sixth of the Dusk

The first of the SHADOWS BENEATH critique episodes, in which we thrash on a new Cosmere story from Brandon Sanderson so that he can fix it. Part 1 of 2.

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

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

Writing Excuses 9.29: Part 2 of 2, Critiquing Sixth of the Dusk

The second of the SHADOWS BENEATH critique episodes, in which we thrash on a new Cosmere story from Brandon Sanderson so that he can fix it. Part 2 of 2.

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

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, by Diana Rowland, narrated by Allison McLemore

Writing Excuses 9.30: Critiquing A Fire in the Heavens

The third of the SHADOWS BENEATH critique episodes, in which Mary schools us with Milford…

A brainstorming session spawns life somehow.

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

Writing Excuses 9.31: Critiquing “An Honest Death”

The fourth of the SHADOWS BENEATH critique episodes, in which Howard is stuck…

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

The Firebird, by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Katherine Kellgren

Writing Excuses 9.33: Microcasting

Q&A in which we cover proofreading, writing time, career stuff, and no, you can’t have any of our DNA.

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.

Attack the Geek, by Michael R. Underwood, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Excuses 9.34: Science Fiction as Science Education

Brad “Doctor Zombie” Voytek talks to us about making science accessible and attractive through science fiction.

A sapient sheep desperately needs a delaying tactic. If it gets shorn, bad things will happen.

The City & The City, by China Mieville, narrated by John Lee.

Writing Excuses 9.35: What to do when you disagree with your editor

Peter Orullian joins us to discuss managing the author-editor relationship when things go wrong.

Write a sword-fighting scene, a la Princess Bride, in which the witticisms are part of a magic system, and are part of the fight itself.

Unfettered: Tales by Masters of Fantasy, Written by: Terry Brooks, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Jordan, Jacqueline Carey, R.A. Salvatore, Naomi Novik, Peter V. Brett, Shawn Speakman (editor)
Narrated by: Peter Ganim, Marc Vietor, Bronson Pinchot, Jay Snyder

9.37: Training A Critique Group, with Kathleen Dalton Woodbury

Kathleen Dalton Woodbury, the forum moderator at the Hatrack River writers group joined us at Westercon 67 to talk about critique groups. We cover how critiques should be offered, as well as importance of receiving critiques graciously and without defense, and we reflect on lots of the good and bad writing groups and critique groups we’ve … Continue reading 9.37: Training A Critique Group, with Kathleen Dalton Woodbury

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

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, narrated by Jim Dale

Writing Excuses 9.38: Q&A at Westercon

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? (Here are the signs we talked about) How do you create frightening, … Continue reading Writing Excuses 9.38: Q&A at Westercon

Write about a support group for writers.

Spellcaster by Claudia Gray, narrated by Khristine Hvam.

Writing Excuses 9.41: Fan Writing, with Christopher J. Garcia

Christopher J. Garcia, publisher and editor of The Drink Tank, joins us for a discussion of fan writing.

Pick your favorite book, movie, play, or whatever, and write something about it. But don’t write a review or a synopsis, and don’t write fan fiction. Something else.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Book 3, by Laini Taylor, narrated by Khristine Hvam

Writing Excuses 9.42: The Convention-Author Relationship, with Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Deirdre Saoirse Moen, who organizes fan-run literary cons and schedules programs for them, joins us to talk about programming from the convention’s point of view.

Write your bio in four lengths — one each at 25, 50, 100, and up to 500 words.

The Saint: The Original Sinners Book 5, by Tiffany Reisz, narrated by Elizabeth Hart

[CONTENT WARNING: Explicit about all the things.]

Writing Excuses 9.43: Writing Mysteries

Live from Westercon 67 and Fantasy Con, Mette Ivie Harrison and J.R. Johannson join us to talk about writing for the mystery genre. We begin by talking about the key differences between thrillers and mysteries, and then move into how this understanding can drive our story structures. We discuss how characters with arcs and iconic characters … Continue reading Writing Excuses 9.43: Writing Mysteries

Write a mystery in which you explain where Howard was during this recording session.

The Ghosts of Belfast, by Stuart Neville,  narrated by Gerard Doyle

Writing Excuses 9.44: Getting in the Writer’s Mindset with Peter Beagle

We were thrilled to have Peter Beagle join us for an episode, recorded live at Westercon 67. We talked about the writer’s mindset, and how to get into it. Peter schooled Brandon before the episode even began, and then proceeded to school all the rest of us. Peter is an absolute delight to listen to. We hope you … Continue reading Writing Excuses 9.44: Getting in the Writer’s Mindset with Peter Beagle

Write about someone who is an aspiring something. Write the scene in which your character makes the transition from “aspiring” to “doing.”

Four Years, Five Seasons, by Peter S. Beagle, narrated by Peter S. Beagle

Writing Excuses 9.45: Tools for Writing from Oral Storytelling

M. Todd Gallowglas is a writer and a storyteller who has spent years doing traditional oral storytelling at renaissance fairs. He joined us at FantasyCon/Westercon 67 before a live audience and talked to us about how this tradition has informed his writing, and how these principles can inform our writing as well. He also schools us (okay, … Continue reading Writing Excuses 9.45: Tools for Writing from Oral Storytelling

Take the book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and drill down into the nitty-gritty realities of pancakes falling from the sky.

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, narrated by Nick Podehl

Writing Excuses 9.46: Disability in Narrative

Charlie Harmon, one of the luminaries of Utah area fandom, joined us to talk about disability in narrative. She’s been going blind gradually since she was a child, and these days while she can see some colored blurs, she cannot read, or recognize faces. We talk about some of the nuances of disability that many … Continue reading Writing Excuses 9.46: Disability in Narrative

Go to tvtropes.org and look up “Blind People.” Read some of the many tropes (Disability Superpower, Blind Black Guy, and Blind Mistake, just to name three)  then write a blind character without using those tropes.

The Fairy-Tale Detectives: The Sisters Grimm, by Michael Buckley, narrated by L. J. Ganser

Writing Excuses 9.49: Hiding the Open Grave

So, you’re planning to kill somebody, but you don’t want anyone to see it coming. How do you make that happen? We begin by talking about the hints that writers inadvertently drop, and why they drop those hints. Then we look at how to write without sending those cues, and how to get away with … Continue reading Writing Excuses 9.49: Hiding the Open Grave

Take a story you’ve been planning. Kill the protagonist in the first scene, then have a secondary character step in and pick up the plot. You don’t need to finish the whole story this way–just get far enough into this exercise that you can see what a surprising death looks like from your side of the keyboard.

Ruins, by Dan Wells, narrated by Julia Whelan

Writing Excuses 9.48: Neurobolics of Characters

As authors we spend a lot of time trying to make our readers care about the characters we create. We have a wide variety of techniques at our disposal to accomplish this. But do we ever ask ourselves why any of this is possible in the first place? What is it about our brains that makes us … Continue reading Writing Excuses 9.48: Neurobolics of Characters

Along the lines of the anecdote Cory shared, sever a character’s corpus callosum so that they have to say things out loud in order to fully comprehend what they’re seeing.

Writing Excuses 9.50: Writing for the Enfranchised Reader

Recorded live in front of the Out of Excuses students, a crowd of savvy readers if ever there was one, we talk about how to effectively write for readers who are familiar with the genre or story structure in which we’re writing. It’s a tricky problem, since genre fiction is supported in large part by … Continue reading Writing Excuses 9.50: Writing for the Enfranchised Reader

Take a mentor character, and outline a way for that character to NOT be killed off in order for them to not be more effective than the hero.

Writing Excuses 9.51: Q&A At The Retreat

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 … Continue reading Writing Excuses 9.51: Q&A At The Retreat

“Everywhere I look, everyone is covered with ketchup.”

Angelmaker, by Nick Harkaway, narrated by Daniel Weyman

Writing Excuses Season 9.52: From the Page to the Stage

Allison W. Hill and C. Austin Hill joined us at the Out of Excuses Retreat to talk about turning A Night of Blacker Darkness, by Dan Wells, into a stage play. “From the page to the stage” is a thing that theater people actually say to describe this, so the process is one that has … Continue reading Writing Excuses Season 9.52: From the Page to the Stage

Take a monster from pop culture, and write it with all of the traditional weaknesses, but with none of the strengths.

Writing Excuses 9.53: Writing For Fun

You know what’s fun? WRITING! Writing is fun. And that, more than anything else, is why we do it. Or at least it’s why we decided to do it. Making sure that it is still fun is kind of tricky. Also tricky? Writing for nothing more than the fun of it. And this episode is … Continue reading Writing Excuses 9.53: Writing For Fun

Legion: Skin Deep, by Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Oliver Wyman

Writing Excuses 9.54: Capstone to Season 9

As 2014 draws to a close we say goodbye to Season 9, and talk a bit about what we’ve each learned this year. Howard explained the surprising changes that came with a change in his work space Mary told us how she reached a new understanding of pacing Brandon talked about how recent time pressures have informed his … Continue reading Writing Excuses 9.54: Capstone to Season 9

What did you learn or accomplish this last year, and what are you hoping to learn in the coming year? Write this down, and then at the end of NEXT year, review what you wrote, and compare the reality of 2015 with your hopes for it here at the end of 2014.

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, by Bee Wilson, narrated by Alison Larkin