By Howard Tayler | March 15, 2009 - 9:51 pm - Posted in Site News

Jordan and Brandon are both out of town on family business, and neither Dan nor Howard have access to the audio files. So… amuse yourselves by guessing what we will be talking about once the episode is actually posted. (I lay 5:2 odds on your guesses being more interesting topics than what we actually did. Maybe we’ll use some of what you come up with.) 

By Howard Tayler | March 22, 2009 - 8:33 pm - Posted in Site News

Jordan emailed me from his Blackberry to say that the power is out on his block. The audio file is therefore trapped on a cold disk, so barring Jordan driving over here to my place right now we’re not going to get our second Tracy Hickman episode posted until Monday morning.

In completely unrelated news, I suppose at some point we could do a podcast about “setting expectations vs. fulfilling promises.”

By Howard Tayler | July 6, 2009 - 8:26 am - Posted in Site News

Last week we recorded four episodes, but apparently they haven’t been dropped into the hopper for posting yet. I blame the long weekend and good barbecue. As soon as the file has been processed by Producer Jordo I’ll start writing it up and get ol’ 3.6 on the air for your edification.

Sorry for the delay! We here at Writing Excuses hope your Independence Day was enjoyable and your weekend long enough.

By Howard Tayler | November 29, 2009 - 9:36 pm - Posted in Site News

Sorry! Brandon, Dan, and I recorded episodes 27 and 28 last night, but Jordo is out of town and hasn’t had a chance to prep the files for posting. We should have Episode 3.27 posted tomorrow.

By Writing Excuses | September 28, 2010 - 9:43 am - Posted in Bonus, Conventions, Other Podcasts, Site News

Ladies and gentlemen, geeks, nerds, and enablers, and of course our listeners: THANK YOU!

Writing Excuses was named “Best Content Creation Podcast” by the Parsec Committee at the 2010 Parsec Awards at Dragon*Con. This is our second year in a row winning this particular award, and we’re both honored and humbled.

Not very much of that came out during this recording, in which we see why it’s probably a GOOD thing that we weren’t present to give an acceptance speech. Nevertheless, we’re very sorry to have missed the awards, and we have a plan for next year that does NOT include letting our respective publishers, agents, and handlers drag us off-site during something we really should be attending.

And speaking of attending… we will definitely be at WorldCon in Reno next August, and hope to also put in an appearance at Dragon*Con. By way of public service to our many Con-attending listeners, note that this Thursday, September 30th is the last day you can get your WorldCon membership for just $160. It goes up to $180 on October 1st.

By Howard Tayler | December 7, 2010 - 1:57 pm - Posted in Site News

It has just come to our attention that Writing Excuses has been nominated for the 2010 Podcast Awards: The People’s Choice under the Education category.

If you are a “people” and would like to make Writing Excuses your “choice,” visit podcastawards.com and vote! You may vote once every 24 hours from now until December 15th, which might mean this is “The Fanatically Devoted Or Maybe Automated People’s Choice,” but this is the World Wild Web, and that’s how things seem to be done.

We, of course, are honored to have been nominated, and are pleased to see so many other quality podcasts similarly honored. May the best botnet win!

Writing Prompt: Imagine a future in which political elections are now voted by botnet. Give us a story in which this is actually the best of all possible democracies.

First and foremost: a close examination of the rules for Hugo Nominations reveals that Writing Excuses Season 4 is eligible to be nominated under the “Best Related Work” category. If you attended WorldCon in Melbourne, or if you already have your Renovation membership, you’re eligible to do some nominating. So, for your consideration, Writing Excuses Season 4. It ran from January 2010 through August 2010, and the full content is available online at this site. The easiest way to surf it all is to use the date widgets over in the right sidebar. But for heaven’s sake don’t do it all in one sitting. Those episodes probably add up to at least nine full hours of us not being that smart because you’re in a hurry.

Secondly: We just performed a WordPress upgrade, and upgraded the plugins we use as well. If you see weirdness, let us know so we can figure out what we broke. (And by “we” we actually mean “Howard.”)

Third: This Thursday, Friday, and Saturday we’ll be variously attending (Dan and Howard) and presenting (Brandon) at the Superstars Writing Seminar in Salt Lake City. We hope to record a few interview episodes while there, because the list of presenters for that event is pretty stellar.

By Mary Robinette Kowal | October 1, 2012 - 1:00 am - Posted in Bonus, Education, Site News

For the first time, the Writing Excuses team is hosting a workshop and retreat for our listeners. This week long event gives you one on one time with the hosts, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler.

Registration is currently sold out. Please scroll down for information about the waiting list.

WHAT’S INCLUDED?

The week kicks off with three full days of intensive workshops taught by the WX hosts. All on-campus meals are included during the week.

WX will also be recording sessions while there, so you will get an opportunity to shape episodes by the questions you ask. Plus you get to watch the team record live.

Starting on Wednesday evening, the remainder of the week is time for you to put what you learned to good use, and write. You’re out of excuses… Read The Full Story…

By Mary Robinette Kowal | January 5, 2013 - 3:56 pm - Posted in Site News

For your convenience, we’re putting together this list of what works each of us have eligible for the Hugo and Nebula awards. In case, you know, you were looking for things to consider.

Related Work

  • Writing Excuses Season 7

Why is this under related work and not podcast? Because as far as we can tell from the rules, our podcast is considered professional and thus not eligible in the fan category. So– Related Work

Graphic Story:

Novel

  • Glamour in Glass — Mary Robinette Kowal
  • The Hollow City — Dan Wells
  • Partials — Dan Wells

Novella

  • Legion – Brandon Sanderson
  • Isolation – Dan Wells
  • The Emperor’s Soul — Brandon Sanderson  (He will send The Emperor’s Soul to Hugo nominators for free. they should email which Worldcon they are a member of to ebooks@brandonsanderson.com.)

Novelete

  • “Flight of the Runewright” — Howard Tayler
  • “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” – Mary Robinette Kowal  
  • “Mecury Retrograde” – Mary Robinette Kowal

Short story

 

By Howard Tayler | January 8, 2013 - 4:16 pm - Posted in Site News, Submitting

Last year we announced the first ever Writing Excuses Retreat, and an awesome scholarship to go along with it. We’ve never done an event like this before, but we feel pretty good about it, and we think it will be a big help to a lot of writers, and we don’t want that group to be limited by money. If you’re a good writer, eager to become better, but can’t quite afford a week-long conference, we want to give you our scholarship. But there’s only one week left.

The scholarship application deadline is January 15–just a few days away. If you were thinking about applying but never got around to it, there’s still time! If this is the first you’ve heard of it, jump in and go for it! The application process is involved, because we want to make sure this goes to the right person, but we really think it’s worth it. Read all the application info here (http://www.writingexcuses.com/2012/11/05/the-out-of-excuses-writing-retreat-and-the-thats-a-pretty-good-excuse-scholarship/), follow those instructions exactly*, and let’s make this happen.

Good luck!

(*Note: Seriously, follow the instructions exactly. We winnow applicants the way publishers winnow slush…)

By Mary Robinette Kowal | February 16, 2013 - 9:32 am - Posted in Site News

It’s been a long few months of writing, applying, and nervously waiting, but the time has come. We have carefully reviewed your applications—all 73 of them—and painstakingly narrowed the field to a few exceptional finalists. Of those we have chosen one winner, whom we notified yesterday, and now that she has accepted it our great pleasure to announce that the 2013 “That’s a Pretty Good Excuse” scholarship goes to Alissa Leonard.

The quality of the applications was higher than we expected, all across the board, but not only did Alissa win the most votes, she won ALL the votes: the four podcasters and our mystery sponsor picked her application unanimously. She will receive full tuition to the 2013 Writing Excuses retreat, a free room in the nearby hotel, and up to $500 for airfare to get her there. Her writing samples show a lot of promise, and we hope this retreat helps her hone her skills to an even higher level.

Those of you who didn’t win, we still love you! You are amazing writers and amazing people, and we hope you continue working hard on your dreams. Keep writing, and make sure to say hi if we ever see you at another convention or conference.

To Alissa and the other retreat attendees, we’ll see you in June!

By Mary Robinette Kowal | September 3, 2013 - 9:51 pm - Posted in News & Reviews, Site News
WX Hugo win photo by Andrew Williams

(photo by Andrew Williams)

Thank you. All of you for voting for the podcast in the Best Related Work. Without you, none of us would be holding rockets in this photo. Your questions inspire us, your comments make us think, and talking to you makes our fiction better as we unpack what it is that we do. So thank you, thank you, and thank you.

UPDATE: During the awards ceremony we were unable to call out by name the guests who helped make this season of Writing Excuses so wonderful. We will now rectify that:

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to the following guests, without whose candor and expertise we would all be much poorer. We have listed them here in order of appearance during the season.

  • Sam Sykes
  • Sarah Pinborough
  • David Brin
  • Larry Correia
  • James Artimus Owen
  • James Dashner
  • Michael Collings
  • Michaelbrent Collings
  • Eric James Stone
  • Monte Cook
  • Shanna Germain
  • Maurice Broaddus
  • Janci Patterson
  • James L Sutter
  • Jim Zub

We only record guests when we can all be in the same place at the same time, which is usually at a convention. That means these people took time out of an already busy convention schedule to participate with us. Thank you again, guests. We wish you could have stood with us on the stage.

By Howard Tayler | November 22, 2013 - 8:00 am - Posted in Conventions, Site News

*drum roll*

We are thrilled to announce Out of Excuses II: the second annual Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat! Our event last year was a resounding success, so we’ve polished our microphones and carved out our schedules and we’re raring to go. And we want you to join us!

What is Out of Excuses?

One full week of classes, workshops, and open writing time, all with the (Hugo award-winning!) cast of Writing Excuses: Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells. We’ll teach you, we’ll talk to you, we’ll hang out, we’ll record live podcasts, we’ll even make you dinner. Imagine waking up to a character class with Mary Robinette; writing all afternoon and then getting advice from Brandon about the chapter you just wrote; eating a delicious dinner artfully grilled by Howard while you talk through your plot outline with Dan. That lucky writer could be you!

Mark your calendars for these two dates:

  • January 18th, 2014: Registration opens at 9:00 am EST
  • September 29 through October 5, 2014: Out of Excuses II

And now, the pertinent details…

Registration opens January 18, and will likely close on January 18th as well. Last year we sold out in 9 minutes, and this year we’re reducing the number of memberships from 30 to 24, so expect the retreat to fill up fast. Memberships will cost $750 per person plus housing (around $500 at the hotel around the corner; more if you want one of the rooms on campus, less if you can arrange your own housing somehow). You will need to arrange your own means of travel. Watch this space, and listen to the podcast, for more details on how to register.

Scholarship:  One of those 24 memberships will be reserved for a scholarship recipient. This will be based on merit, need, and diversity, and we expect the competition to be fierce. If you can afford the normal retreat price, please don’t wait and hope you’ll get the scholarship, because you won’t. The scholarship will pay for a membership, a slot in the hotel, and up to $500 for gas or airfare. We’ll provide more information before registration opens.

The 2014 Out of Excuses Writing Retreat runs from September 29 through October 5. There will be three days of writing classes and workshops, followed by three days of blissful writing time, capped off by a closing half-day filled with wonder and amazement. All meals will be provided, and every night you’ll have the chance to sit in as we record live episodes of the podcast. The retreat will be held in Tennessee, at the Kowal family estate, which is even more gorgeous and wonderful than you can imagine. Last year we watched Jaws, played a crocquet LARP, and chatted with a few surprise guests. What will we do this year? You’ll have to come and find out.

Attendees can fly into Chattanooga, or can fly into Atlanta and catch a shuttle to Chattanooga. Hopefully this provides you with enough information to determine your travel budget. Once you get to Chattanooga, we’ll handle getting you to the event.

By Mary Robinette Kowal | January 17, 2014 - 6:21 am - Posted in News & Reviews, PSA, Site News

As we announced in November, we are holding the second annual Out of Excuses Retreat this year, September 29 through October 5. Last year’s retreat was a huge success, and we’re excited to be doing it again, and we’re especially excited to be offering another scholarship. Even better, this year’s scholarship has a twist: instead of just need and merit, we’re also looking for diversity.

Why diversity? Isn’t it enough to just look for the most qualified applicant, regardless of other factors? No it isn’t, and this is why: we make our choice based on merit, but we can only do that within the small, self-selecting group of people who feel comfortable applying. Out of last year’s thirty attendees, we had only one writer of color, which is not even close to a realistic representation of the speculative fiction market. This was a sign to us that something was wrong. Our ratio of men and women was about half and half, which was great; that meant that both men and women deemed our retreat a safe and welcoming environment. Our ratio of white writers to writers of color was a clear sign that some writers did not necessarily feel the same welcome, and we want to change that.

To that end, we are proud to partner with the Carl Brandon Society, an organization dedicated to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction. We hope that focusing our scholarship in this way will not only give a great opportunity to a worthy writer of color, but encourage other writers of color to sign up for the retreat as well. No matter who you are, we want you at our retreat! The scholarship applications will be reviewed by a selection panel from  the Carl Brandon Society, consisting of Wesley Chu, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, John Lawson, and Tempest Bradford.

Registration for the Out of Excuses Retreat opens on January 18, 2014, at 9am EST. As of this posting, that’s TOMORROW. If you can afford a full membership, don’t hold out for the scholarship because you won’t get it. If money is tight, though, the Carl Brandon Scholarship can offer you free registration to the retreat, a fully paid room in the nearby hotel, and up to $500 toward airfare. Note that the registration fee includes most of your food already, so this covers almost all of your expenses for the week. To apply for the scholarship, submit the following to retreat@writingexcuses.com by midnight, March 15, 2014:

  1. A brief example of your writing, consisting of 1-3 separate pieces and totaling no more than 10,000 words. These can be short stories or novel excerpts. Don’t feel obligated to fill the word count: if you can wow us in less, more power to you.
  2. A 450-700 word personal essay explaining why you are a good candidate for the scholarship. What makes you unique? What can you bring to our group that no one else can? Keep in mind that even as we focus on “need,” the panel will be reviewing your writing in terms of “merit” as well.
  3. Three brief letters of recommendation (no more than 300 words each) from people who are not your relatives. Friends, bosses, people from your writing group, anyone who can tell us exactly how awesome you are. While the fiction and the personal essay should be included in a single email, these letters can be emailed individually by the people who write them, just make sure they include your name in the subject line.

We anticipate a huge response to this scholarship, so please be aware that we will be culling the applications relentlessly, and those who don’t follow the rules will be the first to go—just like sending a manuscript to a publisher, submission guidelines matter. Send your fiction and essay all in the body of a single email (no attachments), with the subject line “Scholarship Application: [name].” Your three recommendation letters should go to the same address, with the same subject line, and they can be sent by you or directly by the people who wrote them. Follow the word limits exactly, make sure you’ve got all three items covered, and don’t miss the deadline: March 15, 2014. We will review the submissions and announce our decision on May 4, 2014, which should give you plenty of time to work out vacation time and babysitters and so on for the retreat in September.

We look forward to reading your submissions!

By Mary Robinette Kowal | April 17, 2014 - 9:50 am - Posted in Career, Characters, Conventions, Education, Gender, Lifestyle, Race, Site News, World Building

WtO logo

If you wanted to register for the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat and didn’t get in, I’m hoping that you might be interested in the Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat.

It’s held at the same location, Mary Robinette Kowal’s parents’ house.

Mary will be joined by NY Times Best-selling author David Anthony Durham; Cynthia Ward and Nisi Shawl, the authors behind the book Writing the Other; and K. Tempest Bradford, author and activist.

On Writing Excuses, some of the most common questions come in as variations of “How do you write someone who isn’t like you.” Many authors struggle to write beyond what they know and write the other. While we tackle this on the podcast, fifteen minutes is not enough time to delve into this tricky and nuanced skill. The Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat is designed with lessons and conversations, paired with a retreat, to give participants an opportunity to work on making their characters and worldbuilding deeper and more thoughtful. And David, Cynthia, Nisi, and Tempest really are that smart.

I hope the same urge that makes you listen to Writing Excuses will allow you to consider attending this retreat.

Eventbrite - Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat

By Howard Tayler | May 1, 2014 - 10:49 am - Posted in Site News, Writing Prompt

Howard here. Let me cut straight to the exercise:

Describe the problems you currently have with the Writing Excuses website, but do so without describing solutions to those problems. 

and then…

Describe things that work the best for you, or things that you enjoy the most at the Writing Excuses site, but do so without simply naming the feature.

We’re giving writingexcuses.com a redesign, an overhaul, and we need use-cases. From you!

In the world of web design (and in the larger world of software design, and the even larger world of product design) the engineering team will do the wrong thing when presented with a long list of instructions from end-users. What they need is a concise list of instructions from an architect, who has looked at the various use-cases in their correct contexts.

Here is one way you might respond to this exercise without having paid attention to the instructions:

“Use a bigger font, and make the buttons bigger, too.”

Okay, but will a bigger font actually solve the problem? Let’s reword this and see.

“I can’t read the site when I’m using my phone, and when I try to click on links or buttons I usually miss.”

Oh-ho! Now we know that what this user actually needs is a version of the site that comes up for mobile devices, and which is optimized for use there. (Note: yes, we know this! And we also hate when mobile sites don’t provide the full feature set. Both of these things are already in our requirements list. And we also know that even for laptop/tablet/PC/Mac users, the existing font is often too small.)

More examples:

I like the tag cloud.

Well, okay. Producer Jordo hates tag clouds, and I don’t like tagging things when I write episodes up, but we’ll go ahead and leave that alone, I guess.

I find episodes using the tag cloud, and sometimes I find super-helpful episodes that I didn’t expect would help.

Wait, you mean it works? Well, that changes things. I’m encouraged to keep tagging episodes as I create them, even though (confession time!) I don’t use the tag cloud myself, and I worry that it might not be useful. And hey, for some of you it might not be! That’s why this writing exercise is so important. One person’s solution or favorite feature may be another person’s problem, and unless we describe the problems and the functional use-cases, we won’t catch that.

Let’s do this one more time…

Don’t make the site all bloated and graphics-heavy! I hate sites that do that.

There’s no value assigned to “bloated” or “graphics-heavy.” Why do you hate sites like that? Are you offended by color? Is it a mobile phone issue? This totally ties our hands, because adding ANYTHING might be problematic here.

I like how quickly the site loads. Episodes take a while to stream, but the UI comes up fast.

This statement identifies load-time as the thing we need to not break. Taken in context of other problems and other successful use-cases, we can see exactly what we need to do.

This writing exercise is especially tricky the more you know about web site design and software design, because you probably already know the solution we’ll end up using. You want to save time and just jump ahead. If you’re passionate about the solution you’re offering, that’s yet another difficulty level. They stack! That means this is a great writing exercise for the engineers among you! It’s like “show, don’t tell,” only with more descriptions of eye-strain and less pre-formatted XML.

Producer Jordo and I interact with the site differently than you do, and Izzy and Tiffany (our development team) are even further disconnected. But if you give us the right information, we’ll give you a new, improved writingexcuses.com that will amaze you, and part of that amazement will be that we gave you good stuff without taking any of the old stuff away.

Unlike our writing prompts, this exercise goes into the comments. And we’ll actually read it! (No critiques, though.)

For your handy-dandy, below-the-fold reference, here is the exercise again:

Describe the problems you currently have with the existing Writing Excuses website, but do so without describing solutions to those problems. 

Describe things that work the best for you, or things that you enjoy the most at the Writing Excuses site, but do so without simply naming the feature.

By Howard Tayler | May 9, 2014 - 9:56 pm - Posted in Site News

The applications have been reviewed, re-reviewed, sorted, parsed, and very meticulously evaluated, and the time has come to announce the recipient of the 2014 scholarship for the Out of Excuses seminar and retreat.

Congratulations, Julie Rodriguez!

Julie has been notified by email and has accepted. We’re all looking forward to having her join us at this September’s event.

Thank you, applicants, for your interest. We’re honored (and perhaps a wee bit intimidated) to have so many high-quality writing samples to review. Speaking of which, we’re very grateful to the scholarship selection panel at the Carl Brandon society (Wesley Chu, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, John Lawson, and K. Tempest Bradford) for their help with the review and administration of the scholarship.

And thank you, all of you who have expressed interest in the Out of Excuses event itself. We recognize that the demand is currently far in excess of what the retreat facility can accommodate. We don’t have anything to announce on that front, be we are up to our elbows in the investigation of possible alternatives.

Venue options notwithstanding, we’ll definitely be holding seminars and retreats in the future.

By Writing Excuses | June 29, 2014 - 7:47 pm - Posted in Outlining, Research, Season 9, Site News, Voice, World Building

What’s pre-writing? Well, it’s a little bit like “pre-cooking,” in which something is cooked prior to being put in the final recipe, but in food terms it might also be like “cleaning the kitchen” or “grocery shopping.” Outlining is one kind of pre-writing, but so is the creation of that 5,000-word prologue you decide not to keep, but which informed the whole rest of your story.

We talk about the different things that each of us do prior to actually laying down lines of prose, and how our processes differ between projects, genres, and mediums.

Special Announcement: The first ever Writing Excuses anthology, SHADOWS BENEATH, is available now. This anthology features stories brainstormed and critiqued here on the podcast, and includes draft versions, related episode transcripts, and authorial commentaries as well. Let Brandon tell you more about it!

Our critiquing episodes will begin airing next week, so if you want to read ahead, now’s the time to pick up SHADOWS BENEATH. Oh, and if you order the hardcover, you get the ebook free of charge!

SHADOWS BENEATH launches this weekend at Westercon 67, where Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard are Guests of Honor alongside Cory Doctorow, Christopher Garcia, William Stout, and Bradley Voytek.

Loving That Cover Art? Us too! It’s the work of Julie Dillon, who is on the 2014 Hugo ballot for Best Artist. You can admire (and comment upon!) the unobstructed original here in her DeviantArt gallery.

Dave Farland’s Writing Workshops sponsored us for this episode! Both Brandon and Dan have studied under Dave, and we’re all happy to wholeheartedly recommend his workshops to you. If you can’t fly to his place, well, visit MyStoryDoctor.com and take the online course. The coupon code for your Writing Excuses discount is EXCUSES, but don’t think that means you actually HAVE any of those…

Writing Prompt: Sapient smells. Odors that think. Scents with their own hopes, dreams, and passions. Go.