By Writing Excuses | January 4, 2015 - 7:32 pm - Posted in Humor, Ideas, Research, Season 10, Uncategorized

Season 10 begins!

We wanted to do something different this year. Something special. As we brainstormed we kept returning to something a listener said years ago: “Writing Excuses is like a master class in writing genre fiction.”

That’s a generous remark, as anyone who’s taken an actual master class can attest, but it inspired us to ask ourselves what Writing Excuses would look sound like if it were formatted like an actual master class.

The answer? It would sound like Season 10 is going to sound. This year we’re going to go to school! Each month will focus on a specific bit of the writing process, and each podcast will drill down on one of those bits. We’ll still have some “wildcard” episodes with guests, but for at least three weeks out of each month we’re going to stay on topic. If you’re new to the podcast, this is where to start! If you’re an old hand, don’t worry — this isn’t a return to the 101-level stuff.

In January we’ll cover the very beginning — coming up with cool ideas, and wrapping them up into something that we can turn into a story. And for this first episode we’ll answer the dreaded “where do you get your ideas” question quite seriously. We’re not going to tell you about the Idea Factory in Schenectady (Harlan Ellison’s stock answer,) nor are we going to eye-roll. Nope. We’re going to tell you how we get our brains to think stuff up, and then we’re going to give you homework in the writing prompt.

We’ve talked about ideas before, of course, so here are some links:

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Lock In, by John Scalzi, narrated by Amber Benson OR Wil Wheaton (there are two versions of this audiobook.)

Writing Prompt: Write down five different story ideas in 150 words or less. Generate these ideas from these five sources:

  1. From an interview or conversation you've had
  2. From research you've done (reading science news, military history, etc)
  3. From observation (go for a walk!)
  4. From a piece of media (watch a movie)
  5. From a piece of music (with or without lyrics)
This exercise might not generate the very best ideas you've ever had, but it will definitely flex your idea muscles in new ways.    

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By Writing Excuses | December 29, 2014 - 10:51 am - Posted in Career, 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 writing process
  • Dan learned why he is writing

Hopefully our discussions of how we’ve changed as writers this year will offer you some insight into how your own writing has developed, and how you might take steps to develop it in the future.

We also talk about how Season 10 is coming, and is going to be a bit different than seasons past.

Thing We Failed To Do: get a picture of the possum. It turns out that those things are sneaky, and none of us a very good photographers.

Can of Already Open Worms: Writing for fun. “Didn’t you guys just talk about that?” Yes, we did, in an episode that was recorded 3 months later, but which aired just last week.

 

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

Writing Prompt: 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.

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By Dan Wells | December 22, 2014 - 12:18 am - Posted in Uncategorized

As we announced in October, the third annual Out of Excuses Retreat will be bigger and better than ever, complete with guest instructors, more face-time with the podcasters, and, oh yeah, a Caribbean cruise. With all of that awesomeness to live up to, we’re amping up the scholarship as well. The first year we offered a scholarship based on monetary need, and the second year we offered one based on diversity. This year, we’re offering both.

The Carl Brandon Society Scholarship

We were so happy with last year’s scholarship that we are once again partnering with the Carl Brandon Society, an organization dedicated to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction. The scholarship applications will be reviewed by a selection panel from the Carl Brandon Society.

The Out of Excuses Scholarship

Our second scholarship will be based on monetary need–someone who can’t afford to attend the Retreat on their own. As with the first year, this scholarship will be judged by the podcasters.

Each scholarship offers full tuition, a bed in a double occupancy room, and up to $500 of travel expenses to and from our departure port in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Because the food on the cruise is free, this covers essentially all of your expenses for the week. You may apply to either scholarship, but only to one of them (even if you qualify for both).

These scholarships are very popular, and get a lot of applicants, so this year we’ve streamlined the process a little to help handle the volume. Please read the instructions carefully, and follow them exactly: Incomplete applications will be disqualified. To apply, please prepare the following scholarship package, and send it to writingexcusesscholarship@gmail.com with the subject line: “Scholarship Application: [name].”

  1. This cover sheet, filled out completely: Name: [name]Email: [email]

    Phone Number: [number]

    Scholarship: [“Carl Brandon Society” or “Out of Excuses”]

    I confirm that my scholarship is complete, including: a personal essay, three letters of recommendation, and a writing sample.

    Personal Essay word count (between 450-700 words): [insert word count here]

    Letter of Recommendation 1: [Name of recommender]

    Letter of Recommendation 2: [Name of recommender]

    Letter of Recommendation 3: [Name of recommender]

    Writing Sample total word count (1-3 pieces, limited to 10,000 total words): [insert word count here]

  2. A single attachment (.doc) containing all of the following, in order:
    1. Personal Essay: 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.
    2. Letters of Recommendation: 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. Please note the change this year that we would like all three letters to be included in the scholarship package, and not to be emailed individually; we’ve had too many letters go astray, and we want to give you the chance to personally make sure every aspect of your scholarship package is complete before submitting it. If you have a concern with this, please contact Chersti Nieveen at assistant@thedanwells.com.
    3. Writing Sample: 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.

Again: make sure to send everything in one email or your application will be disqualified; please review it several times, or have a friend or family member review it for you, because we will eject you on a technicality, just like an editor or publisher would. We’d much prefer to read your awesome writing and give you a scholarship.

The application period for both scholarships opens on January 17, 2015, at 9am EST, and closes at midnight EST, March 14. We will contact the winners in May, and announce them officially the morning of May 18.

By Writing Excuses | December 21, 2014 - 6:21 pm - Posted in Career, Season 9

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 about that.

Missing from this episode: Mary. For contractual reasons we found ourselves in need of 54 episodes during Season 9, and that meant an emergency recording session while Mary was on the road. It also meant you got 54 weekly episodes this year!

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Legion: Skin Deep, by Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Oliver Wyman

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By Writing Excuses | December 14, 2014 - 9:46 pm - Posted in Collaboration, Guest, Season 9, Structure

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 a lot of precedent behind it. We talk about the guiding principles behind adaptation, and then dive into the challenges that our guests face with this particular project.

(Note: We may be tweaking the audio on this episode in the future to remove the “Season 10″ references right at the end. They’re confusing, and you don’t need that.)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: A Night of Blacker Darkness: Being the Memoir of Frederick Whithers As Edited by Cecil G. Bagsworth III, by Dan Wells, narrated by Sean Barrett

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

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

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!

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 | December 4, 2014 - 10:30 am - Posted in Genre, Sci-fi, Season 9

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 the very tropes that prove problematic. Sometimes the solution is trope subversion, but that brings its own problems.

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: 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.

By Writing Excuses | November 30, 2014 - 6:23 pm - Posted in Characters, Guest, Season 9

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 care about fictional characters?

Enter Cory Doctorow, who posed this question to us at Westercon 67. If you like the episodes where a guest comes in and blows our minds (and they’re some of our favorites) you need to put this one on the list.

Audiobook Pick of the Week: Homeland, by Cory Doctorow, narrated by Wil Wheaton, with Noah Swartz and Jacob Applebaum. (Note:  Cory Doctorow’s titles aren’t carried by Audible, but you can find all of them here and buy them DRM-free directly from Cory.)

Writing Prompt: 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.

By Writing Excuses | November 23, 2014 - 8:01 pm - Posted in Characters, Season 9

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 that while still fulfilling promises made to the reader.

Special Offer: 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!

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ruins, by Dan Wells, narrated by Julia Whelan

Writing Prompt: 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.

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By Writing Excuses | November 17, 2014 - 6:24 pm - Posted in Business, Season 9

Bookseller Sara Glassman joined us at the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat to talk to us about her perspective on this industry, with an eye to the things that make it easy for her to put a book in a customer’s hands. We talk about back cover copy, covers, query letters, signings, and what booksellers look for on page one.

(Note: Brandon refers to a book of the week pitch that Sara made for us. We needed to run this episode out of order, so you’ll get Sara’s pitch for that book sometime next year.)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley, narrated by Susan Duerden

Writing Prompt: Have three of your friends to send you a random photograph of an object. Use each object in the first 13 lines of your story.

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

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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.