12.20: Retrofitting Structure into a First Draft

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley

We’re speaking again, at least in part, to discovery writers. In this case, we’re talking about how to take a non-outlined work and apply a structure to it in revisions.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.


Identify the promises you made in the first 10% of your story. Color-code them. Now color code your chapters and/or scenes, mapping them to the promises made early on.

City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett

12.19: Structure on the Fly

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

This episode is for you discovery writers, especially those of you for whom our current season of structure seems to be locking you down, or pointing up methods which you just don’t like to use. We talk about how these methods, these structural principles, these mechanical advantages in the mental toolbox can be applied during the discovery writing process.


Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered on the north face of a dormant volcano by Alex Jackson



Write a story in an hour and a half without outlining it. Pick a character, an object, and a genre. The character has problem with the object. Use a timer, and use the yes-but/no-and method as you go.

Hardcore History (podcast), with Dan Carlin (note: this podcast has a rolling paywall. The sooner you subscribe, the more you’ll have access to when you get around to listening.)

12.18: Gendered Dialect, with J.R. Johansson

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary, and Dan, with guest-host Susan Chang, and special guest J.R. Johannsen

J.R. Johannson joined Howard, Mary, Dan, and guest-host Susan Chang at LTUE 2017 for a discussion of gendered dialect.

We lead with a quick introduction to the Genderlect theory, by Deborah Tannen, which uses a very broad brush to describe key differences between the ways men and women in western societies communicate. We then explore the way some of the individual voices we’re familiar with have been influenced through gender role, cultural socialization, and even neuroatypicality.

Our goal in this discussion is to learn to write dialog which serves our stories and our characters, and  to do so in a way that both leverages and defies the existing stereotypes.

Liner Notes:


Use the concepts of  gendered dialect to write a scene set among members of a matriarchy.

The Row, by J.R. Johannsen

12.17: Q&A on Style, Diction, and Paragraphing

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard

We fielded some questions on style, diction, and paragraphing:

  • Is it okay to have pretty prose in a straightforward adventure story?
  • How do author voice and character voice differ?
  • How do you prevent paragraphs from rambling?
  • I feel like my writing is derivative of the writers whose work I read. How can I find or develop my own voice?
  • How much does diction play into genre fiction?
  • Is it okay to write in a natural speaking voice?
  • During which part of the writing process do you pay attention to style?

By Way Of Correction: “Unaccompanied Sonata,” by Orson Scott Card, is the story about anxiety of influence. “Tunesmith,” by Lloyd Biggle Jr., is about music, and even has the name “Bach” in it, but it’s not the story Howard described.




Ask your alpha readers for their definition of your voice.

Wayward, Volume 1, by Jim Zub (writer),  Steven Cummings (Illustrator), John Rauch (Illustrator), and Tamra Bonvillain (Illustrator)

Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 Writing Excuses scholarships!

Let me tell you something right up front: our listeners are amazing.

This year we had more scholarship applications than ever before, and the quality was through the roof. Choosing just four applicants out of this unbelievably talented batch was incredibly hard, and incredibly painful. We had fiction submissions this year that are publisher-ready, right now, and still didn’t make the cut–that’s how stiff the competition was. But, in the end, we did manage to narrow it down to four winners, and I am delighted to announce them here:

For the Carl Brandon Society scholarships:
JY Yang
Yasmine Fahmy

For the Out of Excuses scholarships:
Alexander Murie
Shallee McArthur

They have been contacted, and will be joining us on the 2017 Writing Excuses Retreat this summer. If you applied and didn’t get chosen, don’t worry: you’re awesome, and we love you. I’ll be sending emails out today and tomorrow to all of you to thank you personally for applying, and to let you know how much we appreciate you. Please apply again next year, assuming you’re not already published and famous by then–seriously, some of you are that good. And if you didn’t apply but wish you had: awesome! We’ll do this again next year, and we would love to have all of you with us.

And, again, I want to thank the rest of you: our alumni and our listeners and our Patreon supporters. It’s because of you that we’re able to do this, and it’s because of you that these four incredible writers can have this experience. We have a level on our Patreon that literally just says “You don’t get anything extra at this level, we just take your money and use it for scholarships,” and SO MANY of you do it! You’re wonderful! We’re getting so many scholarship donations, in fact, that we suspect we’ll be able to offer an extra scholarship or two next year; no promises, but we’re crunching the numbers and we think it will work. If you love good writing and want to give back to the community, supporting these scholarships is a great way to do it.

Congratulations again to our winners, and to all of you we say: you’re out of excuses, now go write.

12.16: Writing Crime Fiction with Brian Keene

Brian Keene joined Dan and Howard at the World Horror Convention to talk about writing crime fiction, including how he goes about getting readers to feel the things he wants them to feel to drive the story forward.

Liner Notes: The Horror Show with Brian Keene


Experiment outside of your genre for 30 minutes of writing time each day for a week. Focus on the character. At the end of the week, take the character you’ve created and see if they can be fit into something else you’re working on.

The Complex, by Brian Keene