By Writing Excuses | January 25, 2015 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Business, Discovery Writing, Ideas, Q&A, Season 10

At the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat we premiered the Season 10 concept, and we invited our attendees to give us the questions we need this month. (They’ll also be the ones providing our questions for February, but we’ll cast our net wide for questions in March.)

  • Ideas are hard! Is it ever acceptable for inexperienced writers to write derivative works?
  • How do you keep from being discouraged when something similar to your idea comes out?
  • How do you know when your idea is a novel, vs. when it’s a short story?
  • Should you only write for themed anthologies if you already have an idea ready in that theme?
  • How can you practice description when your idea is set someplace completely unfamiliar to you?
  • When should you abandon an idea you love?

Liner Notes: We talked about novel-length vs short-story-length ideas in Season 6, Episode 10 when we covered the M.I.C.E. quotient, and again in Season 8, Episode 20, when Mary talked about short story structure. Also, the anthology into which Howard was drafted on the basis of a spur-of-the-moment idea is Shared Nightmaresand his story is called “U.I.”

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett, narrated by Alma Cuervo

Writing Prompt: Take one of the ideas you're excited about, and then audition five different characters for the lead role in that story. Make sure they're all different from each other.

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By Writing Excuses | January 21, 2015 - 9:27 am - Posted in PSA, Season 10

The Hugo Awards voters have honored us by nominating the Writing Excuses podcast in the Best Related Work category several times in the past, and two years ago Writing Excuses won! This is something we’re still giddy about.

If you’re eligible to nominate things for the Hugo ballot, and if you think Writing Excuses belongs on that ballot, we’d like for you to consider nominating our anthology, SHADOWS BENEATH, in the Best Related Work category, rather than nominating the podcast itself. Of course, it’s possible that the (free!) podcast is all you’re familiar with, so if you’re eligible to nominate for the Hugos, use the contact form at brandonsanderson.com* for a complimentary electronic copy of SHADOWS BENEATH: THE WRITING EXCUSES ANTHOLOGY.

And don’t delay! The nomination period is open for another month, but if you were not at LonCon, and have not yet registered for WorldCon 2015, you only have until January 31st to buy your voting or attending membership. Visit sasquan.org for the details.

Whether or not you want to nominate Writing Excuses, you should consider acquiring that membership so that your favorite books, stories, publications, editors, artists, and writers have a chance to appear on this year’s Hugo Awards ballot.

(*WEBMASTER’S NOTE: during the podcast, Brandon said to use an email address to acquire the complimentary copy of the book. That email address isn’t working, so we’re falling back to the contact form. Sorry for the inconvenience!)

Writing Prompt: What five genre fiction novels would you most like to see on the Hugo Award ballot this year? What about novelettes? Short stories? Now imagine that each of these works is actually a superhero. What kinds of crime would your Hugo Super Team fight?

By Writing Excuses | January 20, 2015 - 9:32 am - Posted in Gender, Horror, Race, Season 10

Cherie Priest joins us for our “wildcard” episode on Lovecraftian horror this month. We’re still doing the master class format, and part of that format is that once per month we’ll have a guest, or otherwise step away from the month’s topic a bit.

This episode talks about what Lovecraftian horror is, its influence on genre fiction, and the tools it offers for modern writers.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Maplecroft, by Cherie Priest, narrated by Johanna Parker and Roger Wayne.

Writing Prompt: Take a character, and from that character's point of view, describe their reaction to something horrific and awful, but do so without describing the thing itself.

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By Writing Excuses | January 11, 2015 - 8:01 pm - Posted in Characters, Demonstration, Ideas, Season 10

Writing Excuses Season 10, the podcasted master-class, continues with this exploration of that critical second step: what do do once you’ve got an idea that has story-legs.

(Note: When we say “two weeks ago” over and over, that’s just bad math. You haven’t missed an episode.)

We talk about our various approaches to this, many of which center around finding the person or people who are most affected by the thing our idea conjures into their world, but that’s really only the very beginning of it.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Shipstar, by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven, narrated by Zach Villa

Writing Prompt: Using last week's five story ideas (or five new ones):

  • Take two of them and combine them into one story.
  • Take one and change the genre underneath it.
  • Take one and change the ages and genders of everybody you had in mind for it
  • Take the last one and have a character make the opposite choice.

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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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