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, mostly Howard) about how these principles should be informing parts of our podcast.

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, narrated by Nick Podehl

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

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How does a convention play into your career as an author? How might you expect to be participating in programming? How, in short, do you get to be on panels?

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. Conventions want to create engaging programs, and want authors to be able to participate in that. Authors, of course, want to do things that ultimately result in selling more books. These goals are not incompatible, but there’s a trick to getting them to mesh well.

We also talk about what you should do when you find yourself on a panel — things to expect, things you can do to prepare, and some things to take care to not do.

By the way, registration is open for the 2015 Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat. We talked about that mid-week, and appended that bit of audio to the end of this episode. If you’d like to discuss the event, here’s the place to do so. That’ll keep all the questions and answers in the same place!

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Saint: The Original Sinners Book 5, by Tiffany Reisz, narrated by Elizabeth Hart [CONTENT WARNING: Explicit about all the things.]

Writing Prompt: Write your bio in four lengths -- one each at 25, 50, 100, and up to 500 words.

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By Writing Excuses | September 14, 2014 - 8:17 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Guest, Live Audience, Q&A, Season 9, Theory and Technique

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?
  • How do you create frightening, unique creatures?
  • What are the basics about networking at a convention?
  • Is there a yield for the average story idea?
  • What rules do you follow and what rules do you break when writing epic fantasy?
  • What can you do in critique groups to teach craft if you’re avoiding prescriptive critique?
  • How strongly do you believe that the audience won’t remember what you’ve told them, but will remember how you said it?

 

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Spellcaster by Claudia Gray, narrated by Khristine Hvam.

Writing Prompt: Write about a support group for writers.

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When Writing Excuses was invited to be guests of honor at Westercon 67, we had the opportunity to interview numerous guests of the convention, each of whom were luminaries in their respective fields.

We met Brad Voytek, who is a doctor of neuroscience and a professor of computational neuroscience at UC San Diego, for the first time right there at the show, and immediately knew that we wanted our listeners to have the chance to hear from him. One of his passions is treating science fiction as a gateway to (and in some cases an actual example of) science education.

He starts by talking about Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep, which teaches the reader about the brain by telling the story of what would happen if a zombie walked in to the emergency room. Mary talks about Launch Pad, the NASA workshop for writers. And then Brandon tells us about blending vegetables into junk food…

We grill Brad mercilessly, and have great fun with the whole show as we talk about some of our favorite science fiction, and a few of our favorite starting points for learning actual science.

 

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The City & The City, by China Mieville, narrated by John Lee.

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

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By Mary Robinette Kowal | April 17, 2014 - 9:50 am - Posted in Announcements & News, Career and Lifestyle, Theory and Technique

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

Happy New Year, and happy new season of Writing Excuses!

Eric James Stone joins us to talk about his latest book deal. These things are different for everyone, and the marketplace is changing so quickly that it’s worth noting the differences and the similarities between our deal experiences (three of us were sitting on brand-new deals as of the recording of this podcast.)

Eric in particular walks us through the chronology of his current book deal, from the original writing, through the agent representation and multiple rejections and revisions, all the way to the current contract. Did Eric’s Nebula win (for a different story) help this deal along a bit? Oh, it may very well have done exactly that.

Liner Notes: Here’s Jim Hine’s “First Novel Survey” results page.

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: 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 Prompt: Write a story about someone who has amazing, incredible, wonderful news, but they're not allowed to talk about it.

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By Writing Excuses | December 15, 2013 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Guest, Q&A, Season 8, Theory and Technique, Uncategorized

Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes the stars align and serendipity is made manifest. And sometimes Mercedes Lackey happens to be hanging around at the same convention you’re recording podcasts at, and sits herself down to answer questions with you. Or rather with us.

Here are the questions. You’ll need to listen to the podcast for the answers:

  • (For Mercedes) How do you stay relevant through the numerous changes in the industry?
  • How do you go about creating a title for a project?
  • Is blending 1st-person and 3rd-person viewpoints cheating?
  • (For Howard) Should marketing research be done before launching an online story?
  • When, where, and how do you end chapters?
  • How can you tell if you’re overusing narrative language?
  • How should a young writer balance their writing time against other activities?
  • What are the parts of being an author that you hate (specifically the non-writing parts)?
  • (For Mercedes) What advice do you have for finding alpha & beta readers?
  • Is it distracting to write out a character’s accent?

 

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Bastion: Collegium Chronicles Book 5, by Mercedes Lackey, narrated by Nick Podehl.

Writing Prompt: Eavesdrop on a conversation at the coffee shop, then go home and write the end of that conversation.

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Joel Shepherd joined Brandon, Mary, and Howard before a live audience at GenCon Indy to talk about writing hard science fiction where the science in question is social science. He’s studied international relations, interned on Capitol Hill, and is working a PhD in the field. His books reflect this background.

If hard science fiction is an exploration of what is technically, physically possible given a set of circumstances, hard social science fiction is no different. Further than that, however, good research in the social sciences will allow an author to build complex and realistic plots, stories in which character motivations go much further than picking a side.

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Crossover: Cassandra Kresnov Book 1, by Joel Sheperd, narrated by Dina Pearlman

Writing Prompt: Pick two people on the same side of a conflict, but give them completely different motivations for fighting on that side.

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By Writing Excuses | December 1, 2013 - 3:01 pm - Posted in Season 8, Theory and Technique

Recorded live at GenCon Indy, Sam Logan of Sam & Fuzzy joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard to talk about long-form storytelling. Sam’s webcomic has been running for eleven years now, and has evolved over time into something of an epic.

Sam talks to us about how he got started, and how the strip morphed from its gag-a-day origins into what it is today (is this similar to what happened with Howard and Schlock Mercenary? Maaaaaybe.) He also talks about his planning process, and the manner in which he structures the smaller stories to fit inside the larger ones.

If you’re looking for a good starting point for Sam and Fuzzy, Sam says that point is right here.

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Feed, by M. T. Anderson, narrated by David Aaron Baker

Writing Prompt: Go for a walk. Think about what you're writing while you walk. Don't do that Facebook or Twitter thing while you walk. Just walk, and think.

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By Howard Tayler | November 22, 2013 - 8:00 am - Posted in Announcements & News, Theory and Technique

*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.