By Writing Excuses | March 16, 2014 - 9:48 pm - Posted in Discovery Writing, Editing, Guest, Q&A, Season 9

Microcasting! It’s what we call our Q&A episodes, because they’re like multiple mini-casts. Eric James Stone joins us to help out. Here are the questions we field:

  • Should a pantser rewrite their book once they know the whole story?
  • What do you find most useful from an editor?
  • Story creation is cool, but can Writing Excuses talk more about sentence-level work?
  • What advice do you have for pitching to agents and editors?
  • What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
  • How do you encourage a writer-friend who is down on their work?

Give episode 9.11 a listen for our answers.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker, by Kevin Mitnick and William L. Simon, narrated by Ray Porter

Writing Prompt: Something magical is preventing your friend from pursuing their dreams, but you don't know what it is...

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By Writing Excuses | September 1, 2013 - 3:00 pm - Posted in Discovery Writing, Guest, Live, Season 8

At the time this podcast airs, Jeph Jacques’ Permanence project on Kickstarter has just nine days left. Jeph joined us at GenCon Indy to talk discovery writing with Brandon, Mary, and Howard, and yes, we totally agreed to plug his rock-and-roll side-gig in exchange.

Jeph Jacques is best known for Questionable Content, and by way of disclosure, Brandon has been a QC fan for years. He’s a discovery writer, and he has written himself into more than one corner. We ask him how far ahead he works, how he develops an idea, and especially how he fixes things if his discovery writing has taken him someplace he needs to get back out of.

His first step is to admit that he is, in fact, stuck in a corner. One of his tricks is a tool any of you can use in any project, Oblique Strategies, in which a random phrase (drawn from a deck of cards, or generated for you on the web) challenges you to rethink the spot that your story is in.

Obviously there’s more to it than that, but this? This is not where you’ll find the transcript. Transcripts end up here.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks, narrated by Peter Kenny

Writing Prompt: Go back to whatever you wrote most recently and come up with a different solution for the scene, changing the emotional beat of the scene.

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By Writing Excuses | July 21, 2013 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Business, Discovery Writing, Outlining, Season 8, Structure

We recorded this episode in front of our live audience at the first-ever Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat. Here are the questions (you’ll have to listen for the answers):

  • To Dan: How did you go about selling your first trilogy in Germany before selling it in the US
  • To Howard: did you consider doing a separate storyline on Sunday strips? Why or why not?
  • Have you transitioned between outlining and discovery writing?
  • To Brandon: Why is John Scalzi your evil nemesis?
  • To Dan and Howard (and Mary): When you had full-time work, what did you do to “reset” when you came home from work, especially since your job used the same parts of your brain that writing does?

A Humble Suggestion for the Name of John Scalzi’s Next Band: Neil Gaiman’s Eagle Balls

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Human Division, by John Scalzi, narrated by William Dufris. (We were told that Wil Wheaton would be narrating this, but according to Audible the narrator is William Dufris.)

Writing Prompt: Someone is doing a puppetry move so extreme they end up hospitalized.

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E.J. “Eric” Patten joins us for a discussion of pre-writing. His first book, Return to Exile, came out in 2011, and The Legend Thief released in March of 2013.

What is pre-writing? Eric walks us through his process for developing a story, beginning with the high-concept world-building inspired by the phrase “Cthulhu for kids.” He talks about the importance of getting the characters right, and how this process precedes plot development. Each of us handles this a little differently, and we talk about how that goes.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: E.J. Patten's books aren't available on Audible, but if you're looking for Cthulhu that isn't for kids, H.P. Lovecraft's classics "Call of Cthulhu" and "Reanimator" can be found in H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 2, narrated by Garrick Hogan.

Writing Prompt: Kids get magical powers from their Halloween costumes...

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By Writing Excuses | September 9, 2012 - 7:39 pm - Posted in Discovery Writing, Season 7

Pantsing! What are we even talking about?

We’re talking about discovery writing, but apparently some folks think it’s more fun to call it “seat-of-your-pants” writing. In this cast we cover this exhilarating process, and how it might best be applied.

Mary uses the “yes-but, no-and” trick. Dan starts with an end in mind, and then ignores it in order to write today’s chapter. Brandon, despite being a fairly rigid outliner, often finds himself discovery writing when under odd sorts of pressures. Howard likens discovery writing to improvisational music.

Fundamentally, seat-of-your-pants writing is like seat-of-your-pants anything else: the more practice you have within that discipline, the more of the techniques you’ve mastered, the more likely you are to succeed in the endeavor.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Existence, by David Brin, narrated by Kevin T. Collins, Robin Miles, and L. J. Ganser.

Writing Prompt: Cheerful ruffians, civilized louts, yes-but, no-and, ready, set, go.

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By Writing Excuses | July 31, 2011 - 8:29 am - Posted in Career, Characters, Liner Notes, Plot, Scenes

Microcasting again! The questions we fielded from the Twitterverse include:

  • How do you hold the whole story in your head when it’s a thousand pages long?
  • What steps do you use when creating a character?
  • As an outliner, when do you start putting in the details?
  • How do you patch plot holes?
  • How do you come up with names?
  • Is there one writing skill you’d like to get better at?
  • Writing groups: what do you look for?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Hard Magic, by Larry Correia, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

As Promised, Here is a Link: The Everchanging Book of Names

 

Speaking of the Twitterverse: The Writing Excuses team is BrandSanderson, MaryRobinette, HowardTayler, JohnCleaver (Dan), and MonkeySloth (Producer Jordo).

Writing Prompt: Someone has to save the world from an intercontinental ballistic hairball, but their keyboard layout has been changed.

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By Writing Excuses | January 9, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Artwork, Genre, Howard, Humor, Plot

Last week we wormcanned “fulfilling promises to the reader,” so this week we’ll tackle the discussion using actual examples. We start with a deconstruction of The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse, which Howard wrote and illustrated in 2008 and 2009. We then spoil the story of the game Borderlands, talking about the woefully-unfulfilled promise made to the player. We also spoil Legion for you, but that film kind of ruined itself. A lot. At any rate, in both of these latter cases we talk about the promises being broken.

Then we talk about how we, as writers, know when we’re making promises to the reader, and what those promises are.

Dan talks about how, in the first draft of I Am Not a Serial Killer, the main character won out in the wrong way, and how he had to go back and fix the ending. He also talks about the biggest complaint anybody has with that book, and how that stems from the plot twist that, to some readers, breaks a promise inherent in the book’s genre. And that leads us into a discussion of Million Dollar Baby and of the first outline of Mistborn, which could have had a very, very disappointing ending.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman, narrated by Adam Grupper

Writing Prompt: Pick a typical promise that a child might make, and use that as the promise you’re making to your readers.

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By Writing Excuses | December 12, 2010 - 8:17 pm - Posted in Career, Collaboration, Genre, Lifestyle, Submitting

Well, we’re back, and we’ve rescued our time travel episode. Unfortunately, almost all mentions of Lincoln have been redacted, and his gold is conspicuously absent. Instead, Brandon, Dan, and Howard all travel in time (sort of) to offer advice to our past selves.

What do we have to say to our earlier incarnations?

  • Stop playing video games.
  • What you’re doing is actually working. Keep doing it.
  • Stop waiting on your collaborator.
  • Don’t try to write to the market.
  • Try outlining all the way to the end.
  • Try new things.
  • Stop worrying.
  • You can make a living as an artist.

So… there’s the advice. Now listen to the ‘cast and get all of it in context.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett

Special Plug: Superstars Writing Seminar — Brandon will be presenting this January with Dave Wolverton, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, and Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Writing Prompt: Go forward in time and get next week’s writing prompt.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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By Writing Excuses | July 18, 2010 - 7:21 pm - Posted in Conflicts, Ideas, Plot, Structure

When Oscar Hammerstein wrote “Let’s start at the very beginning // A very good place to start” he was talking about teaching children to sing, not writing a novel. Sometimes the beginning is the very worst place to start, so in this ‘cast the Writing Excuses crew starts at the end.

Dan leads with a reminder that we should all watch his five-part lecture on story structure, and then hits a couple of the high points in his process. Brandon points out that he and Dan both start in the same way, even though Dan usually discovery-writes his way to the selected ending, and Brandon typically outlines towards it in advance of putting chapters down. Unsurprisingly, Howard starts in the same place.

So what are the problems with working backwards? How do we prevent those things from happening? What are some great things about working backwards? How can we ensure that those happen every time?

That’s the first half of the ‘cast. The second half is a right treat, as you get to listen to Brandon, Dan, and Howard attempt to brainstorm a great ending from which they can work backwards to a beginning. Producer Jordo provides a pair of headlines as prompts, including programmable matter, Harley Davidson motorcycles, and a thrown puppy.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Furies of Calderon: Codex Alera Book 1, by Jim Butcher — a book that Brandon tells us was written when somebody dared Jim Butcher to build epic fantasy around Pokémon.

Writing Prompt: What’s the character arc for our mathematical analyst biker dude? Yes, you’ll have to listen to the ‘cast in order to figure this prompt out.

Sound Effect of the Week: George Jetson’s Harley

Weekly Feature You Won’t See Every Week: Sound Effect of the Week.

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By Writing Excuses | July 11, 2010 - 8:28 pm - Posted in Characters, Dialog, Editing, Plot, Scenes, Structure

What do you do when, halfway through the book you’re writing, you realize it needs to be completely rebuilt? More importantly, how do you figure this out in the first place? This podcast came about as a result of a question from a listener, but the question was specific to “what if you find out it’s too derivative?” As it turns out, that’s just one of the many problems you can discover midway through a novel.

We spend the first half of the cast discussing how each of us identify the showstopping problems that require us to overhaul our works.

We then talk about the process of fixing things that might, at first glance, appear to be completely unfixable. Sometimes we shift pieces of paper around, sometimes we push blocks of text around in our word processors, and sometimes we have to do something really significant, like adding an entirely new character or point-of-view.

One of the best features of this particular ‘cast is the bit in the second half where Howard and Dan grill Brandon about his process for Towers of Midnight. Wheel of Time fans won’t find any spoilers, but they’ll certainly gain some insight.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett, which Howard loves because of the “stand-up-and-cheer” moments of heroism throughout the book.

Writing Prompt: Take something you’ve already written, grab a throwaway concept in that story, and rewrite that scene or chapter so the throwaway bit is now the major focus.

Moment of Extreme Hubris: “I give lessons.” Listen for it.

That Episode on Stealing for Fun and Profit: Right here.

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

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