By Writing Excuses | September 15, 2013 - 7:37 pm - Posted in Career, Season 8

What do you do when something goes wrong, really wrong, with your career? What happens if it’s your fault? What about if it’s someone else’s fault?

Mary leads by talking about the Glamour in Glass misprint — the first line was omitted in the hardback — and the difference between her private and public reactions to the issue.  She likens this to similar sorts of situations that might happen on stage in live theater, and how those teams are expected to behave.

Dan tells us about the issue in I Am Not a Serial Killer, which gave some readers fits because it was edited in such a way that readers didn’t know there were supernatural elements in the story until chapter 10.

From these and other experiences, we extrapolate some behaviors you can use, and some things to steer clear of.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Blinding Knife, by Brent Weeks, narrated by Simon Vance.

Writing Prompt: Write a character who really screws up, and then take them to the moment where they realize they need to apologize.

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By Writing Excuses | December 25, 2011 - 6:58 pm - Posted in Collaboration, Pacing, Plot, Season, Season 6

Merry Christmas! Here’s the last episode of Writing Excuses Season 6! We decided to end the season with a discussion of endings. Specifically, we answer cries for help that we’ve gotten. The cries answered include:

  • I’m 90% done and I’ve painted myself into a corner! How do I end this book without resorting to deus ex machina?
  • The best part of this book was 75% of the way through! I need the highlight to be at the END!
  • My outline isn’t working here at the end! How do I know when to abandon it?
  • Help! I want both a satisfying ending and room for a sequel! (hint: we use an object lesson here…)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. Try it narrated by Stephen Fry, or try out the original radio teleplays!

Writing Prompt: Writing Prompt: Dan needs a hamburger. What's stopping him? And what is he going to end up with instead of a hamburger? (Hint: it should be more satisfying than the end he had in mind at the beginning...)

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By Writing Excuses | December 18, 2011 - 10:49 pm - Posted in Characters, Conflicts, Demonstration, Structure

Let’s talk about character foils, and how to use them. We begin with a definition of character foils, expertly read by Mary. Then we talk about some archetypes, like the straight-man and the funny-guy, the hero and the sidekick, and offer some examples.

And then it’s nuts-and-bolts time: we talk about how and why to do this. Howard offers the example of Reverend Theo and Kevyn in the Schlock Mercenary books. Mary explains how she used a foil to strengthen her short story “For Want of a Nail,” (which went on to win a Hugo award.) Brandon tells us how adding a foil character was critical to The Way of Kings. Finally, Dan reveals to us (spoiler alert!) how John Cleaver and Mr. Crowley are foils for one another in I Am Not a Serial Killer.

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Late Eclipses: an October Daye Novel, by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Writing Prompt: Generate a list of five character pairs. Pick the most interesting of the set, and write about them.

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By Writing Excuses | July 3, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Business, Career

Dan and Howard had the recent opportunity to interview Dan’s agent, http://saracrowe.com/index.html, who works with the Harvey Klinger agency. We decided to address a topic that is by far the most-requested (and under-addressed) topic on our list: query letters.

Dan begins by reading the query letter he sent to Sara four years ago. Sara then explains why she accepted him as a client. The letter had something to do with it, yes. Sara talks a bit about what she likes and doesn’t like in query letters, and this leads us into a nice discussion of what does and doesn’t work, and why.

We then further deconstruct the letter, and Dan’s decision-making process in writing it. We discuss the synopsis he included, and how well the hook of the novel was presented. We then distill this into some basic points for query-letter writing.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences, by Brian Yansky, narrated by Alexander Cendese

Writing Prompt: Write a query letter based on your current project.

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By Writing Excuses | February 27, 2011 - 10:11 pm - Posted in Characters, Guest, Horror, Humor, Setting, Suspense

Sherrilyn Kenyon, a multiple New York Times bestselling author of all kinds of novels, helps us tackle the tricky work of making the reader fear for the characters in the book.

The first step? Make the reader sympathize with the characters. Then make the reader love them. And then? Then you put them through the wringer while your readers bite their nails bloody in horror.

Here in the blurb we make it sound easy and formulaic. Listen to the ‘cast for pointers on the difficult bits.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Night Pleasures: The Dark Hunters, Book 1, by Sherrilyn Kenyon, narrated by Carrington MacDuffie

Writing Prompt: Take a Lovecraftian beastie and shove him into The Shire.

Legal Note: The Lovecraftian beastie may lie in the public domain, but The Shire most certainly does not. Additional points for making your Shire and your Hobbits C&D-proof with clever name changes and a shave of their feet.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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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 | October 17, 2010 - 4:36 pm - Posted in Characters, Dialog, Genre

Melodrama. What is it? What do people mean when they say something is too melodramatic?

Usually they do NOT mean “it’s too much like a classical melodrama,” but it helps if we start with that definition: a melodrama is a story in which each character only expresses one emotion, and/or only has one trait. When we refer to melodrama, we’re usually complaining about over-acting.

So… how do we avoid it? How do we create characters in conflict without overdoing the conflict or the characterization. In many ways it comes back to something we say over and over (and over and over) again: make your characters into real people.

But we’re not going to leave it at that. We’re not just going to repeat what we’ve been telling you for three years now. No, we’ve got good tools you can use for writing powerful, emotional moments without your readers whining about melodrama.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Tomb: Repairman Jack #1, by F. Paul Wilson

Writing Prompt: Write a story in which you take a cliched, angsty hero in a completely new direction, so that it doesn’t feel cliched.

Dramatic Reading: Stick around after the ‘cast for Howard’s reading of Mike O’s response to our “magical ink” writing prompt.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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By Writing Excuses | September 19, 2010 - 3:37 pm - Posted in Characters, POV, Style

Bree Despain joins us for a discussion of writing the first-person viewpoint. We talk about “method writing” and get briefly creeped out by Dan. We discuss some key aspects of this particular POV, including the unreliable narrator, the over-the-shoulder vs. the memoir perspective, and the presence or absence of a framing story.

We cover a few pitfalls, including the clichéd “mirror scene,” and then offer advice to new writers who are looking for ways to get first person right the first time.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Beastly, by Alex Finn

Writing Prompt: The main character has a secret. Write from that character’s point of view, but keep the secret from the reader.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.