By Writing Excuses | December 2, 2012 - 7:53 pm - Posted in Characters, Conflicts, Scenes, Season 7, Submitting

We haven’t discussed beginnings this in a while, and when we did, we summed it up with “in late, out early.” Now we’re going to talk about what needs to be present when you’re “in.” We talk about tone, and how the tone you set in your beginning is a promise made to your reader, using examples from George R.R. Martin and David Brin. We also talk about how useful (and how dangerously trite) a labeled prologue can be, and how important it is to establish a setting, especially in genre fiction.

This episode appears out of order with something else we recorded which we refer to, specifically a piece Mary is working on. Tantalizing, yes? Here is the episode you probably wanted to hear first.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages, narrated by Julie Dretzen

Writing Prompt: Start a new story. Give us character, place, and sense of tone. Do it one sentence, and do it within 13 lines (which is what typically appears on the first page of a manuscript.)

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By Writing Excuses | January 8, 2012 - 10:13 pm - Posted in Season 7, World Building

Let’s build the plants and animals for your science fiction or fantasy book!

We begin with a discussion about naming, and about deciding how much evolutionary biology to put into creating cool beasties. We also talk about planning a food chain, building around water, and considering other resources (especially wood, for growing fantasy civilizations.)

Other considerations include migration patterns, life-cycles, and the possibility of turning the whole thing on its head.

We offer examples from Dune, Legacy of Heorot, Inherit the Stars, Ender’s Game, and other places. And if you’re looking for resources, check out Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge, narrated by Peter Larkin

Writing Prompt: Take a horrible, hard-to-domesticate animal, and then create a culture in which somebody has figured out how to domesticate these beasties.

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By Writing Excuses | October 30, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Conventions, Education, Guest, Other Podcasts

Mur Lafferty, the Grand Dame of SF podcasting, joins Howard, Mary, and Dan to talk about ways in which writers can continue their educations. We’ve said time and again that nothing improves your writing skills like doing more writing, but there are some other things you can do so that your writing practice pays off faster.

We talk about writing workshops like Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp, Clarion and Clarion West, Writing Superstars, Odyssey, Taos Toolbox, and Launchpad. We also talk about podcasts like Writing Excuses (you might have heard of that one) and Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing.

We also talk about information sources online like Turkey City Lexicon, Magical Words,  and Bookview Cafe, and of course we can’t let the episode end without touching on actual books writers can read, like Steven King’s On Writing, Ken Rand’s The 10% Solution, and Orson Scott Card’s Character and Viewpoint.

We wrap up with a reminder: learning a new thing will make writing more difficult before it makes it easier. Don’t panic. Don’t think you’ve broken your brain. It’s all part of the writing process. You’ll get your mojo back as soon as your brain finishes assimilating all this stuff you’ve just learned.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Rosemary and Rue: An October Daye Novel, Book 1 by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Prompt: Someone wants to go to a writing workshop but gets held up by chicken and waffles.

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By Writing Excuses | August 7, 2011 - 5:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Genre, Ideas, Setting

Orson Scott Card’s M.I.C.E. quotient is a concept from his books Character and Viewpoint and How to Write Science Fiction. M.I.C.E. stands for Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event, and can serve as a way to identify what kind of story you’re telling, and which elements you might need to spend more time fleshing out.

Mary walks us through each of the M.I.C.E. elements, and then we discuss ways in which writers can apply the quotient for improving their writing.

Then we try to take the Billy Goats Gruff tale and spin it as four different stories, one each for the M.I.C.E. elements, but that proves to be a pretty ambitious undertaking for us. Oh, the stumbling.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Enchantment, by Orson Scott Card, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.

Writing Prompt: Apply the M.I.C.E. quotient to Red Riding Hood, and write at least one page of story per element. Wow, this sounds a lot like homework.

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By Writing Excuses | June 27, 2010 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Artwork, Business, Conflicts, Editing

James Dashner and Julie Wright join Brandon and Dan for an episode about what Lou Anders called “Mating Plumage” back in this 2008 episode of Writing Excuses recorded at Denvention. Lou was just referring to covers, but for this ‘cast Dan has extended the metaphor to include  titles and first lines.

These are the three things that are best positioned to quickly “sell” a book. But to whom? And why?

The crew talks about their experiences with each of these. Yes, we judge books by covers, and no, writers don’t have any control over them. We have a little more control of our titles, and still more over our first lines.  Humorous and tragic anecdotes follow, along with a great example of a first line from Barbara Hambly.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

Writing Prompt: Julie Wright, when offered the chance to use the word” monkey,” came up with “I can’t believe you did this to me.” James suggested “Brandon and Julie go on safari and get attacked by monkeys.” Plenty of material there. PLENTY.

Big Hugs One Last Time: With the absence of Producer Jordo and Former Audio Engineer Howard (neither of whom could make it to CONduit) Revan and Malek of Dungeon Crawlers Radio stepped up and made each of these last FIVE EPISODES of Writing Excuses possible. We owe them big-time, and you should go check out their podcast.

I bet it’s about puppies: I Don’t Want to Kill You, by Dan Wells.

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By Writing Excuses | May 16, 2010 - 8:00 pm - Posted in Uncategorized

In previous episodes we’ve established the dichotomy between discovery writing and outline writing. In our ‘casts about process, we’ve mostly talked about outlining, working from an outline, and the worldbuilding that goes behind all of that. We’ve never talked much about the process of discovery writing, though.

It is time for us to correct that egregious oversight.

In this installment your hosts muse upon the pros and cons of discovery writing, and how we handle the discovery writing process. We discuss false starts, and how they may not be false at all. We cover dialog, which is always a fun place to start writing, and we offer up some structures that discovery writers may begin with in order to provide themselves direction.

We also tackle endings, which are where most discovery writers have their largest problems.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Way of the Wolf, by E.E. Knight, who has been called the best fantasy author you’ve never heard of.

Writing Prompt: Look around. Now, pick six unrelated items and weave them together in the first chapter. Two of them are Chekov’s Guns.

Abrupt Ending That Came Not Quite Abruptly Enough: 17 minutes and 52 seconds, with screams.

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By Writing Excuses | February 14, 2010 - 6:39 pm - Posted in Guest, Horror, Humor, Live, Pacing, Structure

This episode was recorded live at Life, The Universe, & Everything 28, The BYU Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy, and features, among other things, our largest audience ever.

Oh, and James Dashner, our friend and the author of The Maze Runner.

It also features what has to be our roughest start ever. We don’t get to actual content until around four minutes in. Seventeen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re pretending this was an object lesson. Also, we love picking on our friend James.

Pacing! What do we do so that people keep turning pages? Which useful tricks do we hate? Which subtle methods do we prefer? And most importantly, what does James Dashner do? We talk about reveals, punchlines, cliffhangers, chapter length, and the “Brandon Avalanche.” Also, we talk briefly about the look on my face, and the roof of James’ mouth.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ender’s Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition by Orson Scott Card

Writing Prompt: Someone opens a door, and finds a wet, seeping cardboard box on the doorstep.

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By Writing Excuses | November 15, 2009 - 11:11 pm - Posted in Uncategorized

Dan and Howard are again joined by Jake Black, who writes comics (and some other things) for a living. Jake tells us how he got into the business, and we talk about how this might be applied to other folks. But you can’t do it exactly the way he did it because they’ve bricked that entrance up.

Writing Prompt: Our superhero gained his superpowers by writing technical articles for Wired…

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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.

By Writing Excuses | October 4, 2009 - 5:53 pm - Posted in Guest, Writing Prompt

John Brown joins us again, and tells us that fiction “is all about guiding an emotional response in a reader.” We begin with a discussion of depression, which John (like many of us) had to deal with. He tells us about the paths for emotional response, and how a beginning writer can end up in the depths of depression just by looking at the work of successful writers.

But working through that, especially with cognitive therapy, can provide the writer with fantastic tools for informing his or her writing. And those tools are really why you’re here. Listen closely!

Writing Prompt: Give us villainous heroes, romance, and something that evokes terror.