Tag Archives: Outlining

Writing Excuses 10.52: Moving On, with Ellen Kushner

Ellen Kushner joins us for the last episode of Season 10. Per the title, folks, it’s time to be done.

What does “done” mean? How do you go about declaring a project “finished” when you know there are still things wrong with it? How do you clear your head, your work space, and your life for the next thing you need to do?

Out of Excuses: Per Brandon’s plug in the episode, registration is open for the 2016 Out of Excuses WritingWorkshop and Retreat!


Try something new. Brainstorm something new, something different from what you’ve written before.

The Cloud Roads, by Martha Wells, narrated by Christopher Kipiniak

Writing Excuses 10.47: Q&A on Revision

And now for your questions about revision. Or rather, questions from the WXR attendees, who were aboard the Independence of the Seas with us (the answers to these questions are secreted away in the audio file…):

  • During revision, when do you think it’s acceptable to throw the whole thing out?
  • How do you fit the whole structure in your head?
  • What do you find you most often need to add?
  • What do you do when your revisions have made things worse?
  • How do you avoid over-writing during the revision process?
  • When revising, how many passes do you make, and what order are they in?
  • Do you take the sounds of words into account when writing and revising?

This episode was engineered aboard The Independence of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered in a concrete bunker somewhere in the midwest by Alex Jackson.


Read your piece aloud. The whole thing. Yes, THE WHOLE THING. Take notes while you do so.

Blindsight, by Peter Watts, narrated by T. Ryder Smith

Writing Excuses 10.12: Story structure Q&A, with Special Guest Wesley Chu

Wes Chu joins us again for a Q&A about this month’s topic: story structure! Here are the questions:

  • Do you make a conscious decision about how to structure your story before you begin writing?
  • Is it necessary to use multiple structures (three-act, Hollywood formula, etc) in order to ensure that your story works?
  • What tools do you use to view your story’s structure?
  • What do you think about cliffhangers?
  • How do you come up with plot twists for your stories? (Answer: A blast from the past with Michael Stackpole! Season 1, Episode 19!)
  • What structures should I use to add variety to my writing?
  • Is there a specific amount of time you should spend on your introduction before getting to the inciting incident?
  • What do you do when you’re halfway through with a story before you realize the structure is wrong?



Make a list of all the awesome things you want your story to accomplish. Then put them in the order in which you want them to happen.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin

Writing Excuses 10.11: Project In Depth: “Parallel Perspectives”

If you haven’t yet read “Parallel Perspectives,” from Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, we have a PDF for you to download and read before you start listening to this episode. It’s a 33mb file in a public DropBox folder.

Parallel Perspectives PDF for Writing Excuses listeners

Got the file? Done reading? Okay, let’s go…

This week is a Project in Depth episode focusing on a 13-page graphic story (“comic book”) found at the end of Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, and our focus this week will be story structure. It’s fun, because the process of structuring a bonus story begins much differently than most projects, and the structure was laid in support of a four-creator collaboration.

The creators? Howard Tayler, Brenda Hickey, Travis Walton, and Keliana Tayler.

(If you’d like your own hard-copy of Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, you can get it from Amazon.com or directly from the publisher.)


Next month we’re going to talk Beginnings: decide on the promises you want to make to your readers in your story. Then outline according to those promises.

The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle,  by Christopher Healy, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Writing Excuses 10.9: Where is My Story Coming From?

This month’s syllabus topic is story structure, and we’ll be starting with the part we start with. And that part usually isn’t the beginning — that’s where the story starts for the reader. We’re going to talk about where the story starts for you. It’s the answer to questions like “where is my story coming from?”, “What kind of a story is this?”, or  “What questions does it seek to raise, and subsequently answer for the readers?”

Structurally, it may help to revisit our discussion of the M.I.C.E. quotient. Knowing that your story is primarily a milieu story, as opposed to a character story, is a pretty big thing to know before you start writing.

Of course, if you’re not outlining, this whole discussion may seem irrelevant to you, but ultimately if you discovery-write your way into a good story, you’ll have answered these questions during that process. Knowing that this is a thing you do will likely help you do it better.

The Sherlock Episode Howard referenced was “The Sign of Three”

Homework For an upcoming “Project in Depth” — you may wish to acquire a copy of Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, because we’ll be digging into the bonus story, “Parallel Perspectives,” which plays with POV in some ways that required significant re-writing during the collaboration process.


Take a favorite piece of of media (but not something YOU created,) and reverse engineer an outline from it.

Ancillary Justice, by Anne Leckie, narrated by Celeste Ciulla. This book has won the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Clarke award, and is a great listen. (note: In the ‘cast, Mary says that this book was narrated by Adjoa Andoh, who actually narrated Ancillary Sword.)


Writing Excuses 9.27: Pre-writing

What’s pre-writing? Well, it’s a little bit like “pre-cooking,” in which something is cooked prior to being put in the final recipe, but in food terms it might also be like “cleaning the kitchen” or “grocery shopping.” Outlining is one kind of pre-writing, but so is the creation of that 5,000-word prologue you decide not to keep, but which informed the whole rest of your story.

We talk about the different things that each of us do prior to actually laying down lines of prose, and how our processes differ between projects, genres, and mediums.

Special Announcement: The first ever Writing Excuses anthology, SHADOWS BENEATH, is available now. This anthology features stories brainstormed and critiqued here on the podcast, and includes draft versions, related episode transcripts, and authorial commentaries as well. Let Brandon tell you more about it!

Our critiquing episodes will begin airing next week, so if you want to read ahead, now’s the time to pick up SHADOWS BENEATH. Oh, and if you order the hardcover, you get the ebook free of charge!

SHADOWS BENEATH launches this weekend at Westercon 67, where Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard are Guests of Honor alongside Cory Doctorow, Christopher Garcia, William Stout, and Bradley Voytek.

Loving That Cover Art? Us too! It’s the work of Julie Dillon, who is on the 2014 Hugo ballot for Best Artist. You can admire (and comment upon!) the unobstructed original here in her DeviantArt gallery.

Dave Farland’s Writing Workshops sponsored us for this episode! Both Brandon and Dan have studied under Dave, and we’re all happy to wholeheartedly recommend his workshops to you. If you can’t fly to his place, well, visit MyStoryDoctor.com and take the online course. The coupon code for your Writing Excuses discount is EXCUSES, but don’t think that means you actually HAVE any of those…


Sapient smells. Odors that think. Scents with their own hopes, dreams, and passions. Go.