By Writing Excuses | December 12, 2012 - 10:06 am - Posted in Demonstration, Plot, Season 7, Setting, World Building

We try. We really do. But sometimes, in our efforts to make sure we’ve got a large enough queue of episodes to keep you edutained and entercated, we get things out of order. Badly.

Our last two episodes (49 and 50) made reference to this one, which was recorded before they were, and many of you were confused. We were even confused! But enough about the behind-the-scenes recording process. On with the episode!

Mary pitches us three story sketches, and we pick one to brainstorm. This, by the way, is also how Mary works with her agent. After the pitches, we select the one that doesn’t have much of a story yet.

And then it’s a brainstorming session. If you’ve ever wondered where we (or anybody else) gets their ideas, and more importantly, how they refine them, this is a must-listen.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Broken Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin, narrated by Casaundra Freeman

Writing Prompt: In a setting in which magnetic fields are dramatically different between locations, give us a story about traveling between those locations.

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We’re doing something new, and Howard gets to go first.

The plan is to take something one of us has completed, and which you’ve had ample time to read, and grill the creator about the project. Obviously there will be spoilers. Also, we’re going to run a bit long on these.

First up in our “Project In Depth” series: Howard’s most recent online volume of Schlock Mercenary, Force Multiplication. You can read it for free at the link above. It’s been nominated in the Best Graphic Story category for this year’s Hugo Awards, this entire episode features Howard on the spot answering questions about the project from Brandon, Dan, and Mary.

The biggest issue discussed is the female perspective. In Force Multiplication Howard challenged himself by casting all of the leads for the story as women, and it changed the storytelling process for him significantly.

He also talks about the setting — Haven Hive — and how he needed the setting to functionally isolate a small ensemble cast. He talks about naming a little, and finally talks about how he turned a sterile-sounding high-concept plot into an interesting story.

Next up on our Project In Depth series: The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson. You have been warned. We’ll also be doing Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamour in Glass and Dan Wells’ Hollow City. We’re NOT doing this back-to-back. You’ve got a little time.

Thing That Would Make Howard Sound Smarter: Remove every last “you know” from his dialog. (Note that this would not actually increase Howard’s IQ.)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs

Writing Prompt: Do this with your own work—have your friends interview you in depth about something you've finished, or something you're currently working on.

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By Writing Excuses | May 6, 2012 - 9:33 pm - Posted in Editing, Outlining, Plot, Prose, Q&A, Season 7

James Dashner joins us for a Q&A at Utah Valley University during Life, The Universe, and Everything.

The first question starts out amazingly rough, but the 12-year-old asking it manages to stick the landing. The questions include:

  • Why is the ARC of James’ first book so different from the later books?
  • How do you handle paragraph- and sentence-level edits?
  • How do you plot your stories?
  • How do you craft endings that are both satisfying, and leave the reader wanting more?
  • What do you do when your compelling villain threatens to take over the whole book?

That Panel Howard Talked About: It’s actually at the end of Massively Parallel, and you can look at it right here.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Everneath, by Brody Ashton, narrated by Amy Rubinate

Writing Prompt: You get kidnapped and put in an asylum for the criminally sane.

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By Writing Excuses | March 11, 2012 - 6:43 pm - Posted in Business, Career, Editing, Genre, Plot, Q&A, Season 7, World Building

It’s again time for us to do a Q&A by any other name!

  • Is it better to include romance, horror, SF, or other genre elements to flesh out a story, or should the story stand alone?
  • Any tips for developing an idea without getting caught in Worldbuilder’s Disease?
  • Any NaNo WriMo tips? (yes.)
  • What did you to do build an audience before you got published and famous and stuff?
  • How do you create sub-plots without overshadowing the main plot?
  • What are the most important things you learned as writers during 2011?
  • How do you stay motivated (especially during editing) when it seems like everything you wrote is crap?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Persuasion, by Jane Austen. Note that there are lots of available recordings. We recommend something unabridged, like the version linked here.

Writing Prompt: Listener Bill Housely provided this one—a lone woman who runs an orbital refueling post makes first contact when some aliens arrive in desperate need of fuel.

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By Writing Excuses | November 14, 2010 - 7:50 pm - Posted in Characters, Q&A

It was so popular when we did it the first time, we decided to do it again. Here’s a second rapid-fire Q&A, with questions coming to us from Twitter, Facebook, and email.

  1. How do you do bad things to your heroes and not feel bad about it?
  2. How far into writing a novel should you begin letting others read it and provide feedback?
  3. Do the bad things you do to your characters always have to suit the story?
  4. How do you design frightening creatures?
  5. How far into the outlining process do you actually start writing?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk, narrated by Jim Colby. Content warning! This book has naughty words and some very adult concepts in it. Dan recommends it anyway.

Writing Prompt: You have decided to start “Zoo Club,” and you just punched an elephant REALLY HARD.

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

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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 | April 4, 2010 - 8:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Fantasy, Horror, Plot

We called “can-of-worms” on multiple viewpoints last week because the topic is too big to share the ‘cast with anything else. We talk about why multiple viewpoints are useful, and then how to do it well. We discuss the pitfalls and how to avoid them, and then the strategies we use to pull off multiple viewpoints well.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: John Ringo’s Live Free or Die, in which the main character is based on Howard Tayler, only shorter and more Napoleonic.

Writing Excuses Podcaster Book Launch-of-the-Week: I am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells is available now in the United States, and he’s on tour promoting it.

Writing Prompt: Write a multiple viewpoint story in which a single tree serves as the focus for each of the different viewpoints.

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

Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*. *Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please! Audible® Free Trial Details 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 | March 28, 2010 - 7:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Fantasy, Genre, Sci-fi, Setting, Structure, World Building

“Dude, that’s totally epic.”

“Epic fail! Epic fail!”

These phrases have only passing relation to epic storytelling, and to epic fantasy. Brandon and Howard write epics, and we’re going to talk about how we do it. And Dan’s going to help, because even if his launching-this-week I Am Not a Serial Killer novel is not an epic, Dan knows his stuff.

(Also, epic win for Dan! His book launches this week!)

We talk about some of our favorite epic fantasy and epic science fiction series, and then discuss elements like scope, plotlines, and characters. We also address some of the common pitfalls new writers fall into when trying to write their first epic.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Uplift Trilogy: Brightness Reef, Infinity’s Shore, and Heaven’s Reach by David Brin

Writing Prompt: Google “Epic Win” (or just visit “Epic Win FTW“), take one of the images on the site, and then craft an epic story around that image.

Joke Not Told By Howard In The Podcast: If a new writer attempts to create an epic and falls flat on his or her face in the attempt, it is, in fact, Epic Fail.

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

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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
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 | March 21, 2010 - 7:47 pm - Posted in Ideas, Plot

Let’s mix things up a bit, shall we? Your Writing Excuses hosts are going to brainstorm for you, and we’re going into it completely cold. By “cold” we mean to say that we have no idea what fodder we’re getting before the cast starts.

Producer Jordo reads quirky news headlines. Brandon, Dan, and Howard take these headlines and brainstorm them into plot, setting, and/or character ideas. And yes, if you want to use one or more of these yourself, go right ahead.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Writing Prompt: Brainstorm your own from this headline: New Zealand Woman Sells Souls To The Highest Bidder… but don’t spoil the process by looking up the actual article.

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

Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*.

*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
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.