61 thoughts on “Writing Excuses Episode 1: Brainstorming”

  1. Brandon, Howard and Dan,

    Thank you all for doing this! I found Writing Excuses through Brandon’s site this morning and I will be checking back every week for the new installments.
    I found all your comments and suggestions about Brainstorming helpful. Yes, it is easy to get caught up in the workings of a program that’s only supposed to be the vehicle for your notes!

    Thanks again.

  2. Really informative and interesting start to this podcast. One thing I liked is focused you guys remained. I’ve heard way too many podcasts where the hosts just ramble off in some unrelated direction, making me totally lose interest. You guys stayed on topic and kept my attention with some really cool ideas about brainstorming and outlining. I didn’t know about wikidpad until this podcast, and that’s something I could really use! This’ll be going on my ipod every Monday.

  3. Great first podcast, guys.

    I myself am a driver as well. If I’m having trouble concentrating enough to come up with ideas, I’ll take a drive down to the comic shop. The drive’s long enough both ways that it it gets me started… and I get comics.

  4. Thanks guys, for doing this. What a timely development–I only started looking a couple days ago for a writing-topic podcast that I’d enjoy. This feels like an unexpected gift.

    Again, thanks for all your work–and good luck with future podcasts. I’ll be listening.

  5. Hey, we don’t sound half-bad. Nice work on the audio, Jordo!

    (Okay, there were a few level clips in there, but I’m not going to hold your lack of a bank of pre-mix compressors against you.)

  6. Nice podcast! Solid advice that can be used by pretty much everyone. I’m now a fan, and will be checking back regularly!

    Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

  7. I enjoyed the podcast, and I look forward to what will come. Not only was this a helpful podcast, it was fun to listen to. I’m a one of the people who goes for long walks with my dog when I want time to think of ideas. With my dog around I can vocalize ideas, which I find helpful, and just listening to myself speak an idea helps me figure out of it is a good idea or not.

  8. That was a highly informative podcast. Yeah my brainstorming tends to come when I’m walking. And I walk quite a bit. Usually I go down the bicycle trail in my town and go to a place people call either the thinking tree or the party tree. Depending on what you do there. I call it the thinking tree because I just grab a place on the branches/trunk and I just think.

    I look forward to the next podcast. I’m curious about what will be discussed next time.

  9. Very nice. I myself am a fledgling author/cartoonist (think still in egg here…) and I think this will be very helpful to me and our local high school writing club. I’ll definitly be keeping up with these.

    Quick question. I know Howard and Brandon are LDS (One because I’m familiar with his work, the other because any non-LDS at BYU would go insane) but what about Dan?

    Oh, I’ve personally noticed that I get my flashes of inspiration in a lot of places. Driving, doing my chores, reading a book (an old familiar one that I’ve read countless times). I’ve tried to keep a notebook near our treadmill, but the stuff that comes out of those brainstorming jogs is fairly illegible.

    Keep up the good work!

  10. Worldbuilders disease, thats a new term for me, and i see how it can be a detriment to the practical writing effort, but i just have a couple of reasons to believe that it could be the very means to making your world of choice for characters in conflict that much more real and believable. take for example the way a citation to a historic document or event that is distantly related to the plot gives depth to the novels dimension of fictional reality. I believe that having a full and copious knowledge of backstory and history (primarily world event and scholarly endeavor as apposed to ancestry specifics, though fictional anthropology gives a great deal of realism to history and is too rare, think of what it did for Dune) gives us as the creator a better chance to be in the shoes of our characters, not just relating to other people the way we all do and have for millenia, but how we would if everything were actually so different. so i guess in short im just wondering if you agree at all that worldbuilding can actually be one of the ways to flesh out character and conflict, which indeed seems to be the selling point of modern fiction.

    Ironically enough, think of how all the classic works of science fiction dominated entire lives of authors, but almost seemed to be extentions of their world of expertise as simple personal literary recreation, Tolkiens etymological construction of world, myth, and culture with a deep and complete history beginning to finish. Herberts ecological, and anthropological vastness spurring incredibly gripping generational stories, which only placated even more the realistic science of the stories. Robert jordans extenive realm of characters that are very much a piece of everyone out there and destined to deal with a time structure that kind of extends out own cyclic tendencies of belief and prophesy in modern dogma and archtype. then there are these more recent works like Tad Williams Otherworld, and the sword of truth novels that are very well built worlds, but almost get lost in all the personal stories of the characters, each book takes incredibly long to get to any new particular point in the universe as it has been altered, but gives you an extravagant soap opera of conflict, and that cliche feeling is what i think needs be avoided. granted it is much easier to get lost in the world of characters such as these than the standard magic quirks of piers anthony and his somewhat comedy based creations which tend to remind me of a japanese animation story, small characterization, but big adventure in an ambiguously large world, that is often difficult to decide on how different it is from our own, … then again maybe ive not read enough of his work , there are so many.

  11. Thanks for this! I’m a fellow Utahn, fantasy lover, and BYU Grad. Brandon, I have a friend who took your class at BYU and really enjoyed it. Anyway, I’m not a writer, but I have been wanting to write a story for a long time, and I just recently started the process. I am glad I found this podcast. I hope to learn more from you guys in the weeks/months/years to come!

    Thanks again.

  12. Thanks that was a big help, I’ve had random plot lines in, my head for some years but I have yet to make much of them(not for the lack of trying).

    I’m looking forward to the upcoming episodes.

    p.s. Howard careful with the Pepsi its bad for your teeth.

  13. Responding…

    Ken: Worldbuilders’ disease wouldn’t be a problem if worldbuilding weren’t so important. As you’ve pointed out, the best SF and Fantasy out there has richly detailed worlds. The disease comes in when that construction takes place at the expense of the characterization. It’s much more important to have believable characters than to assign symbolic meaning to an alien dipthong.

    Matthew Edge: I have been blessed (or maybe cursed) with fantastically hardy teeth. I’ve never had a cavity, and I brush with criminal irregularity. I blame the flouridated water I drank as a kid.

    All: Thanks for your kind words. We wanted to stay focused with these podcasts, because we, too, have grown bored with the off-topic meanderings of some of our once-favorite pod-personalities. I think I speak for the group when I say how pleased we are that you seem to feel the same way.

  14. One thing that works for me when I cannot write something (driving, etc), is using Jott. I’ll just dictate it to myself and then when I get back I can check my email and then put the idea in a notebook.

  15. Most excellent work, gentlemen! I’ll look forward to your podcast each week. It will certainly help me get started doing something with my own brainstorms. Hope to see you at LTUE this week!

  16. Matt: yes, I’m LDS.

    Ken: As Howard said, worldbuilding is a very good thing–we don’t call it worldbuilder’s disease until it becomes a problem that gets in the way of good writing. One of the biggest causes of worldbuilder’s disease, unfortunately, is that so many of our favorite authors avoided it so well. Tolkien and Herbert were two of the most intense world builders ever, and produced arguably the two best/most famous/most successful fantasy novels ever. As budding authors we want to write the next Dune or the next Lord of the Rings or the next Wheel of Time, so we emulate our heroes and, more often than not, get mired in a preparation process that actually impedes our writing more than it helps. So yes, we encourage good worldbuilding, but please don’t overdo it.

  17. Thanks for helping me discover I have Worldbuilders disease! Now maybe I can seek proper treatment.

    Excellent podcast. Can’t wait until next Monday.

  18. Wow guys. Great show. Howard, I have been following Schlock and Tagon since I got home from my mission when my brother recommended it to me almost four years ago. I started one friday night, and took almost all of the following Saturday going through the old comics. Once I graduate and actually have some form of income, I am going to buy as many books as I can (assuming my wife allows me). Brandon, if it wasn’t my last semester at the Y, I would definitely try to get into your Sci-Fi/Fantasy writing class (I’m in Dr. Steadman’s 316 class right now). I wish I had a personal comment for Dan, but unfortunately I’m not much of a Horror fan. But, I do plan to give them another try. If there are any titles/authors you would recommend to someone new to the genre, I would greatly appreciate it.

    One concern though, the iTunes link directs to a URL that when opened in iTunes says that the item cannot be found in the US store. I don’t know why it won’t work, but

  19. Chris Niles: Regarding the iTunes link, we’re waiting on Apple to add the podcast to their library. They’ll give us a code of some sort, we’ll add that to the link, and then it’ll work fine.

  20. That’s a good idea, I know for later episodes (we’ve recorded a few already) we’ve got links in the Liner Notes to things we’re discussing but I guess we never went back to this episode to add any.

  21. Very cool, I look forward to listening to more as you get them done… Any chance of a transcript for those more apt to read than listen?

  22. @sheradan

    No. None of us have the time to transcribe these, however if a fan were to do so we could probably link/post that.

  23. I found this through the Time-Waster’s Guide. First episode, and I’ve already found something here applicable to me! Most of the comments seem to be about what you called World Builder’s Disease, but I fall under the other categories of troubled writers you mentioned–those who can’t stay on one project. I’ll try more outlining next time around and see if that helps. Thanks for the advice!

  24. I linked on through here thanks to Dragonmount. Thanks for the great episode. I’ll definitely be sticking around. I’ve already gone looking for and found wikidpad, and look forward to more great advice.

    I wish you continued success.


  25. Great first episode guys! I found this through Brandon’s blog and will definetly be tuning in to later episodes. Nice work and thanks for making such a great podcast!

  26. Favorite quote from this cast:

    “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”

    Howard, I did a google search to see if there is an accreditation that I need to use if I mention it in a lesson or something (have one at church coming up on Journaling). I found a couple…EM Forester being the primary one…Is this who you were quoting from? Just curious because I want to know for sure before I mention it in a class.


  27. Two things:

    First, what book is being referrenced by the “den of theives stealing from a dark lord who has already won” comment? I think that Brandon made that, but can’t be sure, and it isn’t mentioned in any of the Bios. That plot concept has got me interested.

    Second, the font for the comments, the font on the main page of the site, etc, is rather painful to the eyes, it’s not anti-aliased (or whatever), it’s not smooth, it looks pixelated, and it makes it kinda hard to read. It looks like it’s a great “space saving” font, but I’d suggest a switching to something ever so slightly easier on the eyes. (That’s on both Firefox and Internet Explorer 6.0.29, windowsXP).

  28. awesome work, very inspiring

    if you need to get ideas down when you’re driving, you can always get an audio recorder and narrate it to yourself

  29. Great job, guys. I know what you mean about never making it past chapter 1. I have at least 100 unfinished projects lying around, and I know for certain now that this is from my lack of planning. I write the first chapter or prologue and then trail off because I lose interest.

    For some reason, world-building bores me; I have trouble coming up with ideas. Hopefully this helps. Thanks, guys!

  30. I stumbled across this yesterday and wanted to alert the world because I think it’s pretty cool. I imagine my comment might get lost since this podcast is a month old, but this podcast seemed most suitable for it.


    It’s a free tool for building and organizing novels. I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks very robust and comparable to the for-pay programs. My experience leads me to believe that a tool like this could be very useful as long it aids the writing process and does not bog it down.

    Here is a review of the software (which is how I found it):

    Has anyone out there used something like this? Until now, I have composed everything in Word, but am considering this for my next project.

  31. Looks like I’m coming into this several weeks behind, but you guys got me interested with the very first episode… which I hear first episodes of podcasts are usually painful and unorganized. I must admit, I have yet to read the works by any of the three hosts, but if not for the particularly painful semester I’ve subjected myself to at my university, I would be ordering something of all three authors’ works right now instead of writing this lame comment.

    Anyways, as an amateur looking to step up his game, I believe all this information will help push me in the right direction. I look forward to listening to more!

  32. Wow. People keep telling me I need to make an outline. I think I need to improve my basic outline. I’m a beginning writer, so I’m still learning this thing. Thank you guys for making such a great site and posting such great advice!


  33. lol It’s good really funny but maybe you guys should look into get a girl on the show. It just seems a bit unrounded.

  34. I don’t know if anybody has noticed this, but this podcast no longer plays in its entirety. I’ve listened quite a few times and it will not play all the way through.

  35. I just got my Writing Excuses season 1 CD and just finished listening to episode one… I just wanted to say, THANK YOU for posting the link to wikidpad here! Hurray. :)

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  37. wow. This is great :)
    I such read Elantris and found this on Sanderson blog.
    Its fun and useful :)

  38. First of all, you guys are great. You manage to stay on topic, but aren’t dry about it, which is what a lot of the decent creative writing resources end up being. I find listening to this fun.

    Second, regarding the driving and brainstorming issue – I suggest using some kind of recording device (minitapes, digital voice recorders, whatever) and dictating the ideas. That way your hands are free to handle the driving and you are still recording your thoughts.

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