Writing Excuses 5.12: Time Travel!

Well, we’re back, and we’ve rescued our time travel episode. Unfortunately, almost all mentions of Lincoln have been redacted, and his gold is conspicuously absent. Instead, Brandon, Dan, and Howard all travel in time (sort of) to offer advice to our past selves.

What do we have to say to our earlier incarnations?

  • Stop playing video games.
  • What you’re doing is actually working. Keep doing it.
  • Stop waiting on your collaborator.
  • Don’t try to write to the market.
  • Try outlining all the way to the end.
  • Try new things.
  • Stop worrying.
  • You can make a living as an artist.

So… there’s the advice. Now listen to the ‘cast and get all of it in context.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett

Special Plug: Superstars Writing Seminar — Brandon will be presenting this January with Dave Wolverton, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, and Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Writing Prompt: Go forward in time and get next week’s writing prompt.

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36 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 5.12: Time Travel!”

  1. I think this has been the most helpful podcast I have listened to for the past several weeks of Writing Excuses. This is probably mainly because, being a teenager, all the things you’ve been telling your past selves apply very closely to me. Cutting down on video games, stop worrying, and outlining all the way are all very helpful toward me. Thank you.

  2. Andrew took the words right out of my mouth, except the part about being a teenager. I haven’t been a teen for three years. But this is one of the best shows in a while. Thanks, you guys have inspired me to work harder at perfecting my writing pros and never giving up.

  3. I sent a letter asking for advice on query writing. I wish I’d known about the superstar writing seminar before buying a house in September! Now I don’t have the funds to go and get my answer!! On the other hand, I have a house, and it’s pretty kick ass. So I if were to go back in time, I think I’d just tell myself to search for that event sooner so I could set aside the money BEFORE making a down payment. *grin*

  4. One of your best podcasts, and I’ve listened to all of them. In a way what you’re all saying boils down to one thing, which is “Forget the distractions and the doubt, make a decision to write, and DO it.”

  5. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. It’s great to hear that I’m not the only person who has/is struggling with these issues.

  6. I found this podcast particularly charming. Thanks, guys.

    My big “If I could go back in time and give myself advice” is: Don’t wait to be inspired. Just start writing regularly and inspiration will come. I lost years thinking, “I guess I’m just too tired, nothing’s coming, I’ll start another day …”

    Next week’s writing prompt: “In Search of Howard’s Pants!” (Seriously, Howard, hope you feel better soon.)

  7. I don’t want to go back in time. I want to jump ahead twenty years to see if all this time I’m spending alone writing is worth it in the end, or should I have been spending all that time getting drunk and having lots of hot steamy meaningless sex.

  8. As always, fantastic. Very good advice. I liked what Dan said about not pigeon-holing yourself to one genre/market. I’ve come to the realization lately that I can get excited about writing something that’s not from my normal scope. I’ve also spent too much time worrying about “would this publish?” or “am I going to write five hundred pages only to get rejected?” The bottom line is, who cares? If you’re excited about it and enjoy doing it, you won’t worry about the time spent.

    Thank you gentlemen, and that includes Jordo for all his hard work!

  9. Dan, I to played way too much Starcraft twelve years ago. I do not play as many video games, but mostly because I cannot afford new games. If I could travel back in time I would tell myself to stop reading and start writing. For a long time I thought I had to “mature” before I could write. Don’t ask me what I mean by “mature” I don’t really know myself. I would be much further along if I had started years ago. Great advice you guys.

  10. It was all good advice, but not for my situation. My problem is not lack of time or inspiration–it’s opposition. Some of the people closest to me become absolutely hostile when I tell them I want to be a full-time author. I’ve been belittled, antagonized, and even received unveiled threats because of it.

    If I had a time machine, I’d tell my high school self to go live in the woods, where presumably I could get some peace and quiet.

  11. @Kim — Have you read the Query Shark blog (http://queryshark.blogspot.com/)? There are nearly two hundred query letters, critiqued (torn to shreds?) by an agent, interspersed with her query advice. I took some time, read the blog, took notes, and I have a much better idea of how to write a query.

    Awesome podcast, as always. Wish I could make it to the seminar.

  12. But next weeks Writing Prompt will be “The growth on your nose… is it an alien, is it occult, or are you going to tell a love story?” I’ve already done that one… it feels like Deja Vu, all over again.

  13. Great podcast. You touched on some good points. I would tell myself to stay away from Twitter. I eats up too much of my writing time and there is no sense in annoying all the great authors that I love and follow.

  14. This was an awesome episode! I’m a teenager and I’ve been asking a lot of those questions. Thanks for answering them!

  15. I second the thoughts on trying to write different genres. My first three novels were all epic fantasies. My fourth is a YA post-apocalyptic sci-fi with a first person viewpoint, and I’m loving it. I never realized how much I was struggling to juggle so many plotlines until I took one character narrative and followed it straight through. Now I can take those lessons back to my favorite genre…

  16. Argh! Howard! You’re a writer! Use the language properly. Begging the question is a logical fallacy. Something which prompts you to ponder on additional queries RAISES the question. It doesn’t beg it.

  17. “Begging the question” is a particularly bad name for a logical fallacy, since the logical fallacy (assuming facts: “when did you stop beating your wife”) doesn’t really beg a question at all, but misses one out. To refer to “begging a/the question” is perfectly good English usage. In conclusion, Mr J., get a grip, or possibly loosen it.

  18. A thoroughly unrelated item: I am pretty sure my daughter and I were sitting next to Brandon’s brother and WE producer Jordo during the sold-out IMAX debut of TRON Legacy last night. I hope Jordo enjoyed it as much as my daughter and I did. And I was again reminded of how small the world can be. “Hey, I think that’s Jordo!”

  19. @Dan J: If I had the time to write all of the positions I espouse and anecdotes I relate, I assure you I’d do a better job with the wordsmithing. We don’t edit these podcasts, however, so what gets said goes live, even if it’s wrong.

    And speaking of being wrong:

    That page indicates that modern usage includes the EXACT WAY I USED THE PHRASE. You’re whining because you don’t like modern usage, which is corrupting the original (poorly translated) definition of the fallacy in question. And you’re doing so in order to boost your own ego, not to elevate the discussion. So… cut it out. Edit yourself next time. You’re writing, so you have the opportunity to do exactly that.

  20. Howard,

    Wikipedia indicates that misusing the phrase is common. It’ doesn’t say it’s correct. Interchanging “your” and “you’re” is also quite common in modern usage. It doesn’t mean I’m going to start doing it. And for what it’s worth, Grammar Girl agrees with me:


    I think my authority trumps your authority. :-)

    And yes, I know these are unedited and unrehearsed podcasts. I also know you do them free of charge, putting a significant amount of time and effort into them. It’s appreciated. Very much so. My comment wasn’t intended to insult you, just bust your chops a little over a pet peeve of mine. (It probably comes from too much time spent studying logic and philosophy. That’ll warp anyone’s mind.)

  21. Mr J,

    Apparently you are confused about how language works. If a phrase is commonly used to mean a particular thing, that is what the phrase correctly means. It’s known as “evolution of language”. You may also be unclear on what language is for: to express things that are understood by the audience.

    You studied philosophy and logic? Could I have fries with that, please?

  22. Since I’m not “writing”, the podcast didn’t really apply to me but I enjoyed it still.
    No, that’s not true… on a broader sense; the principles apply to many things.

    @Dan: Both you and Howard are correct. You simply follow two different schools of thought. One is the purist and the other; a pioneer. That’s the way it goes in a world where words, rules, laws are constantly morphing.

    Who’d have ever thought “having a gay old time” would mean anything other than what it did? Surely not Fred and Wilma. But, then again…

  23. Forgot to mention – I particularly approve of your Pick-of-the-Week choice. Wee Free Men has become the book I use most these days to introduce people to Pratchett, though I’ve used Men at Arms and Going Postal as well.

  24. Woah, woah! Games from ’98 sucked? Starcraft BW is still being played in Korea on tv :) Best game ever. But it really is true- games take up too much time.

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