NaNoWriMo 2012: Bonus Episode 4, with Mary & Brandon

Brandon and Mary are back to offer you some last-minute help.

Are you stuck? We have a tip to get you un-stuck.

Is it being difficult? We will help you approach the difficulty differently, in a way you are certain to hate (and thank us for later.)

Sure, there are only two days left, and this was originally recorded to air while you still had a week, but don’t use our lateness as an excuse for slacking off. Slack ON!

Need additional motivation!!


Writing Excuses 7.48: Pixar Rules for Writing a Compelling Story

A while back one of the former storyboard artists at Pixar, Emma Coats, (@lawnrocket on Twitter) started tweeting the “22 Pixar Storytelling Rules” And now the cast of Writing Excuses reviews them, and offers some applications.

These rules cover character development, plot structure, process, and much more. No, we weren’t able to give them all deep coverage, but this serves as a great refresher on lots of things we’ve covered in the past.


“The Multi-Tentacled Space Goat cannot come and save us again.”

Foundation, by Isaac Asimov, narrated by Scott Brick

Writing Excuses 7.47: Raising the Stakes

What are the things that matter to your characters? What things matter to your readers? After we get the obligatory ambiguity out of the way, we settle into talking about the “stakes” and the escalation thereof.

As authors, we want our readers to feel that something is at risk, and that action on the part of the protagonist is important. It might only be important to the protagonist, but whether the world is at stake, or just one person’s reputation, the reader needs to believe that this matters.

In many outlining techniques (three-act structure, seven-point story structure, Hollywood formula) the writer is told to “raise the stakes” at certain points. So, not only must we put things at risk, we must find ways to either increase the amount of risk, or increase the character response to the risk already present.

We talk about the sorts of things that can be treated as “stakes” in the stories we tell, and how we can go about raising those stakes.


Raise the stakes without resorting to risks to reputation, livelihood, or mental health. Or explosions. Don’t use those, either.

Control Point: Shadow Ops, by Myke Cole, narrated by Corey Jackson

NaNoWriMo 2012: Bonus Mini-Episode 2, with Dan & Rob

Week two is over. You might be asking yourself if it’s worth it. Is it worth it?

Hey! Dan Wells and his brother Rob are here to tell you why this is worth it.

And then, in the spirit of distracting you, they tell you about their pop-culture podcast, Do I Dare To Eat a Peach?


Writing Excuses 7.46: Project in Depth The Emperor’s Soul

Spoiler alert! We’re going to talk in depth about The Emperor’s Soul, which just came out, and if you haven’t yet read it but want to, we’d rather not spoil it for you. The e-book is available here.

So… ready?

Brandon talks to us about the origin of the magic system, and why he decided it fit well for setting in the same world as Elantris. He also talks to us about the way in which he arrived at the ending, and how the ending grew very naturally from the early stages of defining the character.

We have fun comparing Howard’s interpretation of a story point with what Brandon actually intended, and Mary talks about the structural changes made between the draft she read and the final version, a change that perfectly fulfills the definition of killing a darling. And on the subject of darlings, Dan asks about the fight sequence, and whether that really needed to be part of the story. Then we talk about some darlings Brandon opted to NOT kill.

Audiobook Freebie (limited time only): Legion by Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Oliver Wyman


Come up with a magic system based on stamps, but that has nothing to do with forgery.

Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov, narrated by William Dufris

NaNoWriMo 2012: Bonus Mini-Episode 1, with Brandon & Mary

You’re doing NaNoWriMo, right? Well, Brandon and Mary took time out from World Fantasy to record this special message for you. Is it a pep-talk? Sage advice? Or is it just a pronunciation pointer? You decide! But don’t take long. You need to be writing.

Two minutes and forty-eight seconds long, because it’s NaNoWriMo, we’re ALL in a hurry, and hopefully this minimizes the distractions.


The “Out of Excuses” Writing Retreat, and the “That’s a Pretty Good Excuse” Scholarship

Last month we announced the first ever Writing Excuses retreat, and we were delighted to see how much interest you all had in this kind of event. We honestly didn’t know what to expect from this retreat, since it was the first time we’d ever attempted anything like it–would it be popular? Would nobody care? Would people actually pay for it? As a way of testing the waters, we limited the announcement to a highly dedicated subset of Writing Excuses listeners: the people who read and comment on the website. If they got excited, it was a good sign that others might get excited as well, and we could announce it to a much broader base of listeners.

The retreat sold out in 9 minutes.

In hindsight, we should have expected this. In foresight (that’s a thing, right?) this is a very good sign that we need to do another retreat next year. We’ll see how this one goes before announcing anything concrete, but yeah. This seems like something we need to do more of.

But fear not, because we have even more good news. Before registration opened we held back one slot, and that slot is still available. We just want to make sure it goes to someone who really deserves it, so we’re very pleased to announce a scholarship. This scholarship comes to you through the inspiration and funding of one of our listeners, who offered to help a worthy writer attend. We loved the idea, and moved some things around to help stretch his offer even further. The recipient of the scholarship will receive free registration to the retreat, a fully paid room in the nearby hotel, and up to $500 toward airfare. Note that the registration fee includes most of your food already, so this covers almost all of your expenses for the week.

We want to make sure that this scholarship goes to someone who both needs it and deserves it, so the submission process requires you to do a bit of work. To be considered for this scholarship, please submit the following to by midnight, January 15, 2013:

  • A brief example of your writing, consisting of 1-3 separate pieces and totaling no more than 10,000 words. These can be short stories or novel excerpts or whatever you want, just make sure it’s your best work. Don’t feel obligated to fill the word limit–if you can wow us in less, more power to you.
  • A personal essay explaining why you think you deserve the scholarship. This should be 450-700 words, and while we’re looking specifically for “need,” we’ll definitely be reviewing your writing style in terms of “merit.”
  • Three brief letters (no more than 300 words each) from people not related to you. While the fiction and the personal essay should be included in a single email, these letters can be emailed individually by the people who write them, just make sure they include your name in the subject line.

We anticipate a huge response to this scholarship, so please be aware that we will be culling the applications relentlessly, and those that don’t follow the guidelines will be the first to go. Submit your personal pieces in the body of a single email (no attachments), with the subject line “Scholarship Application: [name].” Make sure the people writing your letters of recommendation use the same subject line. Follow the word counts exactly, and don’t miss the deadline: January 15, 2013. We will review the submissions and announce our decision on February 15, 2013, which should still give you plenty of time to work out vacation time and babysitters and so on for the retreat in June.

We look forward to reading your submissions!