Writing Excuses 8.1: Microcasting

We’re back for 2013 and Season 8, so let’s start it off by answering all your questions! That’s right, it’s time for a fast-paced, lightning round of microcasting! It’s like eight very, very short podcasts in one.

  • Why do some authors only ever come out with one or two books?
  • What’s your process for writing fast under artificial deadlines (NaNoWriMo)?
  • How do you avoid getting bogged down in explanation?
  • What happened to your Hero of a Thousand Faces episode? (Whoops! See below.)
  • Are there concerns or pitfalls regarding the use of metaphors and similes in genre fiction?
  • What are some pitfalls to writing short stories?
  • How do you write sex scenes? (Note: This particular question resulted in an entire episode back in Season 7. Shanna Germain to the rescue!)
  • Have any of you included original poems in your work?

Whoops! We lock-stepped this episode to the release of A Memory of Light, but we ALSO locked it to air after our Hero of a Thousand Faces discussion. Crass commercialism trumps continuity! You’ll get the hero’s journey next week.

Incidentally: If you’re eligible to nominate things for the 2013 Hugo Awards, here’s a list of the things we’ve done which are eligible.


What does SFPA stand for?

A Memory of Light: Wheel of Time, Book 14, by  Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading.

24 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 8.1: Microcasting”

  1. Really? I was going to ask about the Hero podcast, ’cause I finally went and got a copy of it for Christmas.

  2. About the sex scenes – read fanfiction. Of course there’s some bad stuff, but there are many brilliantly written scenes (much better than some published books which I won’t mention…). It’s easy to find lists of recommended works, if you want to go straight to the good stuff. ;)

  3. So… wait. You did that whole podcast – episode 38? With Shanna Germain about writing sex. Did that podcast not count, or was that out of order? Just wondering, because I found that episode extremely helpful in handling love scenes – graphic or not :) But this episode definitely sounded like the ep Mary referred to everyone going “rrrraarrrrarrrr?”

    Great episode nonetheless, love it! You guys are awesome!

  4. How do you avoid being emotionally manipulated to be demotivated by someone who hates the genre your working with, even though it’s the only genre you work with? And they seem to be very vocal about it and wont shut up.

    I know about the you can’t please everybody bit, I mean how do make yourself lose contact with them if your easily demotivated, and they make up these bizarre non textbook reasons why its not good to write horror? So you can’t exactly pop open a therapy book and counter the point.

  5. As an example they say: “Billy Meier says horror ruins your psyche and isnt mentally healthy, so don’t write horror.” This therapy book doesn’t exactly have a counter point for that. But horror is all I do write.

  6. @Sarah
    Can’t say I’m an expert here, but if you want to do something, a few suggestions:
    The easiest thing would probably be to ignore them, but I’m willing to bet you’ve tried that. Step 2: Get them to ignore you. Shelter up in a happy place (just don’t shelter up too much) or force them away.
    The next thing I would try is to let them know that any mental health issues you develop would be their fault. If they feel guilty, they’ll stop unless they’re genuinely worried.
    The last thing I would do is counter with examples. Tell them about Dan. He still hasn’t killed anyone (that’s been found) and seems to be living a perfectly normal life. Use people like Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King, and any other horror writers. Be sure to include yourself in that list. Use your own life as a display. You don’t need a book to prove your point when you have the empirical evidence right at hand.

    Any advice from the casters is probably better than mine if it comes, though, since I haven’t had any issue with this before. Everyone I know is all for my writing.

  7. Simon’s advice is actually great. Horror is a weird genre in that its detractors often think that it’s genuinely harmful to those who read and write it, and that’s usually because their only experience with it is either “dead teenager” movies that focus on sex and gore, or 80s-era paranoia about their aunt’s friend’s neighbor’s son who started worshiping the devil.

    I find that the most effective counter to these arguments, first and foremost, is confidence: if you act like you know what you’re talking about, people will believe you, and if you act like you don’t really believe what you’re saying they will seize on that and attack further. A step two that works well for me is to ask what horror they’ve read. The answer is usually something like “nothing, why would I read that? We all we know what they’re like,” at which point it’s very easy to convince yourself (and sometimes them) that they have no idea what they’re talking about. Horror is a massive genre that includes a lot of stuff, united by the rather vague goal of invoking an emotional reaction in the audience. To say that an entire genre of fiction they’ve never actually experienced first-hand is not only flawed but evil is hilariously ignorant. That’s like someone who’s never eaten Chinese food saying that it leads to divorce: it’s uninformed and empirically ridiculous.

    After that, go with what Simon said. Talk about all the well-adjusted horror authors in the world–and if you don’t know any, go to a World Horror Con some year and meet some.

    If that continues to fail, and your friend persists in baseless, hurtful attacks on your character and the things you’re passionate about, at that point it will sound very much like they’re not a very good friend.

  8. About the poetry.. Are there ways to introduce them smoothly in a novel? Tolkien had some characters sing (I admit i skimmed over those parts), but how about other books where it might not feel as natural. And would you guys ever recommend using one as a riddle/prophecy?

  9. @Chameshi? The thing about using a poem as a riddle/prophecy is that it often combines the problems with metaphors — the reader may not view the poem the same way that the folks in the story do — and the problems of plot tokens. The prophecy says collect the four animals? Guess what the people in the story are going to do. Yes, collect four animals. And the odds are that the final one will escape or something, but then… Here, read about plot tokens, http://news.ansible.co.uk/plotdev.html then consider whether you really want to give a “mystical prediction” (aka The Author Reveals the Plot). Why not make the characters work out what they need to do, instead of laying it out for them?

  10. Yes, Dan hasnt killed anyone. (Well, outside of his serial killer novel.:P) Also, thanks Dan.^^

  11. Folks, fantastic episode. I love that you addressed the “Hero” question with laughter and derision. Well done. Also, @Dan, somewhere around 6:30 you mention “He flew across the room is the classic example, but the one I’m thinking of is the opposite of that.” But, wouldn’t the opposite of that be, “The room flew across him”?
    The sex-scene convo was humorous. I think we could feel how awkward it was for you from this end of the cast. Looking forward to next week.

  12. I was wondering, how crucial is the unknown when it comes to writing horror? I’ve always been the weird one where the unknown does not bother as much as knowing, but not being able to do anything about it.

    Also, is survival horror mainly a video game thing, or can the formula also work with novels and short stories as well? I know there are Resident Evil novels, but I have not seen Silent Hill novels as an example.

  13. Brandon, how would you feel if someone (me) wrote a (not to be published or sold at all) fanfiction including some of your magic?

  14. Funny that Mary says what SFPA stands for, then our writing prompt is asking what it stands for. XD Dan, your comment above reminds me of myself as a teenager about 15 years ago, I was writing horror poetry and short stories, and people reading it either were revolted I would write something about a murder, or intrigued by a quality of writing not normally found in high school. The discouragement was much greater than the intrigue and kept me from continuing my interest in writing for about 12 years. It can be difficult not to let others discourage us from writing, especially as a teen … and most especially when writing horror.

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