Writing Excuses 8.17: Microcasting

You love ’em, we love ’em, and there’s never a shortage of questions so here’s another another fast-paced Q&A. Here are the questions that we field in this episode:

  • How do you prepare to write?
  • How do you write stories that are important without being heavy-handed?
  • Magical realism vs. Fantasy — what’s the difference?
  • Do you have recommendations or techniques for serving as a beta reader? (Here’s the promised liner-note bit from Mary.)
  • Is it possible to do a serial with short stories and novellas all in the same setting?
  • Why do publishers say they want crossed-genre books, but they’re not publishing crossed-genre books?
  • Picture books and books for beginning readers: can you ‘cast on this for us? (Answer: not until we’ve got an expert guest in that field. If you want that info, go to SCBWI.org)
  • Can you do a ‘cast on reading aloud? (Answer: yes. This is not that ‘cast.)
  • What is the primary thing you’ve learned from reading Literary Fiction that has informed your Genre Fiction writing?


21 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 8.17: Microcasting”

  1. Dan, that is very inefficient use of kittens. What you should do is tie a piece of buttered toast on a cat and throw it off a table. You wouldn’t believe how much energy harnessed by the universe not being able to decide if toast landing butter side down is more important then a cat landing on it’s feet ;-)

  2. This week’s book of the week is Ready Player One written by Ernest Cline and read by Wil Wheaton.


  3. There is an interesting discussion on questions to read early readers in Wired for Story that I’ve started to send out to my early readers to indicate the sorts of things I want to see. I’d have to dig up the text file where I retyped them up to past into emails, but I found them reasonably interesting.

    Mind you, I thought the whole book was really good. It’s by Lisa Cron and available from all major retailers.

  4. @Sean Audible pays us for four promos per month. In a month with five episodes we usually drop the Book of the Week, and with five Mondays, April was just such a month. Technically, Writing Excuses “airs” on Monday since that’s when the episode has propagated to the various outlets (for “iTunes” values of “various.”)

  5. That makes sense. I was wondering about no book of the week. Also, Dan should be forbidden from reading or taking about cats ever, for his own good. ;)

  6. Hmm… Kittenpunk.


    A society where people’s social standing and lifestyle is based on the quality of their cat or cats. People who are allergic to cats are second-class citizens. Cat ladies rule the world.

  7. A lovely follow up to “How do you prepare to write” might be “how has that changed as your career changed?” For example: Dan used to hold down an office job: is there a difference between how he used to prepare when he held that job and how he prepares now that he’s a full-time author?

    Anywho, as always, I quite enjoyed this episode. The Writing Excuses Crew’s interactions alone make this the best cast out there.

  8. Thank you, guys. I officially hate you ;-) That writing prompt spawned a horrifying vision of a world utilizing the ammonia from cat pee to power Ammoniacal Engines. A world with vast fueling-stations stuffed with millions of kittens hovering at the edge of renal failure (to produce purer ammonia). This image won’t leave my skull until it is written. Yeah… I hate you soooo much right now.

    Otherwise, a very ehlpful discussion.

  9. One issue with cross genre books that wasn’t mentioned – they can often be hard to find. Dan Wells, for instance (John Wayne Cleaver trilogy spoiler warning), crosses elements of gothic horror (big scary monster coming to get us) and psychological horror (“I promise I’m not a serial killer!”) and draws on a couple of elements from other fictional categories as well – Brooke’s story arc is clearly a romance arc, as one example, though it’s certainly made non-standard by both aforementioned horror variants. No bookstore in my town stocks any of his books, and I’ve found his stuff 3 times in bookstores in larger cities. Once in the horror section, once in the general fiction section, and once in the science fiction/fantasy section. All of these were one or the other of the first 2 John Wayne Cleaver books, and all 3 bookstores were stores owned by the Indigo/Chapters/Coles conglomerate. Even within the company, they can’t figure out where to put Dan Wells’ books, and there are certainly books that cross genres way more than Dan does. (Heck, Star Wars might have been an example of this at one point, if it came out before the powers that be decided that Science Fiction and Fantasy should be on the same shelf thenceforth – there’s never been any attempt made to demystify the Force)

  10. Your podcast is my favorite. I listen to it all the time.
    Would you guys consider casting it more than once a week?

  11. Mary, thanks very much for the excellent Alpha-Reading link (in the liner notes).!!

  12. This is a very useful podcast.^^ I’m doing a coming of age cross-genre shared world anthology written as connected flash fiction.

  13. Oh when you say study poetry of the language, do you mean it literally by actually learning to write poetry?

    I’ve been experimenting with limited cinquain chains and and haiku’s.

    Kelly keeps writing
    Extremely long stories about
    Enveloped mountains that overtake
    Peoples villages.


  14. I attended the Magical Realism panel at Chicon and still didn’t really know what magical realism was. Mary’s “metaphor made manifest” really hit the nail on the head for me. Thanks! I have that panel up on my website (AudioTim 46), and have a few hours of podcasting with Mr. Magical Realism, Bruce Taylor, that will be up at Adventures in SciFi Publishing in the near future. I’m new to that genre, or at least under that title, but the more I read in it, the more I love it. Like Water for Quarks is a fantastic collection of those stories.

  15. Really appreciate the crew addressing writing about important issues. Some of my favorite books are those that deal with important things, and I think learning how to play on those themes that you feel are important is an integral part of becoming a better writer.
    In fact, I’m not sure I’d really be that interested in writing if I didn’t have important ideas I wanted to contemplate through a story. Plus, it’s focusing on that portion of my story that keeps me going through the tough parts.
    The book I’m working on now was actually reverse engineered to contemplate a concept that I’ve had to deal with in my life. Hopefully, I’ve done like Brandon suggested, and put the concept as a theme and not just an outright plot point, etc.

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