Writing Excuses 8.41: Out of Excuses Retreat Microcasting

At the Out of Excuses Retreat we took some questions from our listeners, and then answered them before a live audience. Here are the questions:

  • How do you find beta readers?
  • Legal and IP issues? Should you copyright your work before submitting?
  • Advice for a discovery writer?
  • As a fan, what is the best way to pay my favorite authors?
  • Can chapters be too short?
  • How much time do you spend reading?

“Neon sniper gnome.”

Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake, narrated by August Ross.

15 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 8.41: Out of Excuses Retreat Microcasting”

  1. A quickie transcript of the Epic tweeting challenge for this week:

    [Howard] This episode has been brought to you by Audible. They’ve given us four copies of the Steelheart audiobook to give away this week. Listening to an audiobook is a little bit like having the epic power of multitasking, because you can read a book and do something else at the same time. We are going to have our third and final Steelheart twitter contest. Tell us how you would use this power. Here’s an example. “Dear Writing Excuses. I wish to listen to Steelheart while piloting my Volkswagen beetle down the Interstate and using my turn signals. You may format these tweets however you like provided they include the @writingexcuses handle and do not begin with the @ sign. Yes, yes, we are requiring you to spam social media in order to play. This is our epic power, and with it, we shall give away four audiobooks sometime on Wednesday. Go ahead and follow @writingexcuses in order to find out whether or not you’ve won. You may begin your tweeting now.

  2. Thank you for another great podcast! Great advice, especially on how to establish reading time.

  3. Idea for future podcast: Discuss audiobooks. Questions you could address include:
    – How are they created?
    – What do look for in a good narrator?
    – When does the reader get a copy of the book?
    – What is the production process like?
    – Is the audiobook negotiated separately from the rest of the book?
    – Is the audiobook field undergoing changes due to digital media?
    – Bring a guest narrator on the show and have them discuss their work.

    *Note to all audiobook narrators everywhere: PLEASE try to keep your volume level more constant. Many listeners listen to audiobooks in cars. If a scene requires you to lower your volume, make use of a stage whisper.

  4. Brandon: thank you so much for that observation about discovery writing. I’ve tried outlining, and I know for a fact that it doesn’t work for me. The best I can do is a bare bones version of each scene that comes to me (sorta how scriptwriters make action notes, but applied to the dialogue too – reads terribly, but conveys the ideas at a level way beyond what an outline should). And yet, when I embrace discovery writing, I end up blocking myself by extrapolating out to find the end of the book.

    I’ve never seen any discovery writers comment that not knowing how the story turns out is normal and completely acceptable during the first draft write. (Confusing garbled mess (which is just what my writing looks like before the first proofread/revision cycle) without adequate foreshadowing and discovering plot twists that change the target ending: yes, not having a target ending in the first place: no. I assume Dan had the objective in IANASerial Killer that John survives and the demon dies, and possibly planning on having a major crisis regarding control of his personal issues.)

    So thank you very much for that. It might take me a while to train my subconscious appropriately, but at least I know now I should be berating my subconscious for looking too far ahead rather than berating my muse (for lack of a better term) for not having an ending concept that works well yet.

  5. There was a chapter in Something Wicked This Way Comes that consisted of a single sentence. It was something like “Not much else happened that night.”

  6. I’d like to point out that Brandon himself wrote a Chapter that consisted of four sentences in Warbreaker, Chapter 45.

    Great podcast guys and gal.

  7. @Klimpaloon: that depends on whether or not “Writers” in your statement means Dan, specifically.

    One thing about that I was wondering…obviously the best way to support a novelist is to buy up books fast and promote them for their writing, as they discussed, but does all the merchandising stuff really turn much of a profit, or is it largely paying off the cost of running the website. (Not so much in Howard’s case, since his income is largely based on selling stuff in his webstore, but for guys like Brandon who get most of their sales in major bookstores but also have a website store that sells merch related to their works. (Like Brandon’s Allomantic Metal vials and the like….I’m looking forward to seeing a Shardblade on there :p)

  8. Regarding merchandising:

    For me, merchandising must offer a high profit-to-me margin to be worth it. My principal content, the comic itself, is freely available in web-resolution format. I have around a hundred to a hundred-and-fifty thousand readers, but very few of them actually BUY stuff.

    So… I sell things at reasonable prices, but I prefer to sell things where 100% of the net goes back to me.

    For many authors, a standard merchandising agreement is a 10% royalty. They license the merchandiser for that product, and they get 10% of the gross. As a bonus, they don’t have to do any (or at least not very much of) the work.

    Now, if you want to go out of your way to help a specific author with a specific book launch, buy their book from a public outlet on the day it releases. Shop at a brick-and-mortar bookstore, or Amazon, whatever. In most cases, this will help boost 1st-week stats, which in turn boosts reseller interest in the title. “People are buying it, so we should buy more of it.”

    Ultimately, however, we don’t really WANT you to go out of your way to help us. We want you to enjoy what we make, and if you really love it, share it with your friends. Buying a book on opening day is cool, but convincing five friends to buy an author’s books? That’s awesome.

  9. Wonderful podcast, as always!

    I just finished reading a great example of short ‘chapters.’ Kurt Vonnegut’s HOCUS POCUS, has a fictional first-person narrator who supposedly notated the entire story on variously sized scraps of paper. The resultant snippets are separated by line breaks and range from a few words to (no more than) a few pages throughout the entire novel. This obviously wouldn’t work for every story, but, like you mentioned in the ‘cast, it serves the needs of THIS story perfectly.

  10. Great podcast. About copyright registration though, there are reasons to do so, although it might not be immediately apparent and for the average person might not be as applicable as to you.

    The main reason for registration is not proof of copyright, but giving yourself the option to pursue statutory damages. When your copyright is infringed, if you sue the infringer and prevail you have two options when it comes to remedy: actual damages and statutory damages. Actual damages require you to present evidence of the exact dollar amount the infringement costed you, hence, “actual damages.” Statutory damages, on the other hand, grant you a set amount per infringement and do not require proof of actual loss. Of course, this is a simplified summary of the dichotomy for discussion purposes.

    The bottom line is, there are some instances where having statutory damages available is critical. For example, when it is impossible, difficult or cumbersome to produce evidence of actual damages. And if statutory damages turn out to be your only option and you have not timely registered your work, you could be out of luck. http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/09/30/61615.htm

    In order to be eligible to receive statutory damages, you need to have registered the work within three months of publication. So the question is, is the registration worth it to give you the option of receiving statutory damages in the event of infringement? For career authors like you guys (and lady), and like many of your listeners aspire to be, it might be. The infringement might not occur anytime soon, maybe twenty or thirty years from now and in ways we couldn’t think of right now.

    Anyway, this is not legal advice, just a comment on a forum and something for you and your listeners to be aware of and think about.

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