Writing Excuses 9.12: Microcasting! Twice in a row!

Aaand we’re microcasting again! A Q&A episode by any other name would sound as neat. Also neat? Eric James Stone joins us again!

  • What writing rule do you break the most?
  • When you review your novel do you print it out and mark it up, or do you edit on the computer?
  • How long do you wait between finishing a novel and starting the editing process?
  • What is the number-one issue that you have to overcome each day in order to put words to paper?
  • How do you feel with the fear of screwing up when you’re writing the other?
  • When giving a book as a gift, how do you decide on a book to give?
  • Any advice for people wanting to write a grand, universal story for their fantasy novel?
  • Is there a place you go to be inspired to write?
  • Do you ever have trouble writing characters out of the story (you know, by killing them)?
  • How do you strike the balance between too little description and too much?

A Note Regarding The Audio: Brandon’s microphone died just before we started, and we didn’t catch it, so if he sounds echoey it’s because we had to get his track from the other three microphones in the room.





The word “sesquipedalian” means 18 inches long, and is usually only used to describe words that are too long. Find a way to work it into a scene so that it fits.

Between Two Thorns: The Split Worlds Series Book 1, by Emma Newman, narrated by the author

10 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 9.12: Microcasting! Twice in a row!”

  1. Brandon: regarding the Stormlight Archive flashback chapters; as a reader, I can really see the conundrum with the flashbacks. You’ve got problems either way.

    I’ve read Way of Kings several times, and I usually skip Kaladin’s childhood scenes. It makes the book flow a _lot_ better. I haven’t finished my first run through Words of Radiance yet, but I’m already certain the same will be true of that book as well.

    I just don’t find the child characters that interesting – “Kal” seemed way too mopey, and Shallan is (justifiably) shell shocked to the point of just being bland. Thing is, these are parts of the current characters – Kaladin’s depression issues are a standing issue, and Shallan’s suppressing a lot of memories in order to keep herself functional. I suspect if Szeth, Adolin or Dalinar are given similar treatment in future books, they’ll be more interesting – Dalinar and Adolin would both have a lot of politics, leadership issues, etc. and I’ve been wanting more information about Szeth since before he killed Gavilar.

    And the rest of their backstory is also critically important. Without the Kal chapters, we’d have no idea why Kal became a soldier instead of a surgeon, why he has such deep distrust of Lighteyes, etc (well, we get a pretty decent idea of Amaram’s trechery beforehand, but that hate goes way beyond any one incident). Shallan’s recognition of Amaram’s Shardblade wouldn’t have made sense without these chapters, and at my point in the book (Way of Kings spoiler) she’s still got a patricide and her own Shardblade to fit in somewhere.

    So the information needs to be there, and there’s so much of it that it’d be intrusive to weave it all into the current timeframe. As it stands, all Dalinar needed to do is mention the Roshone incident, and everyone familiar with the book understands just how much meaning that has for Kaladin….it’d take at least a couple of paragraphs to exposit Roshone’s grudge against Kaladin’s family and how he forced Kaladin’s brother to join the army (making him indirectly responsible for the kid’s death)…maybe less if Roshone’s loss of his own son was mentioned at the menagerie with the captive whitespine. Fitting it all in without using flashbacks would be far worse, especially since the reader ends up with a far more splintered recollection of these backstory segments (and it makes keeping track of whether or not all of the relevant history has been woven in already just that much harder from a writing perspective (within a book, it’s fine, but you can’t edit book 2 to add some exposition just because it fits there better than anywhere in book 3)

    And Howard: Wikipedia says Utah has 8 national forests. So Brandon printing manuscripts doubled the number of forests? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:National_Forests_of_Utah). Does he use antipaper?

  2. I’d say some good advice for the person wanting to write a “grand, universal” story is to start small. As other episodes have said, if you’re a new writer, you should either give it your best shot with the understanding that it’s going to be – in Anne Lamott’s words – a “sh*tty first draft”. Or you can save the idea and work on something else, something smaller in scope to get some practice.

  3. I just noticed that Eric James Stone’s speaking voice sounds a lot like the speaking voice of R. Jordan.

  4. At first (probably triggered by me having just finished Words of Radiance this weekend) I assumed that the person asking about the “grand, universal story for their fantasy novel” was trying to get at “how do I copy Brandon’s Cosmere-background idea?”

    As a fan of Brandon’s myself, I’ve often found myself wondering just that… and then I remind myself that I shouldn’t copy an awesome idea just because it is awesome, but only if it fits my writing goals. That said, I do suspect that part of the success of writers like Rowling and Brandon can be attributed to the great enjoyment the fans have of prognosticating. Trying to figure out all the little secrets of the Cosmere, or Deathly Hallows, or what have you, before all is reveal is really enjoyable.

  5. @D Cornell? I think the best route is to follow WritingExcuses in Twitter, and watch for the occasional tweet when they ask for questions.

  6. Single flashbacks might break the rules, but flashback chapters built into the structure of the books is a style (one which is increasingly common nowadays). The Lies of Locke Lamora used flashback chapters marvelously. Then the next book, Red Seas Under Red Skies used flashback chapters that didn’t work nearly so well, and the Republic of Thieves had the flashbacks take over and be more interesting than the main plot. Peter Brett’s The Desert Spear and The Daylight War use flashbacks to great effect, as does Ari Marmell’s Thief’s Covenant.

    I think that the “no flashbacks” rule should be revised to “no flashbacks for the purpose of exposition,” which the Stormlight Archive doesn’t break. The Stormlight Archive is using the flashbacks for character development, which can work really well.

  7. Specifically, the prefix “sesqui” means “one and a half times.” Sesquicentennial means 150 years.

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