Writing Excuses 9.31: Critiquing “An Honest Death”


This is our fourth and final SHADOWS BENEATH story critique episode. This episode’s story, “An Honest Death,” by Howard Tayler, is available as part of the aforementioned Writing Excuses anthology, pictured there on the right, which includes the the draft we critiqued in this episode along with the final version.

We still have a few of the first-printing hardcovers left, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the electronic edition at no additional charge.

This week we find Howard in trouble. He is, in a word, stuck.

Can our heroes help him? Can special guest Eric James Stone lend enough of his special guest expertise to complete the rescue?

We start with a discussion of what was working, so that Howard doesn’t accidentally “fix” something that isn’t broken. Then we wade into the weeds and go hunting for the pieces he needs in order to finish the story. And when we say “the weeds,” we’re talking serious wandering. The episode runs a full half-hour long…


You have, with actual paint, painted yourself into an actual corner. But the paint and the corner are in a world in which there is magic, and “you painted yourself into a corner” may very well be some sort of a spell.

The Firebird, by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Katherine Kellgren

14 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 9.31: Critiquing “An Honest Death””

  1. I’m so glad I managed to finish writing “An Honest Death.” I really do love it. But I’ll be honest with you all: when I listened to this episode in order to write it up, I was again swept up in the misery and despair of not being able to fix or finish the story.

    Seriously, actual misery and fear.

    Maybe those don’t come across in the audio, but I know my own voice, and I know when I’m putting on a brave face. Or a brave mouth. Or whatever you call it when you’re masking your terror in an audio-only environment.

    Psychological quirks aside, the story is done now, I am quite happy with it, and I’m deeply grateful to Brandon, Mary, and Eric for helping me get un-stuck, and pointing me in the right direction.

  2. I’m just glad to know that professional writers get blocked too. That’s actually a relief to know.

  3. I like how the ideas from the others helped you finish your story without changing it as much as some of their suggestions – those ideas were enough for you to figure out how to make it do what you wanted.

    Maybe some day we’ll see a twitter from you, Howard, that’s like Dan’s for the John Cleaver series, saying how you’ve figure out how to make this story into a novel. :)

  4. Why is this “our fourth and final SHADOWS BENEATH story critique episode”? Will there be no critique of _I. E. Demon_ for us to hear?

    Great series, though. Thank you.

  5. At the beginning of the Podcast, Brandon promised you’d talk about techniques for breaking the kind of block Howard was experiencing. Will you do a future podcast about that? Or did you already do one?

  6. Excellent work finishing your story, Howard — it was a real pleasure to read, and now to see this step in your creative process. These episodes, together with the anthology, have been marvelously helpful!

  7. We probably forgot to do that, Andreas.

    The block I was in, specifically, was with regard to the ending. In order to un-block myself I went back to the core pitch for the story, and asked myself what I loved about it. Part of what I loved was how it made the story end.

    So: I wrote that ending, and then began working my way back to see if I could get the ending and the middle to connect. Once I had the ending written I was unblocked, and it was pretty easy* to see what needed to be done.

    (*Not easy at all. But easier than being blocked.)

  8. Have you considered adding a link in the liner notes to the original brainstorming episode?

    1. The amount of organizational ability you suspect us to be in possession of is at least two or three notches above what we managed to achieve with this project.

      I think that if you click on the SHADOWS BENEATH tag you’ll have a list of all the episodes. At some point I’ll go back and cross-link them, but I’m going to hold off on that until we finish the back-and-forth with the design team. (This site needs a face-lift. For “full facial reconstruction” values of “face-lift.”)

  9. These last several episodes were extremely helpful and enlightening.

    On a side note, I’m assuming that there’s no I.E.Demon critique because Dan was off somewhere?

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