All posts by Writing Excuses

9.37: Training A Critique Group, with Kathleen Dalton Woodbury

Kathleen Dalton Woodbury, the forum moderator at the Hatrack River writers group joined us at Westercon 67 to talk about critique groups. We cover how critiques should be offered, as well as importance of receiving critiques graciously and without defense, and we reflect on lots of the good and bad writing groups and critique groups we’ve been a part of.

This is hard to get right, but once you do get it right your critique group can become the team that helps you turn your work into something outstanding.

 

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A magic system in which the audio you play in your car will give your car superpowers.

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, narrated by Jim Dale

Writing Excuses 9.36: Writing Instruction

David Farland joins us, along with a live audience at FantasyCon 2014, for a discussion on writing instruction. Dave runs My Story Doctor, and firmly believes that almost anyone can learn to write fiction at a professional, conventionally publishable level.  In this episode we cover some of the methods and exercises used to train new writers, and how writers can use these on their own.

 

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Writing sprint! Write for 15 minutes. Don’t stop to edit or wordsmith. Just force yourself to keep the fingers moving and the words flowing.

Writing Excuses 9.35: What to do when you disagree with your editor

Peter Orullian joined us in front of a live audience at Westercon to talk with us about dealing with editors. We usually talk about craft, but this is a business discussion, and it’s about one of the most delicate and important relationships in the business. He begins by telling the short version of the story, and how he managed one of the worst-case scenarios: asking your publisher for a different editor.

We then move into some take-aways, and some additional experiences we’ve had that will hopefully help our listeners manage this sort of thing in the future.

 

 

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Write a sword-fighting scene, a la Princess Bride, in which the witticisms are part of a magic system, and are part of the fight itself.

Unfettered: Tales by Masters of Fantasy, Written by: Terry Brooks, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Jordan, Jacqueline Carey, R.A. Salvatore, Naomi Novik, Peter V. Brett, Shawn Speakman (editor)
Narrated by: Peter Ganim, Marc Vietor, Bronson Pinchot, Jay Snyder

Writing Excuses 9.34: Science Fiction as Science Education

When Writing Excuses was invited to be guests of honor at Westercon 67, we had the opportunity to interview numerous guests of the convention, each of whom were luminaries in their respective fields.

We met Brad Voytek, who is a doctor of neuroscience and a professor of computational neuroscience at UC San Diego, for the first time right there at the show, and immediately knew that we wanted our listeners to have the chance to hear from him. One of his passions is treating science fiction as a gateway to (and in some cases an actual example of) science education.

He starts by talking about Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep, which teaches the reader about the brain by telling the story of what would happen if a zombie walked in to the emergency room. Mary talks about Launch Pad, the NASA workshop for writers. And then Brandon tells us about blending vegetables into junk food…

We grill Brad mercilessly, and have great fun with the whole show as we talk about some of our favorite science fiction, and a few of our favorite starting points for learning actual science.

 

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A sapient sheep desperately needs a delaying tactic. If it gets shorn, bad things will happen.

The City & The City, by China Mieville, narrated by John Lee.

Writing Excuses 9.33: Microcasting

Microcasting!

It’s our Q&A format, in which each answer is like its own, tiny little podcast, only without its own unique URL, intro, writing prompt, or any of the other trappings that would actually make it different from a Q&A session.

Right. So, it’s basically just a Q&A.

Listen to the podcast for the answers… Here are the questions:

  • Are there biases against non-English writers submitting manuscripts in English?
  • What is the most difficult thing Howard experienced when first creating Schlock Mercenary?
  • Are you ever too old to try to get published?
  • What are some pointers for keeping a milieu story focused on the setting?
  • No, you can’t have a sample of our DNA. None of you.
  • If you were to rewrite your early work, what would you change?
  • How do you improve your proofreading and copy editing?
  • How much time do you spend writing each day? Does it matter WHAT you write during that time?
  • Do you add foreshadowing in the editing stage, or are you just that good?
  • How do you improve your craft as a writer?
  • I don’t have time to ask a question, I’m washing my dog.
  • Do you have any writing exercises that you do regularly?
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Introduce a random element–dice, coin-tosses, the i ching–and write a story in which you (the writer) commit to letting the random element make the decisions.

Attack the Geek, by Michael R. Underwood, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Excuses 9.32: Adjusting Character Proactivity

Let’s adjust sliders again! This episode references our sliding scales for characters, and this time around we’ll be talking about how proactive a character is. We also talk about the verb “protag.” Because protagging is what protagonists should do, especially later in our stories.

Our goal is to be able to consciously adjust a character’s level of proactivity in order to similarly adjust how engaging that character is for our audience. We talk about the techniques we rely on, and some of our favorite stories in which we’ve seen these techniques employed.

 

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Tie your protagonist up, and then have them protag their way forward in the story with nothing but dialog.

The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley, narrated by Diane Warren

Writing Excuses 9.31: Critiquing “An Honest Death”

SPOILER ALERT!

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…

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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

Writing Excuses 9.30: Critiquing A Fire in the Heavens

SPOILER ALERT!

This is the third of our SHADOWS BENEATH story critique episodes. This episode’s story, “A Fire in the Heavens,” 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 one more SHADOWS BENEATH critique episode, so it’s not too late to grab a copy for yourself. Oh, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the ebook at no additional charge.

Mary runs this session like she runs her own critique groups using what’s often called the Milford method in which we each take two minutes to run through our thoughts on the story. We do that for the first half of the episode. During the second half Mary asks us questions, sometimes for clarification about what we said, and sometimes for suggestions.

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A brainstorming session spawns life somehow.

Rip-Off! Written by: John Scalzi, Jack Campbell, Mike Resnick, Allen Steele, Lavie Tidhar, Nancy Kress, Gardner Dozois (editor)
Narrated by: Wil Wheaton, Scott Brick, Christian Rummel, Jonathan Davis, Stefan Rudnicki, L. J. Ganser, Khristine Hvam