Category Archives: Archive Seasons 1-6

Writing Excuses 6.22: Continuing Education for Writers

Mur Lafferty, the Grand Dame of SF podcasting, joins Howard, Mary, and Dan to talk about ways in which writers can continue their educations. We’ve said time and again that nothing improves your writing skills like doing more writing, but there are some other things you can do so that your writing practice pays off faster.

We talk about writing workshops like Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp, Clarion and Clarion West, Writing Superstars, Odyssey, Taos Toolbox, and Launchpad. We also talk about podcasts like Writing Excuses (you might have heard of that one) and Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing.

We also talk about information sources online like Turkey City Lexicon, Magical Words,  and Bookview Cafe, and of course we can’t let the episode end without touching on actual books writers can read, like Steven King’s On Writing, Ken Rand’s The 10% Solution, and Orson Scott Card’s Character and Viewpoint.

We wrap up with a reminder: learning a new thing will make writing more difficult before it makes it easier. Don’t panic. Don’t think you’ve broken your brain. It’s all part of the writing process. You’ll get your mojo back as soon as your brain finishes assimilating all this stuff you’ve just learned.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Rosemary and Rue: An October Daye Novel, Book 1 by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Prompt: Someone wants to go to a writing workshop but gets held up by chicken and waffles.

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Writing Excuses 6.21: Brainstorming From Story Seeds

We’ve done brainstorming casts before. This time we’ve prepared something quite a bit different. It’s different, in fact, because we prepared it — in advance, even.

Producer Jordo provided your hosts Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard with four wacky news headlines. From these, we each hammered together rudimentary bits of story, and we did so independently. You get four different takes on this four-headline mashup.

The four headlines:

  • Wary of Iguanas, Bored Germans Finally Venture Out
  • Heroic Mailman Saves Three Lives While On the Job
  • Dolphin Charged With Battery Against Girlfriend
  • Austrian Power Company Tells Customer She is Dead

Mary goes first and sets the bar rather high with an entire story outline.

Brandon goes next, and gives us a magic system.

Then it’s Howard’s turn. What looks like story shrapnel turns out to be the prologue.

Finally, Dan gives us a nice, post-apocalyptic piece, or at least the robotic skeleton of one.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, narrated by Tom Weiner.

Writing Prompt: No prompt this week. Not unless you want to try your hand at these headlines.

Those Bullet Points from Brandon: Nope, not in Howard’s email. We’ll get them eventually. Or maybe not.

 

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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Writing Excuses 6.20: Endings

Lou Anders joins Dan, Howard, and Mary for a discussion of endings. We begin by talking about how important it is to “stick your landing” at the end of the book, and then recap the Hollywood Formula to point out how endings work there. We get examples from Mary’s upcoming novel Glamour in Glass, Dan’s upcoming novel Partials, Howard’s work-in-progress short story, and Lou Anders’ award-worthy, dot-matrix printer.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Blood of Ambrose, by James Enge, narrated by Jay Snyder

Writing Prompt: Using the first fifteen minutes of your least favorite recent movie as a starting point, write a story with a powerful ending.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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Writing Excuses 6.19: Pitching

Pitching your work… authors often have difficulty with it. Even authors who have no trouble spinning a fantastic story may find themselves at a loss telling people ABOUT that story in a way that makes it compelling.

We cover three kinds of pitches — the one-liner or “elevator pitch,” the three- or four-paragraph explanation, and the in-depth synopsis. We also talk about the sorts of situations in which you’re going to need these.

Few skills are as important to new authors, and few weaknesses can be as career-limiting.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin, narrated by Don Leslie

Writing Prompt: Take three of your favorite books and write one of each kind of pitch for each of those books. Now convince a friend of yours to read one of those books using one of those pitches.

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Writing Excuses 6.17: Writing Assistants

Peter Ahlstrom, assistant to Brandon Sanderson, and Valerie Dowbenko, assistant to Pat Rothfuss, join Brandon and Dan to talk about what they do for “their authors.”

While this may seem like an incredible luxury — most of you listeners aren’t going to rush out and hire an assistant — there are things that can be farmed out from the earliest stages of your career as a professional writer. The goal, of course, is for the writer to find more time to write.

It’s also a lot of fun to hear Peter and Valerie talk about how they keep Brandon and Pat writing, and to listen to them talk about some of the unusual things they do as part of this job.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton

Writing Prompt: First person once removed — give us a story from the perspective of a first person narrator who is NOT the cool person.

The Shoes, Pat Has All of Them: Because that’s what Valerie did for him.

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Writing Excuses 6.16: Gender Roles–Black, White, and Gray

Keffy Kehrli joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard in front of a live audience at WorldCon 69 in Reno. He’s a Writers of the Future winner, a few votes short of being a Campbell Award nominee, and a female-to-male transsexual.

Mary leads us into this discussion, starting with how gender roles and gender identity lie along a continuum, defying the convenient descriptors that people typically employ, and how this can inform our writing. Keffy offers valuable tips, talking about what gets done wrong, and how to write it correctly.

We also talk about how this can apply to world-building, especially in fantasy where extended gender identities usually are not a consideration.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch, narrated by Michael Page

Writing Prompt: Take something that you do, something unique to you (and perhaps to your gender), and hand it to somebody in your book who appears unqualified for that task. Then qualify them for it.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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Writing Excuses 6.15: Writing Other Cultures

In our second WorldCon 69 episode we’re joined by Lauren Beukes, whose novels Moxyland and Zoo City are excellent case studies for writing in other cultures. It’s a difficult subject, and anybody venturing down the actual path in practice should be aware of the metaphorical minefield ahead of them.

But perhaps it’s not as bad as all that. Fundamentally, we’re talking about writing from the mind-set of characters who are not like us in some key way, which writers have to do all the time. Lauren walks us through her process and her approach, and Dan, Brandon, Mary, and even Howard have interesting and useful things to contribute.

It’s a great discussion. We learn what a “fixer” is in South African parlance.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Fangland, by John Marks, narrated by Ellen Archer, Simon Vance, Todd McLaren, and Michael Prichard.

Writing Prompt: Take some aspect of your neighborhood and twist it around, perhaps in the same way District 9 twisted the township of Soweto into an alien reservation.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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Writing Excuses 6.14: Suspension of Disbelief

Patrick Rothfuss joins Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard at WorldCon 69, where we recorded before a live, enthusiastic audience.

The topic? Suspension of disbelief, specifically, how to get your readers to do this. Patrick leads us off with verisimilitude, and how the reader will accept the fantastic if you’re presenting the mundane in a believable way. We talk about laying groundwork, about Chekov’s gun, the promises we have to make to our readers, and the dramatic tool bathos.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss, narrated by Nick Podehl.

Writing Prompt: Make the reader believe one impossible thing. If you can’t think of something on your own, start with teleportation.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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