Category Archives: Theory and Technique

16.7: To Series, or Not to Series

Your Hosts: Dan, Erin, Brandon, Howard

Let’s look a the business considerations of whether that thing you’re writing is a standalone story, or part of a series. The factors are complex, and a single factor (like, say distribution channel) isn’t likely to make the decision clear cut.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson

 

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Examine your favorite series. What were the questions asked in each installment, and in which installment were those questions answered?

The Saxon Chronicles, by Bernard Cornwell

16.6: Building Your Brand

Your Hosts: Dan, Erin, Brandon, and Howard

Branding, in marketing terms for writers, is the process of establishing a recognizable identity—a brand— for you and your works in the marketplace of readers, and people who buy things for readers. In this episode we talk about what our brands need to be doing for us, and how we go about getting them to do that.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Find the elements of your brand from your friends, alpha readers, and beta readers.

15.52: Economy of Phrase, Being the Concentrated Concatenation of Complex Thoughts in Just a Very Few Words Which Must Fit In A Very Very Small Box, With Patrick Rothfuss

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, and Dan, with special guest Patrick Rothfuss

Did we have too much fun applying ironic humor to the title of this episode? Possibly! Patrick Rothfuss joins us to talk about economy of phrase, and the ways in which big ideas can be expressed with a few of the exactly-right words.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take a scene from your prose work, and remove all the blocking and dialog tags. Now space out the dialog on the page, and attempt to convey the missing information with stick figures and smiley faces.

JimZub.com comic-writing tutorials
(Start here!)
Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud

15.51: Feedback—When to Listen, and When to Ignore, with special guest Mahtab Narsimhan

Your Hosts: Dan, Howard, Mahtab, and Brandon

We’re often taught that the best critique group feedback is reactions to the writing, rather than  advice for fixing it. But prescriptive feedback—critiques that include suggestions for you how to might rewrite something—is an important part of the process.

In this episode we discuss how we curate our critique groups and filter their feedback to improve our writing, and our experiences with these groups.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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The Random Critique Exercise: 
1) You and a writer friend each prepare a critique of a different thing.
2) File the serial numbers off (character names, locations, etc) and swap critiques.
3) Treat this critique from your friend as if it was for your manuscript. Discover what wrong advice looks like, and how often a broken watch might actually be correct.

What Unites Us, by Dan Rather

15.49: Maintaining Passion for a Story, with special guest Mahtab Narsimhan

Your Hosts: Dan, Howard, Mahtab, and Brandon

This episode comes from a question we’re often asked: “how do you stay excited about a story you’re working on?” We talk about how we maintain our passion for the stories we’re working on, and how that’s not the same as being super excited to write every time we sit down at the keyboard

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Return to your notes or your outline and look for the things that excited you about writing this story. Write those down.

Dust, by Arthur Slade

15.48: Deliberate Discomfort, Part Two

Your Hosts: Dan, Mahtab, Howard, and Brandon

We’ve talked about deliberately making our readers uncomfortable. In this episode we discuss writing things that make us uncomfortable. Maybe it’s writing strong language, or sex scenes. Perhaps it’s a personal narrative that is painful to relive. Whatever it might be, as writers we need to prepare ourselves to embrace that pain, soak up that discomfort, and put the words on the page.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson

Liner Notes:
No, I’m Fine.” by Howard Tayler
Video Link for this episode, and two other episodes

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Write every swear word you know, and then delete the file, or burn the sheet of paper.

Tales from the Loop (the role-playing game)

15.47: Worldbuilding Science Fiction, with Cory Doctorow

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Piper, and Howard, with Cory Doctorow

Worldbuilding is something you do to some degree in everything you write. Cory Doctorow  writes (among many other things) near-future SF, and he joins us for a discussion of extrapolative worldbuilding.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Make a list of transactions in your life which have no reciprocity.

Walkaway: A Novel, by Cory Doctorow

15.46: Crafting Chinese-American Characters

Your Hosts: Dan, Piper, and Tempest, with special guest Yang Yang Wang

Yang Yang Wang, an author, actor, and director (among many other things) joins us for a discussion of language, food, and a whole raft of other cultural elements critical to crafting Chinese-American characters.

Credits: this episode was recorded by Ross Smith and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take a culture, and a character who is a descendent of immigrants from that culture, then write a scene where that character returns to the original culture

All Systems Red, by Martha Wells