Category Archives: Uncategorized

Writing Excuses 8.23: Microcasting

Microcasting! It’s what we’ve taken to calling a Q&A. Eric Patten joins us for this one. Here are the questions:

  • What’s your first step in the rewriting process?
  • How do you write Artificial Intelligences as characters?
  • Tactful promotion: how do you get nominated for a Hugo or Nebula?
  • How do you decide whether or not to take an offer from a publisher?
  • Do you use a writing notebook? How, and for what?
  • What methods do you use to test the “coolness” and/or viability of a story idea?
  • What genre or style do you read that is outside of the one(s) in which you write?

Two words: “Flying Caldecott.”

Red Storm Rising, by Tom Clancy, narrated by Michael Prichard

Writing Excuses 8.4: Side-Character Arcs

Who needs a character arc?

Do your side characters, your non-POV characters need some sort of development during the story? We cover what we mean by “arc,” and we lay down some guidelines for who might need an arc, who might not, and what you might take into consideration when writing these characters.


The Hero of the Most Boring Story Ever—your job is to make it interesting.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, by Philip K. Dick, narrated by Tom Weiner

The “Out of Excuses” Writing Retreat, and the “That’s a Pretty Good Excuse” Scholarship

Last month we announced the first ever Writing Excuses retreat, and we were delighted to see how much interest you all had in this kind of event. We honestly didn’t know what to expect from this retreat, since it was the first time we’d ever attempted anything like it–would it be popular? Would nobody care? Would people actually pay for it? As a way of testing the waters, we limited the announcement to a highly dedicated subset of Writing Excuses listeners: the people who read and comment on the website. If they got excited, it was a good sign that others might get excited as well, and we could announce it to a much broader base of listeners.

The retreat sold out in 9 minutes.

In hindsight, we should have expected this. In foresight (that’s a thing, right?) this is a very good sign that we need to do another retreat next year. We’ll see how this one goes before announcing anything concrete, but yeah. This seems like something we need to do more of.

But fear not, because we have even more good news. Before registration opened we held back one slot, and that slot is still available. We just want to make sure it goes to someone who really deserves it, so we’re very pleased to announce a scholarship. This scholarship comes to you through the inspiration and funding of one of our listeners, who offered to help a worthy writer attend. We loved the idea, and moved some things around to help stretch his offer even further. The recipient of the scholarship will receive free registration to the retreat, a fully paid room in the nearby hotel, and up to $500 toward airfare. Note that the registration fee includes most of your food already, so this covers almost all of your expenses for the week.

We want to make sure that this scholarship goes to someone who both needs it and deserves it, so the submission process requires you to do a bit of work. To be considered for this scholarship, please submit the following to by midnight, January 15, 2013:

  • A brief example of your writing, consisting of 1-3 separate pieces and totaling no more than 10,000 words. These can be short stories or novel excerpts or whatever you want, just make sure it’s your best work. Don’t feel obligated to fill the word limit–if you can wow us in less, more power to you.
  • A personal essay explaining why you think you deserve the scholarship. This should be 450-700 words, and while we’re looking specifically for “need,” we’ll definitely be reviewing your writing style in terms of “merit.”
  • Three brief letters (no more than 300 words each) from people not related to you. While the fiction and the personal essay should be included in a single email, these letters can be emailed individually by the people who write them, just make sure they include your name in the subject line.

We anticipate a huge response to this scholarship, so please be aware that we will be culling the applications relentlessly, and those that don’t follow the guidelines will be the first to go. Submit your personal pieces in the body of a single email (no attachments), with the subject line “Scholarship Application: [name].” Make sure the people writing your letters of recommendation use the same subject line. Follow the word counts exactly, and don’t miss the deadline: January 15, 2013. We will review the submissions and announce our decision on February 15, 2013, which should still give you plenty of time to work out vacation time and babysitters and so on for the retreat in June.

We look forward to reading your submissions!

Writing Excuses 7.45: Microcasting

It’s microcasting time! This week we take a crack at the following listener questions:

  • What percentage of a rough draft makes it into print?
  • What are the pitfalls of jumping from novels to short fiction, and vice versa?
  • Do you need to start with short fiction first?
    • (This answer involves this link to Jim C. Hines.)
  • Should a novice writer fix glaring story problems during a draft, or wait until after?
  • Can a self-published author get picked up by a traditional publisher?
  • How do you get over the fear of writing something unoriginal?
    • (We break this question into two larger questions–we can do that, we use Author Math–and reference some previous episodes.)
    • (We should also point out the irony that yes, Howard is usually the one who writes these up, but on the one day we say it’s going to be Howard it’s actually Dan.)
  • Can I pay you to help me outline my story?

Write a story about a squid who’s trying to write a space opera which is not about squids in space.

Hellhole, by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert

Writing Excuses 7.3: Fauna and Flora

Animals and plants, round two! We begin this episode with examples where we think people did their flora and fauna wrong, or poorly, or at least in ways we can poke easy holes in. Our examples include:

  • Pitch Black
  • Twilight
  • Avatar
  • And then we get tired of negative examples, and talk about The Mote in God’s Eye.
We then attempt to brainstorm some flora and fauna on our world of mutagenic meteor dust. Pizza-trees, armored buffalo, fire-dandelions, and more… and that’s before we even get started populating the coast, and Brandon calls can-of-worms on the project and hands the brainstorming to you, the listener.

Populate Excustoria’s coast with some magically, meteorically mutated life.

Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card, narrated by Stefan Rudniki. It’s a fantastic example of well-constructed flora and fauna, and it’s also a good example of how to make a sequel almost completely unlike the book that came before it.

NaNoWriMo Pep-Talk from Mary

Mary Robinette Kowal finished her first published novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, as a NaNoWriMo project, and she’s here to offer some words of encouragement to those of you currently participating in November’s most authorial of pursuits.

You have her permission to write badly. Yes you do.


Writing Excuses 5.32: Urban Fantasy

We begin our discussion of Urban Fantasy with a discussion of definitions, which quickly devolves into an argument over what we are actually supposed to be talking about. Moving right along, we explore what sorts of things we find in an Urban Fantasy, and what sorts of rules these stories usually abide by.

Dan tells us how he set about writing the John Cleaver books, which certainly qualify as Urban Fantasy, Howard tackles the burning question of where one might start in the project of building a mythos, and Brandon explains
his own Urban Fantasy projects, including one failure from which we can all learn an important lesson.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Dresden Files Book One: Storm Front, by Jim Butcher, narrated by James Marsters.

Writing Prompt: . Give us an Urban Fantasy in which the point of origin for your crossover is big box store retail spaces which somehow breach the boundary between our world and the magical one.

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