Writing Excuses Season 3 Episode 4: Non Linear Story Telling

Don’t you just hate it when things unfold out of order? Why do writers do that?

We explain why they do it, and how they do it, and then we discuss how to avoid some common mistakes. Non-linear storytelling is inherently risky, after all. Maybe not as risky as jumping ahead two episodes in a non-serial podcast schedule, but it’s still life on the edge.

Writing Prompt: Write a story about a flashback that is completely false…

This week’s episode of Writing Excuses is brought to you by  Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, now available in hardback from TOR.

(If you’re waiting for Episodes 2 and 3, we’ll flash back to them in due time…)


Writing Excuses Season 3 Episode 1: World-Building History

Welcome to Season 3 of Writing Excuses! With eighteen hours and fourteen months of podcasting history behind us, it seems appropriate for us to talk about history, and how to write it.

We talk about the iceberg principle — 90% of the history stuff you write never gets seen by the reader, it’s just there to support the 10% that they do see, the “tip of the iceberg” — and why for some writers it’s just not the right ratio. We also discuss Worldbuilder’s Disease — none of the writing you’re doing is prose for the novel — and how to avoid it while still knuckling down and doing the work.

And then (after a shiny commercial break) we knuckle down and talk about writing history, making it interesting, finding conflict, and avoiding oversimplified causality (“monocausationalism.”)

Writing Prompt: Write an encyclopedia article about a war that has 5 distinct causes. Identify and justify each of them.


Writing Excuses Season 2 Episode 33: How To Not Be Overwhelmed

And here we are, at the final episode of Writing Excuses, Season 2. As promised, this episode is going to be super-useful to new writers, but it’s going to be extra-super-useful to one new writer in particular, Brandon’s nameless friend who listened to 9 hours of Writing Excuses podcasts and is now too overwhelmed to write.

Have you ever wondered why we only ‘cast for 15 minutes (give or take, usually give, but still…) each week? It’s because you’re not supposed to be sitting there at the computer listening to hours upon hours of advice. You’re supposed to be writing.

For this next fourteen minutes and forty-seven seconds we explain how to make that happen.

Writing Prompt: Write a story about Brandon’s friend Nameless


Writing Excuses Season 2 Episode 32: The Most Important Thing Dan Learned In The Last Year

This the third in our series of retrospective episodes. The most important thing Dan learned this year? Being a full-time author is a lot different than he thought it would be.

How different? What was Dan expecting? Was he really imagining silk pajamas and a notebook computer on the beach? We talk about the types of non-writing work that we’ve found ourselves doing, and why those things are so important to us and to our careers. We discuss how our publishers’ schedules impact our own, and why writers are often expected to drop whatever they’re doing in order to handle something for their publisher.

During our discussion we mention a new local novelist Aprilynne Pike, whose debut book Wings is available now, and made #6 on the NYT Bestsellers List for Children’s Chapter Books.

Episode 32 has been brought to you by “A Snack.” But hurry! We don’t pause for long!

Writing Prompt: Write the first page of a story, stop, write a first page of a different story and then go back and finish the first story.


Writing Excuses Season 2 Episode 31: The Most Important Thing Brandon Learned In The Last Year

Here’s the second part of our three-part “what we learned this year” series. This time around Brandon tells us the most important thing he learned this year. Summed up? Gimmicks cannot compensate for bad writing.

So… what’s a gimmick? We begin with hooks and pitches, but gimmicks can include things like photo-realistic cover art, internet grass-roots campaigns, and factoids like “the author is only 17 years old.” Story elements like cool magic systems, uniquely alien aliens, and diamond-hard science can all be gimmicks. They’re good to have, certainly, and they can work to sell the book, but real staying power (read: earning out your advance, and getting royalty checks for years to come) comes from good writing, page after page.

Brandon confesses to some gimmick use himself, but fortunately we (and many of his readers) believe that his writing is strong enough that we don’t begrudge him the gimmick one bit.

This week’s episode of Writing Excuses is brought to you again by the opportunity you have to sponsor Writing Excuses.

Writing Prompt:  An author comes up with a wacky, crazy gimmick for a book… and then it happens to the author in real life.


Writing Excuses Season 2 Episode 30: The Most Important Thing Howard Learned In The Last Year

This is the first of a three-part series in which Brandon, Dan, and Howard tell each other (and you, of course) about the most important thing each of them has learned in the past year. We start with Howard, who seems to believe that of all the many things he’s learned about writing in the previous twelve months, the list-topper should be the fact that he is a satirist.

So really the episode is about satire, and how that form differs from other humorous sub-genres. And then we talk about why knowing this is important, and how others can go about learning these sorts of things about their own work.

This week Writing Excuses is brought to you by “Bringing Writing Excuses To You By!”

Writing Prompt: An artist finds a way to improve or perfect the form he or she is working within, and by so doing  unlocks magic.