Writing Excuses Season 3 Episode 5: How to Take Criticism

How do you take criticism? How do you react, if you even do react? Does criticism cause you to change the way you work? Criticism can come from your peers in a writing group, from editors sending you rejection letters, and from those one-star Amazon reviewers who are out there looking for something to hate.

In this episode we provide anecdotes from other authors including Patrick Rothfuss and Kevin J. Anderson, and share our own experiences about criticism we’ve gotten and how we’ve responded to it.

This episode of Writing Excuses is brought to you by XDM: X-Treme Dungeon Mastery, by Tracy and Curtis Hickman, and illustrated by Howard Tayler. Pre-orders for XDM open on Wednesday, July 1st.

Writing Prompt: Write a story about a critic who is the hero.


Writing Excuses Season 3 Episode 3: Stumping Howard at Conduit

Howard here… I’ve learned that it’s a really bad idea to run out for a bio-break between podcasts. When I returned to the packed panel room I could tell that everyone’s attitude towards me was subtly different. It wasn’t until we started recording that I realized Brandon had turned our Q&A panel into a “Stump Howard” panel. Our good friend Eric James Stone joined us for the fun.

As silly themes go, this one works well. So well, in fact, that we went six minutes into overtime. The questions were all good, and yes, according to the rules (of which I was not apprised, I should add in my defense) I got stumped one time. It was the question about making aliens seem alien. Go figure.

Writing Prompt: Start with a device that vaporises water, ala Batman Begins, and turn it into a believable superweapon which is not being used to destroy the world.


Writing Excuses Season 3 Episode 2: Keeping it Real with Aprilynne Pike

This episode was recorded live at CONduit in Salt Lake City with special guest Aprilynne Pike. Our topic: How do we “keep it real” when writing speculative fiction? What does that even mean?

(Okay, it means making the stuff that exists in real life seem real.)

Short answer: Research. We talk about how we go about researching the “real” elements of our various works, all the while trying hard not to go “squee” with our very first #1 New York Times Bestelling guest. We also discuss many of the shortcuts and tricks we fall back on.

This week’s episode of Writing Excuses is brought to you by editor Stacy L. Whitman and her World-Building in Middle Grade and Young Adult Speculative Fiction Seminar. The seminar will be held at the Provo Library in Provo, Utah from 1:00pm to 5:00pm on Saturday, June 27th, 2009. The deadline for registration is June 19th.


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.