Tag Archives: Criticism

Writing Excuses 9.31: Critiquing “An Honest Death”

SPOILER ALERT!

This is our fourth and final SHADOWS BENEATH story critique episode. This episode’s story, “An Honest Death,” by Howard Tayler, is available as part of the aforementioned Writing Excuses anthology, pictured there on the right, which includes the the draft we critiqued in this episode along with the final version.

We still have a few of the first-printing hardcovers left, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the electronic edition at no additional charge.

This week we find Howard in trouble. He is, in a word, stuck.

Can our heroes help him? Can special guest Eric James Stone lend enough of his special guest expertise to complete the rescue?

We start with a discussion of what was working, so that Howard doesn’t accidentally “fix” something that isn’t broken. Then we wade into the weeds and go hunting for the pieces he needs in order to finish the story. And when we say “the weeds,” we’re talking serious wandering. The episode runs a full half-hour long…

Play

You have, with actual paint, painted yourself into an actual corner. But the paint and the corner are in a world in which there is magic, and “you painted yourself into a corner” may very well be some sort of a spell.

The Firebird, by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Katherine Kellgren

Writing Excuses 9.30: Critiquing A Fire in the Heavens

SPOILER ALERT!

This is the third of our SHADOWS BENEATH story critique episodes. This episode’s story, “A Fire in the Heavens,” is available as part of the aforementioned Writing Excuses anthology, pictured there on the right, which includes the the draft we critiqued in this episode along with the final version.

We still have one more SHADOWS BENEATH critique episode, so it’s not too late to grab a copy for yourself. Oh, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the ebook at no additional charge.

Mary runs this session like she runs her own critique groups using what’s often called the Milford method in which we each take two minutes to run through our thoughts on the story. We do that for the first half of the episode. During the second half Mary asks us questions, sometimes for clarification about what we said, and sometimes for suggestions.

Play

A brainstorming session spawns life somehow.

Rip-Off! Written by: John Scalzi, Jack Campbell, Mike Resnick, Allen Steele, Lavie Tidhar, Nancy Kress, Gardner Dozois (editor)
Narrated by: Wil Wheaton, Scott Brick, Christian Rummel, Jonathan Davis, Stefan Rudnicki, L. J. Ganser, Khristine Hvam

Writing Excuses 9.29: Part 2 of 2, Critiquing Sixth of the Dusk

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS! Also, merchandising!

This is the second of our story critique episodes. The story, “Sixth of the Dusk,” is available as part of SHADOWS BENEATH, the Writing Excuses anthology, which includes the finished story (obviously) and the version we critiqued in this episode. SHADOWS BENEATH also includes the stories we’ll be critiquing for the rest of July’s episodes, and some other pretty cool stuff that you can read about here. If you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the ebook at no additional charge.

Can you get a lot out of this episode without having done the reading? Yes! But we don’t know what those things will be. Can you get a lot out of this episode without having listened to Part 1? Probably, but here’s a link to it in case you have doubts.

Having covered the stuff we loved in Part 1, this episode is the big downer where we just focus on the problems we found. But hey, that’s how stories get to be better! We start with the big ones, and then work our way back up to the little things.

We recorded this episode live at last year’s Out of Excuses Seminar and Retreat. Our audience of awesome attendees can be heard cheering when we finally slay the [SPOILERS REDACTED] with our collected powers of [REDACTED AGAIN.]

 

 

Play

Have a man who plays the musical saw find more than one additional use for the saw during the story.

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, by Diana Rowland, narrated by Allison McLemore

Writing Excuses 9.28: Part 1 of 2, Critiquing Sixth of the Dusk

This is the first of our DANGER SPOILERS AHEAD story critique episodes. The story, “Sixth of the Dusk,” is available as part of SHADOWS BENEATH, the Writing Excuses anthology, which includes the finished story (obviously) and the version we critiqued in this episode. SHADOWS BENEATH also includes the stories we’ll be critiquing for the rest of July’s episodes, and some other pretty cool stuff that you can read about here. Oh, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the ebook at no additional charge.

Sure, you can totally listen to this episode without having done the reading. We cannot stop you! Howard looked around for a full hour, but there’s no “stop playback for people who have not done the homework” button anywhere here.

This is also the first half of a two-part episode. We spent about 40 minutes hammering on Brandon’s story, and that’s just too much Writing Excuses for one week. Oh, and we recorded this episode live at last year’s Out of Excuses Seminar and Retreat. You’ll hear our audience of awesome attendees responding to us.

We run this session like Brandon runs his critique group — we begin by talking about what we liked, so that the writer knows what not to accidentally remove during revisions. Then we drill down on the things we have problems with, and you know what? There were a bunch of those things! Like most writers, Brandon’s first drafts are imperfect things that have problems in them.

We also run this session in a way that we don’t actually suggest you run your critique groups, at least not until you’ve put a bunch of critique sessions under your belt.

That Thing Howard Said to Brandon Between Sessions has been lost to time. Or repressed memory. Sorry.

Play

A setting in which you can vote through time for things.

I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov, narrated by Scott Brick. (Note: This version of the audiobook has the Will Smith movie cover, but it’s also the best-ranked version.)

Writing Excuses 7.30: Micocasting…Again!

Microcasting! Again!! Now with exclamation points!!! You’ll have to have a listen for our answers, but here are the questions:

  • How do you deal with bad reviews?
  • How do you apply Brandon’s magic system rules to science fiction?
  • Dan, will you do the marshmallow voice for us again?
  • How do you keep tension high without exhausting the reader?
  • You’ve made your manuscript as good as you know how to. Now you need to make it even better, based on feedback. What do you do?
  • Any tips on creating suspension of disbelief?
  • How do you deal with annoying fans?

“Oddly, no. Sometimes you guys are dull.” 5:22, Mary Robinette Kowal.

Mary’s Shmoozing 101 Link: Right here.

Play

The story of the writer and her VERY ENTHUSIASTIC alien fan who is impossible to escape.

Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, narrated by Jenny Sterlin

Writing Excuses 7.10: Importance of Criticism, with David Brin

David Brin joined Mary and Dan at World Fantasy to pound the importance of criticism into our heads. Our episode opens with a discussion of what your first book should be (a murder mystery) and why David recommends this to his students.

And then on to criticism. It’s important for us, as writers, to be criticized because we’re all liars, and criticism is the only way to get decent product quality out of us. Unfortunately, we tend to hate the thing that we need the most. So David, Dan, and Mary discuss how to reconcile these two competing points, and how to seek criticism (and lots of other stuff, including how to learn by re-typing something.)

Play

What if dreams became so much more vivid that when you woke up, for a full hour you didn’t know whether you were still dreaming or not?

Startide Rising, by David Brin, narrated by George Wilson

Writing Excuses 6.12: Revising For Description

It is Howard’s turn in the critique box! Brandon, Dan, and Mary dissect a 21-year-old manuscript from 22-year-old Howard, this time with an eye to making descriptions do more than one thing.

Since the manuscript runs for six pages before colliding with any inconvenient dialog, it’s a perfect fit. It might also be perfect because of how much work it needs.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, narrated by David Colacci

Writing Prompt: Start with Howard’s concept and write your own story. The complete chapter whose pages we dissected can be found here in RTF format.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*.
*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

Play

Writing Excuses 5.33: Alpha Readers

It’s time to talk about alpha readers, and we start with a caveat from Howard: “I don’t want to read your book.” Let’s face it, we here at Writing Excuses might be great alpha readers, but we’re not YOUR alpha readers. We can’t be your back-door to fame and fortune as a genre fiction writer. The good news? There are good alpha readers out there waiting for you. You just need to know how to find them.

We talk about conventions a bit, those places that are full of genre-fiction lovers who might be able to help. We talk about Brandon’s writing group (his alpha readers) and how his agent and editor are actually beta readers. This contrast illustrates the sort of things you should be looking for in an alpha reader. We talk about Howard’s alpha reader (Sandra) and how she has to look at a script with no pictures, no blocking, and no dialog tags and figure out whether or not it’s going to work. This illustrates how she’s a genius and Howard’s just a hack.

Brandon and Dan also cover what they do not want in alpha readers — poor delivery of criticism and proof-reading topping the list.

And then we finally get around to some tricks for building a solid stable of alpha readers. It’s not something you’re going to pull off overnight.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Dragon Factory: The Joe Ledger Novels, Book 2 by Jonathan Mayberry, narrated by Ray Porter.

Writing Prompt: Any time you’ve caught cold you’re actually being possessed. Gesundheit.

Loud Howard: brought to you by a too-close microphone. Jordo did his best to fix this in post, but we don’t record on multiple channels so there’s only so much that can be done on our budget.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*.
*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

Play