Tag Archives: Discovery Writing

14.8: Worldbuilding Q&A #1

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, Dan, and DongWon

We invited attendees at WXR 2018 to ask us some general worldbuilding questions. Here’s what they asked:

  • What cultural stuff do you need to know during the writing process?
  • How do you treat overlaps between real-world religions and fictional religions when the fictional religions are part of the story’s fundamental conflict?
  • How much worldbuilding do you have figured out before you start your first draft, and how much do you discover on the fly?
  • What’s the point in a book beyond which you shouldn’t introduce big worldbuilding elements?
  • How do you ensure that the world comes through as a character of its own?
  • How much change to terminology is too much?

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

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What do you do about time in your universe? Spend some time considering how it is demarcated in your setting.

Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik

12.24: Creating Great Outlines

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley

How might you go about creating great outlines? There are many processes, and we cover several of them.

 

Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take the list of events that you’re considering putting into your story. Create a list of scene types, and assign your events to these scenes.

12.22: Hybrid Outlining and Discovery Writing

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard

What can discovery writers learn from outlining? What can outliners learn from discovery writing? Is there a balance between the two that can serve as a happy, productive place for writers? (summary of answers: lots, lots, and yes-but-not-all-writers.)

 

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Write a backward story. Begin with the ending, and work your way backward into the story as you write your way forward with the words.

Nothing Left to Lose, by Dan Wells

12.20: Retrofitting Structure into a First Draft

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley

We’re speaking again, at least in part, to discovery writers. In this case, we’re talking about how to take a non-outlined work and apply a structure to it in revisions.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Identify the promises you made in the first 10% of your story. Color-code them. Now color code your chapters and/or scenes, mapping them to the promises made early on.

City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett

12.19: Structure on the Fly

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

This episode is for you discovery writers, especially those of you for whom our current season of structure seems to be locking you down, or pointing up methods which you just don’t like to use. We talk about how these methods, these structural principles, these mechanical advantages in the mental toolbox can be applied during the discovery writing process.

 

Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered on the north face of a dormant volcano by Alex Jackson

 

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Write a story in an hour and a half without outlining it. Pick a character, an object, and a genre. The character has problem with the object. Use a timer, and use the yes-but/no-and method as you go.

Hardcore History (podcast), with Dan Carlin (note: this podcast has a rolling paywall. The sooner you subscribe, the more you’ll have access to when you get around to listening.)

Writing Excuses 10.18: Build an Entire World? Are You Crazy?

This is for you folks who started writing the story before you finished building your world. Which is what we wanted you to do all along! Sneaky! We’re talking about letting your story drive your world building efforts, so that you can be more efficient.

We cover some of the tools that we use, as well as when world building fits into, then out of, and then back into our respective processes.

Out of Context Quote: “Sometimes you just need to take the underpants off the puppet.”

Other Worldbuilding Episodes to Reference: Brandon promised a list of links. Here’s a pretty comprehensive one!

We recommend not listening to all of them in one go. You’re supposed to be out of excuses and writing, not podcast diving for another two hours…

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Pick your gee-whiz, whatever it may be, and describe it in 150 words from ten different perspectives. Yes, that’s 1500 words.

Stormdancer: The Lotus War, Book One, by Jay Kristoff, narrated by Jennifer Ikeda

Writing Excuses 10.10: Q&A with the I Ching

Wesley Chu joins us for a literal shake-up of our structure for one episode. We had loads of fun with this one.

The I Ching is a collection of poems which you consult with numbered sticks. You ask a question, shake a random stick from the cup, and the corresponding poem holds your answer. In writing The Man in the High Castle, Phillip K. Dick used the I Ching to make plot decisions at crucial points. We decided to turn that, and our format, on its head, so we used the I Ching to ask us questions.  Understanding exactly what the I Ching was asking was at least as much fun as answering the questions we inferred.

Here are the I Ching’s questions.

  • Although he reached a great position, Wise Liu did not care for earthly things. He brewed instead the pills of heaven, forging immortality in his earthly crucible.
  • Marriage is a blessed union indeed, when done in accordance with Yin and Yang. The dragon and the phoenix coil together, uniting in a sweet dream of love.
  • All names in Heaven are unique, and even earthly things cannot be the same. Your future is set within the book of fate, which never confuses praise and blame.
  • Emperor Ming slew his one true love, but a shaman took pity, and eased his heart with dreams of roaming upon the moon, his beloved mistress forever at his side.
  • Two scholars went to the capitol for examinations. One passed, and stayed. One failed and returned, carrying a letter from his friend. He fell ill, but eventually, thank Heaven, came home.

 

Important Cultural Note: The I Ching is far more complex than we’ve been able to describe in this podcast, and is worthy of a lot more attention than we were able to present to you in this ‘cast.

Want more Wes Chu? Wes didn’t say a whole lot in this episode, possibly because he was exhausted from the grilling we gave him earlier. This episode was recorded directly it AFTER recording a guest episode with him that will be airing in coming weeks.

Audio Notes: Many of you have complained about the audio quality of the show, especially in the last few months. We went to significant additional effort and expense to make this latest set of sessions sound better. If you like the changes, please let us know.

 

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Competing fiercely to become Spring’s queen, the garden flowers blossomed to their full beauty. Who will win the golden crown of glory? Among them all, only the peony stands out.

The Man in the High Castle, by Phillip K. Dick, which was available on Audible when we recorded this episode, but which is NOT available as of this write-up.

Writing Excuses 10.9: Where is My Story Coming From?

This month’s syllabus topic is story structure, and we’ll be starting with the part we start with. And that part usually isn’t the beginning — that’s where the story starts for the reader. We’re going to talk about where the story starts for you. It’s the answer to questions like “where is my story coming from?”, “What kind of a story is this?”, or  “What questions does it seek to raise, and subsequently answer for the readers?”

Structurally, it may help to revisit our discussion of the M.I.C.E. quotient. Knowing that your story is primarily a milieu story, as opposed to a character story, is a pretty big thing to know before you start writing.

Of course, if you’re not outlining, this whole discussion may seem irrelevant to you, but ultimately if you discovery-write your way into a good story, you’ll have answered these questions during that process. Knowing that this is a thing you do will likely help you do it better.

The Sherlock Episode Howard referenced was “The Sign of Three”

Homework For an upcoming “Project in Depth” — you may wish to acquire a copy of Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, because we’ll be digging into the bonus story, “Parallel Perspectives,” which plays with POV in some ways that required significant re-writing during the collaboration process.

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Take a favorite piece of of media (but not something YOU created,) and reverse engineer an outline from it.

Ancillary Justice, by Anne Leckie, narrated by Celeste Ciulla. This book has won the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Clarke award, and is a great listen. (note: In the ‘cast, Mary says that this book was narrated by Adjoa Andoh, who actually narrated Ancillary Sword.)