Tag Archives: Discovery Writing

Writing Excuses 10.4: Q&A on Ideas

At the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat we premiered the Season 10 concept, and we invited our attendees to give us the questions we need this month. (They’ll also be the ones providing our questions for February, but we’ll cast our net wide for questions in March.)

  • Ideas are hard! Is it ever acceptable for inexperienced writers to write derivative works?
  • How do you keep from being discouraged when something similar to your idea comes out?
  • How do you know when your idea is a novel, vs. when it’s a short story?
  • Should you only write for themed anthologies if you already have an idea ready in that theme?
  • How can you practice description when your idea is set someplace completely unfamiliar to you?
  • When should you abandon an idea you love?

Liner Notes: We talked about novel-length vs short-story-length ideas in Season 6, Episode 10 when we covered the M.I.C.E. quotient, and again in Season 8, Episode 20, when Mary talked about short story structure. Also, the anthology into which Howard was drafted on the basis of a spur-of-the-moment idea is Shared Nightmaresand his story is called “U.I.”

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Take one of the ideas you’re excited about, and then audition five different characters for the lead role in that story. Make sure they’re all different from each other.

City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett, narrated by Alma Cuervo

Writing Excuses 9.51: Q&A At The Retreat

If there’s a crowd with good questions, it’s the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat attendees.

  • Given the trend toward moral ambiguity, is there still a place for an unquestionably evil character?
  • Should you publish a first book that isn’t in the style or genre that you’re ultimately interested in?
  • Is it possible to write epic fantasy with a single POV?
  • Of all of the myriad talents of the literary agents you work with, what’s the one that makes you stick with your agent?
  • How do you maintain your writing chops when you’re buried in the research phase of a project?
  • What are some issues a short story writer should be aware of when tackling a novel?
  • How do you go about discovery writing characters?
  • When you build a story, does the foreshadowing go in during the first pass, or in later edits?

Our sponsor, Audible, is giving away Legion: Skin Deep, by Brandon Sanderson between now and December 24th. Follow that link and get a free audio book!

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“Everywhere I look, everyone is covered with ketchup.”

Angelmaker, by Nick Harkaway, narrated by Daniel Weyman

Writing Excuses 9.16: Coming up with a New Ending Halfway Through

What do you do when the ending you’ve planned won’t be emotionally satisfying? You know, when you’ve discovered during the course of writing the story that you’re making promises to the reader that this particular ending won’t keep?

Mary talks about her recent experience with this exact problem in an as-yet-unpublished project. Howard talks about how he had to come up with a new set of concluding moments for Longshoreman of the Apocalypse (which you can read for free here.) Dan weighs the difficulties he’s having with a current project, and how he had to brainstorm what the story was supposed to be accomplishing, rather than simply what the plot was.

We examine the various tools that we use to solve this problem, which probably offers you some motivation to keep filling your own toolbox.

 

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Take a story you’ve already written, and write a completely different ending for it.

Vortex: Insignia, Book 2, by S.J. Kincaid, narrated by Lincoln Hoppe

(Small world! Howard worked with Lincoln Hoppe twenty years ago, running sound for The Garrens Comedy Troupe while Lincoln was on stage being funny and amazing. You should let Lincoln read to you!)

Writing Excuses 9.11: Microcasting

Microcasting! It’s what we call our Q&A episodes, because they’re like multiple mini-casts. Eric James Stone joins us to help out. Here are the questions we field:

  • Should a pantser rewrite their book once they know the whole story?
  • What do you find most useful from an editor?
  • Story creation is cool, but can Writing Excuses talk more about sentence-level work?
  • What advice do you have for pitching to agents and editors?
  • What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
  • How do you encourage a writer-friend who is down on their work?

Give episode 9.11 a listen for our answers.

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Something magical is preventing your friend from pursuing their dreams, but you don’t know what it is…

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker, by Kevin Mitnick and William L. Simon, narrated by Ray Porter

Writing Excuses 8.48: Long-Form Storytelling with Sam Logan

Recorded live at GenCon Indy, Sam Logan of Sam & Fuzzy joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard to talk about long-form storytelling. Sam’s webcomic has been running for eleven years now, and has evolved over time into something of an epic.

Sam talks to us about how he got started, and how the strip morphed from its gag-a-day origins into what it is today (is this similar to what happened with Howard and Schlock Mercenary? Maaaaaybe.) He also talks about his planning process, and the manner in which he structures the smaller stories to fit inside the larger ones.

If you’re looking for a good starting point for Sam and Fuzzy, Sam says that point is right here.

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Go for a walk. Think about what you’re writing while you walk. Don’t do that Facebook or Twitter thing while you walk. Just walk, and think.

Feed, by M. T. Anderson, narrated by David Aaron Baker

Writing Excuses 8.35: Digging Yourself Out of Holes with Jeph Jacques

At the time this podcast airs, Jeph Jacques’ Permanence project on Kickstarter has just nine days left. Jeph joined us at GenCon Indy to talk discovery writing with Brandon, Mary, and Howard, and yes, we totally agreed to plug his rock-and-roll side-gig in exchange.

Jeph Jacques is best known for Questionable Content, and by way of disclosure, Brandon has been a QC fan for years. He’s a discovery writer, and he has written himself into more than one corner. We ask him how far ahead he works, how he develops an idea, and especially how he fixes things if his discovery writing has taken him someplace he needs to get back out of.

His first step is to admit that he is, in fact, stuck in a corner. One of his tricks is a tool any of you can use in any project, Oblique Strategies, in which a random phrase (drawn from a deck of cards, or generated for you on the web) challenges you to rethink the spot that your story is in.

Obviously there’s more to it than that, but this? This is not where you’ll find the transcript. Transcripts end up here.

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Go back to whatever you wrote most recently and come up with a different solution for the scene, changing the emotional beat of the scene.

The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks, narrated by Peter Kenny

Writing Excuses 8.29: Out of Excuses Retreat Q&A #1

We recorded this episode in front of our live audience at the first-ever Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat. Here are the questions (you’ll have to listen for the answers):

  • To Dan: How did you go about selling your first trilogy in Germany before selling it in the US
  • To Howard: did you consider doing a separate storyline on Sunday strips? Why or why not?
  • Have you transitioned between outlining and discovery writing?
  • To Brandon: Why is John Scalzi your evil nemesis?
  • To Dan and Howard (and Mary): When you had full-time work, what did you do to “reset” when you came home from work, especially since your job used the same parts of your brain that writing does?

A Humble Suggestion for the Name of John Scalzi’s Next Band: Neil Gaiman’s Eagle Balls

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Someone is doing a puppetry move so extreme they end up hospitalized.

The Human Division, by John Scalzi, narrated by William Dufris. (We were told that Wil Wheaton would be narrating this, but according to Audible the narrator is William Dufris.)

Writing Excuses 8.22: Pre-writing with E.J. Patten

E.J. “Eric” Patten joins us for a discussion of pre-writing. His first book, Return to Exile, came out in 2011, and The Legend Thief released in March of 2013.

What is pre-writing? Eric walks us through his process for developing a story, beginning with the high-concept world-building inspired by the phrase “Cthulhu for kids.” He talks about the importance of getting the characters right, and how this process precedes plot development. Each of us handles this a little differently, and we talk about how that goes.

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Kids get magical powers from their Halloween costumes…

E.J. Patten’s books aren’t available on Audible, but if you’re looking for Cthulhu that isn’t for kids, H.P. Lovecraft’s classics “Call of Cthulhu” and “Reanimator” can be found in H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 2, narrated by Garrick Hogan.