What are those things you already know, but which you might not be using in your writing? How do you identify those things and put them to work for you? Mette Ivie Harrison joins us for a discussion of how you might “hijack” (okay, “repurpose”) the knowledge you already have in order to make you a better writer. We hear a lot about the 10,000 hours of practice required to gain expertise in a given domain. It’s possible that you’ve already spent some of those 10,000 hours in activities that you didn’t realize were related.
Mette leads with her love of history. Mary directs us a bit with a metaphor from Jim Henson. Brandon talks about what is, by any other name, fanfic, and Howard talks about his degree in music composition. We also talk about how we leverage the knowledge we’re acquiring in other activities to flesh out the things we’re writing — in effect, letting that stuff serve as research without it being part of the actual research we do.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 19:06 — 13.1MB)
Look at your own life. Take some skill, activity, or piece of esoteric knowledge that seems completely unrelated to your writing, and then incorporate it in the next thing that you write.
Dangerous Women, by George RR Martin, Gardner Dozois and several others (including Brandon Sanderson), narrated by a long A-list of voices.
Microcasting! It’s what we’ve taken to calling a Q&A. Eric Patten joins us for this one. Here are the questions:
- What’s your first step in the rewriting process?
- How do you write Artificial Intelligences as characters?
- Tactful promotion: how do you get nominated for a Hugo or Nebula?
- How do you decide whether or not to take an offer from a publisher?
- Do you use a writing notebook? How, and for what?
- What methods do you use to test the “coolness” and/or viability of a story idea?
- What genre or style do you read that is outside of the one(s) in which you write?
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 16:18 — 11.2MB)
Two words: “Flying Caldecott.”
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.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 18:35 — 12.8MB)
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.
The number one request we got when we asked you what you’d like us to talk about? Short story writing. Mary is our resident expert, and if she weren’t already a member of the cast, she’d our go-to expert for an interview. Convenient!
We begin by addressing the popular notion that writing short stories is a good way to practice for writing novels, and selling short stories is a way to break in and sell novels. We then return to the M.I.C.E. quotient (first addressed by us in 6.10) and discuss how the quotient (or model, or formula) helps you understand what to cut from the telling of a story to make it a short story.
Mary then walks us through her process for turning an idea into a story concept, and then distilling that concept into a short story. She also invites us to explore her 950-word short, “Evil Robot Monkey,” free of charge!
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 17:34 — 12.1MB)
Being “bi-textual” is a controversial lifestyle choice…
As if he needs the help, Brandon challenges Mary, Howard, and Dan to help him brainstorm an A.I. short story. Brandon hands them some setup, and off they go. The ground may have been well-tread in the past, but this particular brainstorming session is full of great ideas that incorporate religion, cargo cults, puzzles, and aliens…
The big challenge here is finding a tale that’s interesting enough and original enough to be worth the telling…
Mary’s Hugo-nominated Novella: “Kiss Me Twice” which appeared in Asimov’s.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 20:12 — 13.9MB)
Come up with a better resolution for this story than we did.
In this episode Howard pitches three story ideas to the group, and they pick one to brainstorm. The selection process is itself educational (which is good, because it runs for a third of the ‘cast…)
The story selected is near-future science-fiction with extra-dimensional, magical elements. As the brainstorming continues, we grab some fun secret-history elements, and successfully deepen the conflict. We also learn that there are two stories here, and Howard has to choose which one of them to write.
And For Your Disappointment: As of this time the story laid out in this ‘cast remains unwritten, so you can’t read it.
But to Make Up For It: Howard got distracted and wrote a horror piece instead! Here is a sample! (Note: this wasn’t one of the pitches, but it DOES demonstrate that Howard really, really wanted to get out of his comfort zone.)
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 21:13 — 14.6MB)
Pick a major event in history, and then write a secret history in which Death returns to take over.
Feedback, by Robison Wells, narrated by Michael Goldstrom
Beowulf didn’t kill Grendel on a day trip, Luke didn’t overthrow Emperor Palpatine in just one season, and here at Writing Excuses, we didn’t get around to properly discussing the Hero’s Journey until we were well into the second decade of this century.
Sorry about that.
The Campbellian Monomyth, as defined in Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces, is a system of comparative mythology that, for better or for worse, gets used a lot by writers. We talk about some of our favorite examples, and immediately begin arguing over terms. Hopefully this is delightful to you, and educational for everyone. Especially since the monomyth is not a checklist, and it should not be taken that way.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 17:06 — 11.7MB)
Take Goldilocks and the Three Bears, apply the Campbellian Monomyth, and give us a short story.
At the time we recorded this, Hero With a Thousand Faces was available on Audible. It’s not anymore. So… go find something else educational?
We’re drawing to the close of Season 7, so here’s some microcasting (that’s what we call a fast-paced Q&A) where we field your questions. Here are your questions:
- What are your embarrassing early projects?
- How do you tell if your idea is too big for the story you’re working on?
- How do you avoid discouragement?
- How do you handle multiple magic systems in one book?
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 17:49 — 12.2MB)
Two different characters, two different magic systems…