Tag Archives: Live Audience

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.

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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 8.49: Hard Social Science Fiction with Joel Shepherd

Joel Shepherd joined Brandon, Mary, and Howard before a live audience at GenCon Indy to talk about writing hard science fiction where the science in question is social science. He’s studied international relations, interned on Capitol Hill, and is working a PhD in the field. His books reflect this background.

If hard science fiction is an exploration of what is technically, physically possible given a set of circumstances, hard social science fiction is no different. Further than that, however, good research in the social sciences will allow an author to build complex and realistic plots, stories in which character motivations go much further than picking a side.

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Pick two people on the same side of a conflict, but give them completely different motivations for fighting on that side.

Crossover: Cassandra Kresnov Book 1, by Joel Sheperd, narrated by Dina Pearlman

Writing Excuses 8.47: Roguishness with Scott Lynch

Scott Lynch, author of The Republic of Thieves, joins Brandon, Howard, and Mary before a live audience at GenCon Indy to talk about roguishness.

Why do we like rogues? What can a roguish character accomplish in terms of story purposes? Can the rogue accomplish things a more classically moral character cannot? Most importantly, what do authors need to do in order to help readers like the rogues, rather than just thinking they’re awful people?

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For research purposes… okay, no. Forget that. Complicate a scene or story by adding an unexpected injury or illness.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, narrated by Michael Page

Writing Excuses 8.45: Gencon Q&A With Wesley Chu

Wesley Chu again joins Brandon, Mary, Howard, and a live audience at GenCon Indy, this time for a Q&A. The audience handed us the following questions:

  • How do you write 1st-person POV from a gender other than your own?
  • Do you have a set schedule for writing time?
  • How do you boost your word count without padding, AND without adding characters?
  • How can prose be used to convey emotion without stating character feelings outright?

Those are the questions. Listen to the episode for the answers!

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Revoke your right to use “thought” verbs, then communicate thoughts, knowledge, and awareness in your POV character. The original challenge for this prompt came from this blog post by Chuck Palahniuk.

Chimes at Midnight, by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Excuses 8.38:Out of Excuses Retreat Q&A #2

This was recorded at the “Out of Excuses Retreat,” and the questions came from our attendees. Here are the questions! (You’ll have to listen for the answers.)

  • How have your opinions on self-publishing changed in the last few years?
  • What did you find difficult early in your career? How did you address this?
  • What do you now find difficult? How do you address it?
  • Do you put Easter Eggs in your work that only your friends recognize?
  • How much do questions/comments from readers influence you?

And the question we did NOT answer, but it’s a great one for speculating…

  • Where would Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard be, career-wise, if their paths had not crossed?
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Where would Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard have ended up if Writing Excuses hadn’t brought them together?

Troubletwisters, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams, narrated by Miriam Margolyes

Writing Excuses 8.33: Making Non-Human Characters Relatable

How do you help your readers relate to the non-human characters in your fiction?

The first question to answer is why you’re putting non-human characters in the piece to begin with. What are your goals for that race, culture, or whatever? Once you know that, you can begin addressing the challenge of helping the reader relate.

We talk about our strategies, and we cover examples from Iain Banks’ Look to Windward, Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, and of course from our own work, including Kiss Me Twice, I Am Not a Serial Killer, and The Body Politic.

Immediately Discarded Negative Example, Because the Rathole is Just Too Deep: The 1977 Star Wars Christmas Special

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Depict a conversation between members of a non-human species who do something besides talk.

Thief of Time: Discworld, Book 26, by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs

Writing Excuses 8.32: Microcasting

Microcasting! It’s what we call a Q&A, because it’s like several little podcasts in one! Here are the questions (you’ll have to listen to the show for the answers):

  • How do you manage your workload?
  • Are writing contests worth it? Which ones are good?
  • How do you make it clear that the weird aspects of your world are done on purpose rather than just being bad science?
  • How do you know when to take a break from your writing?
  • What are your word count suggestions for various markets?

Some Worthy Links: Writer Beware, Writers of the Future

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Keep track of your hourly word count for a day’s writing. Then set goals to beat that word count in subsequent sessions.

The Madman’s Daughter, by Megan Shepherd, narrated by Lucy Rayner

Writing Excuses 8.27: Chapter Breakdowns

What determines our chapter breaks? How do we handle POV shifts, scene-sequel balance, and other considerations when we’re carving our stories into chapters?

Dan starts with a discussion of the POV considerations in Fragments and in Ruins (from the Partials series,) and Brandon contrasts that with some of the epic fantasy methods. We argue the respective merits and pitfalls of rapid switching and large blocks, and then we talk about how the chapters take shape during our outlines and initial drafts.

Episode Trivia: This was the first episode we recorded at the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat, and was the first time in a year that the four of us had been together to record. So rusty!

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Outline a two-character plot arc, and then break it into chapters. Experiment with big blocks and little blocks of POV in this chapter-chopped outline, and consider how this will affect the arc.

Promise of Blood, by Brian McClellan, narrated by Christian Rodska