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
Ellen Kushner joins us for the last episode of Season 10. Per the title, folks, it’s time to be done.
What does “done” mean? How do you go about declaring a project “finished” when you know there are still things wrong with it? How do you clear your head, your work space, and your life for the next thing you need to do?
And now for your questions about revision. Or rather, questions from the WXR attendees, who were aboard the Independence of the Seas with us (the answers to these questions are secreted away in the audio file…):
During revision, when do you think it’s acceptable to throw the whole thing out?
How do you fit the whole structure in your head?
What do you find you most often need to add?
What do you do when your revisions have made things worse?
How do you avoid over-writing during the revision process?
When revising, how many passes do you make, and what order are they in?
Do you take the sounds of words into account when writing and revising?
This episode was engineered aboard The Independence of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered in a concrete bunker somewhere in the midwest by Alex Jackson.
If you haven’t yet read “Parallel Perspectives,” from Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, we have a PDF for you to download and read before you start listening to this episode. It’s a 33mb file in a public DropBox folder.
This week is a Project in Depth episode focusing on a 13-page graphic story (“comic book”) found at the end of Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, and our focus this week will be story structure. It’s fun, because the process of structuring a bonus story begins much differently than most projects, and the structure was laid in support of a four-creator collaboration.
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.
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.)
What’s pre-writing? Well, it’s a little bit like “pre-cooking,” in which something is cooked prior to being put in the final recipe, but in food terms it might also be like “cleaning the kitchen” or “grocery shopping.” Outlining is one kind of pre-writing, but so is the creation of that 5,000-word prologue you decide not to keep, but which informed the whole rest of your story.
We talk about the different things that each of us do prior to actually laying down lines of prose, and how our processes differ between projects, genres, and mediums.
Special Announcement: The first ever Writing Excuses anthology, SHADOWS BENEATH, is available now. This anthology features stories brainstormed and critiqued here on the podcast, and includes draft versions, related episode transcripts, and authorial commentaries as well. Let Brandon tell you more about it!
Our critiquing episodes will begin airing next week, so if you want to read ahead, now’s the time to pick up SHADOWS BENEATH. Oh, and if you order the hardcover, you get the ebook free of charge!
SHADOWS BENEATH launches this weekend at Westercon 67, where Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard are Guests of Honor alongside Cory Doctorow, Christopher Garcia, William Stout, and Bradley Voytek.
Loving That Cover Art? Us too! It’s the work of Julie Dillon, who is on the 2014 Hugo ballot for Best Artist. You can admire (and comment upon!) the unobstructed original here in her DeviantArt gallery.
Dave Farland’s Writing Workshops sponsored us for this episode! Both Brandon and Dan have studied under Dave, and we’re all happy to wholeheartedly recommend his workshops to you. If you can’t fly to his place, well, visit MyStoryDoctor.com and take the online course. The coupon code for your Writing Excuses discount is EXCUSES, but don’t think that means you actually HAVE any of those…
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.