Tag Archives: Pacing

Writing Excuses 10.16: What Do I Do With All This Blank Space?

The first page is often the very hardest one to write. In this episode we talk about how to fill the space on the first few pages of your story, because those are the pages where you have to convince the reader to keep going, and the very first page is often the only chance you have to get the reader’s attention at all.

The good news is that the first words the reader reads are not going to be the first words that you write. You can find the story’s voice before you pour that voice into the those first pages.

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Write your first thirteen lines, and see how much you can fit into that space—character attitude, point-of-view, mood, genre, conflict, setting, and more.

The Golem and the Jinni, by Helen Wecker, narrated by George Guidall.

Writing Excuses 10.12: Story structure Q&A, with Special Guest Wesley Chu

Wes Chu joins us again for a Q&A about this month’s topic: story structure! Here are the questions:

  • Do you make a conscious decision about how to structure your story before you begin writing?
  • Is it necessary to use multiple structures (three-act, Hollywood formula, etc) in order to ensure that your story works?
  • What tools do you use to view your story’s structure?
  • What do you think about cliffhangers?
  • How do you come up with plot twists for your stories? (Answer: A blast from the past with Michael Stackpole! Season 1, Episode 19!)
  • What structures should I use to add variety to my writing?
  • Is there a specific amount of time you should spend on your introduction before getting to the inciting incident?
  • What do you do when you’re halfway through with a story before you realize the structure is wrong?

 

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Make a list of all the awesome things you want your story to accomplish. Then put them in the order in which you want them to happen.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin

Writing Excuses 10.11: Project In Depth: “Parallel Perspectives”

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.

Parallel Perspectives PDF for Writing Excuses listeners

Got the file? Done reading? Okay, let’s go…

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.

The creators? Howard Tayler, Brenda Hickey, Travis Walton, and Keliana Tayler.

(If you’d like your own hard-copy of Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, you can get it from Amazon.com or directly from the publisher.)

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Next month we’re going to talk Beginnings: decide on the promises you want to make to your readers in your story. Then outline according to those promises.

The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle,  by Christopher Healy, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Writing Excuses 9.54: Capstone to Season 9

As 2014 draws to a close we say goodbye to Season 9, and talk a bit about what we’ve each learned this year.

  • Howard explained the surprising changes that came with a change in his work space
  • Mary told us how she reached a new understanding of pacing
  • Brandon talked about how recent time pressures have informed his writing process
  • Dan learned why he is writing

Hopefully our discussions of how we’ve changed as writers this year will offer you some insight into how your own writing has developed, and how you might take steps to develop it in the future.

We also talk about how Season 10 is coming, and is going to be a bit different than seasons past.

Thing We Failed To Do: get a picture of the possum. It turns out that those things are sneaky, and none of us a very good photographers.

Can of Already Open Worms: Writing for fun. “Didn’t you guys just talk about that?” Yes, we did, in an episode that was recorded 3 months later, but which aired just last week.

 

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What did you learn or accomplish this last year, and what are you hoping to learn in the coming year? Write this down, and then at the end of NEXT year, review what you wrote, and compare the reality of 2015 with your hopes for it here at the end of 2014.

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, by Bee Wilson, narrated by Alison Larkin

Writing Excuses 9.43: Writing Mysteries

Live from Westercon 67 and Fantasy Con, Mette Ivie Harrison and J.R. Johannson join us to talk about writing for the mystery genre. We begin by talking about the key differences between thrillers and mysteries, and then move into how this understanding can drive our story structures. We discuss how characters with arcs and iconic characters drive different types of stories, and how each of us go about building these kinds of things.

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Write a mystery in which you explain where Howard was during this recording session.

The Ghosts of Belfast, by Stuart Neville,  narrated by Gerard Doyle

Writing Excuses 9.31: Critiquing “An Honest Death”

SPOILER ALERT!

This is our fourth and final SHADOWS BENEATH story critique episode. This episode’s story, “An Honest Death,” by Howard Tayler, is available as part of the aforementioned Writing Excuses anthology, pictured there on the right, which includes the the draft we critiqued in this episode along with the final version.

We still have a few of the first-printing hardcovers left, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the electronic edition at no additional charge.

This week we find Howard in trouble. He is, in a word, stuck.

Can our heroes help him? Can special guest Eric James Stone lend enough of his special guest expertise to complete the rescue?

We start with a discussion of what was working, so that Howard doesn’t accidentally “fix” something that isn’t broken. Then we wade into the weeds and go hunting for the pieces he needs in order to finish the story. And when we say “the weeds,” we’re talking serious wandering. The episode runs a full half-hour long…

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You have, with actual paint, painted yourself into an actual corner. But the paint and the corner are in a world in which there is magic, and “you painted yourself into a corner” may very well be some sort of a spell.

The Firebird, by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Katherine Kellgren

Writing Excuses 9.17: Microcasting

Eric James Stone joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard to answer questions from our listeners. Here are the questions:

  • Should you submit your prologue along with the first chapters?
  • What do you do when you’ve got some professional sales under your belt, but can’t seem to get more?
  • How do you manage scene/sequel format in a multi-POV novel?
  • Is passive voice really that bad? How do you tell if you’re using it too much?
  • What is the threshold for deus ex machina?
  • How do you maximize the emotional impact of a character death?
  • If you’re a discovery writer, how do you go about becoming an outliner?
  • When someone asks what you do for a living, how do you answer them?
  • How do you get out of the beat-by-beat, this-then-that blocking of action?

Here is the Grammar Girl episode we mentioned.

 

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Write your character doing two things at once, both of which are plot-specific.

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