Tag Archives: Research

Writing Excuses 9.27: Pre-writing

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…

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Sapient smells. Odors that think. Scents with their own hopes, dreams, and passions. Go.

Writing Excuses 9.9: What to do When Truth is Stranger than Fiction

Nancy Fulda is back this week to talk with us about the truth, and what do to when it’s stranger than fiction. Sometimes real people’s names are just too cool, and if you were to put them in a book nobody would believe it. Sometimes actual, historical events are so ridiculous there’s no way you can get away with putting them in a story that you expect people to take seriously. And sometimes real science is just not going to be believed by your readers.

So how do you get away with using these things, with writing your stories in true places? Sometimes all it takes is the hanging of the right lantern, but in many cases you must go to great lengths to re-educate the reader without breaking the fourth wall or otherwise knocking them out of the story.

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Run your character through a double-funnel extruder and see what’s at the end.

Chimes at Midnight: An October Daye Novel, by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Excuses 9.5: Hijacking the Knowledge You Already Have, with Mette Ivie Harrison

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.

 

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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.

Writing Excuses 9.4: Artificial Intelligence with Nancy Fulda

Nancy Fulda, herself a lettered student of artificial intelligence, joins us to talk about writing artificial intelligence believably. We fire questions at her so that you don’t have to!

We talk about what’s current, what’s coming, and what it is that we’re all expecting. We also cover some of the things that writers get wrong (at least insofar as they knock the cognoscenti out of the story.)

Liner Notes: Here’s the article Howard mentioned, “Evolving a Conscious Machine,” from the June 1998 Discover. He got the details almost 100% wrong, but the gist of it was still there.

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Go to the Internet and look up Bayesian learning, neural networks, and genetic algorithms. Yes, it’s more of a reading prompt.

Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge, narrated by Eric Conger

(note: Howard got this wrong — no apostrophe at all! And yes, a lantern got hung upon that particular missing bit of punctuation.)

Writing Excuses 9.2: Hard Science Fiction with Eric James Stone

Eric James Stone joins us for a discussion of hard science fiction. We begin with a discussion of definitions, and then we take care not to spend the whole episode just talking about that. We talk about what we like about hard science fiction (with examples) and of course we address the crux of the matter: can you write hard science fiction without having a degree in the hard sciences?

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Think of a way to combine two technologies that are currently not combined, and weave them into a story.

Bowl of Heaven, by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven, narrated by Zach Villa

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 8.46: Editing with Aeryn Rudel

Aeryn Rudel, publications manager (it’s like the editor-in-chief) of Privateer Press‘s Skull Island X imprint, joins us to talk about editing. Obligatory disclaimer — Aeryn is Howard’s boss when Howard writes things like “Extraordinary Zoology.”

Aeryn begins by explaining to us what it is that he’s looking for in works, in the authors with whom he works, and how writers might prepare themselves for this kind of work, but his real job here on the ‘cast is to talk to us about the role of the editor. Much of that role deals with continuity of to the setting and the tone of the piece, but there’s plenty more.

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Hell’s copyeditor.

The Blade Itself: The First Law: Book One by Joe Abercrombie, narrated by Steven Pacey

Writing Excuses 8.11: Abnormal Psychology

Robison Wells joins us again, this time to help us with a discussion of writing characters with abnormal psychology. What are our resources for describing these characters in compelling, believable ways? What are the tricks, the pitfalls, and the landmines.

Brandon frames the discussion with some terms from his abnormal psych class, but let’s lay down a caveat right now: none of us are experts in abnormal psych. We have done lots of research in lots of different fields, we all love learning things, but we’re not doctors.

And that’s where you need to start — love learning, and research this heavily. This is an exercise in “writing the other.” Rob helps us with this research by describing what’s going on with his panic disorder, giving us helpful insight into the sorts of details we’ll need to make any mentally ill character believable.

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Take Rob’s explanation of what it feels like to be him, and write a character from that POV.

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, by David Eagleman, who also narrates.