Writing Excuses

Writing Excuses

United States

Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart.

Episodes

12.4: Hybrid Viewpoints  

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard, with Sandra Tayler Piper J. Drake joins the cast for our week-four episodes, of which this is the first. This week we'll be drilling down into hybrid viewpoints—blending 1st and 3rd person, framing stories, stories-within-stories, and unreliable narration—and how to best serve our work with these techniques.

12.3: Project in Depth, “Risk Assessment,” by Sandra Tayler  

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with Sandra Tayler This Project in Depth episode contains spoilers for "Risk Assessment," which is included in Force Multiplication: Schlock Mercenary Book 12. The story was written by Sandra Tayler, and illustrated by Natalie Barahona. Howard handled the writing and illustrating for the framing story, but this episode isn't about that part. Risk Assessment is a romance wrapped up in an adventure, and is very different from most of the rest of Schlock Mercenary. Have a listen, and Sandra will tell you about it. Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

12.2: How to Nail Character Voice in First Person  

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley This week we talk about character voice, and how to get it right in First Person. This POV is a strong tool for developing memorable characters. We cover sentence structure, linguistic tweaks, accents, and much more, as well as some exercises you can try out to develop these tools. This week is also your introduction to our Chicago cast. You've already heard from Brandon and Mary; the new voices belong to Mary Anne Mohanraj and Wesley Chu.

12.1: Variations on First Person  

We're beginning a new season, and during 2017 we will be focusing our topics on structure. We are also going to shake things by expanding our cast a bit. You'll be hearing some new voices soon! They belong to: Wesley Chu Piper J. Drake Mary Anne Mohanraj We'll post more on that in a few days, but we've already begun updating our "About" page. This week your hosts are Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. We spend a few minutes on the administrative stuff  above before jumping into January's structural topic, the first person voice, with a discussion of the variations in how that POV is presented. We cover some of the different first person POV styles, what sorts of stories they're often best-suited for, and how we go about writing them well. Spoiler Alert: Episode 12.3 will feature Sandra Tayler, and is a Project In Depth on her story, "Risk Assessment," which was illustrated by Natalie Barahona and Howard Tayler. It appears in Force Multiplication: Schlock Mercenary Book 12, available direct from Hypernode Media, or through Amazon.  

11.52: Elemental Ensemble Q&A, With Claudia Gray  

Claudia Gray joined us aboard Oasis of the Seas to answer our attendees questions about the Elemental Ensemble. Here are the questions: Can you fit an ensemble into a short story? What the minimum size for an ensemble? Is there a perfect length? Can you put a traitor into an ensemble story? How do I give my ensemble characters equal emotional weight if I only tell the story from a single POV? How do you introduce your ensemble without infodumping? If an ensemble is about falling in love with a group of friends, how does killing a character work? How do you give every character a role in the climax without making it seem like the plot was cut to fit the team? Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

11.51: Ensemble as a Sub-Genre, with Lynne M. Thomas  

Lynne M. Thomas joins us to continue our discussion of the Elemental Ensemble, which is one of our favorite elemental tools. It's not just for heists. It adds interest, emotion, and lots of plot possibilities to everything from sense of wonder to the hard-hitting issue. Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

11.50: Hand-Selling Your Book to Potential Readers, with Michael R. Underwood  

Michael R. Underwood has talked to us about hand-selling books before, but that was about pitching to agents and editors. This time around he's talking about placing your product in the hand of your customer, the reader. With Michael's help, we cover some specific sales techniques, guidelines for convention displays, and strategies for bookstore appearances, with an eye toward helping you make that sort of activity effective.

11.49: Elemental Ensemble, with Michael Damien Thomas  

Michael Damien Thomas, co-publisher and co-editor-in-chief of Uncanny Magazine, joined us for a discussion of the elemental genre that contains most of the stories we refer to as "heists." It's all about a well-rounded cast in which the group relationship is what's pulling us forward. Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

11.Bonus-04: Fantasy Food, with Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch  

Elizabeth Bear  and Scott Lynch joined Howard and Dan at GenCon Indy to talk about fantasy food, and how we engage our readers' appetites with our fiction. We talk economics, logistics, sensory engagement, and we goof off quite a bit in the process. We might have been hungry at the time. There is good fun to be had here, and plenty of (pun intended) food for thought. Credits: This episode was mastered by Alex Jackson, and was made possible by the generous support of the GenCon Indy Writer’s Symposium, and the Writing Excuses patrons at Patreon.

11.48: Elemental Issue Q&A, with DongWon Song  

DongWon Song, literary agent with HMLA, joins us for a Q&A on the elemental genre of "Issue." Here are the questions, which were submitted by the attendees at WXR '16: Can only certain people tackle certain issues in certain stories? Science Fiction often explores issues by changing the context. Why does this work? How would you handle an issue story in short fiction? How do you make sure to research the issue enough without paralyzing yourself with the fear that you cannot do it justice? How do you convincingly write a position with which you disagree without convincing your readers that you agree with it? How do you write about a deeply personal issue without making it sound like a personal sob story? Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

11.47: Issue as a Subgenre, with Steven Barnes  

Steven Barnes joins us to tackle Elemental Issue, round two, in which we look at how to address it as a sub-element. He describes the thesis/antithesis approach, and we move then to logical frameworks, and how to avoid making our stories dogmatic.   Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

11.46: Colonialism, with Steven Barnes, Tempest Bradford, DongWon Song, and Shveta Thakrar  

Our listeners have been asking for an in-depth, "crunchy" episode on colonialism, and related issues like cultural appropriation, for a couple of years now. Our voices, however, are not the ones our listeners should be hearing on the subject. Finding the right voices has not been easy, but it has been worth it. This episode runs for over 25 minutes. Steven Barnes, K. Tempest Bradford, DongWon Song, and Shveta Thakrar discuss colonialism with Mary Robinette Kowal. Brandon, Dan, and Howard simply listened, and learned. We encourage you to do the same. Liner notes: Here's the recommended reference reading — "Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses", Stephanie A. Fryberg, Hazel Rose Markus, Daphna Oyserman, and Joseph M. Stone Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

11.45: Elemental Issue, with Desiree Burch  

For November, our elemental genre is "Issue," and we were joined by actor, writer, and comedian Desiree Burch. The Elemental Issue is similar to the Elemental Idea, but the type of idea being explored is a point of social conflict, like racism, teen pregnancy, or corporate greed. Authors writing Elemental Issue stories raise questions for the readers. We talk about how to go about writing these without sounding preachy, and without writing polemics. Soundbite Moment: "The more specific a work gets, the more broadly it relates to other people." —Desiree Burch Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

11.Bonus-03: Some Books Have Maps in the Front, with Maurice Broaddus, Mur Lafferty, and James Sutter  

Three days late for the beginning of NaNoWriMo 2016, here's a bonus episode about maps. Because nothing says "keep writing" like "hey, let's draw a map now!" Dan and Howard were joined by Maurice Broaddus, Mur Lafferty, and James L. Sutter, who wanted to talk about maps. As Napoleon Bonaparte is rumored to have said prior to invading Russia, "geography is destiny." We talk port dwarves, rolling glaciers, star systems, and more. Liner links: Logarithmic star map Tolkien's map of Middle Earth Center-Pivot Irrigation (75 years old, not 50 as Howard said) Credits: This episode was mastered by Alex Jackson, and was made possible by the generous support of the GenCon Indy Writer’s Symposium, and the Writing Excuses patrons at Patreon.

11.Bonus-02: Horrifying the Children, with Darren Shan  

Happy Halloween! Darren Shan talks horror with us in this bonus episode, made possible by our Patreon supporters.

11.44: Project in Depth, GHOST TALKERS, by Mary Robinette Kowal  

Spoiler Alert!  If you haven't yet read Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal, this episode will spoil great swathes of book for you. Also, you probably won't get as much out of it. This week's episode is a Project in Depth discussion focusing on Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal. We begin with the difference between the catalog pitch and the pitch given to editors, and how critical that distinction is. Mary then talks to us about the decisions she made while plotting the book, and the things she did in order to best execute on the story she set out to tell.   Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

11.43: Elemental Drama Q&A, with Tananarive Due  

Our third Elemental Drama episode is a Q&A, featuring Tananarive Due. The questions are from the attendees at the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat: Rather than having a protagonist change themselves, can elemental drama have the protagonist change others? What happens when a character refuses to learn, refuses to overcome their flaw(s)? What are the lines between drama and melodrama? Do you have tips for describing body language that communicates character states? Are there cases where you should not show character growth or change? How do you keep it realistic when writing a character who undergoes a great change?   Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

11.42: Elemental Drama as a Sub-Genre  

Focusing on elemental drama can be tricky. Remember, elemental drama is basically "character change." A great many stories use character change in some way—it's almost ubiquitous. In this episode we'll pick at the ubiquity, and look at the many different ways in which character change can be featured, and what sort of tools we have at our disposal to make this happen in our stories.

11.Bonus-01: Characterization and Differentiation, with Robin Hobb  

Robin Hobb joined us at GenCon Indy for a discussion of characterization and differentiation. And by "discussion," what we really mean is "we ask Robin all the questions." We learn about Robin's process for creating characters, wrapping stories around them, and making these characters distinctly different from each other. Credits: This episode was recorded by Joel Burnham, and mastered by Alex Jackson, and was made possible by the generous support of the GenCon Indy Writer's Symposium, and the Writing Excuses patrons at Patreon.

11.41: The Editor’s Wish List, with Navah Wolfe  

Navah Wolfe, an editor at Saga Press, joined us to talk about the manuscripts she would really like to see. Ordinarily we don't encourage people to write to the market, but Navah asked specifically for the opportunity to tell our listeners what she's looking for. As it happens, tracking Navah's wish list as you write is unlikely to send you haring after the latest trend—you're far more likely to develop some new writing skills that will make your work more enjoyable, more fulfilling, and ultimately easier to sell. Spoiler Warning: In three weeks we'll be doing a Project in Depth on Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal. If you want to get the most out of that episode, you have three weeks to acquire and read the book. Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.  

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