Tag Archive: Writing Excuses

Fooling the Audience

Normally I ignore April Fools’ Day, but it occurred to me that it would be thematically appropriate to talk about a valuable writing skill: hiding things from your audience.

“Wait, what? Hiding things? That doesn’t sound like a good idea! The whole point of writing is to tell them things!”

Exactly! But you don’t just tell them the end first, do you? You build up to it, with clues that set up the twists, but then hide those clues so that it’s still a surprise to all but the most eagle-eyed.

I feel I should issue a warning, though. Learning these concepts can lead some people to feel that all stories are ruined forever. If you’re just here for the reviews, don’t read any further. Personally, I find it enjoyable to spot the tricks, especially with a skilled author; it doesn’t ruin it any more than knowing how to spot individual brush strokes will ruin a masterful painting. Still, I’ve seen people become disappointed, and so I give you fair notice.  Continue reading

I’ve had this blog for more than seven months. I’ve averaged about three or four posts per month. That’s bad enough, but in all that time, I’ve kept putting off telling you about Writing Excuses.

Writing Excuses is an award-winning weekly podcast (two time Parsec, two time Hugo nominee, also nominated for a Podcast Award) that covers creative writing. It’s a bit over five years old now, and its archives are nearly 100 hours deep. If you listened to an episode every day starting now, you’d finish in just under one year (counting the new episodes that will be released weekly over that time).

Does that sound daunting? Don’t worry. Each episode is only fifteen minutes (well, okay, sometimes they run over) long — because, as they say, “you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.”

The “in a hurry” part is correct. It’s hard to make time when focusing on writing, because you really have to treat it as a full-time job. Most of us already have full-time jobs, or in many cases two or more part-time jobs. Some of you are in college, which is more than a full-time job. (Hint to you college students: if you’re not devoting about sixty hours a week to school, you’re either not a full-time student or you’re in some really easy classes.) The podcast format makes it very easy to listen to a full episode, maybe two, during your commute, while you’re on your lunch break, or while you’re cooking or doing your dishes or vacuuming the house. (Though you might need earbuds for that last one.)

The “not that smart” part is . . . debatable. These guys are good. The podcast hosts are New York Times bestselling fantasy novelist Brandon Sanderson (yes, that guy who finished The Wheel of Time and wrote the Mistborn series), supernatural horror novelist Dan Wells (author of the seriously wonderful John Cleaver novels, starting with I Am Not a Serial Killer, which deserves a review from me sometime), professional puppeteer and historical fantasy/alternate history novelist Mary Robinette Kowal (author of The Glamourist Histories; she joins the podcast full-time in Season Six), and science fiction cartoonist and humorist Howard Tayler (who writes and draws the award-winning and record-breaking Schlock Mercenary).

I’ve met all four in one way or another (the first two in real life, the other two via webcams, Facebook, and email). They know their stuff and they’re great to talk to. I’m not saying I agree with everything they say, mind you; just 99%.

Well, okay. 98%. That’s my final offer.

Give them a listen. Even if you don’t write fantasy, horror, or science fiction, you’ll find plenty to learn from them.

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