Let's Talk about Writing Excuses:

Total posts: [47]
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1 BensenDan5th Apr 2012 10:10:21 PM from Sofia.Bulgaria
Daniel Bensen
Let's talk about Writing Excuses (http://www.writingexcuses.com/).

What did you take away from this week's podcast?

Have you had the problems they mentioned before? Have you tried the solutions? Did they work? Maybe you have a technique that works better. Let's talk about that, shall we?

2 BensenDan5th Apr 2012 10:12:27 PM from Sofia.Bulgaria
Daniel Bensen
This week's episode (http://www.writingexcuses.com/2012/04/01/writing-excuses-7-14-writing-excuses/) was an April Fool's what NOT to do.

I think the basic messages are:

Don't waste time doing things that aren't actually writing.

Don't compare yourself to other authors.

Have a life with real human contact.

It's possible I missed some.

Rarely active, try DA/Tumblr
Avatar by pippanaffie.deviantart.com
4 LastHussar6th Apr 2012 12:09:34 PM from the place is here.
The time is now,
Aren't 1 and 3 mutually exclusive?
Do the job in front of you.
They think me mad
It means when you sit down and write, you sit down and WRITE.
to the last I grapple with thee; from hellís heart I stab at thee; for hateís sake I spit my last breath at thee
They weren't saying "do nothing but write", they were saying "don't procrastinate once you sit down to write".

Anyway, this was pretty funny! I'll be listening to more of these.
What's the point in giving up when you know you'll never stop anyway?
7 BensenDan6th Apr 2012 10:47:35 PM from Sofia.Bulgaria
Daniel Bensen
@Last Hussar :) Good point

It's a problem that we need time away from distractions to write, but we need distractions in order to have something to write about.

I just had a really busy week, and I managed to continue writing by jotting notes in my kindle. Then every night I uploaded those notes to my computer, then the next day I made notes ON yesterdays notes and so on. I only actually sat down at my computer and WROTE once during the week, but I got a good 4.5K words out of it, which is nice.

What about you guys, how do you deal with distractions? And how do you deal with the urge to procrastinate?
8 LimitRemoval7th Apr 2012 12:33:47 AM from C:\Users\Name\Pictures\
MS Paint? Hell Yeah!
[up] Distractions are aplenty, especially if you have an internet connection. And I have a tendency to revise and revise my outline but never actually gotten around in writing the story.

FocusWriter does a rather good job in putting aside distractions, and sometimes I can get some 5k words from one good hour. wink
9 LastHussar8th Apr 2012 05:24:59 AM from the place is here.
The time is now,
I was only joking.
Do the job in front of you.
10 Noaqiyeum8th Apr 2012 07:17:07 PM from the October Country , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
The it-thingy
"It's hard to steal your identity by lever-and-pulley."
Anyone who looks dangerous is dangerous.

Anyone who doesn't look dangerous is dangerous and sneaky.
11 BensenDan8th Apr 2012 11:38:26 PM from Sofia.Bulgaria
Daniel Bensen

I think they had a point about the size of a writer's beard being proportional to his (or her??) success.
12 BensenDan9th Apr 2012 04:01:02 AM from Sofia.Bulgaria
Daniel Bensen
Okay, in this week's episode they talked through the first half of a story outline, mentioning the "red flags" that came up. Here are the useful things I got out of the episode:

1) When reading an outline, don't pay attention to emotional justification for characters' actions. Assume those actions are justified.

2) When writing an outline, include mention of those justifications (for yourself if no-one else).

3) Make sure your characters are different from each other (well-defined)

4) They should always be doing interesting things.

5) Escalation of threat is important to keep the story moving forward.

6) There are key points when characters make decisions that affect the rest of the book (they mention the three-act play structure)

7) And something about Dora the Explorer? Huh?

I don't usually do much outlining, but I think now that perhaps I should. Today I made the beginning of an outline for the story I'm finishing (so I can see where to cut things), but I think I should have done that earlier in the process. When I finish the first draft of the story I'm starting now, I plan to make an outline before I read over it again and have it beta-read.

How about you guys? Do you outline? Does it help? Did I miss anything important in my summary?

edited 9th Apr '12 4:01:19 AM by BensenDan

13 MrAHR9th Apr 2012 12:16:18 PM from ಠ_ಠ , Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
I outline.

Well, sorta. I wrote an "outline" for Cak to read my story, like, 3 years ago.

It wasn't much of an outline, since it amounted to about...Either 80 or 60 thousand words.
14 feotakahari9th Apr 2012 12:24:30 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
Outlining has become more important to me as my stories have become longer. If I know how many chapters they'll have, and what will need to happen in each chapter, I know where content that could go in several places should be put to maintain consistent pacing.
That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
15 Noaqiyeum9th Apr 2012 12:29:19 PM from the October Country , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
The it-thingy
The thing about Dora the Explorer, I believe, was that it's a very concise distillation of a quest story.

I outline, kind of. My preferred writing method is actually to outline the story/essay and then make it increasingly detailed until it becomes a draft. :P I've never actually finished anything longer than a short story that way, though, so I'm experimenting with the 'writing by the seat of your pants' method right now.
Anyone who looks dangerous is dangerous.

Anyone who doesn't look dangerous is dangerous and sneaky.
16 BensenDan10th Apr 2012 01:31:44 AM from Sofia.Bulgaria
Daniel Bensen
[up] Right, I outlined essays like that in college, and I tried to do something like it when I first started writing long stories, but I found seat-of-the-pants works better to get me excited about the initial stage of writing. The problem is then I have to go back and cut out the vast swaths of text that never ended up going anywhere (and it's never as simple as just deleting a block of text, because there might be some stuff in there I need to save). What I'm doing for THIS book is a little bit of outlining at the beginning, then seat of the pants writing within the boundaries and goals set by the preliminary outline, then a second, more detailed outline based on the first draft, which I can use to see what needs to be cut and added.

Anybody have any outlines they want to share?
17 BensenDan12th Apr 2012 05:54:42 AM from Sofia.Bulgaria
Daniel Bensen
Okay, here's my outline. It gets rough and vague once you get past the point I haven't already written.

Ahem: 1. We meet Trals Scarback, Leader of the Ethlek, a tribe of nomads in a Mesozoic world. Trals attacks a party of slave-taking Siwshmen invaders, but is captured.

2. We meet Andrea Ferrero, an ex-soldier from the future tasked with bodygaurding a group of paleontologists on a jaunt to the Late Cretaceous Hell Creek formation. Because of odd instrument readings, they worry they have arrived in a past parallel timeline (a common problem). Despite the protestations of Dr. Kai Li Yang, the head of the expedition, they land. Dr. Christopher Larsen, a paleopalynologist who has a crush on Andrea, goes into the forest to confirm they are in the right universe. Andrea accompanies him.

3. We meet Ngarong of the Ankylosaur, a general in the Land-Navy of the Siwsh Thalassocracy, and bitter enemy of Trals Scarback. Having captured Trals, he uses a mystical holy relic (a radio) to contact his wife back in the Siwsh capitol. She informs him that their angelic servants have detected an anomaly in his vicinity, which could be the fabled Ship of Years. Ngarong heads into the forest to find the Ship, with the chained Trals as his guide.

4. Chris hits on Andrea, while she demonstrates the abilities of the strength-enhancing powersuits they all wear. Chris identifies several Cretaceous plants, but upon digging, discovers a layer of potsherds under the topsoil. This timeline is inhabited. They rush back to the time machine.

5. Trals and Ngarong have arrived at the site of the Ship of Years (the time machine) and have engaged the "angels" they find there. One of the angels is now dead, and the other (Dr. Yang) a prisoner. Trals's fellow Ethlek warriors have also found the site, and are waiting in the forest to rush in and rescue their leader.

6. Cavemen (Ethlek warriors) attack Andrea and Chris as they arrive at their landing site. Aided by the powersuit, Andrea kills a caveman, then engages another after picking up Chris and throwing him toward to time machine, where she hopes he can do some good.

7. Chris begins to fight the Ethlek warriors and Siwsh soldiers. Unfortunately, due to humanitarian programming, their powersuits freeze up presented with empty, upraised hands (the gesture of surrender). Trals figures out how to exploit this loophole, but can't do anything since he is still in chains.

8. Andrea, in the woods, sees what is happening and panics. Before anyone can surrender to her and freeze her suit, she activates her built-in particle cannon and aims at the obvious native leader (Ngarong.)

9. Trals knocks Ngarong out of the way. He convinces the Siwsh general to free him and runs toward Andrea, hands raised in surrender.

10. Chris drags Dr. Yang into the time machine, only to find Ngarong there waiting for them.

11. Trals surrenders at Andrea, and keeps her frozen while one of his warriors poisons her with a blowdart. He drags her off.

12. Dr. Yang goes crazy and nearly kills Ngarong before Chris shows the native how to surrender. When he sees that Andrea is gone, Chris learns from Ngarong that Trals has probably dragged her off to the nearby river. Dr. Yang wants to return home, but Chris refuses to leave until they rescue Andrea. The three of them fly the time machine off in search of her.

13. Andrea awakens in a canoe with Trals and Trals's second in command, Vrem. With hand signs, they convince her that her friends have been taken prisoner by the Siwsh, and they are now taking her to the Siwsh fortification, where she can rescue them.

14. Chris, Yang, and Ngarong track the homing beacon in Andrea's suit. When they fly into sigh, she jumps out of the canoe, overturning it. The ship then flies to the Siwsh fortification.

15. We meet Studious Turtle, niece of Ngarong and a former romantic conquest of Trals. She has stowed away with a group of soldiers sent to reinforce Ngarong, as well as a the learned Abbot Igwiv, sent to help Ngarong with the holy relics it was Ngarong's mission to uncover.

16. Ngarong, Chris, and Yang arrive in the Ship of Years, but only has a few minutes to confront Turtle before Andrea blows a hole in his fort's wall.

17. Trals arrives to find the enemy fort in an uproar and some of his warriors already gathered. He leads them into the fort to loot it while Andrea wrecks the place. Ngarong meanwhile, commands his men to climb on top of the time machine and disable its helicopter blade while he tries to surrender to Andrea and stop her rampage.

18. Chris tries to engage Trals but Trals points out the men ruining his time machine. Trals focuses on Andrea, and lures her toward where his men have readied a domesticated triceratops to trample her. In order to avoid the dinosaur, Andrea is forced to use up her suit's batteries.

19. In the center of the chaos, Turtle finds her beloved Trals as he strips Andrea out of her powersuit and carries her away. Shocked and betrayed, Turtle vows revenge. She goes to the time machine to pacify Chris, who is trying to stop the soldiers from damaging the time machine.

20. Dr. Yang hears the men on top of the time machine and begins to kill them. Chris, horrified, pushes her off the time machine.

21. Ngarong orders his men to surround Yang, hands up. Frozen in the middle of the surrendering mob, Yang can do nothing.

22. Turtle sets about to seduce Chris. With signs, she convinces Chris that Yang is insane and needs to be stopped. Chris agrees, and lies to Yang, saying he will protect her if she deactivates her suit. She does so, and Chris allows her to be taken prisoner.

23. The Ethlek carry Andrea away toward their camp. When they stop to rest, Andrea kills her guard and escapes.

24. Trals hunts her down, wounds her, and takes her back to camp. There, in order to prevent her from being killed (and ruining the potential he recognizes to use her as a weapon against the Siwshmen), he is forced to declare her his wife.

25. Chris wakes up in the fort to find that the Swishmen haven't imprisoned Yang as he thought, but killed her. Presented with her corpse, he nearly destroys the fort, but Turtle uses her wiles to calm him down. This convinces her uncle Ngarong to let her stay.

26. Ngarong goes to find Abbot Igwiv, who is interrogating Yang. Yang is not dead, but an interrogation subject, teaching Igwiv English, which is an ancient form of the Siwsh holy language.

27. Andrea, sick from her wounds, arrives at the Ethlek camp. In her convalescence, she learns the Ethlek language from Vrem, who is in love with her.

28. Trals waits for Andrea to heal while he gathers support for the next raid on the Siwsh fort. His machinations are blocked by the Chief of the tribe (Vrem's father) and the Sayer (a wisewoman) who hates him.

29. Yang teaches English to Igwiv and Turtle, who seduces Chris and prepares him to lead them on a strike against the hated Ethlek. Reinforcements arrive at the fort.

30. The Ethlek raid a farmstead, but Trals is getting increasingly bored with inaction. He spends more time with Andrea, taking the HUD from her powersuit and using it to teach himself English.

31. Andrea realizes how smart Trals is, and also how damaged. She learns about his young life as a slave in Siw, and talks with him about the military history she learned in the army. Trals begins to fall in love with her.

32. Chris sets out from the fort at the head of a small army, heading toward Ethlek lands. On the way, he trains in the use of his powersuit, and learns how to break the humanitarian programming that stops him from hurting the natives.

33. The Ethlek Sayer sees Andrea as a threat and finds an excuse to imprison her, keeping Trals away, but letting Vrem see her and strengthen his crush. Trals doesn't have time to sort out the mess before the Siwshmen attack.

34. Chris makes his first intentional kill, and is astounded by how easy it is. He destroys much of the Ethlek camp in his search for Andrea.

35. Before Chris can find her, Trals takes Andrea hostage. He threatens to kill her unless Chris and his soldiers retreat back to the fort, at which point he will hand her over. Chris forces his own army to withdraw.

36. Chris argues with General Ngarong about withdrawing. Infuriated and drunk with power, he kills Ngarong, then speeds back to the fort ahead of his army.

37. Trals uses the instigating raid from the Siwshmen to whip the Ethlek into battle frenzy. It was always his intention to smash the northern incursion, and now he has the political backing to do it. He calls for a Gathering of all the Ethlek herds to destroy their enemies.

38. Back at the fort, Yang tries to gets Chris's attention by teaching Igwiv English words he can't possibly have heard from Chris (like "integument").

39. Chris finds out that Yang is still alive and kills Igwiv.

40. Yang, horrified by Chris's action, decides to act against him in concert with Turtle, whom he still trusts

41. Andrea gets drawn into Trals's political maneuvering, and nearly gets herself killed when she fails to understand Ethlek customs. She learns that she can't just throw her weight around.

42. Chris learns the opposite lesson in the Siwsh fort and behaves increasingly like a a God-king. Turtle and Yang plot ways to bring him down.

43. The Ethlek Sayer decides Andrea and Trals need to die. She demands that before the Gathered Ethlek set out to raze the Siwsh fort, they must hunt the sacred Tyrannosaur. Andrea is supposed to get killed during this ritual.

44. Gregory sinks deeper into megalomania : forces everyone to ride ornithomimes and make gunpowder weapons.

45. Andrea survives the tyrannosaur hunt, and in fact gets an idea for leading the giant predators in front of the Ethlek horde. In tandem with Ethlek skill at triceratops herding, the tactic proves effective, and devastates the Siwsh fort's defenders.

46. Chris swoops in like a demigod at the head of his elite army. He takes Andrea, who is disgusted to see what she might have become, if she had retained her powersuit.

47. Chris imprisons her, but she is found and rescued, not by Trals, but by Vrem.

48. Vrem doesn't think Trals will honor the deal and he wants Andrea to stay anyway. On the way to the fort, he steals Andrea away from Trals and makes a break for it into the woods.

49. Andrea has some feelings for Trals, but would rather get at the fort and its time machine than run off with Vrem. She betrays him, and Trals kills Vrem.

50. Yang and Turtle conceive of a plot to poison Chris.

51. Under Andrea's advice, Trals's warriors breach the wall of the fort to find Chris defending the time machine, with Turtle and Yang inside.

52. Turtle, confronting Trals, reveals that she has been manipulating Chris, who goes absolutely insane. Half-drugged, he passes out in his suit, which goes into autopilot. Andrea commands it to carry her to the time machine, where she finally recharges her own powersuit.

53. In the epilogue, Andrea has established permanent communications between Trals's world and her own.

edited 12th Apr '12 11:44:58 AM by BensenDan

18 Noaqiyeum15th Apr 2012 05:33:00 PM from the October Country , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
The it-thingy
Question for a thing -

A few weeks/months ago I submitted a YKTTW for The Hollywood Formula, based on the relevant Writing Excuses podcast, because I thought it was important and also brilliant. There was a bit of argument over whether it was or wasn't redundant to The Hero's Journey (answer: it isn't, because the Hero's Journey is about plots and events and the Hollywood Formula is about characters and motivations), and then someone else launched it while I wasn't looking.

I don't mind that part, but I never got any feedback on the accuracy or adequacy of the description, and I'm hesitant to ship it back to YKTTW. Would anyone mind reviewing it for me to make sure it's actually sound?

edited 15th Apr '12 5:33:16 PM by Noaqiyeum

Anyone who looks dangerous is dangerous.

Anyone who doesn't look dangerous is dangerous and sneaky.
Surfing the forums
Unless you've been writing for a few decades, outlining is important. I'm glad they brought up why it's important. People miss that.

Edit: It would be great if we quoted these guys in analysis pages. They understand writing.

edited 15th Apr '12 8:16:09 PM by Akagikiba

It would be amazing if someone could give some tips on writing an outline :D

I can get myself psyched up about an idea, specifically a certain scene (If you still can call it that in writing), but sadly I get bogged down a lot even getting up to the point which got me into writing the story in the first place; things like exposition, or character dialogue, because I have to stop every couple of sentences thinking, 'okay, nothings really happening here, but how can I make it interesting to read?'

edited 15th Apr '12 11:54:03 PM by TheSkeletalGent

21 BensenDan16th Apr 2012 12:33:52 PM from Sofia.Bulgaria
Daniel Bensen
[up] I call them scenes, too. My advice is write what excites you, even if it isn't at the beginning of the story. You can always come back and connect parts up later. Also, don't worry about shoving everything into each scene on the first try. Yes, every scene should have character development, world-building, plot-furtherance, and excitement, but you don't have to write them all at once. You can always scan back over a scene and add what's missing, or write two scenes and then merge them later. So like they say in the podcast, just write.
22 BensenDan18th Apr 2012 12:38:55 AM from Sofia.Bulgaria
Daniel Bensen
So the most recent post (http://www.writingexcuses.com/2012/04/15/writing-excuses-7-16-continuing-with-marys-outline/) finished the outline, and I think there was some great high-level advice that came out at the end.

This advice was: 1) Condense the beginning and expand the end (there wasn't consensus on this, but I like this advice)

2) Condense and focus the object of conflict (in this case, the baby, the princess, the fact that the boy is turning into a demon)

3) Merge the objects of conflict and give them related solutions (kill the demon, save the baby, save the princess, stop the transformation process, and get the girl's name back).

4) Whatever is important for solving the conflict (killing the demon) should be foreshadowed at least three times

5) Bring out the themes and lessons (trying new things, being proactive) and make sure they are echoed at every important part of the story.

I love this advice, although I would have put more emphasis on that first piece of advice. Also, I wasn't sold on the recurring pizza theme. I would prefer a story about American children adapting to Chinese food, rather than taking American food with them to China and introducing it to Chinese mythological characters. But that's just me.

edited 18th Apr '12 12:39:10 AM by BensenDan

23 BensenDan26th Apr 2012 01:52:16 AM from Sofia.Bulgaria
Daniel Bensen
So I was listening to Writing Excuses ([http://www.writingexcuses.com/2012/04/22/writing-excuses-7-17-guns-and-fiction /]). They were talking about guns, which I don't care much about, but what I DO care about is accuracy in general.

1. Inaccuracy knocks you out of the story. Yes, there is suspension of disbelief, but if you think "wait a second, that wouldn't really happen," it detracts from whatever reaction (happiness, anger, whatever) the author is trying to evoke.

2. Insistence on accuracy might actually help you with the plot, giving an interesting problem (the wheel-lock pistol fires a second after you pull the trigger, giving the target a chance to run away) or a solution to a problem.

Which are both excellent reasons to do research as an author. But they didn't mention (cough—-because Brandon Sanderson doesn't do it—-) is that

3. Accurate fiction teaches readers something interesting, and readers like to learn interesting things. And I don't mean how to conjugate verbs in Elvish, I mean how to make a bow or how to tell how long a corpse has been dead, or how people behave when they lose hope. Good fiction (including sci-fi and fantasy) is full of stuff like this. In fact, a big part of the reason I read sci-fi and fantasy (and historical fiction and to a lesser extent mysteries) is because I can learn more new things from these kinds of stories than I can from stories about modern people living normal lives (his car runs on gasoline?! Great Scott!)

In other words, a good author has done their research, and making up the facts doesn't count as research.

What about you guys? Do you agree? Have you been sucked into a new field of study by a particularly good novel? (for example the Amelia Peabody series and Egyptian Archaeology) Any other particularly egregious examples of inaccuracy? Or making up magic nonsense and using that as an excuse for not doing research? (I'm looking at you, David Freaking Rothfuss.)

BTW: Is anybody reading these posts? We didn't have any comments last week...
24 Rynnec26th Apr 2012 10:38:09 AM , Relationship Status: Healthy, deeply-felt respect for this here Shotgun
Killing is my business
I disagree with the accuracy part. As long as I'm already invested in the story and characters, I couldn't give a damn about technological accuracy.
"I'll show you fear, there is no hell, only darkness."

My twitter
25 BensenDan26th Apr 2012 12:08:50 PM from Sofia.Bulgaria
Daniel Bensen
[up] Hm. For me, being forced to suspend my disbelief makes it harder for me to invest my feelings in the story and characters.

Can you give me an example of a book you read that you enjoyed, even though it was totally inaccurate?

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