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How can we make publishing more inclusive? What role does mentorship play? And how can you reframe competition as collaboration? All this and more in this episode. Homework: What's one thing that you can do to make someone else's path easier? Can you take a step towards doing this this week? Thing of the Week: After Five - newsletters from Suyi Dav…
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The relationship between a writer and a publisher is… one that isn’t talked about enough. So we made an episode about rejection letters, email etiquette, and empathy. As a writer, how do you talk with a publisher? Well, luckily we have someone who knows all about the publishing world because they’re an agent at a large publishing house. DongWon off…
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Have you ever thought of being a publisher, but don't know if it's the right choice for you? In this episode, DongWon (an agent at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency) walks you through this world and gives you some tips for how to decide if publishing is the right career for you. Homework: Come up with a list of 3 things you've read. Think of things th…
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In this episode, we unpack what the publishing industry is, what exactly it does, and why it does it. We also outline the first steps for preparing to talk to an agent or publisher. Homework: If you had to sit down with a publisher today and convince them that there's a market for you book, how would you start doing it? Make a list of 3-5 titles th…
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Back in February, with Episode 18.8, we began exploring the process of writing a mystery story. That episode led us into a series of six episodes about tension, and the tools we use to create and manage it. And now, with this episode (and a toolbox full of tension) we're ready (we hope!) to revisit the creation of mystery stories. Credits: Your hos…
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Let's take all our tension tools and apply them in tiny ways. A big application of tension might be an argument between two characters about a course of plot-important action. Microtension might be those characters arguing about how long to boil eggs. In this episode we'll explore some favorite applications of microtension, and the ways in which it…
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In our ongoing exploration of tension, the time has come to examine conflict. It can be shaped and delivered in numerous ways, but you have to know the core conflict before you can make anybody feel tense about it. Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was record…
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Our continuing exploration of tension has taken us to a favorite technique: unanswered questions. Sure, this obviously applies to mysteries, but consider the question posed in romances: “will they get together?” In its simplest form, the unanswered question that forces a page-turn is "what happens on the next page?" In this episode we explore how t…
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Our deconstruction and categorization of tension continues this week with an exploration of Juxtaposition, which is a contrast between two elements that supplies tension by allowing the reader to insert themselves. Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was record…
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Last week we talked about tension, and promised that we'd be breaking it down into more pieces. This week we're discussing one of those pieces: Anticipation. We sub-divided it as follows: Surprise Suspense Humor Promises We talk about how to create anticipatory tension well, where the pitfalls are, and how this fits into the creation of our stories…
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After last week's deep dive into The Spare Man we're ready to talk more generally about mysteries, and the tools we use to write them. Obviously we can't cover all of that in just one episode, but don't worry. In upcoming episodes we'll explore more of these tools in detail. Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon So…
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Spoiler Alert! This week is our deep dive into Mary Robinette Kowal's The Spare Man. It's a sci-fi mystery novel often described as "The Thin Man in space." Deep dive episodes are necessarily full of spoilers because we ask all kinds of how and why questions specific to the writing of the work in question. If you haven't yet read The Spare Man, you…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler In this episode we interview Howard Tayler, one of the founding members of the podcast, and the creator of Schlock Mercenary. The first question: how did this twenty-year ride change you? And a later question: what comes next? Liner Notes: We'll eventually do…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler In this episode Howard Tayler conducts our interview with Mary Robinette Kowal, leading with a wide-open question: "Where did you even?" Mary Robinette talks to us about how she came to the world of writing, and some of the amazing things she picked up along …
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler In this episode Erin Roberts very enthusiastically launches our interview with "OG" Dan Wells with a delightfully difficult question, paraphrased thusly: "is there advice you gave back in the early days that you still stand by today?" There are lots of other …
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler As we announced in the first episode of the year (and in this press release), DongWon Song and Erin Roberts are joining us as permanent cast members. Today we're conducting an interview with Erin Roberts. She is newer to career writing than any of the rest of…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler As we announced in last week's episode (and in this press release), DongWon Song and Erin Roberts are joining us as permanent cast members. In this episode we conduct an interview with DongWon Song, plumbing a few depths, and learning a bit more about what th…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler We begin 2023 with some big changes, and in this episode we'll discuss those, starting with some changes to the core cast. DongWon Song and Erin Roberts are joining us as permanent cast members, and Brandon Sanderson is stepping aside with "emeritus" status. …
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Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Mary Robinette, and Howard This Q&A session was recorded before a live audience aboard ship at WXR 2022, Here are some paraphrasings of the questions our attendees asked: How do you make your world feel big without infodumping? How do you balance a sense of progress with an unreliable narrator? How can I make two magic sys…
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Your Hosts: Dongwon Song, Piper J. Drake, Peng Shepherd, Marshall Carr, Jr., and Erin Roberts Let's talk about burnout. It's been a long few years (with some of those years feeling like decades) so this may seem timely, but burnout can happen during otherwise ordinary times. Ignoring it or simply trying to "burn smarter, not harder" can have seriou…
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Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Dongwon Song, and Dan Wells Thanks to some last-minute schedule changes, we almost didn't have an episode for today. Only three cast members were able to make it to the session, and none of those three had the syllabus. But we forged ahead anyway, and recorded an episode about why we felt it was important to record an epi…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, C.L. Polk, Fran Wilde, and Howard Tayler Let's put a stake in the ground here: disabilities do not grant magical powers. And yet that exact trope can be found in multiple genres, across multiple mediums. In this episode we talk about why this happens, and how we might better portray the magical awesomeness found in our b…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, C.L. Polk, Fran Wilde, and Howard Tayler Let's talk about pain. It hurts, yes, but we all experience it, so writing about it can be a great point of connection between the writer and the reader. Also, writing about it can hurt. Liner Notes: We referenced "No, I'm Fine," by Howard Tayler, and "The Visions Take Their Toll:…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, C.L. Polk, Fran Wilde, and Howard Tayler This is the "talking about how to talk about" talk. We begin by reviewing the difference between the medical model and the social model of disability. Liner Notes: This TikTok provides a nice explanation of the medical and social models of disability. There's also this essay, "The…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, C.L. Polk, Fran Wilde, and Howard Tayler Okay, before we start, you have homework: Please take a few minutes to read this essay by Fran Wilde entitled "You Wake Up Monstrous." That will give you context for our discussion, which is about how body horror and other monstrous-ness is a tool we should be employing with great…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, C.L. Polk, Fran Wilde, and Howard Tayler Let's talk about technological body-modification! It's a common element in science fiction, but it's also an increasingly important part of the world we're living in right now. Liner Notes: In this episode we referenced "Happenstance," and Amy Purdy's quickstep from Dancing With T…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Fran Wilde, C.L. Polk, and Howard Tayler Let's talk for a bit about writing while disabled. This can mean anything from scheduling your craft around doctor's appointments, to learning to operate on a limited budget as defined by your body. You might be asking "I'm not disabled, so how does this pertain to me?" Well... yo…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette and Howard Tayler, with special guests Fran Wilde, C.L. Polk, and William Alexander Whether or not you're writing from your own experience, depicting disability in fiction is fraught. In this episode we'll talk about some of the dos and don'ts in order to provide you with guidelines for disability depiction. Credits: This…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette and Howard Tayler, with special guests Fran Wilde, C.L. Polk, and William Alexander For the next eight episodes we'll be talking about bodies, and how they don't all work the same way, and how this can be applied to our writing. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, and Howard Tayler, with special guest Seth Fishman Seth Fishman, author of seven picture books (as well as lots of longer-form stuff), joins us to talk about writing picture books, including some of the business and publication aspects. No-Context Pull Quote: "Your art is so bad we're …
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, and Howard Tayler, with special guest Peng Shepherd Peng Shepherd joined us aboard Liberty of the Seas for WXR 2022, and returned with us to the topic of story structures. In this episode we answer questions from our live audience. The questions include: How do you make sure you've got…
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Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Dongwon Song, Piper J. Drake, & Howard Tayler, with special guest K. M. Szpara CONTENT WARNING: this episode is about adult acts and adult bodies, and we won't be using euphemisms. K.M. Szpara joined us at WXR 2022 for this discussion of writing bodies and intimacy, with a particular focus on which kinds of words t…
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Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, C.L. Polk, Marshall Carr, Jr., and Mary Robinette Kowal Oh no! You've put the project down for long enough that you've lost your place in it! Whatever will you do? For starters, you can listen to this episode. We've been there, and one of us is there right now. We talk about the different problems you're likely facing, an…
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Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Cady Coleman The fictional side of science and the scientific side of fiction are part of the discipline of science communication, often called SciComm. In this episode Cady Coleman joins us to talk about how science fiction fits into the field of SciComm, and how the stories we tell can affect the p…
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Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Cady Coleman Chemist, USAF Colonel, and NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman joins us to talk about actual travel to actual space, and how that's a thing which is increasingly available to people who are not in the employ of government space agencies. Also, we discuss how the demographics of space travelers a…
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Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler We wrap up our eight-episode dialog master class with a discussion of nuance, which is difficult to describe in a blurb because it's... well, nuanced. That may sound a bit recursive, but our discussion dives deep into the meta. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan…
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Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler We begin this episode with a quick exploration of the terminology, and what we mean when we say "text," "context," and "subtext." Subtext exists between text and context. It's the information which isn't actually in the text, but which we are able to divine based on th…
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Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler Tension! In this episode we discuss the ways dialog can build and/or maintain tension, especially when placed in context with the rest of the scene. Liner Notes: A great article about tension for those who (like Howard) may need a solid working definition -Toward a gen…
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Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler Everything is about conflict? Really? Well, yes. Maybe not in the action-movie sense, but conflict is everywhere, even among people whose goals, objectives, and methodologies are in alignment. This, of course, means that it exists among your cast of characters, and it …
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Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler We've mentioned "area of intention" earlier in this dialog master class, but now the concept gets the spotlight. If all of your characters have their own agendas, their own areas of intention, then the dialog between them should reflect that. Credits: This episode was …
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Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler How well do you know your characters? Sure, you might know their age, nationality, and perhaps wardrobe, but how well do you know their internal characteristics? Do you know them well enough that you can write dialog that sounds like them? In this episode we discuss ho…
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Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler We're back with Maurice Broaddus for the second in our eight-episode mini-master-class on writing dialogue. This time around we're addressing the question of dialogue's "job." What's it for? Why is this particular bit of dialogue in this scene, this chapter, this book?…
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Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler Writer, teacher, and community organizer Maurice Broaddus joins us for an eight-episode mini-master-class on writing dialogue. In this episode he walks us through his three keys: pay attention to how people speak, write in a way that evokes how they speak, and write di…
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Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida Cordova, Kaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler In this, our final "ensemble masterclass" episode, we discuss the nuts-and-bolts, the tips and tricks, the tools of the trade. In short, we talk very specifically about how we do it. Color-coded sticky notes, index cards, spreadsheets, and more... Liner Notes: Howard's guest st…
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Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida Cordova, Kaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler Our episode title comes to us across two and a half centuries: "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." —Benjamin Franklin We've already established that you're planning to write an ensemble. This isn't an episode about the pros and…
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Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida Cordova, Kaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler We've talked about making every member of the ensemble meaningful. In this episode we're discussing who, in archetype terms, everybody is. How can archetypes help us get started, how can they help us set reader expectations, and what are the archetype-related pitfalls we need t…
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