Episode 6: Where Writers Begin and (Sometimes) End

In today’s episode we talk about where to begin—what new writers need to do when they’re first starting out. Marion breaks it down into four steps: Read, write, get in a writing group, and network.

Then we talk about where writers (sometimes) end—how they give up on writing. It may be due to overwhelming rejections, desperation that causes bad decisions, unrealistic expectations, etc.

Later, we play a game based on The Storymatic.

To listen, use the media player below, or click here to download. The Appendix podcast is also available on iTunes.

Some music from today’s episode comes from Cases of Misused Apostrophe’s, by Go1dfish (used under a Creative Commons license).

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7 Responses to “Episode 6: Where Writers Begin and (Sometimes) End”

  1. Krista
    March 2, 2011 at 7:58 pm #

    Great podcast. I’m taking you to my writing group today.

    Chase is on a vacation, of sorts. He’s run away, left a wrong number for his ma, in search of a new rhythm of life. He’s a simple farm boy and this is his first trip to the big city of DJJazzyJeff. While shopping in Vanilla Ice’s Used Bass Beats, he is unaware that it is noon, and while the suspicious shopkeeper has been watching Chase closely, wary of the boy’s John Deere cap and Carhartt jacket, the whole city has transformed into a beat-boxed version of Paris, complete with the Eiffel Cell Tower in the distance. All citizens must now speak only French, or face death.
    Finding a Bass Beat that strikes his hay-seed heart, Chase looks for a price tag. In good spirits, he holds up the case and asks if it’s free.
    To his astonishment, the background music in the store changes to a loud pounding rhythm and the clerk jumps onto the counter with a mic, his huge leather jacket and chains swinging. Chase notices for the first time the clerk’s ultra-baggy tiger-striped pants in neon pink tucked into black hi-tops, as the clerk begins a choreographed stomp and spin that would make any hick from Cramville’s farmer’s tan pale. The clerk begins shouting nasally commands into the mic, pointing his finger accusingly at Chase, who reflects frozenly in the clerks mirrored sunglasses.
    As lights spin and more dancers come out from a back room, Chase panics and runs out into the street, setting off an alarm above the music. Police cars are already screeching up in a semi-circle, their oboxious sirens making that French WHA-wha WHA-wha noise we all know and love.
    As he hears the sound of guns cocking and feels the dread of knowing they are pointed at him, he realizes he still holds the bass beat case in his hand. He swallows, not understanding the words shouted at him through the police loudspeaker, but knows better than to move a muscle. A bell rings behind him and the rapper clerk runs out of the store. “Hey wait, I was only giving him a scare. I’m wearing my Hammer pants–”
    A single shot rings out, and the clerk drops to the ground.
    The voice cuts through the now silent street. “La culotte de marteau ou pas, nous parlons seulement le français à partir du midi à deux.”
    Chase catches the next bus home, resolving to stick to his Hank Williams.
    On the way out of town, he sees a billboard sign transform back into English. “Hammer pants or no, we speak only French from noon to two.”

    And for the record, you guys wear me out. I need some chocolate milk.

  2. Heidi
    April 1, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Someone, I think it was Marion, mentioned taking second place in a writing contest at USU. If it’s not too nosy, I’m wondering what year that was?

    • Marion Jensen
      April 3, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

      Let’s see . . . we’re talking ancient history here. It would have been 1990, I believe. Do they still have those stories somewhere? If I recall correctly, the short story became the first chapter in my book, Chickens in the Headlights.

  3. Johnny
    April 4, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    Since you already figured out why and what make some pieces of writing not very good and how to fix them. Can you talk about them? You said it takes 10 years to learn the craft. Can you tell us about the craft you learned? There are so few podcasts about craft.

    • Rob Wells
      April 4, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

      Hi Johnny,

      Thanks for the question. Because of the connection we have with Writing Excuses (Dan is my brother, and all of us are friends) we’re purposely trying not to compete with them. So, we leave most of the “how-to” stuff to them, and we here talk about broader, more abstract industry topics (which Writing Excuses mostly avoids).

      • Chris
        April 6, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

        Writing Excuses is a fantastic podcast also. I’m torn on this idea. The first thing to think of when creating a podcast, story, business, etc. is “What’s our niche?” My opinion when it comes to podcasts is that the main competition is for your listeners’ time.

        I’m heading up a new podcast so this has been on my mind. My biggest concern isn’t so much “competition” in our genre (tabletop gaming), but rather the worry about overlapping on topics too much. I personally can afford to listen to many podcasts because I’m a code monkey, but I realize some listeners may not have that luxury. Another way to view it is that Writing Excuses covers similar topics, but hearing more opinions on the same subject—in an entertaining format—is a *good* thing.

        Great topic on this episode, loved the ideas. Energy level felt a little low (something our ‘cast suffers from sometimes) and the audio is improving, but again, there are things you learn with experience. :)

        Thanks for recording these!

  4. Kristi
    October 3, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    Thank you for the advice! I now have a new perspective on how to achieve my goal of writing books as well as a hint of a roadmap to follow. It’s my first time here, but I’ll be back. Krista Jensen directed me here through her author blog, and I thought I’d take a stab at the challenge. Who knows if anyone will even read it?

    I only have two minutes to make the call because it’s almost noon and my French stinks. In their infinite wisdom, the town government has decreed that between the hours of noon and 2pm, all communication must occur in French. The penalty for slipping is a warning the first time, a Nathaniel Hawthorn-esque public humiliation the second time and death the third time. I was okay with the scarlet I (for IDIOT) last time I slipped, but I don’t think I can shake off death quite as easily. The law and attached penalties are supposed to provide the necessary motivation for our citizens to become proficient in French, thereby providing the city with a better chance at earning
    international support for its bid for the Olympics. Whatever. I’m not that into the Games, so I generally choose to seclude myself and pass the two hours in silence. But today I have to call a tow truck to come get my worthless car so I won’t get cited for leaving it on the curb of the courthouse for over 24 hours.
    I punch in the number I got at the internet cafe and listen to the ringing. “Great,” I think, “it’s a business that won’t answer during French hours.” Not that I blame them, but by my watch, I still have 90 seconds until noon, and I need the truck there before 2. In order to make the call in English, it has to be done now. I listen to the rings for 20 seconds before, at last, someone answers.
    “Food Market pharmacy, how may I help you?” asks the woman. I’m so flustered, I waste another 10 seconds explaining that I dialed the wrong number. I watch more closely as I dial the second time, positive that I get all 7 digits correct. 55 seconds until noon. I’m feeling desperate as I watch 10 seconds pass while I listen to the ringing, but fortunately it takes no longer before the man answers.
    “Adam’s tires.”
    “Do you tow?” I shout.
    “What?” he shouts back.
    “I need a tow truck! Do you tow?”
    “We can only change your tires if you bring your car ici,” he replies, switching into French the second it turns noon. I can’t believe it. There is no way I can explain my situation in French, and my car will be cited before I can speak English again. I sigh in exasperation.
    “Merci,” I say as I hang up. Well, that exhausts my foreign language repertoire. I almost giggle thinking the word “repertoire”, but I am way too frustrated to enjoy the irony.
    I start walking toward the courthouse, hoping that the parking police won’t find my car before 2, and that I can talk my way out of the citation when they get there. I know it’s a long shot.
    As I walk, I notice a guy staring at a gun in the window of the pawn shop across the street. He is wearing pants that are about six sizes too big for him. His hat is at what I’m sure he considers a rebellious angle and I can see four tattoos on various areas of his body. I can picture him watching Eminem videos for fashion tips. Normally I wouldn’t think twice about the wannabe rapper, but as I get closer, he looks around, like he’s about to try something and wants to check for witnesses. Apparently he’s not that good at avoiding witnesses, because he doesn’t notice me. Or maybe he was actually hoping for a witness to the first crime in his sure-to-be famous spree. Regardless of whether he wanted me to see or not, I’m straight across the street with an unimpeded view when he pulls a hammer from his enormous pants and breaks the window. Before I can even comprehend what he’s just done, he grabs the gun and takes off at a sprint down the street. I take off after him, yelling for help.
    The police reach me faster than I think should be possible. There are two of them, one blond and the other a redhead with a mustache.
    “He ran that way…” I start, but then realize they’re not there to apprehend the gun thief. The blond one has a syringe in his hand, and the redhead grabs my arm and holds it out straight.
    “Désolé,” he says, but his face doesn’t look sorry at all.
    “You’ve got to be kidding! Some gang banger just stole a gun and you’re going to kill me for telling you about it in English?” My last thought is that it’s the second irony of the day that I can’t enjoy.

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