There’s a writing podcast out there on the Internets that any aspiring writer, or writer looking to get published, or someone who just likes writing in some way, or even someone who just likes one or more of its three hosts should check out and start listening to. It’s called Writing Excuses, and it’s hosted and run by Brandon Sanderson, author of the Mistborn trilogy, The Way of Kings, and is currently finishing the last Wheel of Time book, A Memory of Light; Dan Wells, author of I am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don’t Want to Kill You; and Howard Tayler, creator, author and illustrator of the great Schlock Mercenary web comic. Mary Robinette Kowal also recently joined the show.
Writing Excuses is now working through its seventh season, with the average season being over thirty episodes . The other cool thing about the podcast, which is part of their tag line — “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart” — is that while there are a number of episodes that run over the fifteen-minute mark, for the most part it stays true to that time limit, making it a great, quick and easy show to listen to as you know exactly how many episodes you can get through in a specific amount of time.
I’ve been listening to it in the car and at work a lot, and it has provided much entertainment during my eight-hour shifts. The key to the show really is that these guys do know a lot about publishing and writing, as they have all made careers out of it. Brandon Sanderson is an internationally bestselling author and really well known now, but at the time of the start of the podcast, in February 2008, his Mistborn trilogy had not yet been completed and published, so throughout the podcast, from season to season, he provides insightful details on his growing publishing career. At the start of the show, Dan Wells had just sold his book to Tor, so from season to season listeners get to hear the developments with his books and successes. And Howard Tayler, who runs his own webcomic and essentially self-publishes it and has made a career out of it by selling books and merchandise through his website, discusses throughout the show developments with his comic and website, as well as providing insights and writing tips he has learned.
Each episode is geared towards a specific topic and the three do a great job of getting each others’ viewpoints and opinions and experiences on this topic, and with the diverse genres they write in — Brandon mainly does epic fantasy, while Dan has published young adult horror — listeners get a good rounded podcast with each episode. The show also features numerous guests authors like James Dashner, Eric Flint, and Mary Robinette Kowal (who has now joined the show), as well as editors, comic book artists, and a whole variety of other important people in the publishing and writing business. A number of episodes are recorded at various conventions and feature guest speakers and Q&As with convention attendees.
The guys are also really funny. They’ve been good friends for a long time, and Brandon and Dan went to school together, and because of this there’s a great rapport and frisson (if you will) between them, making it dynamic and organic and, like I said, very funny. The Writing Excuses Wiki Page has a good episode listing for the first five seasons, with direct links.
The other impressive thing about the show is how bold its podcasters are; they don’t hold back at critiquing each others’ work in order to make a point about good writing. To put this in perspective, I just finished up season 4, and in episode 29, they discuss line editing and then proceed to line edit Brandon Sanderson’s first, unpublished novel. And its both hilarious and very informative.
Over the last month of listening to the show, I’ve learned so much about writing and it’s not that they discuss things about writing I’ve never thought about before, but they take it apart and break it down to its components and analyze it, which isn’t something I’ve done with most of these topics. They also use real examples as often as possible, to put it all in exact context, so there can be no confusion about the meaning.
So the next time you have a spare fifteen minutes, which really isn’t that much time, give Writing Excuses a shot, pick a random episode, and I guarantee: you’ll learn something about writing you didn’t know, and you’ll laugh while doing it.