Reference Desk #13 — Writing Excuses

I have a system for listening to podcasts. First, I hear about a podcast that sounds interesting. Then I subscribe to it on my phone. Then, for weeks, sometimes months, I occasionally look at the icon in my podcasts. Once the podcast is nicely aged, I might decide to try listening to it. Either that or I get irritated with the number of things I’m subscribed to, and I delete it.

I’m glad I didn’t delete the Writing Excuses podcast. I finally got around to listening a week or two back, and now I’m listening to it pretty much every day during my lunchtime walks. It’s my new favorite writing podcast.

There are four regular hosts in the episodes I’ve listened to thus far: Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells. Each episode typically includes several or all of the regular hosts, along with one or more guests.

The resulting discussions feel a bit like writing conference round-tables with a rotating selection of professional authors. This is a speculative-fiction heavy podcast, with all of the regular hosts and many of the guests working in the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genres. However, they also bring a diverse set of writing backgrounds, with work ranging across short stories, novels, web comics, traditional comics, audio books/plays, and RPGs, along with the specialties brought in by the guests.

What’s in an Episode?

  • Each episode is about 15 minutes. Occasionally it runs long when the hosts get excited about a topic. This relatively short length makes it easy to listen to an episode in a spare moment here or there.
  • The hosts and guests discuss a single topic. Sometimes it’s stand-alone, sometimes it’s part of an over-arching series that may stretch across as many as ten episodes. Recent multi-episode topics include poetry, writing for video games, and business considerations.
  • Each episode also includes a reading recommendation (or rarely some other media), and a little homework assignment related to the topic.

History

The pod has been around for a long time. It’s been running since 2008 and is currently in season 16. If you’re starting on it now, like I am, that’s a backlog of hundreds of episodes. Unless I really binge, that’ll take me ages to work my way through. As an added bonus, it means that when I’m looking for info on some random writing topic (like serialization or alternate history), there’s probably already an episode covering it.

(I did notice an oddity: on Apple Podcasts, there is a separate listing for seasons 1-6, and another for seasons 7-10. Seasons 11-14 and most of 15f are completely absent. However, all of the episodes seem to be available from the official podcast website.)

Links

The official website (with all episodes, transcripts, and additional stuff) is https://writingexcuses.com/.

There is also a discussion forum for the podcast on Brandon Sanderson’s website: https://www.17thshard.com/forum/forum/34-writing-excuses/.

16.38: Deep Dive into Character Writing Excuses

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. Polk, Charlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal Our fourth M.I.C.E. Quotient episode explores the “Character” element, and how these angsty, navel-gazing voyages of self-examination can serve either as complete stories or as elements in other stories. Also, we talk about how to do this in ways that don’t result in readers complaining about … Continue reading 16.38: Deep Dive into Character →
  1. 16.38: Deep Dive into Character
  2. 16.37: Deep Dive Into “Inquiry”
  3. 16.36: Deep Dive into “Milieu”
  4. 16.35: What is the M.I.C.E. Quotient?
  5. 16.34: Novels Are Layer Cakes

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