On Writing Excuses
“This is Writing Excuses. Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.”
I’d like to throw in my two cents on the web series Writing Excuses, something I only recently found and had an opportunity to go through. Punchy and professional, the series is led by Brandon Sanderson (Epic Fantasy specialist) with his friends and fellow authors Dan Wells (Supernatural Thriller specialist), Howard Tayler (Science Fiction, Cartooning, and Humor specialist), and later added Mary Robinette Kowal (Short Fiction specialist). Each of these authors has enough wealth of writing skill and experience to stand alone and shine out, but for the intentions of this post, I will be focusing on their joint creation: a fun and clean web series that tackles writing advice big, small, common, and extraordinary.
An immediate appeal of the series comes from its length. With each episode sitting at 15-20 minutes in length, it is perfect for commutes to and from work, activating your mind in the morning, or accompanying you during chores. But from the beginning, the podcasters make sure to establish the intentions of the series. While the things they discuss are quite helpful to any aspiring writer, what they wanted to focus on was helping those interested in genre fiction. That being Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, and all of the variations and subsets in-between.
Because of the diversity between the authors, they are able to cover a vast number of topics over the nine seasons that have been produced (currently developing season nine).
Writing with the end of your story in mind.
How and where to get an agent
Things you should know about the young adult market
Why is the villain often the most interesting character?
The reasons you should go to conventions
Understanding and writing discriminations
Different ways of breaking into the market
How to pace your story
Debunking common errors in fantasy stories
Understanding artificial intelligence
Witty dialogue and how to practice
Refining your prose skills
And on, and on, and on. Literally hundreds of similar topics.
As a hopeful fantasy writer myself, this series has been nothing short of invaluable to me. I do not doubt that it will remain an eternal reference that I will come back to time and again as I seek out publication and whatever lies beyond.
The series has been nominated for awards several times and has won two Parsec’s and a Hugo. On many episodes they’ll host a special guest star, they will always recommend a related audiobook that can be found on Audible (a sponsor of the cast), and they somehow manage to maintain a ‘Clean’ rating throughout the entire course of the series. I am deeply thankful that I found this podcast and have gotten an opportunity to know these people, even if indirectly. I am grateful for their transparencies and their willingness to sacrifice both time and comfort to talk about things that aren’t always easy for them. My only regret is that I didn’t have the chance to brave these subjects with them earlier, and I hope to someday meet these authors and thank them in person.
If you are an aspiring writer, or even if you just want to better understand the art of storytelling critique, I (naturally) recommend you start Writing Excuses. You can download or stream every single episode for free from their website. Of course, I also recommend any number of their professional works as well. Since the start of this series I have been exploring their individual stories, and hope to wrap up Dan’s John Cleaver series within the next week.
(For past seasons, just go to the ‘Archives’ link on the left, or explore their large list of topics)
As always, thank you for reading, God bless, and don’t eat crayons. Peace.