Why I like Writing Excuses

I tend to run hot and cold when it comes to listening to podcasts, and it’s only recently that I’ve become more dedicated to the consuming the form. And it’s only even more recently that I’ve become dedicated to , which features Mormon genre authors Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler and Dan Wells (as well as guests) shooting off their mouths about various aspects of writing, publishing and selling narrative art. I was an early listener (way back in 2008) and even commented a couple of times on the show’s website, but I soon lapsed in to inactivity and only reconverted to the podcast last month.

Initially, I was approaching the podcast the way it’s mainly intended — as tips and tricks for aspiring writers of genre fiction. While I do sometimes fit into that category, that’s not necessarily something I’m looking for on a regular basis. So I stopped listening. What brought me back?

I decided to give it another try and realized that what makes Writing Excuses so entertaining is not the practical tips, but the literary criticism that Brandon, Howard and Dan engage in. I mean, I already knew they were amusing and articulate, and like most podcasts, Writing Excuses is them tackling a topic in a fairly off-the-cuff manner (although Brandon keeps things on track). What I had forgotten, until I started listening to some of the latest episodes, is how much of the podcast is the three of them (plus guests) gnawing away at the given topic through the lens of their own work and the work of others, and their creative habits and editing/marketing experiences and the habits and experiences of other creative types that they know. It’s real-time, unscripted literary criticism, and it’s interesting for me to hear them assign value to and puzzle out how certain examples operate in relation to both the topic and their perception of the standards of the field and expectations of their readers. And it’s especially interesting when they use examples of their own work because I’m familiar with it, and they, of course, know it so well. Also: these guys aren’t dogmatic. Which is good.

So if you have dismissed Writing Excuses because you aren’t interesting in creative writing tips, but you have an interest in literary criticism and can handle its expression in a populist, genre-oriented form, I recommend giving it a try.

5 thoughts on “Why I like Writing Excuses”

  1. I love the lit crit aspect of WE. The show has taught me what there is to love about Tolkien and what there is to criticize about Harry Potter. (Stylistically, I’ll probably always prefer the latter to the former, but now at least I know that people who feel otherwise aren’t just inveterate snobs.)

    On a related note, have you read Dan’s book? I’m not a horror fan, but I still liked it quite a bit. (Dude quotes Blake and T.S. Eliot in a YA genre novel–what’s not to love?)

  2. I have read I Am Not a Serial Killer, and I too am not a horror fan. It’s very, very good. I look forward to Mr. Monster.

  3. I think WE has ruined me for a lot of other podcasts, because they pack more information into 15 minutes than many podcasts do into an hour or so. (I especially notice the difference in pacing every time I listen to one of the WE regulars is on a different podcast.) And they can get a bit jokey and off-topic, but the rapport makes the episodes interesting enough to be worth listening to more than once.

    Have you listened to the episode about religion? There’s a funny bit at the beginning where they have to acknowledge that they’re all Mormons who live in Utah, so they’re not as diverse as they might be, in that regard. 🙂

  4. If you ever get the chance to sit in on a live recording (usually at conventions like LTUE or CONduit), go for it. It’s a lot of fun to see them really tackle their topics while flying by the seat of their pants. These guys know their stuff.

  5. Katya:

    I have not. I’ll have to look for it. And, yes, there’s good rapport there. My favorite podcast is Sound Opinions, and a big part of that is because the two hosts have really great rapport.


    Yes, that would fun.

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