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.