Podcast Review: Writing Excuses

Podcast: Writing Excuses

Tagline: “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.”

Format: Generally, four published writers discuss a topic about the writing craft or industry in fifteen minutes, more or less. New podcasts are published weekly on Sundays. Beginning with Season 10, each season revolves around a theme, such as Elemental Genres (Season 11), Structure (Season 12), and Character (current season).

Hosts: Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn series, A Memory of Light), Mary Robinette Kowal (The Glamourist Histories series), Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary), Dan Wells (John Cleaver series), with seasonal guest hosts


We all have those reasons why we aren’t pursuing our dreams of being a writer. Too little time. Don’t know where to begin. Have great ideas but don’t know how to craft a compelling story. Sound familiar?

I have just the podcast for you.

Writing Excuses is an entertaining and informative resource for aspiring writers. It’s short—always a plus—and introduces terms of art in an approachable way.

Although the main hosts write mostly sci-fi/fantasy, they branched out last year with guest hosts who write in other genres; still, most of the examples they cite and their “book of the week” recommendations tend to be in sci-fi/fantasy. This isn’t an obstacle to learning more about writing, but if you are a sci-fi/fantasy reader, you are likely to have a richer experience listening to the podcast.

The frequency of new episodes and episode length (did I mention they are short?) gives listeners the opportunity for regular learning and encouragement, which I definitely need to feel like I am making progress as a writer. Although fifteen minutes doesn’t give the chance to explore most topics in depth, it allows enough time to frame the concept and give listeners a sense of whether they want/need to learn more. In fact, there are helpful YouTube videos of Brandon, Mary, and Dan exploring some topics in greater detail.

At the end of each episode, one of the hosts will give “homework,” a writing exercise tied to either that episode’s theme or to prepare for the upcoming episode. Mea culpa: I have never done the homework. My guess is that listeners get the most out of doing the assignments when they have someone to critique their efforts, and I’m not at a place where I want to use the goodwill of my beta readers on practice exercises.

The hosts of Writing Excuses obviously have a history together—Brandon and Dan met in a writing class at BYU—and listening to the podcast is a bit like hanging out with your goofy Dungeons and Dragons buddies. Sometimes this is fun, and sometimes it is a little distracting from what you as the listener are trying to accomplish (be a better writer). Some episodes are also mushier than others, by which I mean the advice is disjointed or less concrete. But that’s okay, because it’s only 15 minutes, right?

If you are new to podcasts or recently took the leap into the writing life, check out the Hugo Award-winning Writing Excuses podcast. And then, as the hosts say at the end of each episode: “You’re out of excuses. Now go write.”

Recommended Episodes

12.13 Beautiful Prose, Purple Prose
The hosts discuss the difference between writing that is poetic and beautiful and writing that is flowery and ridiculous.

12.32 Structuring a Short Piece
Although this episode focuses on how to write novellas and short stories, it includes a very helpful discussion of the MACE Quotient (Milieu, Ask/Answer, Character, Event), a system for understanding how long your project should be based on the number of elements as well as sequencing of plot elements.

12.53 Writing Excuses: True Confessions
The hosts wrapped up Season 12 by talking about some of their failures after having achieved “career-level measures of success.” As a struggling aspiring writer, knowing you aren’t alone in attempting a project that just doesn’t work is both encouraging and a bond with other writers.


Podcast Extras for Supporters
The podcast is funded through Patreon, a crowd-funding platform where you can unlock extras like host book outlines and deleted scenes through a monthly pledge.

Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology
The anthology features stories by the four main hosts. GoodReads rating: 4.22

Writing Excuses Writers Retreat/Cruise 2018
Described as “a kind of magical mix of class time, writing time, and screwing-around-in-a-cool-place time,” this cruise features classes taught by the podcast’s hosts as well as guest instructors.

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