EPISODES
  • 19.08: NaNoWriMo Revision with Ali Fisher: Working with an Editor

    An agent, an editor, and a writer walk into a Zoom room and record a podcast... but really... that's (part of) what this episode is!

    First off, a reminder that your agent, your editor, and you are all on the same team! They are all trying to make the same book (your book!) a better book. Whether you've published before or are just starting your first short story, we are so excited for you to dive into this episode.

    For our final episode in our three-part series on revising your NaNoWriMo manuscript—or any other large writing project—we are diving into how to work with an editor! We wanted to show you a peek behind the curtain that is publishing and editing-- what does this relationship look like? How do you handle differences, conflicts, and priorities? What IS an edit letter?

    Our guest for this series has been the inimitable editor Ali Fisher, who works at Tor. Thank you, Ali, for your advice, stories, and time!

    Homework:

    Take a work written by someone else (anyone else!) and come up with three questions you have for the author that would help them clarify their intention in the text.

    This could be a movie you've seen, a project you're beta-reading for a friend, or a short story you've stumbled upon.

    Then, apply these questions to your own work in progress!

    Thing of the Week from Ali: 

    Ali has two podcast recommendations for you!

    Rude Tales of Magic

    Oh These, Those Stars of Space!


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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Ali Fisher. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    29m | Feb 25, 2024
  • 19.07: NaNoWriMo Revision with Ali Fisher: Intention

    For our second episode in this three-part series on revising your NaNoWriMo novel—or any other larger project you have—we are diving into intentions with Tor editor Ali Fisher. We asked her how she helps writers figure out what their books are about, and how she helps set intentions for revisions.

    Ali talks with us about how its important to be kind to yourself -- and your writing-- during the revision process. She also gives us advice for how you, as a writer, can lean into what you do well.

    Homework

    From editor Ali Fisher: write down what you like best about your book. Find a spot in your book where you can incorporate that element where it isn't now.

    Thing of the Week: 

    I Will Not Die Alone by Dera White, illustrated by Joe Bennett

    A Bathroom Book for People Not Pooping or Peeing but Using the Bathroom as an Escape by Joe Pera; illustrated by Joe Bennett


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, and Ali Fisher. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    25m | Feb 18, 2024
  • 19.06: NaNoWriMo Revision with Ali Fisher: Length

    Ali Fisher, editor at Tor Books and member of the podcast Rude Tales of Magic, joins us for a three-part series on editing.

    First up: length! How do you edit your work—whether it's a book or a short story or a novella? Maybe you wrote a draft during NaNoWriMo, maybe you didn't-- either way, we want to help you figure out how to make your writing the perfect length.

    Homework: Find two scenes next to each other from your writing. Remove the scene break and write bridging text between the two of them instead. Then, find a different scene that has that bridging text, and cut it into two different scenes so that you are removing it and creating new signposts. See what this does to length and your perception of the pacing.

    Thing of the Week (from Ali Fisher): Infinity Alchemist by Kacen Callender

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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, and guest Ali Fisher. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    27m | Feb 11, 2024
  • 19.05: LIVE Recording - Revisions with Mahtab Narsimhan

    Some writers love revisions and some would rather scrub the toilet than revise their writing. On this episode, we are joined by author Mahtab Narsimhan, who many will recognize as a host from past seasons! Mahtab talks with our hosts about how she thinks about revisions. How do you revise your writing? What is the difference between revising and rewriting? Mahtab describes her favorite techniques and provides tips to make it more manageable. 


    Homework Assignment from Mahtab Narsimhan:


    Take the first 3 chapters of your finished draft and distill it by 1) Chapter 2) Scenes 3) Key plot points per scene 4) POV 5) Setting 6) Time of day/timeline 7) How many pages per scene and/or chapter. 


    Thing of the Week: 

    Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend


    Liner Notes: 

    The Revision Template that Mahtab mentions is a free resource on our Patreon! You can find it at www.patreon.com/writingexcuses


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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    20m | Feb 4, 2024
  • 19.04: LIVE Recording - Pacing with Guest Fonda Lee

    Pacing is one of the most subjective and difficult aspects of storytelling to get right. What is pacing? How do you know what the right pace is for a story, and what techniques can you use to speed up or slow down your narrative?


    Homework Assignment from Fonda Lee

    Take a page of a work-in-progress project and experiment with the pacing. Ideally, this should be a page with some dialogue or tension between characters. First, try to speed it up: cut description, be tight with dialogue, move the scene quickly. Then do the opposite: rewrite the scene but this time slow it down. Include more context, character interiority, exposition, and scene building. Compare the two versions. Which serves your story better?


    Thing of the Week: 

    The Book of Witches


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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    19m | Jan 28, 2024
  • 19.03: Behind The Scenes with our Producer and Recording Engineer

    A few months ago, we were on a cruise ship in Alaska recording podcast episodes for 2024!


    This live recording features a Q&A with cruise attendees, who were given the opportunity to ask questions to Marshall Carr, our audio engineer, and Emma Reynolds, our producer. In this episode, we talked about the benefits of MFA programs, astrology, and how to continue learning without being overwhelmed. 


    Homework from Emma Reynolds

    What homework would you give yourself as a writer today? What homework would you have given yourself a year ago? Let us know your answers on instagram, tag us @Writing_Excuses and we'll repost you!


    Thing of the Week from Marshall Carr: 

    A Necessary Chaos by Brent Lambert


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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    22m | Jan 21, 2024
  • 19.02: Q&A Episode with WX Core Cast

    We have a LIVE podcast recording from September 2023, when we were hosting one of our writing retreats on a cruise ship in Alaska! (To learn about our next WX Retreats, check out: https://writingexcuses.com/retreats/ 

    Or apply for our scholarships by January 31 at https://writingexcuses.com/scholarships/

    This episode features questions from our writers, and those who attended our 2023 WXR Cruise to Alaska! We answered questions about success, what happens after you’re a NYTimes bestseller, and how you can record your own audiobook. 


    Homework

    Go listen to the most recent episode of the podcast Just Keep Writing


    Thing of the Week: 

    Just Keep Writing is a podcast cohosted by Marshall, our incredible recording engineer. It’s a podcast for writers, by writers, to keep you writing. The podcast focuses on building community and lifting marginalized voices. Learn more at justkeepwriting.org, or listen wherever you get your podcasts!


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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    21m | Jan 14, 2024
  • 19.01: Interview with Abraham Verghese

    In our first episode of 2024, we interviewed author and physician Abraham Verghese, who most recently published "The Covenant of Water." We talked with Verghese about how to convey technical information in fiction.


    Verghese explains how he shares medical and world-building details in the most engaging way. We also asked Verghese how to make things feel real without overwhelming your reader, and how he has mastered conveying the passing of time. We also discussed verisimilitude, translation, point of view, and revision (we love revision!).

    Homework

    From Abraham Verghese: Write a landscape in three different moods. Imagine that someone dear to you has died and you are now gazing at the landscape. Describe it without any reference to this event in your life. The second time you write it as if you were experiencing a moment of great joy, and you're looking at that landscape. The third time, imagine you are in a terrible rage and you are describing this landscape. This allows you to explore how descriptions of the physical world can reflect the various moods of characters.

    Thing of the Week: 

    "How To Draw A Novel" by Martín Solares (recommended by Abraham Verghese)


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, Erin Roberts, and Howard Tayler. Our guest was Abraham Verghese. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    27m | Jan 7, 2024
  • 18.53: Funding the Writing Life

    Rent isn't paid in words alone. How do all of us, in various stages of our careers, keep ourselves afloat as we go about the writing life? We're getting in the weeds with this one - tips, tricks, and tools. 


    We share our thoughts on diversifying your income stream outside of traditional publishing? Let’s get creative. We’re talking about school appearances, copywriting, fellowships, consulting, and teaching. We also share advice about newsletters, Patreon, monetizing yourself, and how an agent can help you overcome your imposter syndrome,  


    Homework: 

    Write an artist statement for yourself. Think about who you are, what’s important to you, and what are you trying to put out in the world? 


    Thing of the Week: 

    Joyland directed by Saim Sadiq


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    26m | Dec 31, 2023
  • 18.52: Writing Inside The Box

    "Your short story should definitely be a novel." It's something writers are often told when they write short stories. What tips and tricks can you use to keep your idea within the length of the story you're trying to tell? We dive into worldbuilding in miniature, pacing, and character development. We also think about where you can edit your writing down—whether it’s words, plot threads, or characters. 


    Homework: 

    Write a scene with two different endings - one that puts a button on the story (for short fiction) and one that asks a new question (for a novel). Identify what else would need to change for each to make those endings work.


    Thing of the Week: 

    Scenes From a Multiverse by Jon Rosenberg


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    23m | Dec 24, 2023
  • 18.51: So You Wanna Play With Format?

    Are you interested in experimenting with different writing forms? Do you want to try an unusual or different way of writing? Well this week, we have an episode dedicated to non-traditional formats for writing. 


    In this episode, we think about experimental short fiction from the point of view of publishing and writing. DongWon shares about the incredible success of their publishing of .. Why short stories might be the perfect place for new ideas. 


    We talk about second-person narratives, epistolaries, footnotes, and stories written as research papers. When does it make sense to use a non-traditional format for a story, what should you know as you do it, and who exactly decided on those traditions anyway?


    Homework: 

    Take a scene from a story you've written or are working on (maybe from NaNoWriMo!) and put it into a new format. What did you learn in the process?


    Thing of the Week: 

    These Vital Signs: A Doctor's Notes on Life and Loss in Tweets by Sayed Tabatabai 


    Liner Notes: 

    This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

    The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

    Love, Death, and Robots (Netflix) 

    Bite Size Halloween (Hulu)


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    24m | Dec 17, 2023
  • 18.50: The Unreliable Narrator

    All unreliable narrators aren't unreliable in the same way. How do they differ and how does that change the way that we write them? Erin shares her unified theory (look at the graphic below!) of unreliable narrators. 


    Homework

    Take an event that you're familiar with, and write about it as truthfully as possible. Then write about it from the point of view of someone who knows the basics, but not the whole truth, but who tries to tell the entire story anyway. For bonus points, tell the story a third time from the point of view of a lying liar with an agenda.


    Thing of the Week: 

    Lost Places by Sarah PInsker 


    Liner Notes: 

    Unreliable Narrator Graph

    The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin



    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    26m | Dec 10, 2023
  • 18.49: Giving Your Story A Voice

    What does it mean if your writing is voice-y?  How do you give your character a natural voice? We approach this question from the high-level perspective of craft, and the granular level of word choice and sentence structure. Erin talks about the research she did about Appalachian English for her short story Wolfy Things. And Mary Robinette Kowal tells us what it’s like to be an audiobook narrator, and how this helps her bring characters to life on the page. 


    Just a reminder that our final episodes of the year will be guided by three of host Erin Roberts’ short stories: Wolfy Things, Sour Milk Girls, Snake Season. Note: these books involve some darker themes. All of these short stories are available for free online and also have audio versions available. 


    Homework

    Listen to someone's voice (a person in a coffee shop, someone on a podcast, etc.) Now write a scene from your WIP trying to approximate the essence of that voice. 


    Thing of the Week: 

    “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang 


    Liner Notes: 

    “A House with Good Bones”by Ursula Vernon/ T. Kingfisher


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    24m | Dec 3, 2023
  • 18.48: NaNoWriMo Week 5 - Writing Endings

    Welcome to the last week of National Novel Writing Month! It’s okay if you aren’t going to finish your book, and it’s also okay if you don’t have 50,000 words! You still did a thing—you created a story that didn’t exist 


    We want to talk about endings. How do you even write the end of a book? How do you do NaNoWriMo? There’s no right way! But there are several elements that can help you figure out how to write the end of your book. Our hosts give you guidance for environment, pacing, inversions, character changes, and the denouement. 


    DongWon tells us why writing an obvious ending is not a bad idea, and Mary Robinette gives us advice for writing the ending of a series. 


    Also, Dan offers a wonderful reframe for November if you’re not near the end of your book, or you didn’t reach 50,000 words. (Spoiler: it’s okay. You did, in fact, succeed.) 


    Homework

    Aim towards the MICE elements you opened. We're talking about the big ones here. In an ideal world, you begin letting your character have simple Yes or No answers to the "does it work" to close out the major threads in the inverse order that you opened them. Nesting code.


    Thing of the Week: 

    A final pep talk from Mary Robinette! 


    Liner Notes: 

    Better Call Saul


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    23m | Nov 26, 2023
  • 18.47: NaNoWriMo Week 4 - Climaxes, or OH MY GOD NO

    It’s week four of NaNoWriMo! Or, National Novel Writing Month, which happens every year for the month of November. This week, we are talking about how to write climaxes, how to write resolutions, and what exactly the three-quarter mark is. 


    How do you write a climax scene? How to keep your tension going while also finding some resolution. How do you keep track of what you promised your reader at the start of your book? Our hosts dive into these topics and share examples from their own published writing. We talk about how to write emotional resolutions before a novel’s climax. 


    We also learn how Dan taught Mary Robinette to use the 7 point plot structure, and how you can use it while you’re writing your novel (or short story or general writing project). 


    Homework

    Read through what you wrote during your last session. You can make minor edits, but you can’t edit anything. Use brackets to make notes about things you want to plant earlier. But don’t make any of these changes! You’re just using this as a launching pad for yourself and your book. 


    Thing of the Week: 

    A pep talk from DongWon


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    22m | Nov 19, 2023
  • 18.46: NaNoWriMo Week 3 - Raising the Stakes

    We are now three weeks into NaNoWriMo—where writers are attempting to write a novel in the month of November. For this episode, our writers talk about how to raise the stakes in your story.  


    To make something feel more threatening, you don’t have to make it bigger or flashier, but you do have to make it more personal to your character. Often, you don’t need to add an event or plot element, but simply ramp up your character’s connection and reaction.


    We also talk about multi-thread plots, Star Wars, and getting your reader to be emotionally invested in your characters’ goals. Also—don’t forget to ask for help. (And surprise surprise, the same goes for your characters.) 


    Homework

    Pick an aspect of craft that you feel weak on and choose to focus on it during your next writing session.


    Thing of the Week: 

    A pep talk from Dan!


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    20m | Nov 12, 2023
  • 18.45: NaNoWriMo Week 2 - Inciting Incident

    Welcome to the first official week of National Novel Writing Month (or, almost the end of this week)! In this episode, we dive into how to write an inciting incident. 


    What is an inciting incident? It is often the thing that goes wrong in your story. Within the first page, writers should have something go wrong. But what should this thing be? Our writers have some advice for questions you can ask yourself in order to understand your novel’s inciting incident. 


    Also, Dan shares a recipe for an inciting incident that he learned from screenwriting, and Mary Robinette talks about the three “trauma attachment points.” 


    Homework

    What does failure look like for your character? Use this to direct your inciting incident. 


    Thing of the Week: 

    A pep talk from Erin! 


    Liner Notes: 

    Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    22m | Nov 5, 2023
  • 18.44: NaNoWriMo Week 1- Getting Started

    Welcome to National Novel Writing Month! For November, writers all over the world are trying to complete a novel, or write 50,000 words. In honor of NaNoWriMo, all of our November episodes are going to focus on writing a novel or big project. 

    For our first week—starting! How do you start writing? What do you need to give your readers in at the beginning of your story? How much information is too much information? We answer all of these questions, and talk about how these factors will help shape your story, in our NaNoWriMo kickoff episode! 

    You have a few days left to prepare! Think about when during the day you’ll be writing, and see if you can find some people to help hold you accountable. Do you have a friend who could join? A writing group online or in-person? Check out the NaNoWriMo website at https://nanowrimo.org

    A note: all of our episodes for NaNoWriMo will feature a pep talk from a host in the middle of the episode! (These will be taking the place of “thing of the week,” but only for these 5 episodes.) 

    This week, Howard tells us how our mindsets can help us realize we’ve already succeeded. 

    Homework

    Write two different openings. The first one should be action-driven, where your character is doing a thing. The second one can be anything. 

    Thing of the Week: 

    A pep talk from Howard!


    Remember, ad-free versions of our podcast are available on our Patreon!


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    19m | Oct 29, 2023
  • 18.43: Worldbuilding in Miniature

    If you're writing short fiction, how much of your world do you even need to figure out? Should you have it all written out? Can you just wing it? This week on the podcast, we discuss how much of a world to build for a short story (and how). We provide some guiding questions that you can use to build the world of your novel or short story. We explore different narrative structures, DND worlds without police, and the reader's experience. 

    Homework

    Take a big world-building concept and pick one or two iconic elements that bring it to life. Take one and make it a key part of a short scene.

    Get ready for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month! For the month of November, writers all over the world are trying to complete a novel, or write 50,000 words. In honor of NaNoWriMo, all of our November episodes are going to focus on writing a novel or big project.

    You don't need to write a whole book, though! We encourage you to work on a smaller project, or simply commit to writing every day.

    Thing of the Week:

    The Quiet Year (a map-drawing tabletop role-playing game)


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

    Join Our Writing Community! 

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    24m | Oct 22, 2023
  • 18.42: Creating Magic Outside of a System

    How do you write about magic? How do you build a world with magic and spells and potions? We dive into the rules and laws behind magical worlds. We often think of magic as being with a system, but what if it's not? What opportunities and challenges do intrusive magic/emergent fantasy and fabulism create for writers and stories?

    Our writers and publishers talk about cultural differences across magical systems, and how you can build a fantasy world that is believable. We also talk about surrealism, dream logic, and how sometimes the belief in magic is enough. 

    Homework

    Write a scene that brings an element of magic into a mundane place you know well (grocery store, bank, etc.), Try to make it impactful without explaining how it all works.

    Thing of the Week: 

    The World Wasn’t Ready For You by Justin C. Key


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

    Join Our Writing Community! 

    Patreon

    Instagram

    YouTube

    Facebook

    Twitter

    Sign up for our newsletter: 

    https://writingexcuses.com




    Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/writing-excuses2130/exclusive-content

    Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands

    Privacy & Opt-Out: https://redcircle.com/privacy
    27m | Oct 15, 2023
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