Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart.

We asked the Out Of Excuses alumni to give you their favorite episodes, with an eye toward the ones that they think listeners could start with. We’ve created a menu in the left-hand sidebar with these episodes for quick reference. Here’s that same list, with words from the alumni explaining their recommendations.

1.11: The Business of Writing

Way back in Season 1, “The Business of Writing” (1:11) was important to me as a baby writer. It made me feel like a career was actually possible, not just something that superstar writers did.  —Erin

3.14:  The Four Principles of Puppetry, with Mary Robinette Kowal

This one is one of my very favorites, because I got to watch Mary, in her very first appearance on our show, leave Brandon, Dan, and me completely gobsmacked. Also, because it showed me a completely new way to look at writing. No, I’m not an alumni. I’m “faculty.” But this one got recommended by so many alumni, and is mentioned so very often besides, I figured I’d do what all good faculty members do and put my name on my students’ work. —Howard

5.13: Writing The Second Book

This was the very first episode I listened to, and the reason I continued to listen to writing Excuses. This was right after I finished my first book, and in the episode, you all went down a list of all the things that were wrong with my book. Specifically my book. It was like you had read it. And I realized both what the meaning of “trunk novel” was, and also that I needed to write another book. So I did. —Bill

5.27: Perseverance, with Sherrilyn Kenyon

The Sherrilyn Kenyon episode on perseverance is one I return to whenever I’ve had a particularly rough rejection or writing setback. She really put things into perspective for me, both in how difficult publishing can be, but also, more importantly, how it rewards the long game. Hearing her speak of how she went from a selling author to ‘unpublishable’ to NYT bestselling author is a must listen for writers at all stages in their career. —Ryan

6.10:  Orson Scott Card’s M.I.C.E. Quotient

You refer to this episode often so I figured it’d be a good idea to put it in the menu as well. It’s a good explanation of how the MICE quotient works, and is very helpful in structuring the story.—Alexander

6.18: The Hollywood Formula, with Lou Anders

 I re-listen to that one regularly. When I do my outlines, I almost always start out by figuring out who the three characters are. The first plot points I write down are the ones Lou mentions in that episode and I build everything else around those. —Gama

7.41: Seven-Point Story Structure

When I was looking for a way to analyze my plot at that time, I went through each of the plot structure episodes and this one just clicked the best with me. It makes sense to me, and it fits most closely to my own writing style, and the way it was explained was the easiest for me to latch on to. —Stacia

8.15: Narrative Rhythm, and 10.25: What Makes a Scene?

I would pair these, because I like them for the same reasons. The way the episodes discuss chapters/scenes and how to approach them was really helpful to me. Prior to this I had never given a thought as to why some things seemed to lull and others raced when I maybe didn’t want them to. These really helped me identify what I was doing and how I could do it more intentionally. —Stacia

8.42: The Internal Heckler vs. The Internal Editor

The dichotomy Mary sets up really clarifies a common piece of writing advice that’s easy to misuse, and the crew digs into both sides of it, to great results. It’s also very helpful, just in terms of getting a little perspective, to hear successful, award-winning, professional authors talk about having internal doubts and moments of imposter syndrome. —Sean

8.47: Roguishness with Scott Lynch

Scott is really funny in this episode, but he also manages to be really informative at the same time. The episode itself shows a very good look into how morality works in stories and how to get readers to want what you want them to want. It’s always useful to me and I’ve never actually written about rogues. —Alexander

9.37: Training A Critique Group, with Kathleen Dalton Woodbury

Getting critiqued is hard. When Kathleen Dalton Woodbury said that a critique is just someone discussing words on paper and not the story in your head, I can’t even begin to express the amount of relief and freedom that concept brought. Words can be clunky ways to bring the ideas and scenes in our heads to the world, and finding people who will tell you which words are working and which aren’t is such a blessing!—Alissa

10.15: Worldbuilding Wilderness, with Wes Chu

I loved hearing about the experiences Wes had and how they related to travel situations in fantasy stories. I found several tidbits particularly fascinating, like how the lack of variety in food decreased his appetite and the story about sleeping on an incline. There are so many experiences that I’ve never had, and I’m so privileged to have an opportunity to hear about it. —Alissa

That’s the list as it currently stands. The astute reader may note that only eight alumni names appear here. Many alumni saw that their own favorites were already on the list, so they moved on to other corners of the internet, or decided that this particular survey was no longer an excuse to not be writing…