Category Archives: Classes & Seminars

For Me

Amanda cardFor me, writing comes naturally. Writing well takes work.

I decided this year was the year to take a step back and evaluate how well I write. Although reading is a great way to learn about writing, an online class is definitely a more effective way to strengthen your skills.

Time was a consideration for me when deciding to take on “one more thing.” I tend to lead a busy life. I work two jobs as a teacher: one at high school, the other is at college. I am currently enrolled in courses for an additional add-on to my certification. I am going back to school again for yet another degree in January (I already have four). Taking on a writing class was definitely something to really think about since I knew I needed to do it now rather than later.

Honestly, I didn’t take a lot of time. I wanted, no – more like craved – to learn more and become a better writer. Ok. Ready, set, go! I jumped.

I signed up for a few classes with various instructors. All were good classes. I have to say that David Farland’s classes and online lectures were the strongest ones I have taken to date. Listening to his sage advice and techniques had me taking copious notes and reviewing previous things I have written. It has also given me a stronger foundation for future works.

Dave is patient man. Any question I emailed him he has graciously been kind and helpful. No question is “stupid.” The feedback I received from the assignments had corrections and suggestions. Some lessons have more corrections than others, which is ok. I wanted to learn. If I knew it all, I wouldn’t have signed up.

One of the assignments had me build a world. An actual world. With land and water. With habitable areas. With people and animal potential.

I had to read the assignment again. I was terrified. *deep breath* Ok. I can do this.

I watched the videos a couple of times. I took notes. Then, I started plotting and planning.

I figured the best way was to start large and work my way in. I made a world, then focused in on the major areas. From there, I created cities that were important to the story.

At first, I was stressed. I wanted it to be great. With Dave’s advice, I did it over a few weeks, one step at a time. As my fictional world developed, so did my creative world. The more I added, the more it became real to me. I have even, with the help of my chemistry friend, developed the crystal that is a major prop in the story.

I submitted the assignment. And waited.

My results came back. Dave made comments on everything I had submitted. Although I still have all of the comments, the one that still sticks out for me was, “This is something doable.”

My face hurt from smiling. I did it. I was proud of myself.

Dave has truly inspired me. I have never created anything this complex. World building is new to me, and I now realize how much work goes into it. There is as much, if not more, work as actually writing the story. I find I keep going back and adding more, creating more detail for myself so as I create the story, that information will filter through. I want to transport the reader to a new world and experience a new adventure.

Yes, I am published. My paranormal mystery, Strength of Spirit, won an award in 2014. I have had short stories, journal articles, and poetry published. I have been published academically, too.

I am a seeker of words, a bibliophile by choice. However, I pray I never become so complacent with my work that I don’t desire to learn more.

About the Author: Amanda Faith

Amanda Faith

Award-winning author Amanda Faith may have been raised in Dayton, but her heart and home is in the South. With a lifelong love of teaching and writing, she had plenty of encouragement from teachers and friends along the way. Loving a good puzzle has always been a fascination, and writing gives her the outlet to put all the pieces together.

Being adventurous and loving to try new things, it wasn’t long before her characters found themselves in unusual situations. She loves to put people from two different worlds into new situations and to see how they interact, taking them on journeys they would never have normally experienced.

Teaching high school English by day, college English by night, writing, and doing paranormal investigations doesn’t slow her down from having a great time with a plethora of hobbies. Her published credits include short stories, poetry, several journal articles, her doctoral dissertation, and her award-winning book Strength of Spirit. She is a staff writer for The Daily Dragon at Dragon Con and an intern for Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta at WordFire Press. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Masters in Education-English, and a Doctorate in Education-Teacher Leadership. Check out her website at www.amandafaith.net.

Post 1000: How on Earth Did We Get Here?

The Westin with arrowAs near as I can recall, the Fictorian blog was birthed—at least in idea form—on March 20, 2010 in the lounge of the Westin Hotel in Pasadena. (See photo to pinpoint more or less the exact spot.) A group of writers had assembled for the first annual Superstars Writing Seminar to learn about the ins and outs of the publishing business. We were a big group of strangers with a whole lot of high-flying ideals.

I’d like to think those ideals haven’t gone anywhere, but that big group of strangers doesn’t exist anymore. Alas, we are currently a big group of friends and trusted colleagues.

Of course, none of us went home from that seminar ready to start blogging. It took just over a year to get organized. Our first blog post, “The Benefits of Holding Hands,” went live on March 30, 2011—and it goes like this, courtesy of Fictorian alumnus Nancy DiMauro:

Writers help you stay motivated and hold you accountable. It’s like having an exercise or diet buddy. After all, who can understand the ups and downs of writing better? Writers need to network, commiserate and, well, get honest feedback about what they write from others who are wrestling with the same questions…

I don’t know if Nancy set out to write a mission statement, but this one would certainly do the trick. Four and a half years later, and one thousand posts, it still holds true. The Fictorians is about writers holding other writers accountable, keeping them motivated during the many and varied troughs of the writing life, and helping them to network.

All of these years later, the names and faces have changed, but none of the original Fictorians are at the same place in their writing careers than when they started. Without question, this blog has helped us to grow and stay connected with our tribe.

So, one thousand posts. Four digits. A really big part of me can’t believe we’re here. I’ve read somewhere that the average blog lasts two years or less. If that’s true, we’re beating the odds—and that’s largely due to the fact that we’re doing it together. Holding hands, so to speak. It’s not easy to keep an online presence going day after grueling day. With the Fictorians, it’s pretty effortless. When everyone makes a small commitment (one post month, loosely), it’s not hard to fill up the calendar with great content.

Well, perhaps you’ve noticed that we’re really very extremely excited about our 1000th post. It’s a big deal, a big milestone, so we figured, why not throw a little party? That’s why we’ve been giving away books all month. Seven last week, seven this week (it’s actually thirteen, since one of the prizes this week is a seven-book bundle), and fourteen more as the month rolls on. These are books we’ve written, books that our friends and guest bloggers have written, and even books that our mentors have written. There’s a lot of good stuff. For more details, click here, or simply log in to the Rafflecopter interface to your right.

Our celebration isn’t all about the giveaways, though. For over a year, we’ve been working behind the scenes to bring you this upgraded site interface. It was ready just in time for this month, the most pivotal of months. We hope you’re enjoying it so far!

If you’re a writer and you’re looking for a tribe, consider us in your corner. Read and comment on our articles. Get in touch with us. And if you’re really serious about doubling down on your writing career (and we’re all hoping the answer is yes), then consider signing up for the Superstars Writing Seminar. That’s right; the Fictorians are still around, and so is Superstars, going strong into its sixth year. There’s no better place to fulfill the above mission statement.

Evan BraunEvan Braun is an author and editor who has been writing books for more than ten years. He is the author of The Watchers Chronicle, whose third volume, The Law of Radiance, has just been released. He specializes in both hard and soft science fiction and lives in the vicinity of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Never Stop Learning

I don’t think I can count the number of times I’ve heard people say that some aspect of writing couldn’t be taught. My personal favorite is that you can learn all the technique you want, but you’re either born with the ability to tell a good story, or you’re not. That you can’t learn how to tell a good story.

I personally think that the people who espouse these ideas have either spent entirely too much time dealing with writers who aren’t willing to put the work in, or we’re all a little confused on what, if any, difference there is between technique and telling a good story.

Writing is a craft, after all, and no one’s born a master of any craft.

Of course, we will probably never be utterly fantastic at every aspect of the writing craft. Some have fantastic world-building but a slow plot. Others great characters but not enough setting. Stephanie Meyer, for instance, has long been derided on her writing style, and has even admitted herself that she’s not the best writer, but she’s does a hell of a job weaving emotion into every scene and tugging the heart strings of her readers—which is exactly what her readers want.

The point being, just because you’re not the greatest at something doesn’t mean you’re not a good enough writer to be published. At the same time, ignoring your weaknesses because “it can’t be taught” is a total cop-out, in my opinion.

Like most everyone here, I dream for that day when I’m going about my usual day, doing something boring and what-not, only to happen upon someone reading a book with my name on it. I feel the despair that I’m not quite there yet and hear the clock ticking away the time that means there’s one more day I haven’t achieved my dream. And yes, I’m a realist. I know a good portion of that is fear of putting my work out there, but I also know I’ve still got some serious weaknesses that I need to address.

When I was a teenager, I had a choir instructor who explained that he taught people who were tone-deaf how to sing. It’s in understanding the real root of the problem that allows something like that to happen. With the tone-deaf people, they had to learn how the notes related to each other to be able to figure out how to go from one correct note to another correct note without wandering off, so to speak.

With writing, I think, it’s much the same. If you understand what the real problem is, you can fix it. You just might have to look a bit harder and be a little more creative to get the results you’re looking for.

My personal demon at the moment is plot structure. Something’s always escaped me about how to put one event before another and have it work to engage the reader, move the story forward, and still service the characters.

As a discovery writer, I lean toward minimal effort spent on deep planning before writing. Unfortunately, I’ve been struggling with a few stories that I have come to realize really need to be plotted before I start writing in earnest. So, recently I decided to dedicate a good portion of this year in workshops and classes specifically geared toward pre-writing. Currently, I’m doing David Farland’s online prewriting class at mystorydoctor.com, and while it has done a fantastic job in helping me learn how to plan a novel before I write it, it incidentally opened my eyes as why plot structure has always eluded me.

For me, there was one exercise in particular that helped me figure out what the real problem was. The idea was to establish circularity between characters in opposition to each other, by writing out how each character reacts to the actions of the other. This forced me to find the cause and effect of the conflict…and suddenly I know how my plot is supposed to work and how the sub-plots interact with it. Suddenly, I get it.

So, that’s my goal for this year, to focus on becoming a better writer by taking my weakness and working to learn how to get better at it.

I refuse to believe that there are things I can’t learn. The only thing I was born with was a love of stories. The writing portion is a work in progress.

 

Superstars Week, Day 3: Confessions of Repeat Offenders

Hello, intrepid readers, this is Leigh, and I’d like to welcome you back to the Fictorian Era’s Superstars Week! For the last two days you’ve gotten an idea of what you can gain by attending the Superstars Writing Seminars, but today, Nancy, Clancy, and I will be telling you why we felt the need to go back for more. Yes, all three of us are Repeat Offenders, having attended both previous seminars.

So, why return to a seminar you’ve already attended?

For me, there were a number of reasons, but today, I’m going to talk about how, by returning to the Superstars Writing Seminar, you’re not just revisiting something you’ve seen before. The seminar is dedicated wholly to learning the writer’s place in the publishing industry. And let’s face it, people, that place is changing fast. This seminar is a true insiders look at what any writer looking to make a career publishing can expect, and the options available to get there.

As an example, in the first Superstars seminar, we had the core five authors, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, Brandon Sanderson, and David Farland. Across the board, they said that traditional publishing was the way to go. Then, Amazon unveiled their e-publishing program. Self-publishing wasn’t the pariah it previously was. The next seminar dedicated an hour to self-publishing and e-books. As part of that panel, Moses Siregar, a previous Superstar attendee, had a heated discussion with Eric Flint over e-publishing, and David was heavily leaning toward self- publishing. Since then, David’s written a post on this very site stating that he believes self-publishing to be the future of the industry, and this year, Superstars has brought in Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, two vocal authors on indie publishing issues. Clearly things have changed, and Superstars is keeping pace.

Yet, as with any seminar, there are portions that are repeated every year, but as Clancy will tell you, even that can be a good thing.

* * *

Clancy here. And here’s why I’m a repeat offender: I signed up for my second Superstars seminar unsure if I would hear much that I hadn’t learned the year before. But I wanted to meet Sherrilyn Kenyon (a guest speaker) and see my alumni buddies, so I decided to go. Color me surprised me when I learned as much, if not more, as I did the first time. During the year between the two events, I had changed. Where I was with my writing and my career had also changed, and I was hearing different things even though much of the content was similar. My mindset tuned into completely different points made.

I wanted to give you an example, but I can’t think of one. I know… challenged. Anyway – I remember sitting there during a presentation that I’d heard before and thinking to myself, I know they discussed this last year, but I was hearing the content through a different filter and what caught my attention were not the same things that did the year prior. I wish I had an excellent example to share. Just know that it was a profound ‘a-ha’ like realization. So, I wish I could go again this year because I know I would, yet again, learn more and different things than I have already.

Read on to see why Nancy is right and the contacts and friends I have made during both seminars are still with me, still in contact, and are still impacting my life in ways I will forever be grateful for.

* * *

Nancy Greene, on the issue of “Contacts and Kismet”: We attend conferences to make contacts including the conference speakers, vendors, and participants. I confess to being a Repeat Offender at Superstars Writing Seminars for all the reasons you’ve heard about over the last few days and for the people I meet.

Approximately 20-30 attendees at the 2011 Superstars were Repeat Offenders. I’d guess the number is about the same for April’s session. The Superstars crowd isn’t cliquey. We go out enmasse. The “we” is the Repeat Offenders, one or more of the speakers, and anyone we can convince to join us. Dinner and late night drinks at the hotel bar are similar affairs. Because we’re a social group, there’s a lot of extra time with the speakers, which is something that often doesn’t happen at other conferences. The social aspect’s a great way to forge long-term friendships. After all, we’re all writers, and can help each other after the conference ends.

I’ve written about the benefits of writers helping writers before in the Benefits of Holding Hands on this blog. Because of Superstars and the friends made there, the Fictorians have:

(1) Participated in this blog (all members are Superstars attendees),
(2) Received weekly encouragement and accountability checks,
(3) Received advice and critiques from some of the presenters,
(4) Edited or beta read novels written by the presenters,
(5) Assisted other Fictorians in getting short-stories published,
(6) Been introduced to other fabulous connections, including agents and publishers, and
(7) Advertised or promoted the other writers on the site.
The list contains the things I can think of off the top of my head. There’s more.

The writing industry is small. The way to “break-in” is to have a great product, and an even better network. We might have made the contacts and achieved the same results without Superstars, but the process would’ve probably been years longer.

Kismit happens.

But you have to ensure you’ve done your work and made the contacts you need to be “in the right place at the right time.” Superstars is an excellent place to make those contacts, and it’s why I’m a Repeat Offender.

So, if you’re a Repeat Offender, feel free to let us know why you keep going back to Superstars. And everyone should stick around for tomorrow and Friday for a two part interview with two of the founders of this fantastic seminar, David Farland and Kevin J. Anderson. See you in April.