Category Archives: Superstars Writing Seminars

Novel Rewriting Workshop and Other Dave Wolverton Semimars

Did you every have one of those stories that you know “missed it by that much”? I did. While there were some obvious fixes I knew I needed (like beefing up my descriptions), there was a fundamental flaw in the story that I couldn’t get my hands around. The story was sick and needed help. So, I took my baby to a professional.

Let me back up for a second, the story I’m talking about is my trunk novel. I’ve been picking at it for far too long. The first draft was well over 300,000 words. I know. I know. So, I broke it into three books. The problem was that the first book’s story arc was high on the Character quotient of Orson Scott Card’s MICE scale. For those who don’t know, I’m going to vastly oversimplify this. Card broke stories down to four archetypes – Milieu (setting), Issue, Character, and Event.  A character story is mostly concerned with the character’s internal journey. So, the book ended when my main character transitioned from spoiled, self-centered twit to taking responsibility for the greater community, and before the promisDavid Farlanded big battle.  A lot of the comments I received was that “nothing happened” in the story. So, books one and two became book 1. But I still had what I called a “pacing” problem. I didn’t know how to fix it. Hence, the trip to the book doctor.

The book doctor of choice and the stated course of therapy? David Farland’s Novel Rewriting Seminar. Dave is a New York Times Bestselling writer who has been translated into many languages and trained a number of #1 New York Times bestsellers, like Brandon Mull, Brandon Sanderson, and Stephenie Meyer.  His latest novel, NIGHTINGALE, has won eight awards. So, the ability to hear him speak, much less take a class from him, is an amazing opportunity.

This seminar focuses on editing. In order to attend, you have to submit a sample to Dave and be accepted. You’re committing to a lot of homework, both before and during the workshop. We had a reading list which ensured all participants were starting with the same base knowledge.

All participants send in the first 100 pages and a synopsis of their stories. Part of the pre-seminar homework is to read the first 20 pages and synopsis of the other workshop stories. Getting to read and critique other stories, when you do so honestly, is a learning experience. What do I mean by “critiquing honestly”? I mean not cutting down a story just to cut it down. Your plan should always be to help the writer improve the story. realizing that your comments are just your opinion and you’re not any smarter or better than any other writer. Use critiquing as a way to help someone, but also as a means of seeing what you are doing that might be hurting your own writing.

The work doesn’t end when you get to the workshop. This isn’t a seminar where you can sit back and zone out. Each day, we went over two or more of the workshop stories, discussed story structure and elements, and were given homework that applied the topics discussed. We each left with 10 other perspectives on our story. Another fabulous excercise we did was disecting the story-telling elements in The Hunger Games movie. Many of the workshop participants would go out to lunch or dinner together. We built a community there.

Each participant meets with Dave to go over his comments on the first 100 pages of your novel. I have to say the time spent with Dave was worth far more than the price of admission. Not only is he a genuinely wonderful person, but he has so much insight and experience over the entire entertainment industry. I could have spent hours talking to him about everything from game design to movie making to publishing, and barely dipped my toes in the well of information and experience that he has.  Dave pointed out some of the things I knew needed work – my descriptions of places and people were thin. But he also articulated the bigger problem I was having, and a way to address it.

What was the best thing about the workshop? That’s a hard question. The people I met there are wonderful. The knowledge I gained was invaluable. But, I have to say the best thing about the workshop was leaving knowing what I had to do, and that I could accomplish it.

Dave has a workshop for whereever you are in your writing career. He has a host of new writing classes scheduled for 2013 available at workshops.  These range from his new Short Fiction Master’s Class, to his Million-Dollar Outlines, Novel Revision class, and Fiction Mastery Class. While there is some overlap between the seminars, each focuses on a different aspect of the craft of writing. I can’t wait to attend some of the other ones.

As if the workshops weren’t  cool enough, if you go to to any of his workshops and mention that “I heard about it through the Fictorians,” Dave will buy you a free dinner with him (if time allows), or he’ll give you $20.

If you have the choice between dinner with Dave or $20, take the dinner. Every time.

So please check out his workshops here.

World Fantasy Convention 2012 Round-Up

Last week, the World Fantasy Convention (“WFC”) was held in Toronto, Canada.  For all of you who may not know, WFC is a convention for fantasy and science fiction writers, artists, agents, editors and other professionals. The four day conference has seminars/panels on craft issues.  There’s a dealer’s room for hard-to-find, and rare books, and an art show. The price of admission includes a swag bag full of free books, and use of the convention suite. There’s also lots of time for networking, including nightly parties often hosted by publishers, and a closing banquet.

Four of the Fictorians (Evan Braun, Ace Jordyn, Nancy DiMauro, and Frank Morin, from left to right in the photo) attended this year. Evan asked us to share our thoughts about the conference with you. So, here they are:

Nancy: I attended my first WFC last year, and through the introduction by fellow Fictorian Colette Vernon met Celina Summers the head editor at the newly formed Musa Publishing. WFC opened doors for me that I never knew were there. I knew I wanted to attend this year’s WFC to connect with friends, further my writing career, and help others do the same. Why did you attend?

Ace: I wanted to see writer friends from all over the world, and WFC makes connecting with friends easy. It’s also a great place to meet new people from writers, editors, agents and publishers.

Frank: I attended for two main reasons. First, to meet with my agent, John Richard Parker from ZENO, in person. He’s based in London, so this was a rare opportunity. Second, I feel it’s vitally important to interact, socialize, and network with other industry professionals. WFC is a great venue to do that.

Nancy:  What was the best thing about this year’s WFC?

Ace: Shanghai Steam, an anthology I co-edited, was launched at the con. The anthology authors had a blast at the autograph signing session and readings at the launch. It’s wonderful to see the excitement, and feel the energy of so much creative pride.

Frank: At my first WFC two years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. Luckily, I connected with several other new authors. We spent the conference looking for and talking with agents and editors we wanted to talk with. This year, I still focused on networking and meeting new people. For me, it was deeply rewarding to mentor newer authors at this WFC  and continue to learn from more experienced professionals.

Nancy:  The best thing about WFC is the conversations I had with people. I spent hours talking with editors and writers, both well established and new. Brandon Sanderson met with the attending Superstars Writing Seminars alumni, which most of the Fictorians are. Brandon spent about two and a half hours with us. We talked about his outlining technique, working on the Wheel of Time, talking to and working with agents and editors, dealing with deadlines, book tours, writing, Writing Excuses, and so much more.

There were so many great things that I’d be hard pressed to single out anything “bad” about the experience. If I had to though, I’d say that there never is enough time, and the hotel NEVER staffs the bar right. Even though the Con officially lasts 4 days, those days fly.  There’s so much to do. The Con runs from 8am when the Con Suite opens until 4-ish am, when the last party goer has returned to his room.  A lot happens unofficially at the bar, and you can find people there at all hours. Despite being warned that there will be anywhere from 50 to 100 people at the bar at any given time, the hotel never has enough staff. When they can finally get you your drink (whether spirited or not), tip well as those few staff members are working hard.

Ace:  All the activity means that my least favorite thing is the lack of sleep. There’s so much to do. So many people to see and meet. It’s electric and the conversations go long into the night.

Frank: For me, it’s the travel distance.

Nancy:  One of the reasons I love WFC is you can accomplish more there than you can in two years outside WFC.  What was the most useful thing about it for you?

Frank: This is tied closely back to question about the best WFC-related thing – the connections we make. WFC is a wonderful place to network and interact with professionals representing all aspects of writing, including other authors, agents, editors, and publishers. The first several years of writing, I didn’t attend conventions. I wish I had. There are so many benefits to rubbing shoulders with others in the same business. People at WFC have consistently proven their willingness to share their knowledge, mentor newcomers, and provide opportunities.

Ace: Getting my finger on the pulse of what direction the industry is moving not only with writing trends but on the publishing environment.

Nancy:  Next year’s WFC will be in Brighton, England. Other than buy your membership now since it will likely sell out, any tips for those attending future WFCs?

Ann: Relax and enjoy yourself. Have fun. Talk. Attend panels, readings and parties; not only do you learn lots; you never know who you’ll meet.

Frank: Get to know the hospitality suite. It’s a great place to mingle, and to eat. This year’s hospitality suite (or con suite as it’s often known) was well stocked with surprisingly good food. I made some good contacts there and met a lot of people.

Put yourself out there. Most people were very outgoing and eager to talk with others. I saw a few who seemed to be lingering on the fringes, and managed to draw a couple of them into conversations. They were new authors with few connections, who felt a little lost. Many of us authors are introverted people, but we have to set that aside at conferences and take the initiative to meet people. The connections are invaluable. Once you have a base group of friends and acquaintances, it makes it that much easier to reach out even further.

One way to start getting to know people is to attend other writing seminars or workshops. For example, there were 8-10 of us who were alumni of the Superstars Writing Seminars. Those events were excellent in and of themselves, but now provided a secondary benefit. We all came to WFC already having a large group of friends to socialize with, share advice with, and to help us maximize our WFC experience.

Nancy:  To build on what Frank was saying, the benefits of WFC or any seminar or convention might not be immediately obvious, but there are long-term benefits. Every relationship you maintain is one where you can help someone else’s writing career, and that person, in turn, can assist you. Just remember to pay it forward.

Speaking of which, any tips on how to approach editors/agents at WFC?

Frank: Remember, relationships come first. We all want to meet editors, agents, other authors, etc. They want to meet people too. Relationships open doors both ways. But before we can make that pitch, before an editor will do more than look for a way to excuse themselves at the first opportunity, we need to establish a connection. Be friendly, but not desperate. Ask them about their projects, what they’re interested in, what books they’ve been reading. Look for things you have in common that can help build that connection. If you’re successful, they’ll ask for a pitch or give you a card. If you’re not, they’ll slip away no matter how hard you try to chase them. DON”T CHASE THEM. This is a business, and we are successful when we act like professionals.

One thing I had not understood prior to my first WFC is that many agents don’t really want a full pitch, although some do, so be prepared! I butchered my first live pitch, but thankfully the agent took the time to explain why I was so awful. She wouldn’t have if I hadn’t made a solid connection first. For those agents who do not want a full pitch, they’ll give you their card. This is a good thing. It opens the door to then send them a query per whatever guidelines they have posted on their website, and reference that meeting at WFC in the query. My agent was one of several I queried after WFC in 2010.

Ace: My nervousness at meeting editors and agents disappeared when I realized I wanted to buy their services. Yes, getting my novels published is the ultimate goal but it’s important to me that I find an agent who will work hard for me, and a publisher who has access to the appropriate markets who will work with me to make us both successful. An attitude of selling means I know my product; I have questions I want to ask and so all that makes me less nervous. And yes, my pitches are all prepared.

Nancy:  I saw your pitch sheet. It was really impressive. If you have a story that’s looking for a home, it helps to be prepared because you never know when someone will ask what you are working on. Having a prepared pitch helps reduce the nervousness. And I can’t emphasis what Frank said enough. Make a connection first and be a professional and polished version of yourself. Be courteous. Manners matter.

Frank:  Also, if you are too nervous to approach an agent or editor, rely on your friends, or people you’ve made a connection with at the Con. Have another author you know introduce you to an agent or editor. Chances are someone helped that person out when she was getting started, so she’s happy to help you, just like you’ll be happy to do it for someone else down the road.

Nancy:  What do you know now that you wished you knew before attending WFC?

Ace: I think I’d make plans with writer friends to stay an extra day or two to either hang out or have some writing time together. The con generates great energy that’s worth hanging on to for as long as possible.

Frank:  I wish I had taken more time to research people I wanted to talk with. Work was very busy prior to WFC so I didn’t have enough time to do the research I needed. For example, I wanted to talk with a couple of editors, but I didn’t manage to learn the names of the other editors at the publisher. I had a productive time, but there were definitely opportunities missed due to lack of preparation.

Final thoughts from all of us:

For those who have not attended WFC, we can’t recommend it highly enough. The publishing industry is small, and, in some ways, getting smaller as it changes. It’s important to become known and make connections.  Unlike, say some of the conventions where people walk about in costumes, WFC is a primarily professional convention. People attending WFC are, generally, those in the industry who we, as writers, will do business with. Making connection with people at WFC may mean the difference between publishing or not since people want to do business with someone they know.

See you in Brighton next year!

Women Writing the Weird – Publishing in an anthology

Nancy:  Welcome back to The Fictorian’s Publishing Month. Colette and I wanted to talk a little about our experience with the Women Writing the Weird (WWTW) anthology published by Doghorn Publishing since participating in an anthology is a bit different than other forms of publication. So, Colette, what did you think about the opportunity to participate in an anthology?

Colette: I was thrilled when you told me about the upcoming anthology, in part because of the publishing opportunity, and in part because it consisted entirely of women speculative fiction writers. I was excited about that opportunity. I’ve always meant to ask, how did you find out about it in the first place?

Nancy: Accidental networking. Seriously though, I met the editor, Deb Hoag, through an online writing group. Deb approached her publisher – Doghorn – and asked if she could put together an anthology of genre defying stories by women writers. When she got the go ahead, she contacted a group of writers she wanted to work with. Fortunately, I was in that group. Deb later opened submissions up and I sent an e-mail to the Superstars Writing Seminar group to see if anyone had a story that might work. When you said you thought you just might have a story if Deb was willing to accept previously published works, I put the two of you in contact.

Colette: Even though my story, Beneath the Skin, was published in SNM Horror magazine under the title, Becoming, it seemed like the best of my current stories for an anthology called Women Writing the Weird. A were-beetle burrowing into your leg with nefarious purposes fits weird. I was very flattered that despite it being a reprint and one of my earlier stories, Deb still accepted it. Of course, it’s definitely a different tone than a guy in a monkey suit.

Nancy: Yea. The Gorilla in the Phone Booth was definitely very different than your story. The idea for the story came out of a Writing Excuses episode where they were talking about the promises we make to our readers. Howard Taylor mentioned that if you put a gorilla in a phone booth you’d better have darned good reason for it. So I spent the weekend figuring out why. I came up with a twist on the genie story and some land selkies. One of the fun things about WWTW is the stories cross a lot of genre lines and, at least one of the stories, defies classification (in a good way) in my mind.

Oh, and because Colette’s too modest to mention it, I should tell you that Beneath the Skin got a really wonderful review at

Beneath The Skin, by C.M. Vernon gives a different twist to the were-creature tale and I think this story would make a great movie. I also couldn’t help but think of Kafka’s Metamorphosis while I was reading it.

You have to love being compared to Kafka.

I won’t put Colete on the spot and ask her about the review. But I will ask her about her thoughts on this publishing experience. So . . . ?

Colette: I thought it was amazing that even though the book didn’t come out in hardcopy until last month, you put together a book promo at World Fantasy Convention in October, 2011. I couldn’t believe what a great job you did with posters, flyers, food…the whole deal.

Nancy: Thanks. Putting together the book launch was a lot of fun and a bit nerve wracking. World Fantasy is a huge writer’s and agent’s convention. Tor hosted a huge party in the suite we used later that evening. For the book launch, Doghorn printed a small number of the book so we could promote it at World Fantasy. Adam Lowe (the head editor at Doghorn) sent me the artwork so I could make the posters, postcards and flyers. I’m not sure the postcards were effective swag, so I probably won’t use them as promotional items again.

We were also lucky enough to get a lunch-time slot to promote. There were no competing lectures. We were also next to the hospitality suite, and when it ran out of food, they directed people to us because we had food. We probably had an extra thirty people drop in because of the food. And they stayed for the readings.

Of course, the book launch wouldn’t have been as successful if I hadn’t sweet talked you into helping. Your reading was great.

Colette: I’ve read in public before, but never my own piece. I was so nervous, but once I started, I have no idea if I did a good job, but I loved it. I would love to be an author who does presentations in schools, book readings, signings, the whole deal.  I look forward to that part of publishing. Speaking of which, it seemed rather odd that you had the book in October, but it didn’t come out in bookstores until May. I haven’t heard much buzz on it, either, but I haven’t been in this business long enough to know if that’s just normal.

Nancy: The book’s been available at the publisher’s website since October, but for some reason the general release was delayed until May, 2012. I’m not sure why Doghorn decided to stagger the release or if the delayed release was just part of its agreements with Amazon and Lulu. Amazon’s currently out of stock on it as well.

I know with the two short story collections I’ve published through Musa Publishing (yes, I had to get them into this post) , Paths Less Traveled and Shots at Redemption, Amazon had the book within hours of it going on the Musa site. But then, the Musa collections are e-books and that might make a difference.

Colette: I have no idea if the book will do well from this point on, but it’s been a fun ride, don’t you think? I wish I had researched the anthology a little better before I jumped on board, not because it isn’t top quality, because it is, but I’m afraid that my participation in a book fondly called by our friends, “the booby book,” is a bit of a misrepresentation of my name as a brand.  I don’t write erotica, and the beautiful cover suggests there’s a fair amount of content in that category. That’s something I’ll pay more attention to in the future, so I don’t confuse any readers as to what they might expect from my writing.

Nancy:  Ah, yes, our cover. One of the things you often can’t control as a writer – what your cover looks like. Coming up with a cover that captures the scope of the anthology would have been tough, and I understand the decision to base the cover on the short story by the best known writer.  But I’ve had web designers decline my job and promotion sites decline the listing because the catfish girl on the cover has very prominent and very naked breasts.  And don’t get me started on telling my folks about the anthology. The artwork is gorgeous but, in accurately rendering the light coming from above, the artist placed a lot of emphasis on the breasts. It wouldn’t have been my choice of a cover if we’d had any say in the matter, and my story did have erotic elements. I think this is one where a bit of strategically placed seaweed would help attract more people to the anthology.

Colette: More than anything, I’ve enjoyed the publishing experience and the chance to interact with fellow writers and readers. I also loved the launch party you put together at WFC.  I may not make any money from this particular sale, but I’ve learned a lot from my experience. I’m grateful for that.

Nancy:  WWTW made me realize how difficult putting together an anthology is.  We have a lot of short stories in the anthology from very different genres.  Deb did a great job bundling them into the three sections based on the type of weirdness. If you’re looking for stories that balance on genre edges, this is the anthology for you.

It’s definitely been fun. I got to know a lot more writers than I would have if I hadn’t participated. I wouldn’t turn down another opportunity to work with Deb or Doghorn. Being invited to submit to the anthology was an honor. Having Deb select my story for it was amazing and my first professional sale. So, WWTW will always have a special place in my heart.



Brandon Sanderson’s Rules of Writing & other notes

I recently returned from the 2012 Superstars Writing Seminar. The seminar in 2010 went well and I loved it, but to my surprise, I enjoyed this year’s seminar even more. They have this thing down to a well-oiled machine. Brandon Sanderson gave one of the first presentations, talking about his Ten Rules of Writing Success. He asked me to qualify this list by saying, these are his current rules, but they change regularly.

1) Start thinking like a business person.

2) There is no substitution for practice. (Write!)

3) Network (i.e. the seminar)

4) Be proactive.


5) Work harder.

6) The result is what matters.

7) Don’t waste time with writer’s block.

8) Sometimes you have to be willing to suck until you get good. (He may have worded that better.)

9)Yes, luck happens, but you have to put yourself in the situations that let it happen

10)Just write. Do it.

I find it interesting that one word of advice is repeated, directly and indirectly, within this list multiple times–write! Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.  I could go into detail on the list, but I think it speaks for itself and Brandon did it way better than I would like to even attempt.

But I will give a short summary of the seminar. We discussed the publishing process–indie and traditional, self-promotion, getting noticed, negotiating, slushpiles, contracts, copyright basics, agents, professionalism, inspiration, ergonomics of your work space, audience analysis, pitches and queries, YA market, IP rules and possibilities, productivity, balance, and so much more I can’t list them all. James A. Owen, author of Here There Be Dragons and a multitude of other amazing works, finished his presentation by earning a standing ovation. We were so inspired, we couldn’t stay in our seats.

Speakers included: Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, Eric Flint, James A. Owen, Dean Wesley Smith, and our very own Moses Siregar III contributed on the self-publishing panel.

Between almost every presentation, we had ten to fifteen minute breaks where we talked with each other, the presenting authors, and had some time to move around. Whoever designed the structure, did a perfect job.   I’m not trying to sell this to anyone, there’s no benefit to me, but when I attend a writing forum of any kind I like to make a report so other interested people can know about it. If I sound like a commercial, it’s just because I was so sincerely amazed. I not only learned a lot and made great writing contacts, but I made lifelong friends.

Next year will probably be in Colorado, though I don’t think that’s set in stone. I suggest we all start saving our pennies and write it into our 2013 calendar.  It’s the best writing business workshop anywhere.

Oh, and my next post will be an assessment of the 2012 Phoenix Comicon. What are some of the writing resources you’ve found valuable?