Category Archives: Starting a Career

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.

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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.

Sloshing through the Slush Pile ““ Beginner Concerns

You wrote a story and submitted it. Good for you! Pat on the back! It takes courage to not only write but to submit! But, your story wasn’t chosen? That makes me sad, especially after all that effort. So, how do you get your story through the first reading also known as the slush pile? It’s no great mystery. I’ve been a slush pile reader and have judged the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association (IFWA) short story contest and I’m here to share some of the common writing mistakes made by beginning writers.

Actions speak louder than words
There is the saying that actions speak louder than words. For the writer the saying should be reworded to: a character’s actions and reactions, based on his value system, are more revealing than a mere listing of movements and setting. Feelings, actions and reactions, what’s worth fighting for, our successes and failures in that fight and how they affect us – those are the things which move your reader and create your story.

Damn, I hate lectures …
Information dumps are bad any time – back story, setting, telling me what the character is thinking. When I hear the “professor’ lecturing me on what it’s like in space when I want to know how the character will solve a problem, I’m gone ……. and please, stay away from omniscient musings on the human condition!

The sleep inducing setting
Starting a story with a list of items the character sees isn’t exciting. Not even in real life do we note all the details in a room when we enter it. But we do notice things which affect how we feel or cause us to react like a dead body on the floor or the missing captain and the view screen showing the planet’s surface growing larger.

Setting not only sets the time and place for your story but more importantly is used to stimulate the senses; to evoke a feeling for the situation and to provide a context in which your character will react. Yes, some novels start with awesome descriptions of setting. So what makes that work? Setting is used as a character – it evokes a feeling. It’s no mistake that in Twilight, for example, the climate is cold, rainy and generally depressing. Similar, is it not, to how Belle feels about herself?

Writing in first person
Many a good idea was killed by this Point of View. Writing in first person doesn’t mean it’s a free license to explore your grey cells to produce copious ponderings. Writing in first person is difficult because there is only one point of view through which to reveal a world, create drama and to incorporate a story line which is interesting. It can be done. The trick is not to tell, but to show the person actively assessing and responding to his situation. Through his eyes and actions, he must reveal information about the people he interacts with, his surroundings and how he feels. First person can be a great way to get deeply into someone’s psyche, the trick is not to get bogged down in the thinking process. All the rules for a good story arc still apply.

Stories need to be dynamic
Whether they’re dynamic emotionally or action oriented, I don’t care. Have some tension, carry it through to the climax and ending. Actions need reaction. Reactions produce more actions. Show, don’t tell. Don’t list events, or actions, or use empty words like “pondered “which evoke nothing except that the writer didn’t really know how the character felt or how he should react. A story needs a plot and increasing tension with a climax. Writing a descriptive scene isn’t a story.

Proof reading and feedback
Truly, most of us cannot be a good judge of what we write, certainly not in the beginning of our careers. The act of writing is a solitary event insofar as we need to write our story. After that, it’s a collaborative process requiring feedback and revisions. Your manuscript is easily rejected because of poor grammar, spelling and punctuation, clunky dialogue or extensive monologues. Plot problems or character concerns such as inconsistency or believability are things proofreaders can catch.

Keep on writing!
Cheers!

Don’t forget the Bliss

It is said that everyone has a book in them. Not only is it ingrained in the human psyche to tell stories, but also for most of us, there’s something inside that just can’t stop telling a tale. It’s a passion that keeps us coming back, day after day, to the blank page — a hunger to fill the white spaces.

And like most of people with a passion, we dream of the day when that passion pays off and we can quit our mundane lives to devote all our time and effort into a job that we truly and absolutely love. Like the high school girl who heads off to Hollywood to become the next big movie star or the college kid who quits law school to become a rockstar, we who are called to the written word dream of being the next Bestseller. The only problem is that, unlike movie and rockstars, the bestselling author rarely gets the glamour or the big paycheck that sets them up for life.

We all know this, right? Writing will not make most of us rich.

And yet, we strive and shell out hard earned cash for workshops and seminars and books on craft so that we improve and can one day write that stunning masterpiece that will put us on the map. As we become more and more devoted to that dream, we put more time and effort into learning the business, pushing ourselves out of our solitary writerly existences to learn things like web design and marketing and promotion. All in the quest for becoming a published author. To be quite honest, I don’t so much feel that the “business” side of the writing business is outside my comfort zone as much as, when I do that stuff, I feel like someone is shoving bamboo rods under my fingernails.

I really hate doing that stuff. So much so, that I avoid it as much as possible. For I’ve come to realize that if I pay too much attention to that part of things, I start to forget why I liked writing in the first place. In hearing over and over how much work is demanded to building a name before a publishing house will touch you, or singling yourself out from the e-mob on Amazon, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with writing. It’s easy to forget the bliss.

In the end, it’s not fame and fortune that really drives us to write — that’s what record producers, TV networks, and movie studios are for. It’s not the ease of the work — writing is just plain hard most the time if you’re doing it right. It’s not the collaboration — even when working with other writers, most the time you’re still working alone.

It’s the passion. The bliss. It’s the drive that won’t let you think of doing anything else, because you just can’t kick the addiction to the written word.

So, strive, make your goals, work hard on that dream to become the next Big Thing in books. But don’t let the work make you forget why you dreamed the dream in the first place. Don’t ever forget the bliss.