Tag Archives: David Farland

Six Jedi Mind Tricks for Writers

A Guest Post by David Farland

    1. Write in your sleep. The day before you plan to write, stay up a little late and plot out the scene you will write. As you do, consider where it will be set, who will appear in it, when it will occur in relation to other scenes, who will be your viewpoint character, and what actions or changes will occur in that scene. Write a quick sketch of a paragraph or two about the scene, then go to bed. You subconscious mind will worry about the scene while you sleep, piecing it together, and in the morning it will appear vividly in your mind so that you write it with ease.
    2. Create a “Sacred Writing Space.” When you plan to write, some people find it helpful to write down the goal: I will write tomorrow from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM. Then, when you go to work, do not let anyone violate your time. That means that you don’t check your mail or talk to friends on Facebook. Your writing time must be dedicated to writing only. If you plan to start at 6:00 get your butt in your chair a few minutes early, open your files, think, and begin typing at or before 6:00. In the same way, the space where you sit must also be dedicated to writing. Some people find that over time, they get in a habit of doing some things—like watching videos—in a certain chair. It might be difficult to break that habit consciously, so it may be easier for you to move your chair or move into a new room to create your sacred writing space. I don’t know why, but I tend to write with fantastic ease while sitting in airports.
    3. Shut the freak up. Doctor Jerry Pournelle once pointed out that the desire to write arises out of a profound need to communicate. If you stop communicating with others—by turning off your television and your radio, stop talking to friends, don’t answer emails, and simply let the silence grow around you, you will find that very soon your imaginary characters in your story will start speaking to each other, so that you will find yourself writing dialog. (This may take a couple of hours, but it works!)
    4. Put yourself in the writing mood. Sometimes you sit down at your writing desk and just don’t feel in the mood to write. You may be anxious about other things, or tired, or whatever. Don’t let your mood derail you. Simply close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, then remember as vividly as possible a time when you were writing freely and without effort and enjoying the act. Hold that emotion for thirty seconds. If you don’t feel ready to write, try it again, only time hold in your mind a time when you felt excited to right. Hold it for thirty seconds. If that doesn’t work, try it again, only this time sit and remember times when you receive praise or awards or publishing contracts for writing. Hold the emotion for thirty seconds. You will soon find yourself “in the mood” to write.
    5. Develop the habit of getting into your “Writer’s Trance.” We all have times when we slip into our imaginary worlds fully. Sometimes it happens when you’re driving, or exercising, or washing dishes, or late at night while listening to music. Once you find yourself in that sphere, simply stop whatever you are doing and write! I often keep a notepad in my car, for example, so that if I find myself vividly imagining scenes while driving, I can stop and take notes. In the same way, listening to music late at night often gives me inspiration, as does lying in bed and thinking about my book before I fully wake up. Find out what works best for you, and learn to court your muse.
    6. Learn to think. Many times, a writer will try to sit down to write, only to find that he doesn’t know what to do next. Perhaps a certain character’s voice won’t come, or the writer hasn’t plotted his novel well enough to begin composing. Many writers feel intimidated at this point and feel “stuck.” Instead of giving up, simply imagine that you are getting up from your “stuck place,” and you are moving to a more creative spot. In other words, focus your mental energy on solving you writing problem. Getting stuck is a common part of the writing process, and it’s perfectly natural. A real writer doesn’t give up—instead he begin brainstorming, thinking about how to handle the upcoming scene. Simply put, you have to brainstorm the scene, looking at it from all sides, until you get excited about writing it. As ideas come to you and you look at the scene from different angles, some of those ideas will feel so “right” to you, that you’ll find yourself growing eager. When you’re ready, just write!

David Farland:

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and he has won over seven awards—including the International Book Award and the Hollywood Book Festival, Grand Prize—for his fantasy thriller Nightingale. He is best known, however, for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

Farland has written for major franchises such as Star Wars and The Mummy. He has worked in Hollywood greenlighting movies and doctoring scripts. He has been a movie producer, and he has even lived in China working as a screenwriter for a major fantasy film franchise.

As a writing instructor, Farland has mentored dozens who have gone on to staggering literary success, including such #1 New York Times Bestsellers as Brandon Mull (Fablehaven), Brandon Sanderson (Wheel of Time), James Dashner (The Maze Runner) and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight).

Farland judges L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future, the one of the largest worldwide writing competitions for new fantasy and science fiction authors. In the video game industry, he has been both a designer and a scripter and was the co-leader on the design team for StarCraft: Brood War. He set the Guinness World Record for the largest single-author, single-book signing.

David Farland has been hailed as “The wizard of storytelling” and his work has been called “compelling,” “engrossing,” “powerful,” “profound,” and “ultimately life-changing.”

Learning to Piece Together the Story Puzzle

I have found that there a few divides amongst writers more contentious than the arguments between discovery writers (pantsers) and outliners. I used to be firmly a member of the pantser camp. While I recognized that outlining had its benefits, I felt that planning with such excruciating detail would “ruin the fun” of creation. Plus, outlining was difficult and boring. The outline would only change as I got into the trenches and discovered something new and shiny, so what was the point? I had tried to outline a few times, I argued, and it hadn’t worked for me. It never would.

Fortunately, I had a few friends patient enough to take the time to convince me otherwise. Outlining isn’t a single, specific, regimented process, they argued, but rather a way of approaching a story deliberately. I would still create, discover the characters, the world, and the plot in the brainstorming section of the process. Then, the outline itself would be like writing an extremely condensed first draft. I would be able to edit it for major structural problems without the emotional baggage that came with hours and hours spent working on prose.

Once I had a coherent skeleton, I could write the first draft without worrying about writing my way into corners. My structural edits would already be done, and so I could focus my creative energies on producing powerful prose, vivid descriptions, and touching emotional moments. Not only would my first draft be better than what I had done before, it would also take less time to complete.

As for the “inefficiency” of prewriting, any time that I spent up front would be repaid twice over in the back end of the first draft. My manuscript would be leaner and free from most, if not all, structural problems. Additionally, outlines were guides, not shackles. Of course the outline would change as I wrote, but I would “discover deliberately” rather than wandering off into the weeds. I would be able to compare new ideas against a well thought out plot and be able to decide what was truly better for the story. Though it took a few years of conversations and cajoling, they eventually won me over.

Convinced, I decided that 2016 would be the year that I learned to outline. I struggled for a few months and grew disheartened. Outlining was proving to be as difficult, boring, and ineffective as I had feared it would be. I took my problems back to my writing group and we talked through numerous blocks. The issue, I eventually came to realize, was that I hadn’t learned the skills I would need to outline effectively. I knew how to work with character, with plot, with theme, and with milieu. I had all the pieces, but didn’t know how to put the puzzle together.

Again, I was lucky in that I wasn’t alone in my struggles. Of the three members in my group, two of us were discovery writers who were trying to make the transition. After some discussion, we decided to act as a group to resolve the problem. We enrolled in one of David Farland’s online classes, The Story Puzzle. Over the course of 16 weeks, the Story Doctor walked us through his process and theories, answered our questions via email and the biweekly conference calls, and provided valuable feedback on the writing assignments we submitted to him.

It was hard and frustrating at first, but eventually I found the joy that has always driven me to write. I was still discovering and creating, but by doing so deliberately I was finding more than I had expected. My story improved with each passing week and I began feeling the itch, the need to dive in and write prose. I resisted and kept working Dave’s process. By the end of the class, I had all the pieces that I needed and some good guidance on how to put them together into a functional outline. I was in no way ready to begin writing the first draft, but I knew how to get there.

Time passed as I continued to work on my outline. I built my world, wrote down scraps of description and dialog, and found ways to heighten my story and characters on every level. On the first day of each month, I surveyed my progress and decided if I was ready to start prose. Month after month, I judged that I was close, but not quite there. It wasn’t that I was stalling, like I had in the past when my project seemed intimidating. Rather, I had a task list that I needed to finish.

Then came the first day of another month. November first. NaNoWriMo had just begun. I looked over all of my prewriting and decided that, yes, I was ready. I dove into the prose and emerged thirty days later with my first ever NaNo victory. The story wasn’t done, in fact I had quite a ways yet to go. Rather, I had proved to myself that with a good outline to guide me, I could out-write my old pace by a fairly significant margin. Most importantly, I knew that I could do it again. And again. It was the sort of skill that I could develop into a career.

Meet the Fictorians: Dave Heyman

“Come in, — come in! and know me better, man!” -Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

We’d love for you, our wonderful readers, to get to know us better. That’s why, each month, Kristin Luna will interview a member of The Fictorians. We’ll learn more about each member, such as their writing processes, their work, where they live, and what they prefer to drink on a warm summer’s day. We hope you enjoy this monthly installment of Meet the Fictorians.

Meet the Fictorians:

Dave Heyman

Kristin Luna (KL): Hi Dave! How are you and what are you drinking?

Dave Heyman (DH): I’m doing great! I’m drinking my one and only vice, which is coffee. I prefer instant to brewed. Blasphemy, I know, but it’s easier on my stomach. When traveling I prefer Dunkin’ to Starbucks, and love that I can just say “Medium hot, 3 and 3” at the counter and get what I want. It’s a New England thing.

Coffee. Love it.

KL: I actually prefer instant as well! I don’t speak that out loud, of course, and it sounds like you know exactly why. If you don’t mind me sharing, you live in Maine. Tell us a little about that.

DH: I’ve been a New Englander most of my life. I was stationed in Maine during one of my Navy tours and after that I knew I would be back. We raised our kids in New Hampshire but the plan was always to move back to Maine and I’m thrilled we’ve executed on that plan.

To me, Maine is New England in its most concentrated form. I love the climate, I love the ocean views and the foliage and I love the people. There’s nowhere else like it on earth. There’s just a hundred places you can go in Maine and just soak in the beauty.

KL: Do you find that a little bit of Maine comes through in your writing from time to time?

DH: More than a little. My stories often have a strong seafaring component to them, that’s influenced by my Navy career but also by Maine. Earlier this year I wrote a complete fantasy short story set in Maine that I’m making the submission rounds with right now. I also have a pair of lighthouse-related stories that have a lot of Maine wrapped up in them.

KL: You’ve completed a couple of novels. Tell us more about those, what they’re about and what your plans are for them.

DH: The first novel I completed was called ‘Ash Princess’, which I started during Nanowrimo of 2013. It’s an epic fantasy, the first draft clocks in at about 130,000 words. It the novel I carried around in my head for twenty years, always with the plan of writing it “someday”. After a close friend had a brush with death, I realized “someday” needed to become “now” and got busy. It took me about six months and writing it was a great learning experience. I have no intention of publishing it, but I pull it out to look at every now and then. It’s… not awful.

The second novel is a fantasy dystopian (is that a thing? I’ve decided that’s a thing) titled ‘Shades of the Sea’. After writing one novel, I wanted to see if I could write a second one without having two decades of prep time. Between the two novels I took a David Farland workshop, and a lot of those techniques paid off with this story. It’s still in its first draft, at about 100k words. It’s a pretty good story, I might pull it out again some day to see if it can be whipped into publishable shape.

Both of those novels were less about being published and more about learning how to be a writer, developing a process that worked for me and finding my voice. I think some aspiring authors can get stuck forever polishing that first novel and never get past it. For me, it was more a case of looking at what I did and saying “Ok, neat. Now what else can I do?”

KL: What writers do you find most influential?

DH: As a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s, I started with Tolkien and Clarke- -they were my primers on fantasy and science fiction. I read some Asimov and Heinlein too, but they never connected with my the way Clarke did. For fantasy, after Tolkien I moved on to Weis & Hickman, Eddings, Anne McCaffery and Katherine Kurtz. I also have a deep and abiding love for the world building in Stephen R. Donaldson’s books, even as I acknowledge the unpleasantness of his main characters. I also read a ton of Stephen King, Clive Barker and Dean Koontz.

As an adult aspiring author, I have been very influenced by some of the people whose workshops I have taken. Influenced by their prose, but more importantly in how they treat their peers and students and the passion with which they speak of the field. David Farland, Jeanne Cavelos, Mary Robinette Kowall, Kevin J. Anderson, Dean Wesley Smith- -all people I have learned a ton from and try to model myself after.

KL: You mentioned you were in the Navy. Do you find that that influences your writing? Military fantasy or sci-fi? If it doesn’t now, would you see yourself incorporating it in your future writing?

DH: I couldn’t be prouder of my time in the Navy. It was an amazing experience, and it does influence my writing, though not in the way you might expect. I didn’t leave the Navy with a love for the hardware of war, even if I love reading a good war book as much as the next person. What struck me the most in the military is the esprit de corps- -the bond that is struck amongst people working together in stressful situations. I have tapped that feeling in most of the things I’ve written, it is a powerful emotion to experience.

I do have a series planned that revolves around a military ship in a fantasy setting, so I’m sure I’ll pull on lots of my Navy times there.

KL: What’s your favorite work you’ve written so far?

DH: I have a novella that is about 75% complete (but 100% plotted) called The Fifth Interdictor. In short, it is a fantasy about a seemingly unstoppable guardian who slowly learns that her whole life has been engineered, with many layers of secrets hidden from her. She pulls the pieces of her true life together, but at the cost of her power- -becoming weaker and more vulnerable the more she truth she uncovers. Strangers become family, allies become enemies and her own identity is questioned. Is she a hero, or a monster?

It is my favorite thing I have written, with both my favorite protagonist and my favorite antagonist. I expect to complete it next year (another project muscled its way to the front of the line) and once it is done I will be finding a way to get it in people’s hands.

KL: What are some of your long-term goals with writing?

DH: Up until about six months ago I was running with no real plan. From 2013 when I got serious about doing this every day I was just focused on writing, writing and writing. Growing, learning, evaluating. I submitted a few short stories here and there, but nothing beyond that. I figured when I was ‘ready’ I would know.

Six months ago I decided I would write a novel that was intended not for growth, but for publication. The novel is a historical fantasy set in Nepal in 1950, titled Under Everest. I am working on it right now, and I expect to complete it in about another two months. I also have the aforementioned Fifth Interdictor, which I intend to compete and publish, as well as a nautical fantasy series I expect to start late this year.

KL: I love that – having projects specifically for growth and some specifically for publication. Do you have any stories available that our readers can buy or read online? Any plans for that in the future?

DH: Nothing out there yet. I am hopeful that 2017 will change all of that.

KL: I know you’re relatively new to the Fictorians, but what is your favorite Fictorians post you’ve written so far?

DH: I’m super excited and honored to be a full time Fictorian! My favorite Fictorians post is the first guest post I did, “Petting the Dog in Space”. I was so taken by the plight of little Philae the comet lander and I was very happy with how the post came out.

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If you have any questions for Dave, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!

What “Rejection” Really Means

A Guest Post by David Farland

For the last few weeks I’ve been scurrying to finish up judging on a large contest. I’ve had to “reject” thousands of stories. I hate the word “reject,” because it doesn’t really express what I want to say.

Very often I will read the opening to a story and it is obviously the first work of a very young writer. It may have a multitude of problems—from simple typos, to a lack of understanding as to how to set a scene, to clunky dialog. I know that I can’t accept the story for publication, but at the same time, I wish that I could shout some encouragement to the budding writer, much the way that my mentor Algis Budrys did to a young Stephen King.

I think that people need encouragement. It may be the only thing that will spur a young writer to greater effort.

So what does the word “rejection” mean to you as a writer? I think it’s simply: “Try harder.”

A lot of fine works get rejected. The bestselling works in nearly every genre experienced rejection. Lord of the Rings was rejected by several American publishers. Dune was rejected by all of them. Gone with the Wind made its rounds through every major publisher. Harry Potter was rejected by all of the biggest houses, and Twilight was rejected by a dozen agents before it got picked up—yet all of these novels became the bestsellers in their fields.

So does that mean that these were all bad novels? Of course not. It means that the author didn’t find an editor with a matching taste, a matching vision, right at the first.

Very often when I read a manuscript that is close to being publishable, I think, It’s a shame that the author didn’t try a little harder to . . . That’s what “rejected” means to me.

I was talking to international bestselling author Laurell K. Hamilton last week, and asked her to confirm a rumor that I’d heard. With her first novel, she received over 200 rejections before she made a sale. She said, “When people tell me that they’ve been rejected five or ten or twenty times, I just tell them that ‘I don’t want to hear about it.’”

Laurell has the perfect attitude toward rejection. Try harder.

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