Tag Archives: Superstars Writing Seminar

Eight Tips for the Aspiring Writer

JaceA guest post by Jace Sanders

From the age of five until about fourteen, anytime I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was quick to answer that I wanted to be a writer. In seventh grade I had this discussion with my dad who thought I ought to pursue the new industry of computers, as the writing world might have high barriers of entry. My naïve mind made the argument that every author I knew was famous and so they had to be successful. All I had to do was write.

Years later, I found myself in a steady job as a college graduate. I didn’t realize that I had satisfied my internal drive to write, by creating business plans and financial articles and by reading.

One morning I awoke from a fantastic dream with an incredible plot full of twists, drama and revenge. It was a story that had to be told so I resolved to write a letter to John Grisham, deeding him irrevocable rights to my dream. After showering I realized that that would never go anywhere. As I shaved, my reflection in the mirror posed the question, “why don’t you write it?”

I knew that I didn’t know the first thing about proper writing so I called around and found a writing group led by a real-life published author. I will not forget the first critique by the group, where they destroyed my novel in progress. Seems I didn’t understand Point of View. That critique has forever impacted my writing. At first I wanted to throw my hands in the air and abandon the childhood fantasy. But it was too late to go back; I had rekindled my desire to write. So I buckled down and mastered Point of View.

Not long after that I moved and I made the apathetic mistake of not finding a new group of writing peers. Years passed, the economy tanked, and the author in me receded to the back shelf of my mind.

Last year, a friend of mine informed me that a publisher had picked up his book. I didn’t even know he wrote. The author inside of me begged to be let out. Then I learned that my neighbor was a talented writer. She asked to see some of my work so I pulled out a piece, blew off the dust, and sent it over.

The experience was very similar to when I learned about POV. This time I was introduced to the concept of Showing versus Telling. I again wanted to abandon the childhood fantasy, but determination replaced pride and I studied, read, and learned all there was about Showing versus Telling.

This neighbor has become somewhat of a mentor. When I told her that I was serious about writing and willing to put forth the effort, she gave me a list of tools. Here are her suggestions:

  1. Watch Brandon Sanderson’s creative writing class on YouTube. Watch one class each day.  They can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/user/WriteAboutDragons?feature=watch
  2. After step 1, listen to his podcast at www.writingexcuses.com. Listen to one a day, any more than that may overwhelm your brain.
  3. Accept that the first million words that you write is probably crap. Join the 100 Club. Write at least 100 words each day. Before you know it you’re manuscript is taking shape and you’re becoming a better writer.
  4. Join a writing group. Try to find people that are better than you and are willing to give you honest feedback.
  5. Read. Read a lot.
  6. Read books on writing. Some great ones are:
    • Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King
    • Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland
    • Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman
    • Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
    • How to Write Magical Words by Edmund Schubert
  7. The best thing to do is to learn all the rules of writing, internalize them, then forget them and just write.
  8. If you’re really serious. Go to Superstars Writing Seminar. www.superstarswriting.com

I am still aspiring to be a published and successful writer and I know that I am getting closer every day. I write at least 100 words daily. I read a lot. I continue to work with a writers group and value the feedback I receive. I’m starting to just write. The best thing I’ve done in furthering my writing career has been attending Superstars Writing Seminar. If you are serious about being a writer, go.

Guest Writer Bio:
JaceJace lives in Arizona with his wife and five children. In addition to writing he enjoys music, photography, and anything outdoors. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Utah State University and is the Chief Financial Officer of a biotech company.

When to get Stubborn . . . And when to get Smart

LightbulbJust this month, NYT Bestselling Author, and well-known author mentor David Farland wrote an excellent post titled “A Question of Balance”.  He opens by saying, “How do you develop as a writer? It requires a balance of study and practice.”

That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking about this month as I prepared this post, and I highly recommend you read his blog.  If you’re not signed up to receive his Daily Kicks, you should consider it.  His wisdom and advice is one of several factors I point to in helping me break through obstacles in my writing.

When I first started writing almost eight years ago, I took the stubborn approach that all I had to do was write, and write and write, and eventually I’d get there.

And so I tried.

Working pretty much in a vacuum of my own little world, I plowed ahead and wrote my half million throw-away words.  Sure I improved many skills related to the actual craft of writing words on a page that make sense and, not knowing any better, figured I was at the top of my game.

The only problem was, no agent wanted my 300,000 word ginormous epic novel, and I couldn’t figure out why.

That was my first big obstacle, and I could not overcome it by just writing more – which I continued to do anyway.  Just like David Farland said in his blog, I needed a better balance – some training to go along with the writing – to learn to work smarter instead of just harder.

That’s when I reached one of those milestone events in my writing career:  I took David Farland’s Professional Writer’s Workshop.  I found out about it by listening to Brandon Sanderson’s weekly podcast Writing Excuses, which I also highly recommend.

It was only with the knowledge I gained at that writing workshop that I recognized the flaws in my first book (weaknesses in the plot, waaaay too long, etc).

That’s when I faced the second challenge:  What to do next?

StubbornHere, stubbornness kicked in again and provided the answer.  Time to get to work.  I threw away all that initial work, that entire novel, mined some pieces that were salvageable, and totally re-designed the novel from the ground up.  That new novel, now titled The Sentinel’s Call, is in the hands of my agent, who will hopefully find a home for it.

In the meantime, I’ve since written 3 other novels.  In each project, I’ve faced additional hurdles.  Sometimes the answer was to get stubborn, plant butt in chair, and write like mad – like last November when I had to re-write 80% of my YA novel.  In six weeks, I pounded out over 75,000 new words, and edited another 50,000.

Other times I had to get smarter, like when I signed up for the Superstars Writing Seminar– again, highly recommended.  It’s the best place to Relaxlearn the nuts and bolts of being a professional author – the business side of writing.  Or, when I studied other writing books – like Story Engineering by Larry Brooks, which I found extremely helpful.

Over the past eight years, I’ve found the best way to overcome the regular obstacles we face as we strive to become professional writers is a balance of stubbornness – just sit down and write; and an ever-increasing foundation of knowledge gained by studying, attending seminars and workshops and by networking with other writers.

I just wish I’d started the focused learning aspect sooner.

Depending on what stage we are at with our projects, or where we stand in our writing career, we’ll need a different answer to break through whatever obstacle we’re facing.  What is your biggest challenge right now?  Do you know yet if you need more stubbornness, or more learning to overcome it?

Everything I learned about the business of being a writer I learned at Superstars Writing Seminar . . .

supserstars button

Three years ago my life changed.

Before dismissing that statement as being melodramatic, just hear me out.

It was 2010 and I was thinking that I might actually be interested in maybe someday pursuing a writing career. I was receiving Dave Farland’s Daily Kicks, and he mentioned he was putting together this seminar-thing (okay, he was far more eloquent than that) with a bunch of other top-notched and top-selling fantasy writers about everything you needed to know about the publishing industry, but no one was willing to tell you. The other instructors–Kevin J. Anderson, Eric Flint, Rebecca Moesta and James Owen–all have equally impressive resumes. The seminar-thingy was the Superstars Writing Seminar. I figured what the heck, I’d been going to “skills” seminars for about five years now, maybe it was time to get an insider’s look at the industry I wanted to be part of.

Best (professional) decision of my life.


The information and insight into the publishing market, including the self-publishing v. traditional publishing debate, was invaluable. Knowing the risks inherent for a publisher in taking on a new writer, I understood (and could work to circumvent) the barriers to publishing.

The time with the instructors was unprecedented. Remember that I said I’d been attending seminars for five years. Even with instructor-intense workshops, there wasn’t a whole lot of out-of-class time with the instructors. Superstars blew that distance out of the water. We went to lunch with the instructors. We went out drinking with Kevin Anderson. If you wanted a few minutes of their time, all of them where happy to oblige.

The instructor time ties in with a very important point.  They are some of the nicest and most open people you could ever want to meet. They genuinely want to help other writers succeed. They are James Owen and Iinvested in helping them do so. They have a wealth of information on many disparate topics and are more than happy to share that knowledge, whether it’s publishing, queries, hiking, micro-brew beers, mafia, European history or whatever.  For the price of asking, they gave us hours of their time to help us Superstars attendees move forward in our careers. And the guest speakers are just as open and wonderful as the regular instructors.

Then, of course, there’s the connections you form with the other attendees. The Superstars attendees are as amazing as the instructors. A group of the 2010 Superstars alums formed the writing group that grew into Fictorians. The picture to the right is of some of us at World Fantasy 2012. In addition to Fictorians, Superstars alums have an active Facebook group. We encourage and commiserate with each other. We are our own best cheerleaders. That network of people going through exactly what you are going through is invaluable. It’s also how I found my publisher.

Most of all, what Superstars did for me was give me the confidence to say, “I am going to be a professional writer.” It’s not a crazy dream. It’s a goal. Superstars gave me an understanding of the business side of the industry that I couldn’t get anywhere else.

Seriously folks, if you are interested in a writing career or maybe you’re already pursuing one, you are doing yourself a disservice by not attending Superstars. I highly recommend you attend Superstars Writing Seminar, which will be held May 14-16, 2014 in Colorado Springs, Colorado this year. Prices go up on  May 1, 2013, so sign up now.

I hope to see you there.

If you’re still on the fence, check out another great posts on this site about the Superstars Experience:

Q&A with the Superstars: Part I







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 www.davidfarland.com/writing 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.