Archive for February, 2011

If you want to succeed, hang out with unsuccessful people. Er, am I remembering that right?

If you want to get somewhere, don’t ask for directions. Wait, that’s not how it goes.

If you want to master something, don’t learn from the mistakes of the masters. Hm. That just sounds wrong.

Because I don’t subscribe to the above philosophies, I’ve attended two of the Superstars Writing Seminars. I went there to hang out with some bestselling science fiction and fantasy authors to soak up their best advice about the business of writing. These events last three full days, and they’re chock full of great information.

I could never do justice to everything there is to learn from these seminars in one blog post, but here’s one thing I learned.

Successful writers don’t just write, they write their ____ off.

Brandon Sanderson writes a few books a year, making time to squeeze Wheel of Time tomes into his schedule. Kevin J. Anderson dictates his stories into a digital recorder while hiking the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. He also rents hotel rooms to get away from everyone (p.s. if my wife is reading this, I love you, Honey!) and write his ____ off. Eric Flint writes in binges that last for weeks and during those times, he is dead to the outside world.

Kevin J. Anderson says something obvious, but powerful: The top professionals in any respected field (medicine, law, you name it) WORK real, disciplined, long hours at their jobs, and then enjoy the fruits of their labor. When you have a ‘real job,’ you keep a schedule and you punch that clock. Serious writers shouldn’t expect to do any less. Kevin recently talked to the Writing Excuses guys about this very thing.

David Farland (Dave Wolverton) is also a Superstars’ presenter. In addition to hanging out with Dave at two Superstars seminars, I also attended his “Writer’s Death Camp” last November. What I’ve learned from Dave is hard to summarize in a flashy bullet point. I’ve learned from him so many fine points on the craft and business of writing, little things that can make all the difference. If you subscribe to his free Daily Kick emails, you’ll see what I mean.

A funny thing happened in one of Dave’s Daily Kick emails last week. Out of the blue, he said some exceedingly kind things about me and my work in his Daily Kick about “The Dangers of Self-Publishing.” Yep, this was a nice surprise. Now the following quote lives at the top of my ebook’s Amazon page:

“Moses is a fine writer and is deserving of success, and I think that it will follow … maybe his project will turn him into the next Amanda Hocking. Personally, I really enjoyed Moses’s work.”
–David Farland, NYT Bestselling author of The Runelords

Though this came as a surprise to me, this quote would’ve never happened had I not made a decision to hang out with some successful authors, to appreciate what they had to share with me (p.s. thanks, Dave), and to just be myself around them.

Here’s another cool thing I lucked into. At the end of the first Superstars seminar, I was hanging around the nearly empty conference room when I saw Brandon Sanderson reading the first few pages of someone’s manuscript. So I walked over to listen to the advice Brandon had for (someone who is now my friend) Joshua Essoe. Brandon asked if I had something he could read.

Uh. Yeah?

So he did. He gave me some great feedback on my first chapter, told me the story was strong enough that he’d continue reading if he was an editor, and then helped me with a technical issue I was struggling with at the time. I can’t tell you how how helpful his comments were.

Then at the second Superstars seminar, I got to sit and have dinner with Brandon and a handful of other seminar attendees. I got to pick his brain about which editors might be a good or a bad fit for me at different publishing houses, and again I learned a lot (thanks again, Brandon).

I also interviewed Brandon, Howard, and Dan from Writing Excuses at the recent conference, as well as Sherrilyn Kenyon (that interview will be up any day now at Adventures In SciFi Publishing), and I got to film a couple episodes of Writing Excuses (thanks, guys) that featured Mary Robinette Kowal and David Farland.

If there’s a takeaway from my ramblings, maybe it’s to spend time with writers you emulate, whether it’s at workshops, seminars, conferences, blogs, or even on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t do it with the mindset of getting anything from them, other than an education. Be yourself, be positive and grateful, and something–hopefully whatever you need most–will definitely rub off on you.

Oh yeah. And if you want to be a writer, write your ____ off.

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If you don’t subscribe to David Farland’s Daily Kick, a free email service that shares outstanding advice about the business and craft of writing, what are you waiting for? (look for the sign-up box on the right, through that link.)

Here’s today’s installment. I decided to mention it because, well, you’ll see. He mentioned me. This will give you an example of a wonderful free service Dave offers. I may write a blog post later this week to add to some of the points Dave made.

Everything below the following line is from David Farland’s Daily Kick, 2/14/11 (and not written by me):

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David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants—The Dangers of Self-Publishing

Friday I wrote about Amanda Hocking’s tremendous rise to becoming a bestseller through self-publishing her e-books. I’ve heard from a lot of fans lately who want to give that a try, and by all means, if you think that you’ve got the chops, give it a try.

But let me warn you of the danger first. Unfortunately, you are not your own best critic. Nor is your spouse or your mother or your neighbor your best critic. As a result, when you think that you’re ready to publish, in most cases you’re not.

Time and time again, I find writers who are almost delusional. They’re like the singers that tried out in Hollywood last week on American Idol. They were by far the worst that the country had seen. For some reason, Hollywood attracts delusional people.

Because writers aren’t their own best critics, we often hear stories like the one told by Raymond Feist recently. He got a knock on his door, and when he answered, the fellow at the door said, “I’ll be you’ve never talked to a real author before!” Ray, who has sold millions and millions of books, just laughed and said, “Buddy, I think you’ve got the wrong house.” But the fellow persisted and showed Ray his two self-published novels. They were printed to a high quality, which showed that the fellow had some taste, and so Raymond bought them and the fellow went off to schlep his works door-to-door. Raymond then read the first few pages of one and said that it was one of the worst novels that he’d ever seen.

I’ve done that same experience on more than one occasion, picked up a self-published novel only to see a dozen horrible mistakes—everything from typos to misspellings and just genuinely terrible prose—all within two pages.

So I’m worried that in the rush of self-published authors this year, we’re going to see a lot of people embarrass themselves. More importantly, you might actually hurt your career.

Let’s say that you put up a book that isn’t quite ready, and it gets twenty reviews on line, and most of them pan your book. How easy do you think it will be to sell your next book, or the one after that? Those negative reviews will never go away, and they’ll dog you. Indeed, they’ll destroy the name that you’re trying to create for yourself.

So don’t rush to publish in e-book format.

Please be aware that I’m not saying “Don’t publish.” I’m just urging you to be careful.

Last year I won the Whitney Award for Best Novel of the Year with a book that I self-published. When I won the award, Howard Tayler, the self-published author of the famous Schlock Mercenary cartoons, said, “You know, Dave, you’ve just done a world of damage. You self-published for all of the wrong reasons: your mother begged you to do it. You didn’t want to take your regular publisher’s advice. Then to top it off, you sold all of your stock, got great reviews, and won a major award. I keep telling people not to self-publish, even though I’m making my own living at it, and now you come along and just reinforce the wrong message.”

Howard is right of course. Both of us were publishing to small market shares, where self-publishing made a little more sense, and we both succeeded, just as Amanda Hocking is succeeding, and some of you are succeeding.

One of my friends and past students, Moses Siregar, I just found out, is at the top of Amazon’s sales charts with his epic fantasy THE BLACK GOD’S WAR. Moses is a fine writer and is deserving of success, and I think that it will follow. But Moses also knows the risks. I recently heard some other New York Times bestselling writers tell him, “Moses, don’t self-publish!” They pointed out the risks. I then told him, “You know, Moses, I hate to say this, but I think you’ll do it. You’re savvy enough to know what you need to do in order to self-publish well, and I think that you should go ahead.” Now, four weeks later, he’s doing great. So go check out his book at:

http://www.amazon.com/Black-Gods-War-Introducing-ebook/dp/B003Z0D2HK

It will only cost a dollar, and if Moses gets the velocity he needs, maybe his project will turn him into the next Amanda Hocking. Personally, I really enjoyed Moses’s work.

Oh, and don’t self-publish! For every one who succeeds, there will be hundreds who will destroy a potential career. Recognize that when you self-publish, you might just be gambling with your career.

Announcing:

Ken Scholes will be speaking to us next on the Farland’s Author’s Advisory Confernce Calls and you are invited to attend at no charge, as always. Mark your calendar, the date is Thursday, February 24th, 9:00 p.m. EST.

Ken is the author of LAMENTATION, and the topic will be “Self-Awareness: an author’s first best tool.”

To get on the call, dial 1-218-862-7200. When the line picks up, dial the calling code, which is 245657. The call is free, long distance charges apply.

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