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.
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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