Why we write

Just a short link to share today, but one well worth your time.  Go to the Superstars Writing Seminar site and scroll down to the middle of the page where it says “Tracy Hickman Story”, then listen to the .mp3.  It’s a recording of an incredible story Tracy related at the seminar a few weeks ago.  In the first 30 seconds or so, you may be wondering “wha?”…but keep listening.  Trust me, it’s worth it – an amazing story about how our writing can effect people in ways we’d never have imagined.

Superstars Writing Seminar, pretty darn super

Last week I traveled to Salt Lake City to attend the 2nd annual Superstars Writing Seminar.  I found the workshop extremely valuable.  Unlike many other writing seminars and workshops, SWS focuses exclusively on the business of writing.  Specifically, the seminar provides an insider’s view of the publishing industry, as well as advice on networking, writing productivity, and strategies for capitalizing on your intellectual property.

The instructors this year were Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, Brandon Sanderson, and David Farland/WolvertonSherrilyn Kenyon and Tracy Hickman made guest appearances, and a few established pro attendees, including Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Tayler, also joined several of the panels.  By any measure, these people know what they’re talking about.

Basically, the seminar consisted of three days in a conference room listening to the instructors share personal insights and advice about the publishing business.  To give just a few examples, Eric Flint walked us through one of his contracts, clause by clause.  He explained the exact meaning of all the legalese, including what’s standard (and therefore where we should set our expectations), and which elements were worth negotiating over and which weren’t.  It was illuminating in the extreme.

Another panel focused on networking, driving home not only the point that it’s crucially important for both new and established authors but also providing concrete examples of how to go about doing it (both in person and online).    Other topics included things like:  collaborating with other authors, insights into the different publishing houses, the economics of the publishing industry, working in Hollywood, and, honestly, so much more I can’t even remember it all right now.  The expression “drinking from a fire hose” doesn’t even come close.

The rest of our time was spent having lunches, dinners, and drinks – both with the instructors and fellow attendees.  The instructors really made themselves available and answered questions very frankly.  The workshop itself was an excellent networking opportunity.

As many of you know, last year I attended the Viable Paradise Writer’s Workshop (submissions for which are open now until June 15), and it had a transformative effect on my writing.  I feel SWS will have an equally profound impact on my understanding of the business and how I approach my career.  For those hesitating at the cost, I’ll simply say I consider the money well spent and likely to pay dividends for years, if not decades, to come.

The 2012 Superstars will be held in Las Vegas.  You can find out more on their webpage – and if you have specific questions, post them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them.  If you haven’t already seen it, I previously posted a preliminary review of the first day of the seminar.

From inside the belly of the beast

It’s still dark here in Salt Lake City, and a thin layer of icy snow has covered everything.  Is the bad weather following me, or are we finally beginning the slide into our global-warming induced Ice Age?  Anyway, here’s a quick update from the Superstars Writing Seminar in Salt Lake City…

1. Damn, I’m exhausted…and it’s only Day 2

2. Some great insights from Brandon Sanderson on diversification and working multiple projects.  In general, a common theme on Day 1 was a push towards maximizing productivity and output.  Listening to Brandon, and also Kevin J. Anderson, I feel like I’ll really be able to organize my time better.

3. Persistence is another point that’s been coming up a lot.  Brandon’s first big sale was the 6th novel he wrote – and he sold it while he was writing his 13th.  David Farland says: “Make yourself a lightning rod, and lightning with strike.  You aren’t going to get struck while hiding in your basement.”  Truer words have never been spoken.

4. From Eric Flint: when editors look at a submission, they care about only one thing: do I want to keep turning the page?  If the answer is yes all the way to the end, they might buy your story.

5. Also some very practical advice on networking (the geeky, reclusive writer’s bane)…and, apparently, YES, we have to figure out how to do it, because it’s important.  Rats.

6. And, finally, thank you Eric Flint for explaining how the economics of publishing work.  Depressing, but clarifying.

Okay, if you want to know more, you’ll have to sign up and attend next year.  Thus far, I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.  More to follow…

On the road, again

Today was a travel day for me.  I’m in Salt Lake City to attend a seminar addressing the business side of writing (Superstars Writing Seminar) and being taught by the likes of Kevin J. Anderson, Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Eric Flint, and Rebecca Moesta.  While here, I’ll try to provide a few blog updates about the seminar and my adventures – literary and otherwise.

The trip has started out rather inauspiciously, to be honest.  I wasn’t supposed to leave New York until tomorrow afternoon, but the gods of snow (or maybe just some suit at Delta) decided a big storm was coming and canceled my flight (though not a flake of snow has yet fallen).  My only choices were:  come on a 6am flight today or not at all.  So, here I am.  Sleepy and a bit jet-lagged, but here.  It’s cold (around 14 degrees right now) and there’s snow just about everywhere you look.  But, man, the mountains are really pretty, and a hot shower managed to scour away the residual pain of getting up at 4am.

Right now I’m at a little cafe far too cute to exist anywhere outside of a movie (Raw Bean Coffeehouse) and determined to stop using this internet connection to procrastinate 🙂

I’m going to go and write now.  You should too.

See you later.

Where did I pack my pen?

For someone who considers herself a homebody, I sure do a lot of traveling.  In 2010 I traveled to Seattle (2x), New Orleans (2x), Boston, the British Virgin Islands, England, Scotland, and Spain.  And that’s just the trips I remember.  I figure I spent at least a quarter of the year away from home (and thus away from my desk).  And, for the first two months of 2011 alone, I have trips planned to New Orleans (where I am as I write this), Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

Travel presents a range of delights and agonies, but perhaps one of the most challenging for me is not losing momentum on my writing.  There’s the trip itself, which, if it’s a vacation, can mean getting nothing done, but also the lead-up and unwinding after you get back — all lethal to my writing output.

Sometimes being out and seeing the world is a source of inspiration, prompting unexpected visits from the writing Beast, and the experiences accrued from traveling most certainly benefit us writers.  Getting away from daily life and leaving behind your mundane worries and tasks can be mentally liberating, too.  But, just as often, even if you pack your laptop and best intentions, the writing well remains dry…or ignored altogether.

Here are 2 things I do every time I travel, which unfailingly result in a productivity rate of zero:

1. print out draft versions of short stories or novels with the intent of line-editing them on the plane.  Because you wouldn’t want to be stuck with nothing to do but watch all those free movies on the seat-back screen.  Riiiiiight.

2. pack a blank notebook with the idea that all my “downtime” (cause there’s always so much of that on the road) will be ideal for world-building/brainstorming/plotting.  I have a lot of blank notebooks, many of them now yellowed around the edges.

So far, the only thing I’ve found that works in the slightest is to just stuff the ole’ laptop into my purse (yes, I have a huge purse) and carry it around.  When a free moment or two strikes, I pull it out and keep working on whatever I’d be working on if I was at home.  Pretty prosaic, and pretty hit-and-miss in terms of productivity (also, that shoulder bag gets heavy).  But it’s the best I’ve got so far.

A few other observations: when I’m traveling alone and staying in a hotel, I’m quite productive at night and/or early in the morning.  Along these lines, when I attended Readercon last year I got a ton of writing done.  Being around other writers and attending writing panels was really inspiring.  I’ll be at the Superstars Writing Seminar in Salt Lake later this month and I’m hoping I find the same thing to be true there.

But, given how much I travel, I’d really like to develop more consistent strategies for keeping up with my writing.  So, I’m asking for your input, advice, and tips.  What works for you when you travel, and what tactics are a bust?