Challenge,  workshops

Early Stage Writers…


How many of you either want to know how to start and build a writing career in 2024, or more likely are getting questions from friends or relatives who want you to explain to them everything you are doing in five sentences or less.

Well, Kris and I get that question all the time and over the years we have had no interest in doing really basic “how to” workshops. So we have had no place to send writers who ask that question. Well, a number of you wrote me that something basic like that to help those starting up or who are stuck in the process would be wonderful. Especially to help those who feel stuck and can’t make the jump from finishing stories to selling their work.

And then the other night over a dinner with other writers, the same topic came up.

And that lead to me and Kris talking more about doing this, a series of classes where writers who are just getting started can go to get from writing and finishing a story to selling it around the world and doing Kickstarters and having Shopify stores. So many early-stage writers have also gotten caught by the spend thousands and thousands to promote their first book.  As you all know, we tell the honest truth and pull no punches.

We are thinking about this, trying to give early-stage writers and writers who are stuck in the process somewhere to get real information and guidance.

Anyone think this might be a good idea?

Let me know here in the comments or directly by email. Just want to get a sense if this is needed. Sure seems like it might be at this point.  Thanks.

UPDATE…. (Next day)

Thanks for the comments. Clearly not something Kris nor I would be good at or go to the reason we are teaching which is to keep learning and having fun.  So thank you all, but this idea is a non-starter. (grin)

Barkson’s Journey Special Workshops…

One on doing fantasy maps and one on creating great fantasy main characters. All the information has been sent to those who backed with the workshops. If you did not get it, first check your spam filter because there are links in the email. Then write me directly if you still didn’t get it.  First sessions are starting tomorrow.

The stretch reward workshops were sent out a while back as an update to all backers. What I am talking about here are the special workshops. And I have been told that Barkson’s Journey and the other books in the series are nearing going out. Stay tuned there.



  • Scott

    Of course such a thing would be a great benefit to a lot of people. As someone who has created and sold online courses in the past (totally not related to writing) I have two thoughts, though.

    How different would this course have been if you did it 5 years ago? And how different will it need to be 5 years from today? That is, if you are including specific steps with specific companies.

    One of the frustrating things about the vast amount of information on YouTube is that as soon as a program’s user interface changes, a whole bunch of the advice based on it becomes extremely difficult to apply.

    Your other courses are more or less evergreen, which is why I can take things that you did in 2014 and still apply them.

    The second thing sort of ties in with the first. To be successful in the long term, an author must learn the skill of discerning how to move forward in the face of a constantly changing environment.

    Being told precisely how to do something is great as far as it goes. But at some point, an author has to learn how to scour 20 Reddit threads, 10 videos, and look at it all through the lens of the principles you and Kristine have presented over the last many years…and come to their own decision about the best course forward.

    Because for many of their situations, they are never going to find exactly the right answer that applies only to them.

    I think it is this fear of doing something wrong and never being able to change it that is keeping some authors from getting their work out there, rather than a specific lack of knowledge.

    I remember the first time I decided to remodel part of my house. I was standing there with a sledgehammer in front of the wall, trying to come to grips with the fact that after the first swing, there was no going back to how things were and I would be stuck with the result.

    Of course, that wasn’t true.

    A few years later, when I had learned all of the various skills involved, I never even thought to hesitate before knocking something out. I knew that no matter what I did, I could always make it come out better in the end. I had no fear at all in moving forward.

    I’m not sure how to teach this essential skill for long-term success. Is it specific guidance to get you to a specific point and from there you’ll be fine? Or is it foundational principles and being pointed toward the internet armed with the necessary discernment and confidence to go forth on your own?

    Whatever you do, I’m sure it will be beneficial to a lot of people. I know that I’ll be taking it!

    • Kerridwen Mangala McNamara

      I like that notion of “It’s always fixable”
      Yes, that’s the hardest thing to overcome for a lot of people. Sort of like writers block – i mean, seriously, what can go wrong if you write words you don’t like later?

      It’s what Dean was talking about with the Car of Failure awhile ago. You just gotta do it.

  • Kate Pavelle

    I keep fielding “how to start selling” questions about every third time someone figures out that I write. Problem is, even though I have exchanged information so that we could get together for coffee and go through the basic steps, I got crickets.
    People are either idly curious and publishing fiction is either their ‘fantasy me” dream, as opposed to their ‘today me” reality. Or they realize it would take a bit of learning and work, and they decide to do something else instead. A few say they would rather go with a traditional publisher. When I point out the pitfalls, they give me a pitying look, as though I wasn’t good enough to hack it in the big leagues and had to resort to indie.

    I think the course would be valuable. I got taken through the basic steps by my late friend, P.D. Singer. Not everyone has a friend like that. This may be a case where you might want to do a shout-out to all of us and ask us to boost the course to our readers. The writers already know the basic steps, or are on their way to layer in more knowledge.

  • Dave Creek

    I was first published thirty years ago (ANALOG, March 1994) and there are still things that fluster me. I have no concept of kickstarters and when I looked at Shopify it requires payments of an amount I can’t count on making each month. My book sales have stalled out and my tentative ventures into Amazon and Facebook ads have gone nowhere.

    I also haven’t looked into some of the social media sites such as Mastadon and Pinterest. I dropped Twitter.

    Yes, I know I could do all this myself, but having some guidance or a place where all this info could be found at once could be a big help.

  • Martin L. Shoemaker

    Much of what I learned as an early stage writer (and have passed along to others) came from you and Kris. It sounds like organizing these lessons into formal classes? I would recommend those to others, but I don’t know if beginners would be open to the price of classes.

  • Mary

    What would a Dean and Kris Writing for Beginners class be?

    In terms of the how-tos, there are a couple of good beginner classes already. David Gaughran has one that’s free, and over at Wide for the Win ( Erin Wright does a whole series about beginning wide with ebooks, how to handle print, the differences in the different platforms (like searches and promos). So there are places to get the logistical, technical direction, and maybe sometimes you and Kris should be directing people to those classes.

    I can’t honestly see you giving lectures about how to upload to Barnes and Noble, or whether you should go direct to Apple or through D2D, or how Kobo Plus works. (Which are the kind of questions that appear a lot on WftW, because people do not read anything already there.)

    • Kerridwen Mangala McNamara

      OMG, yes the concept of “scroll back” or “search on your topic” are not strong with the people…
      I can see it being a pain to search an entire blog or group several years back, but… days? Or hours?
      (Sorry, but a nerve there, lol! And for the record, I’ve been reading my way through Dean and Kris’ entire blogs… I may have a problem in the other direction!)

  • Kari Kilgore

    I think it’s a great idea. I’d love to have somwhere to point newer writers when they ask me how to get started. I do my best help when I can, but it’s impossible to sum up almost a decade of studying and experience, much less what people with so much more experience than I have can offer.

  • Jason M

    Honestly, there’s a LOT of gurus in this space already. I don’t think it needs another one, regardless of experience, unless you’re willing to put a lot of effort into it.

    • dwsmith

      Not trying to be a guru of any sort. Just thinking of doing something I can point to and say “take that.” By someone with a publishing track record. Not too many New York Times bestsellers like me and Kris would think of taking the time to try to help someone facing a wall of unknown.

      • Jason M

        True, but you’re assuming that baby writers will appreciate the fact that you have as much experience as you do. People make these decisions based on many other factors, like feeeeelings and personal recommendations.

        Also, remember the age factor. This young generation might only listen to someone close to their age. They might only listen to someone who looks or talks like them. Most importantly, this young generation does NOT like being challenged — I work with them all the time — and they have very low tolerance for what you might call old-fashioned “tough talk”. They shut down. They can’t process contradictory opinions.

        Just a heads up.

        Obviously do what you want, but if you want my opinion: Your time and effort is better spent elsewhere, unless you can speak to younger people the way they like to be spoken to.

  • Dayle Dermatis

    There’s an avalanche of information at every turn—often the hardest part is figuring out the legitimate advice from the crap.

    What would be helpful would be


    • the problem with critique groups
    • where to find good basic information—I don’t know what RWA is like anymore, but they’ve always been helpful to newer writers


    • Vellum
    • going wide
    • covers/cover art


    • basic things to think about
    • going wide
    • Kickstarter
    • selling direct
    • reading and understanding contracts
    • and so forth

    • where to find reliable information on the above topics, such as
    • Kickstarter for Authors group on Facebook
    • etc. and so on

    So it wouldn’t be “we’re giving you all this information,” but “we’re preparing you for the tools you need, and here’s where to find them.”

  • allynh

    Sorry to come late to this post, I see the “Update”.

    Too many people I meet lately are asking about writing because they saw some video on YouTube about generating “passive income from writing”. Yikes!

    When I ask them what stories they are trying to tell, they don’t understand the question. HA!

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

    — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  • Fabien Delorme

    I’m coming after the update, but anyway you already have good material for beginners IMO, but it’s hard to find in the middle of all those workshops, classes and lectures you have.

    I think a great beginner curiculum would include something like “depth” of course, “writing into the dark”, the overlooked “novel structure” which contains a lot of basic information on different topics, for the craft aspect. Then, “making a living with novels”, “blurbs”, “covers” and “how to edit yourself” for the business side. And I’d start with “making a living with novels”, because it’s a harsh one, and it’ll filter out those who aren’t ready for that.

    If someone were to ask me “how do I start”, those are the classes I’d recommend in priority.

  • Linda Maye Adams


    It’s needed, but whether anyone will pay attention is another story. Craft is nearly left out of most discussions on writing. I attended one writing conference–lots and lot of panels. Most were on some form of how to produce more words or someone selling a system of some kind to help you produce more fiction. Little on the nuts and bolts of writing to be better at it. Seems like everyone’s busy racing to get stuff done but not actually improve the skills for better sales…

  • Emily

    Just wanted to leave a comment despite this discussion being closed — I am part of this younger generation? (does being a early 90s millenial count?) and would have appreciated a straight-shooter course on how to be a better beginner. I completely understand the final decision made by Dean and Kris on not offering this course and will continue to participate in their online courses as I gear up with writing more and writing better. Something I’ve come to terms with after finding this out has been that all the classes and techniques in the world won’t do me any good if I don’t actually write anything haha and then publish it. So that’s what I’ve been working on.

    I will say that your courses have single-handedly revived and saved any possiblity of me even doing writing professionally and for fun. I’ve fallen prey for years and am still deprogramming from a lot of the toxic rhetoric in the creative writing circles I’ve been around and had partaken in before I knew any better. I have found a good amount of relief from being able to take and handle your advice and really appreciate this avenue you leave open for me to access your depth of knowledge and experience.

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, Emily and we have figured out a way to do an entry-level set of courses using what we already have done. And other focused bundles. So stay tuned for that.

  • Kerridwen Mangala McNamara

    I send people to your and Kris’ blogs and books.

    IMO the thing that fouls new writers most is likely to be the business side – forget about even marketing, simply realizing that when we put our first book up on KDP we need to track expenses and income because we will need to file TAXES.

    A newbie writer may be writing terribly or amazingly (and they’ll get better if they keep actively trying) but if they get scared off by the business side of things… they might not keep trying.

    And I say this as someone who has run several small businesses and been reading contacts for my dad’s business since I was 10. I messed up and spent several months (and several hundred dollars) fixing my mistakes. I didn’t take my Writing Business seriously enough to set up properly.

    And I know I’m still playing catchup on copyright and so on. (Still reading the Handbook… I swear!)

    Marketing and craft… it’s a matter of realizing this is a long haul, not a get rich quick. As you say often, Dean, keep writing and put the next thing out there.
    (And read your next blog…)

  • Sheila

    It would be a huge waste of your time. If people can’t be bothered to get some library books and learn the process, they aren’t going to learn from any courses. They always want to take them, but their main idea is that it’s so stupid easy to be instantly rich and famous from writing that you can just tell them how to do it, five bullet points or less, and stop charging them money for the secret.

    Every writing forum is full of these people. None of them really want to learn how to be a writer, they only want to be handed the super secret to writing for money, RIGHT NOW. You know you’re jealous of their awesome talent, so you won’t share. Big ol’ meany.

    This blog and maybe one private group is the only place I can be around people who know how it works and aren’t expecting to be handed the most basic knowledge about writing.

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