Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Emotion Workshop

I Am Reading a Ton Right Now…

Everyone who is attending the Anthology Workshop the first five days of March is doing the same thing.

And every year, as we do this, I notice things. Back when Denise Little and I used to do this workshop, just the two of us, and it was a long weekend, I noticed that writers uniformly couldn’t pull readers into their stories.

So the Depth in Writing regular workshop was created and trust me, that is not an issue any more. (We offer it every month. Next time up in March.)

But over the last couple years I have been noticing that a lot of stories, while amazingly well-written, stories that held me to the very last word, lacked emotion.

You know the story. Well plotted, good character, interesting idea, but when you are done you go “Nice story.” And then forget it a minute later.

Kris and I over the last few years have mentioned that an Emotion Regular Workshop might be an idea. But we felt that few would sign up. (No one thinks they really need it, like Pacing or Information Flow, even though most writers have no idea what they don’t know.)

And it would be really difficult to teach, especially at the level of Writing with Depth. We would have to do that the same way, with examples of text with and without emotion. And Depth in Writing would be a prerequisite.

So even though we are doing a Future’s Workshop starting in March and the last of that series in May, I think with what I am seeing in all this reading, Emotion might just come in there.

Still working on if and when.

Also thinking about a Western’s workshop, a workshop on Time Travel, a Romance workshop, a Memorable Characters workshop, some advanced Pacing workshops, and others.

So going to be a fun year of new workshops.

Now back to working on the new web site and reading.

And at the same time getting my new computer set up. (I lost two hours of my life today that I will never get back on dealing with Microsoft issues. Yes, I use Mac computers. And after those two hours, I flat understand why.)



  • Mary Jo Rabe

    I would sign up for an emotion workshop immediately no matter what other scheduling issues I had. I hope you can offer it (along with time travel and memorable characters …). Thank you again for all the workshops!

  • Topaz

    Hi Dean,

    I’d love to do an emotion workshop and some more advanced depth workshops.
    Pacing is on my todo list, as is the characters workshop. Therefore, knowing there will be advanced workshops planned in both areas is a great heads up. Information flow is another one I am planning to do.
    The romance and time travel ones sound fun to me too. Western not so much at the moment, for I rarely read it and there are already a ton of other workshops I’ve lined up for this year.

    I’ve worked my way through the productivity workshop recently. This was a great one. With your “fail to success” words freshly heard I’ve flat doubled my years goal. That is from lazily doable to sit down and write to reach it. The time is there, “only” I have to train myself using it. 🙂
    Moreover, after a year of using a separate user on my computer for writing only (which did help with getting Heinlein’s rule 2 becoming a habit and writing more than before) I ordered a separate one for writing two days ago. Looking forward to how writing will change with that. Working on a separate ergonomic writing space as well. It’s good to hear you talk about those basics again ever so often. (Blog, tips of the week, productivity workshop, webinars.) Thank you for patiently repeating yourself until beginners like me “get it”.

    Onwards to more writing, the next workshop and the Mystery reading list. 🙂
    So much fun. Oh, and the sun is shining brightly. Wonderful to do some exercises outside.

  • Marsha

    Brilliant! Oh, I can’t wait! Every one of your ideas for workshops sound great, but I have been wishing for an Emotions workshop because I know I need help in that area. Well done. I’m in.

    I have a question about workshops that I might as well ask here in case anyone else wonders the same thing. It’s been years since I’ve taken some of them and I feel the need for more study in a few areas. Can we retake workshops? (I am a Lifetime subscriber so you might not want me to take up a slot that a newbie might fill.)

    • dwsmith

      Marsha, all the workshops are on your subscription. (They have older dates, but they are identical. If we change something, we switch it out in the subscription.) You can go through all the workshops as you want and even do the assignments again. Just send me the assignment and I will get back to you in a day or two. Don’t move on to the next week in that workshop until I get you a response. There are no limits at all on Lifetime Subscribers. Take what you want. You never get in the way of anyone else coming in.

      One of the real wonderful things about a lifetime subscription. You are in control of the time and which classes to take and when. And you can join a regularly monthly class if you want the pacing. Just write me and I’ll get you the code for the monthly class so you have the deadline and the pacing through the six weeks if you want. Again, your choice. But it will be the same workshop you have on your subscription. And any new workshops are automatically added to the subscription and you can take them first time through or later.

      • Emilia

        I started saving for Depth workshop, but I’m beginning to think I should save for Lifetime subscription. It’ll likely take me over a year, but it sounds well worth the effort.

        • E. R. Paskey

          IMHO, the Lifetime Subscription is more than completely worth the money! Access to all old, current, and new workshops, plus the assignments are all at my own pace. (Which is slower than I’d like due to having small children, but the flexibility makes all the difference and is much appreciated. *grin*

          If you have a chance to do it, I would highly recommend getting it!

          I’m excited about all of the new workshop possibilities. I’ve been told I write emotions fairly well, but I know there’s tons more to learn. Also, I love time travel and would like to learn more. 🙂 So exciting!

  • Vera Soroka

    I am going to have to take the depth and emotion workshops. I am trying to do two serials right now and my goal was to raise the bar as I felt they had to be really good for these serials to work. My problem is that I started out with a team in both stories. So very hard as usually one character is what drives the story. In each story one character has stepped forward and I can see them being the central character perhaps but the team is still there playing there roles. I write into the dark so I know nothing about this team, I’m still getting to know them. I’m finding this very hard to do in a serial that will pull readers in with the emotion that is needed for readers to care about these character and want to continue on. And then I watched a video by Chris Fox on show and tell. Now I’m subconscious of it which is making it worse to give emotion.
    I’ve already started over with one and I’m still not completely happy with it and am contemplating starting over again.

    • dwsmith

      Vera, you are letting your critical voice win. Just finish it and move on to something else. Nothing in this business is ever perfect, but if you let the critical voice win, it will never be anything at all.

  • Thomas Bennett


    An emotion workshop is a great idea. I’ve been studying online marketing under Charlie Page since 2006. The question he asks with everything he sells is, “How is the customer transformed by the experience?”

    Readers are transformed by stories that give them an emotional experience. Lester Dent says it in his Master Plot Formula, “Is the punchline enough to leave the reader with that WARM FEELING”

    Good art is art is art that evokes a feeling from the audience. That’s why depth is so important. It establishes empathy between the reader and the point of view character necessary for transmitting emotion off the page.

    I think that’s why I’m having such a hard time with the novel Contact when I loved the movie. There are long periods where science is explained and the reader is simply told about the history of a character without letting them experience the important moments ALONG WITH the character.

    I hope you do the emotion workshop. I’m studying it myself by taking apart Cold Days and Skin Game by Jim Butcher, and Watch Your Back by Donald Westlake, my 3 favorite novels.

    Maybe I’ll be the only one to take it but I’d be thrilled to learn what I don’t know to look for in my studies.

    That’s the coolest thing to me about the craft of writing. It’s magic that can be taught. And at earlier levels the magic is totally invisible.

    Thanks for giving me space to get my thoughts in order.

    Still waiting on another CT scan of my foot to prove definitively that I’m right, but at least the pain is under control. I think I may join you in March in a different way. Just see how many words I write in the year if I write 15 minutes a day. I can manage 15 minutes a day on every day, with the possible exception of surgery days.

  • Linda Jordan

    I would love an emotions workshop! Don’t understand how I can feel so much for the characters and with them and still be unable to get it out onto the page.

    The pop-up workshops don’t work for me. I don’t have that sort of control over my schedule right now. But if it were one of the regular monthly workshops, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

    • dwsmith

      Linda, pop-ups are not workshops. Just sort of a focused idea kind of thing. The emotions will be a regular six-week workshop with assignments and everything.

  • allynh

    The example I have is the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh. I’m reading through it for the second time. They are the type of books that keep me reading well past my sell-by-date and I have to force myself to go to bed. Then I wake running through the story, worrying about the characters even though I know how the story goes. HA!

    The books have emotion, pacing, and are an example of a series that is 19 books long, so far, with no end in sight. Each book is over 100k. The series is broken into trilogies that each cover a story arc.

    I’m also working through the TV series, How I Met Your Mother, for the same thing. Each episode is 22 minutes, highly compressed. If I were to novelize each episode I’d have to start with a minimum 50 manuscript pages, just to start.

    The timer is buzzing, I need to pull the cornbread out of the oven. Done. Smells good.

  • Tony DeCastro

    Interested in both the Emotions and Westerns workshop. I, of course, think I manage to add emotion…but much like the depth, I probably don’t know what I think I know.

  • Michelle

    Just a question on the Time Travel workshop…
    Would the lessons there also work for a character who sees the future?

  • Céline Malgen

    I’d love to take an Emotions workshop. As a reader I love the fact that those tiny black marks on a page can make me feel so many emotions. That’s a very important skill for a writer.

    And the other ideas for workshops all sound great too (apart from Western, not much to my taste as a reader, but of course that’s just me).

  • Emilia

    Emotion workshop, Memorable Characters workshop and advanced Pacing all sound great. I’ve been told by the very few people who’ve read my work that my characters feel like real people and not fictional, but there’s always room for improvement.

    My pacing on the other hand sucks. Sense of time and place as well, which I think is especially important in otherworld fantasy.

  • Isabo Kelly

    I’d be very keen on the advanced pacing workshop as well as emotions. Pacing was the 1st full workshop I took from you guys and it was spectacularly helpful. I’d be all in on learning more advanced pacing techniques. Thanks!

  • Kenny Norris

    Emotions and Memorable Characters sound great to me.

    Just gotta finish Speed and do Productivity. Also gotta sneak in Fantasy somewhere in there too… Oh, the perils of a lifetime subscriber! 😀

  • Teri Babcock

    Dean, I’m keen to do an Emotions workshop too and am thrilled at the possibility of Advanced Pacing, which I’ve been hoping for since Pacing came out. Great assignments in that course.

  • Deb Miller

    One more vote for the Emotions workshop. I’ve been trying to play with putting more emotion into my writing / characters, but find that the focus brings in my analytical voice and then the writing feels stilted and less emotional. So YEA, please do it!

  • richard schneck

    This interests me very much. I have done “depth” and “advanced depth”. (both helped me tremendously, thank you.) So, I would absolutely jump on this.

    One question though. I love the depth and character voice stuff so much I tend to explore that to the detriment of the story. I mean, there almost is no story. Do you have anything on how to make stuff actually happen? (I already got the Lester Dent lecture, and the the seven point plot structure) That’s how I know I am not doing it right.

    I am tempted to just start having guys break down the door with machine guns every few pages. (grin)

    • dwsmith

      Try/fail, Richard. Character must be trying something and failing. Nature of story. So make sure the character is trying to solve a problem and then must fail, or succeed and things get worse.

      Focus on things getting worse.

    • allynh


      I was going to suggest that Richard get Writing to the Point by Algis Budrys, that WordFire Press reissued, but it is now out of print again and way overpriced. (I knew that I should have ordered a dozen copies to give away. HA!)

      Next time you see Kevin J. Anderson, ask him what’s going on. POD means it should never go out of print.