Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Talking About Sayings

Saw A Good One Tonight..

“If you think you understand what you’re doing, you’re not learning anything.”

Wow does this apply to writing. Writing, as many have learned in the workshops, is an art that the more you learn, the more you realize you have to learn. I love that part of it and always chase the next level up, constantly learning.

So many of our workshops are awareness workshops, designed to basically tell you this area of writing and craft is here, and that your creative voice can use it when needed.

Writing with Depth, which many have taken, is one of those “Wow, didn’t know that was how it works.” And then taking Advanced Depth right behind it fills in a ton more gaps and a lot more questions.

Information Flow workshop was one of those kinds of workshops, just scratching the surface of a massive area of skill and craft.

Tags Workshop will be another. Not many people, honestly, will take that workshop because they don’t even realize what tags are and why they are so important in fiction writing. As readers, you don’t see them. Heck, in the real world, you don’t see them.

So a great saying… “If you think you understand what you are doing, you’re not learning anything.”


On Another, but Similar Topic…

Ran across a nifty writing book today, nice cover interesting topic, so I checked out the author. The author had at least ten or more how-to-write fiction and novels books on different topics of craft, all well designed and branded.

One major issue. The author had only written maybe one or two novels and a few short stories. THAT WAS IT!!!

Basically a flat beginner, or as my friend Bill called me until I published my 10th traditional novel, a neo.

Damn, I’m sorry, but I would be embarrassed if I did no fiction writing and then tried to tell all of you how to do something in fiction writing. I flat couldn’t do it. I have over two hundred novels now in traditional and indie and more than five hundred short stories.

And I am still writing. In one month I put out more fiction than this supposed “expert” has done in an entire career so far. And still I barely at times feel capable of teaching some of this stuff.

And talking about the levels in fiction writing, this neo-pretend-expert wouldn’t know a second stage story if it had teeth, let alone a third or fourth stage piece of writing. Wow, talk about a scam. Amazing, just flat amazing the gall some folks have.

And One More Connected Topic…

Today, twice, I got an email from some company telling me that for 85% off (of some unknown price) I could hire a ghost writer and that the sale was time-limited and I only had a few hours.

I wonder what the poor souls who fall for such crap actually get. I used to be a professional ghost writer, but I only (with one exception) worked for traditional publishers. And I always wrote fiction.

Ghost novels I wrote hit top of bestseller lists like the Times and USA Today. And I only got outed by a few of my ghost folks. A Trek book by Eric Kontini, a sf thriller by Jonathan Frakes, and a thriller set in Thialand. (Author escapes me at the moment, but he put my name on the inside cover.) One was for Pocket Books, the second was for Tor, the third for Random House.

All the rest I have non-disclosure agreements I will not break.

On most of them, I loved writing the books and had a blast. And I got paid $30,000 and up for most of them.

So an ad at 85% off, I can only imagine the level of writer these poor folks will get. More than likely someone who would write “How-to-write” books after only writing one or two.

I mean, really, if you want a great thriller or sf or mystery novel ghosted for you, and have an extra $30,000, I’ll write it for you. But I ain’t giving you no 85% discount. (grin)

And I am only about 15% serious about that, of course. The right project and $30,000 and I could be bought, I suppose. I just ain’t cheap. (grin)


  • djmills

    Yes, I see those time-limited sales everywhere. I refuse to purchase anything that is time-limited and if I really want or need it they will have another sale the next year. However, I did break my rule for the Fiction River Kick starter. 🙂

  • Linda Maye Adams

    Oh, yeah. There are a lot of people who think they know how to instruct people on writing fiction and haven’t done much, or any.

    Years back, I took a blogging for writers course. One of the writers now teaches how to write classes, and she’s listed as a speculative fiction writer. So I look at her books, and she’s got about ten or so out. Two are fiction; the rest are on how to write! The book titles are targeting the writer starting their first book, and unfortunately, all they will see is that she’s got all these books–she’s an “expert”!
    She has a book on writing faster, and I’m always a stinker when I see these. I go see how much they’ve written. So, write faster (which is outlining, by the way), and only a novel and two short stories to show for it. And she has a book on genres, and again, no fiction to show for this supposed knowledge.

    Writers really need to have their critical thinking parts turned on when looking for advice.

    • dwsmith

      Frighteningly, there are a lot of those people out there, aren’t there? Wow. I am stunned at the gall of it, actually. It never occurred to me to put my blogs together as a writing book until I was well past 130 novels and hundreds of short stories and decades in the business making a living and even then it didn’t feel completely right. I had to be convinced to do it.

  • emmiD

    I’ve seen those how-to books and few fiction books associated with the writer, and then ‘maybe a pseudonym’. Maybe they are writing erotica or something they don’t want the real world to know.

    That’s what I did, started publishing under a couple of pseudos and kept going. I was teaching when I started and wanted neither malicious students or employer with a grudge to interfere with what I was doing. It meant starting out with no reviews from friends and family on Amazon, but I’m in writing for the sheer joy of it. (Pseudonym is M A Lee, btw.) Only in my last year of employment there did I start telling anyone—and immediately got a low-star review. Go figure.

    And I wrote my own writing book, for newbies just starting out, seven lessons that I learned from my opening journey. Since I published 10 books in three years using those lessons, I thought ‘hey, why not?’

    After 30 years teaching English — yeah, I’ve heard your comments about English teachers and agree with ALL of them ;— I still have a lot to learn about professional writing. The depth workshop was eye-opening. I’m trying to scrap up $$$ for Advanced Depth.

    I’ve seen those ads for that “hire a ghostwriter” and seminars about writing from a former publisher or a young 20-something who looks like a strong breeze would knock him down. Not for me. Writers need to study craft and keep studying it. And come back to the same lessons a couple of years later and learn what they missed before.

    Because rich content rewards repeat lessons.

    • Tony DeCastro

      Emmi scrap together that money for Advanced Depth. It is an excellent continuation of Depth, and puts more good tools in the box. As for the topic (or one of the topics), I think I’ve always had a healthy suspicion of “gurus.” So, usually, I look for the credentials first. There’s an author that is one of the biggest purveyors of outlining approaches on the web, and has been for at least ten years, when I first heard of the process and author. I had pretty much already convinced myself that I was a discovery writer, but I was as susceptible as most new writers to myths, so I was looking for plotting processes. I tried the approach, gave up on it…doesn’t work for me. The crazy thing was that, back then, I thought the three (maybe 4) fiction novels this author wrote were enough credentials. Over the years, I realized that the author isn’t really practicing what is taught, because the author only puts out ‘how-to write’ material now. No new fiction. The other thing I realized, somewhere along the line, was that when I looked back at all of the writing books I’d read… the best were written by Lawrence Block, a guy that has written A LOT more than a handful of novels.

      • dwsmith

        Yup, I have, over the years, read and reread all of Lawrence Block writing books and most of his fiction as well because he is farther down the road than my measly 200 novels and was writing for a decade or more before I started selling in the early 1970s. His early books were columns put together into books like I do with my blogs at times when a topic comes up.

  • Kate Pavelle

    OMG, Dean, the disaster that would ensue if I hired you to ghost a novel for me! Suppose the project was right and I sacrificed a year worth of my younger daughter’s pre-scholarship college tuition. And supposed it sold at your “good book” level (If it didn’t sell, I’d be up the creek neck deep in alligators over the expenditure, so… let’s figure it sold.) Then, for the rest of my writing life under that name, I’d question my writer’s voice and try to match it! It’s like having a book sell and trying to replicate the success, only much, MUCH worse 🙂 That would be a writing career killer. Or at best I’d have to change names.

    (The worst part? I had actually considered the options!)

    I’m swaggering off now, faking all the confidence I can muster as I tackle yet another short story.

    • dwsmith

      Actually, Kate, I learned the skill of matching a writer’s voice so that no one could tell I had written the book. I have mutant talent on that for some reason, mostly because I can see and imitate voices. But yup, not a great idea. (grin)

      • Céline Malgen

        Dean, does your talent extent to being able to see your own voice, or is it just flat impossible to anyone, mutants included?

        • dwsmith

          Not a clue about my own voice. People tell me I have one, but I can’t see it. But it goes away when I am writing in someone else’s voice. Not sure how, but it seems to.

  • Angie

    Love the quote. Made me think about my first Coast workshop, the 2012 Anthology Workshop.

    Up to that point, whenever I took a writing class or workshop, I was used to being either the best writer in the room, or one of a handful of really good writers. I know that sounds horribly braggy, but whatever.

    I got to the Antho workshop, read everyone else’s work, listened to some of the conversations, and at one point, sitting in the classroom, it hit me that I was in, like, the bottom 10% of the class. Seriously, these folks were so much better than me, it was a shock.

    My next thought, was, “I’m gonna learn a LOT here!”

    And I did. And have continued to do so. I keep coming back because the only way to learn a lot, quickly, is to jump in with a bunch of people who are better than you, and then run as fast as you can to keep up.


  • Janine

    It’s odd, for the longest time, I had the notion that I had to be an expert/master before I could start publishing novels (maybe because of fears of my old groups tearing my work apart) and that those that published have peaked. This notion is frequently pushed in the writing community that you have to “make it” before you write that book that you will publish, and after that, you have nothing to learn. But now I see how wrong that is. I have to put out a story that’s the best of my current ability and keep going and learning, not revise it to perfection to imitate a stage four story. I think it’s the way the writing community fawns over debuts.

    And it’s true, there are so many beginners out there handing out writing tips and advice and rules like candy, and although many of them are lovely people, I can see now that it’s lacking. I almost drowned in advice books, which is why I don’t give out writing tips, expect to read and consume stories. I’m not shutting out learning altogether, but I’ll be more selective from now on. I finally have the passion to write again, and I’m not letting it die by repeating my mistakes from the past.

  • Mary

    You _could_ do an 85% discount, Dean. All you’d have to do is set the initial price at $200,000. $30,000 looks like a really good offer after that. 🙂

  • David Anthony Brown

    I was flipping through a community education pamphlet recently and found a class on writing short stories. So I checked out the teacher’s credentials… I literally have 10 times the publications he has. Sorry, I’ll keep my money.

    Not sure when I started taking workshops from you, maybe four or five years now. But I remember being quite confident that I knew how to write before then. I could write college term papers and I had reasonable accuracy with typing, but knew jack about fiction writing. Stuns me a little every time I find a new how-to book or take another class, how much I really don’t know.

  • LindaB

    Yup, never go cheap. Unfortunately, with all the free books around, you can’t say that without having having many, many, many, etc. writers go ballistic on you.

  • Amy Laurens

    This is like the ridiculousness of writers trying to sell books on marketing and advertising after a year in the business. I PUBLISHED THREE BOOKS THIS YEAR AND THEY ALL BECAME BEST SELLERS, SIGN UP FOR MY EXPENSIVE COURSE ON HOW TO MAKE YOURS SELL LIKE THIS TOO.