Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

There Are No Secrets

But There Are Details To Learn…

Watching The Voice and in a couple places, the coaches told an artist to do some little trick or another. Watch having your head up too much, plant your feet to stay grounded, things like that to help in the technique of the song.

It dawned on me that earlier in the evening I had been doing the same thing in some writer’s assignments. Things like watching information flow in descriptions, when to use character descriptions of clothes, when not to use dialog, and so on.

All just techniques that are small and obvious once you understand them, yet as Kris said, each of us need to learn them somewhere along the way.

Sometimes we pick up techniques by reading writers we love and admire. Sometimes we pick them up by trying to figure out what another writer did that worked so well for us. Other times it takes a person farther along the road you want to walk, like the coaches on The Voice, to help you understand a technique.

Or even explain why it works. And when.

An example in a couple of writer’s work tonight is the use of science fiction details. It takes a lot of years and learning techniques to understand when to use and focus on a real detail in sf and when you can get away with a fake detail.

For example, sometimes, in the right context, you can say “space station” and the reader will let you get away with only that description. Other times, you must describe the station through the opinion of the character. It all depends and knowing when to do one and when to do the other is a technique that can be learned to hold readers into your stories.

But get it wrong and editors and readers will go away from your story.

So you have to know and understand that the technique is there, and that’s the hard part, the never-ending learning  part. And it is why Kris and I call so many of our workshops “awareness” workshops.

Let me give you a technique that so many writers don’t seem to know. Big fat paragraphs, monsters, are not welcoming to a reader at the beginning of a story. You want to invite your reader into your story, not block them with a massive hunk of text.

So in the openings of stories, hit the return key a few more times than you think you should need to normally. Your readers will thank you and you might even make more sales.

And thus a simple technique that seems obvious when you understand it.


INSIDER’S GUIDE Workshops Now Available…

— Insider’s Guide to Selling Short Fiction in 2018/2019 (Starts April 8th)
— Insider’s Guide to Writing Successful Space Opera (Starts April 8th)
— Insider’s Guide to Writing Serial Fiction (2,000 word parts of a novel) (Starts May 6th)
— Insider’s Guide to Writing Detective Fiction. (Starts May 6th)

$300 each, limited to ten writers plus lifetime subscribers. One time workshops. They will not be regular. Sorry. These will fill so don’t wait for the last minute on these. And yes, you can use your credits.

I will be adding these onto Teachable in a week.



Sign up directly through Teachable or if you have a credit, write me.

Class #37… Apr 3rd … Think Like a Publisher
Class #38… Apr 3rd … Endings
Class #39… Apr 3rd … Point of View
Class #40… Apr 3rd … Writing Mysteries
Class #41… Apr 3rd … Speed
Class #42… Apr 3rd … Teams in Fiction
Class #43… Apr 4th … Depth in Writing
Class #44… Apr 4th … How to Edit Your Own Work
Class #45… Apr 4th … Character Development
Class #46… Apr 4th … Writing Secondary Plot Lines
Class #47… Apr 4th … Advanced Depth
Class #48… Apr 4th … Novel Structure


  • Chong Go

    Oh man, paragraphing! Your “Pacing” workshop helped me so much with that. For some reason I was always using huge paragraphs that would take up half the printed page. No idea where I got that from. Once I saw it, and got a better sense of the flow with shorter paragraphs, paragraphing became like one of those things you can never unsee!

  • Mike Zimmerman

    Dean, you just gave me a major flashback.

    I learned the “no big grafs early in the story” lesson in a goofy way. In college I had to take a required Bio 101 course that mirrored bio I had in high school, so I zoned out a lot during lectures. For a goof, I tried to write out the dialogue to Raiders of the Lost Ark in my notebook to see how much I could get right from memory. I don’t remember how many classes it took, but I finished it. I ended up cutting all that tiny handwriting out of my notebook and taping it together into a scroll (Yeah, I know, it was college, it was either do this or hard drugs). Well, once I got into the harder-core writing courses and focused on storybuilding I looked at the scroll and could see the pattern: Movie opens with a lot of short, clipped lines — mystery and action. Then the exposition begins, bigger paragraphs of dialogue, then back to clipped action lines, then bigger confrontation grafs. Then the final third which was almost all action. Like I said, a goofy way to learn, but I never forgot it.

    Got most of the dialogue right, too 🙂

    • dwsmith

      Mike, caution on opening with too much action too quickly. When a reader doesn’t care about a character, they won’t care about the action. What I was talking about was large paragraphs. Very different from opening with action.

    • Thomas E

      Mike, the first 400 words of the *screenplay* is pretty much all description and character opinion, there’s no action and only one line of dialogue.

  • Theresa M Lepiane

    I’m an old trekkie. I’ve read many of your books and was so excited to find out you may be coming to 20Books Vegas. Fan girling at 60. Now I have to go see which of your writing books I missed over the years. I currently write Romance but have a fast release of fantasy planned for September.

  • Karen

    Dean, that is so true about grounding in the character before the action. Recently I had to put down TWO books by authors I really like because they started right in with action.
    In one case, the heroine was doing something horrible, lamenting that she was doing it, but really not giving me a reason to even like her.
    I will probably finish both books, after I check to see if they were maybe first books, but it will be hard going.