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More than Fame or Fortune

In the last couple of posts, I’ve encouraged writers to keep on going, and I’ve heard back from many of you who have been feeling discouraged. The markets are in turmoil still, but I’m seeing some signs that the world isn’t going to end anytime soon. The major publishers are stable. That means that they’re making money in spite of the turmoil.

What I believe that I’m seeing right now is this: the paper book markets are still dominating, and I think that is going to continue, despite the inroads that e-books are having. Why? It’s quite simple. Some 70% of the shoppers are still buying books in paper formats. Thus, the best advertisement for a book is the same that it was a hundred years ago: placement in the bookstores. Even many of the readers who are purchasing books in e-format are going to the stores, seeing what’s hot, and then discreetly ordering the title as e-books.

So the goal of making it big with paper publishers still seems to be a worthy one, though if you want to explore the self-publishing market, it is increasingly attractive.

So what motivates you to write? Is it dream of critical acclaim? Do you want to win awards? Or would you prefer to get paid in stacks of money? The last couple of emails suggested that you follow those dreams. But not all rewards for writing are so . . . easily categorized.

My goal in writing this year has been simple: “to write for the love of it, every day.” Whether I win awards or make a fortune isn’t my main focus. Enjoying my art is.

The truth is, you may not make a fortune. Some of us don’t. I had a friend, Ken Rand, who was a writing addict. He had a saying, “Many people will say that you can’t write, let no one say that you don’t.” Ken wrote a number of good stories and got published in the small press. He passed away from liver cancer. Before he died he asked me to agent a novel for him, one called Dare! I love that book. Several other New York Times bestselling authors loved it, too. We all gave it great cover quotes, but not one single agent or editor picked it up.

Personally, I think it’s not just a good novel, it’s a great novel. It reminded me of The Thornbirds or Gone With the Wind. But Ken never got the million-dollar advance that he deserved. He never made it to the top of the bestseller list—at least in his lifetime.

So what motivated him? The joy of writing. You need to find your own little fount of happiness. As one writer said to me yesterday, “There’s got to be something else to keep us going besides the dream of big success. For me, right now, it is the fact that my son came to me in tears two days ago. ‘Mom, your book made me cry! That’s never happened to me before!’ It’s the fact that he went around the house, saying in amazement, ‘Mom, you did it right!’ For now, that’s enough for me. I know my own kid’s opinion doesn’t count for anything in the publishing world, but what I’m saying is that I know I gave one person a satisfying read, a powerful emotional experience. That’s what I’m after, whether publishing big comes or not.”

Writers change the world one heart, one mind, at a time.

That should be enough to keep us going.

 


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

Girl at typewriter

Avoiding Cliché Openings

Many years ago, Damon Knight, a fine writer and editor, wrote a book on how to write short fiction. Damon talked a bit about avoiding clichés, and in his book he mentioned the problem of stories that open with people “wondering who they are,” “where they are,” and so on. Damon taught a lot of workshops, and his counsel to new writers soon spread far and wide.

Back when I began working as first reader for the Writers of the Future Contest in 1991, I didn’t see a lot of those cliché openings. But Damon passed away ten years ago, and his counsel has been forgotten. In this past quarter, I came upon nine stories in a row where characters were opening their eyes and wondering where they were, who they were, and in some cases what they were. The tenth story skipped, and then I got four more.

Unfortunately for the authors, I probably didn’t give those stories a fair shake. Literally, I saw a hundred of those openings in one quarter. In the same way, if you wrote a story about teens taking a journey to the center of the earth, that probably didn’t get you far, either.

Other clichés: the story where a ship’s captain is startled from slumber by warning sirens or claxons; the vampire lover meeting the man of her dreams (tall, dark, handsome, and O+); the human counselor meeting an alien for the first time; a person vomiting; someone getting a really cool tattoo; and the kid who gets picked on in school just because he’s a zombie.

One of the biggest clichés is the fantasy story that starts with what I will call “wandering.” A person is riding a horse down a road and thinking. We don’t get told where he is going or why, we just see into his or her thoughts. I’ve written articles in the past suggesting authors not start a story with characters sitting on a rock or thinking, and I’m glad to say that I didn’t see any of those. However, the meditators have now gone ambulatory. Folks—give someone a destination. Have them striding purposefully, or running, or racing their horse—in order to resolve a substantial problem.

I can’t tell you all of the clichés for every genre, but the ones listed are some that I see a lot.

When you start a story, it isn’t bad to start with action. I’ve bought stories about ship’s captains being awakened by warning claxons, and I’ll do it again. I kind of like zombies who get picked on at school. But when you open with a scene that I’ve seen a hundred times before, you have to imbue it with a lot of virtues—brilliant description, captivating dialog, astonishing visuals, and so on. It becomes an uphill battle for you as a writer.

So as you’re opening a story, look for a unique opening. Have characters doing things that the audience hasn’t seen before. This may require you to stretch your imagination, but it’s one way to help get a sale.

 


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

Writers of the Future 2nd Quarter Winners

2nd Quarter Writers of the Future Winners

 

Writers of the Future 2nd Quarter
Winners, Finalists, Semi-Finalists and Honorable Mentions

 

Congratulations to you all!


Winners:

First Place – Doug Souza from California
Second Place – Emeka (Walter) Dinjos from Nigeria
Third Place – Stephen Lawson from Kentucky


Finalists:

Mary Garber from Florida
JT Gill from Virginia
Lynn Kilmore from North Carolina
David VonAllmen from Missouri
Michael Wheatley from Quebec, Canada

Semi-Finalists:

Kenneth Austin from New Mexico
Joanne Chapman from Utah
Stephan James from Indiana
Kate Julicher from Nevada
Seth McGlaughlin from Connecticut
Sean Monaghan from New Zealand
Daniel Roy from Quebec, Canada
Jason Sinclair from Washington State

Silver Honorable Mentions:

Douglas Anstruther from North Carolina
Gregory Baum from Missouri
Russ Colson from Minnesota
Austin DeMarco from Maryland
Laurie Gailunas from Michigan
Jeanette Gonzalez from California
Muri McCage from Tennessee
J.J. Roth from California
David Steffen from Minnesota
Josh Storey from Pennsylvania
Jeremy A. TeGrotenhuis from Washington
Benjamin Thomas from Connecticut
Anthony Vicino from Tennessee

Honorable Mentions:

Dustin Adams from New York
Ryan P. Adams from Massachusetts
Van Alrik from Utah
A.Z. Anthony from Florida
James Beamon from Virginia
Rick Bennett from Utah
Rebecca Birch from Washington
Scott Birrenkott from Wisconsin
Ty Black from Prince Edward Island, Canada
Ray Blank from the United Kingdom
Matt Bosio from Florida
Jodi Bracken from Utah
Leah M. Burkhart from Colorado
Alicia Cay from Colorado
Mark William Chase from Indiana
Chan Yuk Chi from Singapore
Thomas Cicillini from New York
Rui Cid from Portugal
Lynda Clark from the United Kingdom
Nathan Clarke from Australia
David J. Cochrane from Louisiana
Brandon Crilly from Ontario, Canada
Matthew Cropley from Australia
Kaitlyn Dahlman from Illinois
Brandon Daubs from California
Anna Denisch from Maryland
Erlanque De Soleil from South Africa
Nicholas Diehl form California
L. E. Doggett from California
Dave Dunn from Florida
Richard H. Durisen from Indiana
Carl Duzett from Maryland
Heather Lee Dyer from Idaho
E.M. Eastick from Colorado
Eric Edstrom from Wisconsin
Raymund Eich from Texas
Justin Ferguson from Kansas
Will Frankenhoff from New York
Kim Gjersoe from Denmark
Debora Godfrey from Washington
Stephen E. Goll from Kansas
Roy J. Gonzales, Jr. from Texas
Alan Graham from Florida
Matt Guzman from Arizona
Colin Hacker from Colorado
Anaid Haen from The Netherlands
Philip Brian Hall from Scotland
Rachelle Harp from Texas
Diana A. Hart from Washington
Katariina Heikkila from Finland
Russell Hemmell from the United Kingdom
T.A. Hernandez from Utah
C.R. Hodges from Colorado
Lars. H. Hoffmann from Spain
Celeste Hollister from Texas
Janie Holloman from North Carolina
Randy Hulshizer from Pennsylvania
Micky Hunt from North Carolina
Mitchell Inkley from Utah
Joe Iriarte from Florida
Dakota James from New York
Kent Alan Jones from Minnesota
B.M. Keeling from England
David Kernot from Australia
Michelle Kilmer from Washington
David Kristoph from Texas
Mark K. Lazure from Alberta, Canada
Annaliese Lemmon from Washington
Scott Lindeman from Utah
Marisa Lopez from New Mexico
Ted Ludzik from Ontario, Canada
Robert Allen Lupton from New Mexico
Wilson Macduff from Scotland
Monica Malveaux from Florida
Django Mathijsen from The Netherlands
Emily McCosh from California
Shawn Robert McKee from Texas
Genea’ Massey from California
Dylan McNamara from Illinois
Stefon Mears from Oregon
Lee Melling from the United Kingdom
Devin Miller from North Carolina
Margaret Moller from Minnesota
Christian Monson from Arkansas
Dustan Moon from Washington
Aaron Moskalik from Michigan
Adam Musil from Texas
Jamie Nash from Maryland
Martin R. Nelson from Oregon
Andy C. Nystrom from California
Rosie Oliver from the United Kingdom
EmmaLee Pallai from Minnesota
Y.M. Pang from Ontario, Canada
Thomas Parry from Utah
Olivia Peterson from California
Beth Powers from Indiana
Shannon Rampe from Virginia
Sharon Kae Reamer from Germany
Serah Reyes from Oklahoma
Elizabeth Rhodes from Florida
Devin Ripley from Georgia
Angela M. Sanchez from California
Hugh J. Sandgathe from Utah
Mckayla Schneider from Nova Scotia, Canada
Dara Sobowale from New York
Frances Silversmith from Germany
Dessie Sivilova from Bulgaria
Robert Anthony Smith from New Jersey
Harley Stagner from Virginia
Louis Steiner from Maryland
Jeremy Szal from Australia
Tyra Tanner from Utah
Jason Thomas from California
Kelly Thomas from California
Michael Thompson from North Carolina
Samuel W. Thomsen from Utah
Samantha Usam from Hawaii
Efrain Vega, Jr. from Colorado
Scott Pohaku Vilhauer from California
KT Wagner from British Columbia, Canada
Trent Walters from Iowa
Carolyn Weisbecker from Arizona
Stan Werse from New Jersey
Walter L. Williamson from New Mexico
Kellen Wilson from Texas
Michael J. Winegar from Georgia
Lee Wirth from Oregon
Haley Woolf from New Zealand
Neil V. Young from California