Posts

Matt Dovey with a cuppa tea

Matt Dovey: Two Years Later

From aspiring writer to writing contest winner to—let’s find out!

It has been nearly two years since Matt Dovey was announced as the Golden Pen Award winner in the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future writing contest.  As a contest for aspiring writers, we thought we would find out how winning the writing contest has affected Matt. So we asked him.

____

As I write this, it’s coming on two years since I attended the 32nd workshop week in LA, which also marks two years since my first publication—WotF was my first sale, but I was published for the first time just a month beforehand, in Flash Fiction Online.

 


Matt Dovey above, accepting the Golden Pen Award from David Farland and Orson Scott Card

It’s honestly strange to realise it’s only been two years. It feels a lifetime ago, as if everything before were a different person, as if LA were a wormhole I travelled through to an alternate life where—suddenly, amazingly—I’m actually a writer.

This is, of course, nonsense. The only act necessary to be a writer is writing, and if you have the courage to sit before the blank screen and summon whole worlds and people and hopes and dreams from nothing more than the spider silk of your imagination, mere publication is an incidental fact in the definition. If you’re reading this, chances are you write and are still chasing that first sale. So I’m telling you now, definitively and authoritatively: you are a writer. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

But, of course, we’re all only human, and we all seek that validation from others, so it’s hard not to feel like you need the Badge of Approval that comes with publication to confirm that yes, really, it’s true: you are a writer. And for all my high-falutin’ talk above, it’s absolutely a trap I fell into myself. Honestly, most writers I know do. We seem to need more validation than most.

But having had that validation from WotF, my whole outlook on writing has changed. It’s gone from a strange little habit I indulge after work to a fundamental aspect of who I am; my day job is the incidental fact, now, the necessary evil to support my writing. I don’t just write when I feel like it, or when an idea occurs: it’s a given that I’ll be sitting down at my keyboard each evening and working, even if sometimes that “working” is just talking to friends in the community (essential lesson, learned the hard way and given freely here: self-care is as important as word count).

And you know what really gave me that feeling of validation? It wasn’t winning the super-fancy trophy (though that sure is nice! And really, really heavy in your luggage); it wasn’t meeting legendary pros like Tim Powers, Nancy Kress, Todd McCaffrey, so many others; it wasn’t even seeing my name in print, my story in the book, my words in physical form.

Writers of the Future winners, Class of 2016

It was the friends around me, the people in my class who were going through that indescribably surreal week with me. The friends who, it turned out, had the same weird habits and thought patterns and fears and aspirations as I had, the ones I’d thought only I had because writing, inevitably, is a lonely hobby, sat silent at the keyboard with only your own thoughts.

I found out I was a writer that week in LA because I found out I was just like other writers.

And so the last couple of years have been good to me. I’ve got 15 pro sales to my name now, plus semi-pros and reprints and narrations. I’m volunteering as a slush reader over at PodCastle and doing my bit to contribute back to the community there and in other ways. I have strangers send me fan mail and people reviewing my work and stories appearing in Year’s Best anthologies.

But whilst I wouldn’t have managed any of that if I hadn’t done the work, equally I wouldn’t have managed any of that if I didn’t have the friends I have now. I’m still close to all my WotF class; we support each other, not just with feedback but with commiseration and celebration and reminders that, for all the bad days when the rejections pile up and the new draft just isn’t working out, there are good days, too, and reasons to celebrate each other even if it doesn’t always feel like there are reasons to celebrate personally.

You’ll get nowhere in writing if you don’t have friends to walk the path with. And in the same way you don’t need anyone else’s validation to be a writer, you don’t need anyone else’s permission to join in with the community. Find us on Twitter, or on forums (the WotF forums are a great place to start), or at conventions. It’s the best thing you can do, for your career and yourself, I promise.

Just join in.

 


Matt Dovey

Matt Dovey

Matt Dovey is very tall, very English, and most likely drinking a cup of tea right now. His surname rhymes with “Dopey”, but any other similarities to the dwarf are purely coincidental. He lives in a quiet market town in rural England with his wife and three children, and despite being a writer he still can’t express the delight he finds in this wonderful arrangement.  He has fiction out and forthcoming all over the place; you can keep up with it at mattdovey.com, or follow along on Facebook and Twitter both as @mattdoveywriter.

Jake Marley on stage with Dave Farland and Erika Christensen

Jake Marley: One Year Later

From aspiring writer to writing contest winner to – let’s find out!

It has been nearly a year since Jake Marley was announced as the Golden Pen Award winner in the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future writing contest.  As a contest for aspiring writers, we thought we would find out how winning the writing contest has affected Jake. So we asked him.

So Many New Friends

In 2017, my Writers of the Future workshop was just the start of my opportunities to meet professional writers and editors.

Jake talks about his experience as a writer and with the 24-hour story during the Writer Workshop in an interview here.

I used my winnings from the Golden Pen to go to a few different writing conventions, and met even more of my contemporary heroes and favorite writers and editors, including quite a few bestselling authors. I think a highlight of the year was getting another chance to speak with Nnedi Okorafor while we were both in Providence, and I had another opportunity to thank her for her part of the workshop, which I had really connected with.

I also had a dream come true when Andrew L. Roberts and I were able to sign copies of WotF 33 at SDCC this year. The pro-badge I wore has a place of honor beside my trophies from last year’s awards ceremony.

I Am Selling What I Write

I’ve had two other short stories published since the release of Volume 33. One, “The Fifth Chamber” was in Resist and Refuse, and the other, “The Weight of Her Smile,” was just published last month in Unnerving Magazine #5.

The Post-Apocalyptic Tourist's Guide to Los AngelesI was also lucky enough to take part in the first Season of (fellow Vol. 33 winner) Stephen Lawson’s The Post-Apocalyptic Tourist’s Guide. While my story could stand alone, The Post-Apocalyptic Tourist’s Guide to Los Angeles is also part of a larger narrative featuring quite a few Writers of the Future alumni.

I’m hard at work on my new novel, and it’s coming together really nicely. I’m using quite a few of the tips and techniques I learned from Dave and Tim during our workshop, as well as applying the advice I received from the other judges (again, especially Nnedi Okorafor).

In addition to getting my novel written, I’ve just been given the upcoming Writers of the Future Volume 34 and I’ve begun reading the stories. I’m looking forward to review it!

A Note on Dr. Pournelle

Dr. Jerry Pournelle speaking at the Writers WorkshopI was very sad to hear about the passing of Dr. Pournelle. I think one of the most memorable moments of my experience with Writers of the Future last year was having him tell me that “Acquisition” was “a damned good story.” I only met him briefly, but it has made a lasting impression on my life.

 

How to Find Me

My website is jakemarley.wordpress.com and readers can find me on Facebook or @JakeofEarth2 on Twitter.

And here is the link to my Amazon page.

Writer judges Hal Clement, Robert Silverberg, Frederik Pohl and Jerry Pournelle

Why Is Writers of the Future the Top of the Top Writing Contests

If you are an aspiring author or know someone who is, then this article is for you. Find out for yourself why Writers of the Future is the top writing contest in the world and why you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by checking it out.

Created by L. Ron Hubbard to Provide for the Future of Science Fiction & Fantasy

Robert Silverberg

Robert Silverberg

“What a wonderful idea—one of science fiction’s all-time giants opening the way for a new generation of exciting talent! For these brilliant stories, and the careers that will grow from them, we all stand indebted to L. Ron Hubbard.”Robert Silverberg

For over three decades, Writers of the Future has grown to become the premiere writing competition of its kind in the world.

The Contest is free to enter with the ability to upload one’s submission online making it available to anyone anywhere on the planet. (English language only.)

The Contest is open to those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium.

But, it’s a review of what Contest judges and past winners turned-to-Contest-judge say about the Contest that makes it clear why it is now the top writing contest in the world.

Kevin J. Anderson

Multiple New York Times bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson, a Contest judge since 1996, notes that perhaps L. Ron Hubbard’s greatest legacy is that with this Contest he has created another generation of writers.

Rebecca Moesta

Bestselling YA author Rebecca Moesta, a Contest judge since 2007, discusses how the Contest provides for the future of Science Fiction and Fantasy. 

Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Writers of the Future winner from the first year and Contest judge since 2000, Nina Kiriki Hoffman talks about the importance of paying it forward. 

Dr. Doug Beason

For Contest judge Dr. Doug Beason, the Contest provides a sense of family and a sense of togetherness, everybody there to help each other out. 

Tim Powers

Multiple World Fantasy Award Winner, Tim Powers explains how the Contest takes promising writers and provides a future.

Dr. Jerry Pournelle

New York Times bestselling author Dr. Jerry Pournelle was originally mentored by Robert A. Heinlein and became a Contest judge in 1986 to follow in Mr. Heinlein’s footsteps of paying it forward.

 

Proven Track Record for Over Three Decades

The Winners

For 34 years, the Writers of the Future Contest has established itself as the top merit competition for speculative fiction. Hear it from the winners themselves what it means to win the Contest.

It Levels the Playing Field

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Participant in the first workshop in Taos, NM in 1986 and now Contest Judge, Kristine Kathryn Rusch was interviewed by SciFi Magazine about the Writers of the Future Contest.

“To my knowledge, it’s the longest-running contest currently going on in science fiction,” says Rusch, when asked why Writers of the Future is such an influential force in the sci-fi world. “It’s anonymous—which is important—and it only deals with new writers, which levels the playing field a bit. It’s also had tremendous success. The writers chosen have for the most part gone on to have great careers. I think that comes from having professional writers as judges and not academics. Writers know what makes good fiction.”

Robert J. Sawyer

The only thing the judges will see is the story itself with a number assigned to it. They have no inkling of age, sex, nationality or ethnic of the contestant. So it is only by the merit of the story alone that will determine a finalist or winner. Contest Robert J. Sawyer explains how this is: 

Judged by the Best in the Industry

From its inception, the judging panel of professional writers have been some of the most celebrated names in the science fiction and fantasy field. The judges for the first Writers of the Future volume in 1986, included Gregory Benford, Algis Budrys, C.L. Moore, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon, Jack Williamson and Roger Zelazny. The panel of judges has continued to grow with many of today’s masters of science fiction and fantasy who were themselves winners in the formative years of the Contest.

Judges at the 1996 Writers of the Future Awards ceremony at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

(Left to Right): Doug Beason, Kevin J. Anderson, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Algis Budrys, Jack Williamson, Frederik Pohl, Tim Powers, Gregory Benford and David Farland.

For a full list of Contest judges past and present, go to the Writer Judges section.

Judges at the 1996 Writers of the Future Awards ceremony at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

 

The Judging Process

Here are Contest judges David Farland and Robert J. Sawyer discussing how the judging process works.

 

Writers & Illustrators of the Future:

The Search for Tomorrow’s Legends

Click here to enter the Contest.

Sign up for our Writers of the Future newsletter for writing tips and updates from Contest judges and winners.

 

International Space Station

Science fiction is the herald of possibility: How fantastic fiction has become science fact.

Science fiction—earlier termed fantastic fiction and later speculative fiction for its probing, multi-sided search of the world of “What If?”—has anticipated major developments in science and technology for decades.

Concepts now gaining widespread scientific recognition—ranging from microchip implants, robot drones and teleportation to the existence of other planets at the rim of the observable universe—were initially conceived of and written about in short stories and novels decades ago by science fiction writers such as Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, to name a few. To the general reading public, these were good books to read. But to aspiring scientists, engineers and astronauts, such fantastic fiction was the fodder of dreams.

First skywriting

Castrol created the world’s first skywriting advertisement at the Epsom Derby in 1929.

In 1889, Jules Verne wrote his short story, “In the Year 2889,” where he predicted skywriting, which became fact in 1915 and began being used commercially in 1929. He also predicted video chatting which became fact in 1964.

In 1903, H.G. Wells wrote his short story “The Land Ironclads” where he predicted tanks that became fact in 1916.

First Tank

The first official photograph taken of a Mark I Tank going into action, at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, 15th September 1916. The man shown is wearing a leather tank helmet. Copyright: © IWM.

In 1911, Hugo Gernsback predicted radar and solar calculators in his short story “Ralph 124C 41+.” Radar became science fact in 1935 and solar calculators became fact in 1978.

And there are the science fiction stories that are only now becoming science fact.

In 1897, H.G. Wells, in his story The Invisible Man, originally serialized in Pearson’s Weekly, predicted making a person invisible. Only recently has this started to become science fact as in this video

In 1930, take the instance of Charles W. Diffin with his story “The Power and the Glory” where ray guns were postulated. While we don’t have “ray guns” per se, laser cannons do exist which you can see in this video.

In 1949, L. Ron Hubbard’s “Conquest of Space,” is a series of short stories published which, told from the future looking back, reveal that space was finally conquered by heroic individuals through privatization of space flight and the incredible risks they took to accomplish it. This is only now becoming science fact with the likes of Elon Musk (SpaceX), Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) and Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin).

And what of the future?

That remains to be seen. But what we can say is that it will still be the inspiration from great books to be read by writers of the future.

Keynote speaker for the 2015 Writers of the Future Awards Ceremony, William Pomerantz, Vice President Special Projects Virgin Galactic, spoke to the annual winners about how science fiction provided his initial vision and it was again science fiction that enabled him to persevere in the realization of his dream of space flight. He stated, “I owe a huge debt to you and to those who have come before you. It was through science fiction that I learned that optimism, and through science fiction that I reclaimed it rather than falling victim to that jaded skepticism of our modern world.”

Want to discover what fantastic fiction is inspiring tomorrow’s science fact?

For more information on science fiction, fantasy and those who create it sign up for our newsletter HERE.

Larry Niven at the Writers Workshop

Tell Me a Story by Larry Niven

I can’t help you sell your early work in the 1980’s. To enter the field my way you’ll need a time machine set for 1964. That’s when every novice was trying to write New Wave, except me, and an ecological niche was left wide open.

I can’t tell you how to write, not in a thousand words. I’ve been telling what I know as fast as I learned it for twenty-two years. My collaborators now know everything I do. I’ve spoken on panels and published articles on writing. Is there anything left to say?

Maybe.

I

If you want to know that the story you’re working on is saleable, try this: I tell it at a cocktail party. I dreamed up “The Flight of the Horse” one morning, outlined it that afternoon, and by that night was telling the tale to a clutch of cousins. I held their attention. I didn’t miss any points. I kept them laughing. The noise level didn’t drown out anything subtle and crucial. Then, of course, I knew how to write it down so I could mail it and sell it.

I told the sequel the same way (“Leviathan!”) and sold it to Playboy for what was then fantastic money.

This makes for good memories. It’s also a useful technique.

Some of the best stories simply can’t be told this way, and I can’t help you write those. Nobody can. They are rule-breakers. Try some early Alfred Bester collections. But any story you can tell as a cocktail/dinner conversation, without getting confused and without losing your audience to distractions, is a successful story.

So. You want to write a story, and be paid for it, and know that it will be read? You want that now, no waiting? Tell me a story. Tell your brother/wife/cousin/uncle a story: tell anyone you can persuade to listen. Persuading is good practice: you need skill with narrative hooks. Watch for the moments where you lose your listener; watch for where you have to back up and explain a point. Your audience will tell you how to write it. Then you write it.

You won’t need this forever. You’ll learn how to tell the tale yourself.

(My normal audience in the beginning was my brother. Thanks, Mike.)

As for the untellable story, that one depends on subtleties of phrasing or typographical innovations … that one you can postpone. You won’t have the skills to write it for a few years anyway.

II

We working writers, we’re not really interested in reading your manuscripts. We can be talked into it, sometimes, via the plea of relatives, or sex appeal, or someone to vouch for you.

Do you know how difficult it is to persuade, say Ray Bradbury to read one of your stories? Have you tried yet? You’d be a fool not to, if you’ve got the nerve. An hour of a successful author’s time could be worth a lot to you. What he says will apply to most of your stories.

Ray turned me down twenty-two years ago. He said he didn’t have the time, and he was right.

But we can be persuaded. So here you are, a novice who’s sold a few stories or none, and somehow you’ve talked an established writer into reading one of your stories. What do you do then? Give him your worst story, the one that most needs improving?

A novice writer did that to me when I was also a novice. He told me so after I told him that if I could think of a way to make it saleable, I’d burn it.

Give him your best story! The best is the one most worthy of improvement. It’s the one where your remaining flaws shine through without distractions, and you’ve picked the man who could spot them.

This shouldn’t need saying, but it does. I’ve heard counterarguments. Look: even if you’ve sold one or two, they just barely passed; they could have been better. You know that. He knows how.

(But don’t bother Ray. A thousand novices have broken their hearts trying to write like Ray Bradbury. He has a way of implying a story in insufficient words. It looks so easy, and it can’t be done.)

III

If the story you’re telling is a complex one—if the reader must understand the characters or the locale or some technical point to understand what’s going on—then you must use the simplest language. Your reader has his rights. Tell him a story and make him understand it, or you’re fired.

This is never more true than in hard science fiction, but it never stops being true.

If you don’t have anything to say, you can say it any way you want to.

IV

Do your research. There are texts on how to write, and specialized texts on how to write speculative fiction.

Learn your tools. (For instance: the indefinite pronoun is “he.”) You can create imaginary languages, but it’s risky.

Always do your research. One mistake in hard science fiction, in particular, will be remembered forever. Remember: you’re on record.

V

Start with a story. Tell yourself a story. Are you in this to show off your stylistic skills? They’ll show best if you use them to shape the story. Calling attention to the lurking author hurts the story. The best character you ever imagined can be of immense aid to the right STORY; but if he’s getting in the way, drop him.

A good stylist really can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse; and he’ll be forgotten in favor of the average yokel who had just brains enough to start with silk.

VI

Don’t write answers to bad reviews. It wastes your time, you don’t get paid, and you wind up supporting a publication you dislike. Granted it’s tempting.

VII

Every rule of writing has exceptions, including these, and I’ve broken many.

You’re not good enough to do that yet.

This article by Larry Niven was originally published in Writers of the Future Volume 2.

 


Larry Niven

Larry Niven

Larry Niven was working on his master’s degree in mathematics when he dropped out to write science fiction. He broke into professional SF writing in 1964 and has been going strong ever since. Now a giant in the world of science fiction, he is best known for his Known Space future history, a still-growing series of more than thirty novels and stories. Ringworld, the most famous of these titles, won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards. He later co-authored a series of novels with fellow judge Dr. Jerry Pournelle, including the celebrated national bestsellers The Mote in God’s EyeLucifer’s Hammer and Footfall. Larry Niven received the L. Ron Hubbard Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts in 2006. He has been a Writers of the Future judge since 1985.

man doing research

Analyzing What to Write

When you decide to write a novel, screenplay, or any tale at all, you should look at a number of things:

1)  Do you like the basic concept? If you aren’t excited about a novel, chances are excellent that you’ll lack the energy to finish it. Your subconscious will rebel at the idea, and you’ll sit wishing that you were working on another project. So you have to find story ideas that thrill you. You want to write from the heart. If you don’t, you’ll just be going through empty motions.

2)  Will the story sell? You should look at the story and ask yourself, “Is this story marketable?” If it is, how marketable is it? Seriously, you might find yourself with an idea that really sounds fun to you, but which just won’t sell in the current market. For example, back in the 1920s there were a lot of magazines that featured “Thrilling Pilot Stories.”

Maybe you decide that it’s time to start a new trend, and you write a screenplay about Ulysses Samuel Adams—a bush pilot in the Everglades who has rousing adventures that feature drug smugglers, alluring swamp goddesses, the Fountain of Youth, and a dinosaur. So you spend a month writing and polishing the story. Seriously, where are you going to sell it?

The story might be fun—incredible even—but if you’re looking to make a living, it probably needs to be something that you can take to market.

So you need to understand the markets. This means that you must survey your field before you ever write a story.

This means that if you are writing a book, you will go to your bookstore and look at the books in your field that are doing well. Look at the following things:

1) How long is the book?

2) What is the reading level of my audience?

3) What are the standards of taste? For example, how much violence, profanity, sexuality, and so on is acceptable in this field.

4) Who published the bestselling titles in this field?

5) Who are the agent and editor that brought this book out?

6) When was it written? (If it wasn’t within the last five years, the information may be dated.)

7) What is the sex and age of the major protagonist?

8) Who are the viewpoint characters?

9) What are the ages and sexes of the secondary viewpoint characters?

10) What is the primary emotional draw for this book? (Wonder, romance, humor, horror, mystery, adventure, drama, etc.)

11) What are the secondary and tertiary draws?

12) What kinds of settings do the bestsellers of this type of book have in common?

13) What kinds of conflicts do they have in common?

14) What kinds of themes do these tales explore?

15) What kind of tone do the bestselling authors put across?

There will, of course, be some variation even among bestsellers, but you will find a lot of similarities, too. For example, bestselling thrillers almost always have male protagonists. Romance novels have female protagonists, but the “fascinating male” is what the protagonist seems to dwell on. In young adult novels, the protagonist is almost always 16, while in middle-grade novels the protagonist is normally 14.

In short, before you write anything, you need to take an adequate survey of the field. What’s “adequate?”

The agent Richard Curtis once addressed this topic, and he suggested that if you as a writer haven’t been reading in a field for 10 years just for enjoyment, you’re probably not grounded well enough in your genre to break in. The person who reads just one novel and then wants to break in with something similar is likely to be very disappointed.

 


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.

man writing

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.

The Long Road

The Long Road

My last post was on “giving up.” I brought up dozens of books that got rejected over and over again, only to finally sell and either win major awards (like the Nobel Prize) or make millions of dollars.

I then received numerous letters from authors who have been looking at the hard times for writers at the moment and have been thinking about just that—giving up. In fact, one of them, fantasy author Dan Willis even wrote a blog about how he has been thinking of contemplating authorial seppuku.

Just remember that breaking in often takes years. Once you break in, it may take several more years to “go big.” My old friend Anne McCaffrey was an excellent example of that. She wrote several novels and literally decided to quit for good when one of them finally went big and led to a phenomenal career.

So just breaking in often takes years. The general rule is that it takes about six or seven years from the time that you begin writing to the time that you get published.

It often takes a new author another seven years of perfecting their skill before they go big.

Sometimes you do well the first time out. One of my students, Stephanie Meyer, did just that, as did Dan Wells. But for most of us, it takes much longer before they have a hit.

With my friend and student Brandon Sanderson, we went on book tours together for four years—sometimes spending as much as a month on the road—until we got to the last book in his Mistborn series. He was feeling pretty discouraged at the time. But when Robert Jordan passed away, he was asked to finish up the Wheel of Time series. Everything turned around for Brandon in a matter of weeks. Curious readers turned out in droves to buy the last book in his Mistborn series, and they discovered something that I’d known from Brandon’s first day in class—here was a wonderful writer!

Brandon is now a #1 New York Times Bestseller.

Another student, James Dashner, was struggling as a small regional author. He couldn’t make a living at it. So he needed to up his game in order to go national. He did just that, and now his Maze Runner series is one of the biggest hits of the decade. Allie Condie, another local author that I know, recently did the same with her fourth novel, Matched.

So these things can take time. How much time? Ten years ago I was working with a little green-lighting company in Hollywood called Entertainment Business Group. A couple of producers came to us with a novel that they wanted to turn into a movie. I read through it and gave them some advice, talking about art direction, how to position the movie as more of an adventure than the novel portrayed, adding beauty to it, using the low gravity on the planet to turn the hero into more of a “superhero” and so on. My friend and business partner David Cuddy went a bit further and even wrote a script for them. Their movie was going to be a tough sell, I thought.

It took ten years for John Carter and the Princess of Mars to be released.

I don’t know what struggles and setbacks the producers went through, but I know that it had to have been tough. After all, it took ten years.

But that’s actually pretty fast for a big film. The average movie takes longer than that to bring to life.

The entertainment business is tough. The road can take you over nice hills but will often lead into deep valleys where there’s no light at all. Keep going.

Developing an audience takes times and consistency. Nearly everyone who has ever had success has also met with one bitter disappointment after another.

 


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.

Ciruelo, Illustrators of the Future Judge

Ciruelo’s “Dragon Caller” Provides Magical Cover for Writers of the Future Vol 34

We are very excited to announce that world-renowned artist Ciruelo has provided the cover art for L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34 releasing April 2018. And we hope you like it too! Known for his fantasy paintings, Ciruelo is perhaps best known as the illustrator of The Official Eragon Coloring Book.

“Dragon Caller” depicts a high magician standing on a platform carved with symbols which amplify the power of his summoning a dragon. Ciruelo stated, “The scene depicts some kind of collaborative relationship between dragons and humans, which is the kind of situations I prefer to paint instead of battle scenes among them.”

Last year and for the first time, we successfully paired the skills of two masters when we gave Larry Elmore’s cover art to Todd McCaffrey and asked him to write a short story based on the painting. And so Larry Elmore’s “Crimson Dawn” inspired Todd McCaffrey to write “The Dragon Killer’s Daughter” published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 33.

Based on its success, we are once again pairing two accomplished professionals. Ciruelo’s “Dragon Caller” was given to Jody Lynn Nye from which she has written her story called “Illusion.” By the way, for those of you who don’t know, Jody was co-author with Anne McCaffrey on many projects including The Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern. About working with Ciruelo, Jody stated, “I love having something to inspire me when I write. I was delighted to have the opportunity to write a story based on the splendid piece of artwork that forms the cover of this anthology, a fantasy painting by Ciruelo. It so happened that the subject matter dovetailed neatly with another fantasy series I have been working on. Instead of treating with the main character of that series, this story hearkens back decades to her employer, a great wizard—or so he seems.”

After being introduced to the Illustrators of the Future contest by fellow contest judge Larry Elmore (Dungeons & Dragons cover art), Ciruelo became a judge in 2017. “I feel honored to have been invited to be part of this prestigious contest which I considered to be an invaluable opportunity for writers and artists to start a professional career. And I’m personally thankful because the Fantasy / Science Fiction genre benefits from this generous event created by Mr. Hubbard.”

Now that you have seen the cover for Writers of the Future Volume 34, what do you think?

computer on a desk

Lou J. Berger on Writers of the Future

I want to chat about the Writers and Illustrators of the Future contest.

For many beginning writers (and illustrators, but I’m going to only talk about the writing side), the WoTF contest is a nice way to hurl your creations up against the wall of professional editing to see if, like perfectly cooked spaghetti, they stick.

It’s free to enter, the contest is made up of four quarters per year, each a separate contest, and the competition is worthy.

Although official numbers aren’t ever released, I have heard through the grapevine that three thousand submissions per quarter stream in from over 175 countries around the world.

Of those three thousand, many are simply not up to par. In fact, the vast majority of the entries don’t have more than the first few pages read, and David Farland is the wizard behind the process, culling through the stacks of submissions for those gems.

The better stories are awarded Honorable Mention status, and Joni Labaqui sends out beautiful, artistic certificates with the author’s name, the title of the story, and the words “Honorable Mention” blazoned across the page.

I have one up on my cork board in my office.

The top sixteen best stories are broken into two categories, Semi-Finalist (for stories 9-16) and FINALIST (stories 1-8).

The Semi-Finalist stories are those that rose almost all the way to the top and, for that particular quarter, were considered VERY good, but not quite as good as those top eight Finalist stories.

Joni sends out a different certificate, still artistic, still with the author name and the story title on it, but with the words “Semi-Finalist” instead of “Honorable Mention.”

I have one of THOSE on my cork board, too, from 2011.

Mike Resnick, who is not only the most award-winning author alive, began editing Galaxy’s Edge magazine back in 2013, proving that he’s a damn fine editor as well.

Having taken me under his wing (through my relentless pestering of him, no doubt) as one of his Writer Children, he included one of my stories in his inaugural edition of Galaxy’s Edge, way back in March of 2013.

Since then, I see him at conventions, I took a writing course on a cruise ship with him TWICE, and we remain in contact. He’s published SEVEN stories of mine in Galaxy’s Edge.

Nancy Kress, an award-winning author in her own right, co-taught me in Taos during the 2010 Taos Toolbox workshop, along with Walter Jon Williams. Carrie Vaughn came to talk to us about how her Kitty Norville series had changed her life, and we all left Taos after the workshop was over, inspired to become like our new-found heroes.

Kevin J. Anderson, a prolific author and a man who believes strongly in paying it forward, spearheads his Superstars Writing Seminars in Colorado Springs, and I’ve attended that event THREE times. Kevin has invited me to his home for movie night, for New Year’s Eve, and has never turned down my requests for advice as, slowly, I climb each rung of the ladder to professional authorship.

Mike, Nancy, and Kevin are all WoTF judges. They take their time to pay it forward to the beginner writers (regardless of age), who dare to take a chance with their lovingly crafted prose, and work as judges for the contest.

Kevin’s wife, the insanely intelligent Rebecca Moesta, had a birthday party a few months ago, and I attended that event, once again visiting their lovely home. I remember sitting on the couch next to an elegant woman, but I didn’t recognize her. She wasn’t a frequent attendee of the other gatherings at the Kevin and Rebecca castle.

Somebody called her “Joni,” I think it was Rebecca herself, and I asked her, “You aren’t Joni Labaqui, are you?”

She admitted she was, and I stuck out my hand gleefully. “I’m Lou J Berger!”

See, Joni called me on a cloudy day in 2011 to tell me that I’d made it to the Semi-Finalist level with my story “Immersion,” and I was so unfamiliar with the WoTF processes that I assumed during the call that she had to call over three thousand people.

I may have said something to the effect of “Well, thanks for the call, but you have SO MUCH WORK yet to do!”

There was a moment of awkward silence, and then she said, brightly, “Okay, bye!”

*facepalm*

Anyway, there on the couch at Rebecca’s party, we talked for half an hour or so about the Contest.

“Why haven’t you been submitting any stories?” she asked me directly.

I thought about it for a half second. “Because I’m too pro by now. I sold stories to Mike Resnick, and to a handful of anthologies, and I got paid pro rates for all of them. I’m out, right?”

She beamed. If there is one thing Joni lives for, it’s helping ignorant people (such as myself) learn something new.

“Nope,” she said. “If any of those anthologies or any single issue of that magazine in which your story appeared failed to sell AT LEAST five thousand copies, we don’t count it.”

Stunned, I fell silent. I didn’t KNOW how many copies were sold!

I asked around, and none of the anthologies had moved five thousand copies. One editor refused to divulge whether they had or not, but I’m betting not. That’s one “gray area” story, because I couldn’t get confirmation.

I asked Mike. He didn’t know, and sent me over the publisher, a kind man named Shahid. He laughed at me and said “not yet, but we are working on it!”

One maybe story. The one that the editor wouldn’t confirm numbers on. That’s it!

So I went to the WoTF rules. There it is, in black and white, Rule #5:

“5. The Contest is open only to those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium. Professional publication is deemed to be payment of at least six cents per word, and at least 5,000 copies, or 5,000 hits.”

So, given this NEW information (to me), I began to submit again.

Last night, the phone rang. Caller ID blocked. I answered.

A warm voice came across the line: “Hi, Lou. It’s Joni.”

Memories of our conversation came flooding back. The last time she’d called me directly, it was back in 2011 to tell me I was a Semi-Finalist.

“Hi, Joni!” I said, so pleased to hear her voice. Folks, this woman lives for helping people succeed.

Then, it hit me. Why was she calling ME?

“Wait…Joni, why are you calling me?”

The smile came through the phone: “You’re a Finalist, Lou!”

And….wow.

My story is in the top eight of the fourth quarter submissions for 2017. The top THREE of those top eight are called Winners, and they get an all-expense trip to LA, and the bottom FIVE of those top eight get a nice, artistic certificate, to add to their cork board (we all have cork boards, right?), with the word “FINALIST” on it.

I’m hoping for a Winner determination but, you know what?

Between you and me?

If I get that certificate with the word “Finalist” on it, I’m a happy, happy dude.

More as I hear it.

 


Lou J. BergerLou Berger started writing just shy of his 40th birthday. He lives in Centennial, Colorado with three kids, two Sheltie dogs and a kink-tailed cat.