Monthly Archives: November 2015


Published November 20, 2015 in Advice - 0 Comments

When I was learning to become a writer, then a published writer, then a novelist, I read a lot of writing books, looking for the key, trying to figure out the next step. Since there were writers ahead of me on the curve, better than me, I knew I had to catch up. Of course, my goal was not just to be a “published” author, but a “successful” author so I could make my living at it. A bestselling author.

The problem was, a lot of the people writing these How To books didn’t have any real credits of their own. One guy even wrote “How to Write the Bestselling Novel”…but he had never managed to hit the bestseller list himself. Hmmmm.

Then I found a book that changed my whole perspective, a boot camp that was like a secret decoder ring for those subtle but key ingredients I had been missing: WRITING THE BLOCKBUSTER NOVEL by Albert Zuckerman. A detailed, insightful analysis of why some books succeeded and others crashed and burned.

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Zuckerman is not a writer himself, but a big league agent with major bestselling clients. He knows what it takes to make a blockbuster, and he lays it out. For instance, in a difficult and absolutely revelatory section, he goes through several complete drafts—published here in full—of Ken Follett’s outline for the international bestseller The Man from St. Petersburg. First draft of the outline, and an analysis of what needed to be fixed; then second draft of the outline, improved, but what still needed to be fixed; then third draft…all the way until the final.

At the time I read that, my coauthor Doug Beason and I were developing our high-tech thriller IGNITION—like Die Hard at the Kennedy Space Center. We had our outline done and we thought it was ready to go, a sure-fire blockbuster bestseller. But reading the Follett outline, I realized that we had made the same omissions that Follett did. I had Doug read the Zuckerman book, and we modified our outline accordingly, then wrote the book.

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IGNITION sold immediately to Universal Studios for by far the largest movie deal I’ve ever received, and to a New York publisher for a major six-figure advance. I’d say the advice worked!

A new edition of WRITING THE BLOCKBUSTER NOVEL will be out next year, but right now you can pick it up—along with 24 other extremely useful books on writing craft, professionalism, and career building—as part of the Nanowrimo Writing Tools storybundle for a minimum bid of only $25 (the price I paid for the Zuckerman book alone in the first place). I’m certainly glad I made the investment—it changed my career.

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Check out the Writing Tools Storybundle at

Writing Tools for Nanowrimo

Published November 10, 2015 in Advice - 0 Comments

For the second year, I worked with to put together a massive batch of useful books that will help you survive—and thrive—during National Novel Writing Month. A dozen books on writing craft, productivity, and business—the full spectrum of useful information.  And you name your own price

From the wide-ranging to the specific, the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools Bundle is a treasure chest of books vital to your success not only in writing your novel but in launching your long-term career as a successful writer. This is a toolkit, a drill sergeant, a mentor, and a cheerleading section, all in one.

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For the big picture, there are two classics that have already influenced numerous bestselling writers: Writing to the Point by Algis Budrys and Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Al Zuckerman; there’s also Brewing Fine Fiction edited by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff & Pati Nagle, Jump Start Your Novel by Mark Teppo, and the unique and massive Synopsis Treasury edited by C.S. Haviland.

For coaching on specific skills, Kevin J. Anderson presents Wordbuilding: From Small Towns to Entire Universes; Stant Litore teaches you how to Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget; Marie Brennan talks about Writing Fight Scenes, while Judith Tarr shows all about Writing Horses.

And once you’ve got your book finished and your career launched, you need to know about Writing Copy by Dean Wesley Smith, Discoverability by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Million Dollar Booksignings by David Farland.

At, you name your own price and receive either the basic bundle of six books (minimum $5 bid) or all 12 books (minimum $15 bid).

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This year, as a special bonus we’ve never done before, is offering a “Superbundle” for a minimum bid of only ten dollars more ($25 total)—all twelve of this year’s Nanowrimo Writing Tools bundle titles AND all twelve of last year’s titles on productivity, craft, outlining, TV writing, and much more.

Available in all eBook formats, and *worldwide*.



Utah Writing Retreat—Alone with a BUNCH of Authors

Published November 10, 2015 in Advice - 0 Comments

It was perfect timing at Salt Lake Comic Con in September when I stepped on a hotel elevator with James Duckett, another writer I’d met a couple of times before. He looked at me, got a contemplative look on his face, and said, “I won’t know unless I ask.”  He told me about a writers’ retreat he was participating in, one that would be held the first week of November near Park City. They were looking for a “writer in residence” who would come, give a few breakout sessions, and spend the rest of the time curled up writing or editing (thus providing a “professional good example”).  As it happened, that was EXACTLY when I knew I would be in the midst of a big concentration-heavy edit on ETERNITY’S MIND.

As many of you know, I love to go off by myself in the mountains, find a quiet lodge where I can spend days writing without being interrupted. I wasn’t entirely sure about doing it in a large lodge with 20 or more other writers, but I decided to give it a try.

I am very glad I did. James picked me up from the Salt Lake City airport on Thursday morning and drove me out to Heber City in the mountains; we had lunch in Park City, then went off to find the lodge.  People were starting to arrive, food and equipment were hauled in, and I got to my room. After changing into comfy clothes (my writing “uniform” of sweat pants and fluffy slippers), I found a spot in one of the sofas near a fireplace, put on my ear phones, and started editing.


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The scenery was beautiful and inspirational, and the group—writers of all levels and all genres—were all dedicated, eager, and respectful. I felt immediately at home. We would all get together for group meals, which was a time for conversation, but the rest of the time they were all diligent workers, wearing headphones, talking quietly, devoted to their WIP.

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We got to know each other quite well over the next three days. Each night after dinner I gave a talk on various aspects of writing or publishing, but also talked a lot informally.  I think we all benefited from the experience.

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As a measure of the success, from the time I left home on Thursday morning to the time I returned home on Sunday afternoon, I edited 324 pages in ETERNITY’S MIND—which is an incredible pace, even for me. Now that I’m home, getting “only” 50 pages done in a day seems like quite a small accomplishment.

Thank you all for a wonderful experience.

For Nanowrimo: Two New Books on Writing

Published November 6, 2015 in Advice - 0 Comments

If you’re one of the millions of writers participating in National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, or just a writer interested in improving your craft, you might be interested in two writing books just released in print and eBook by WordFire Press.

I have given many workshops on Worldbuilding at conventions and conferences. I’ve built gigantic galactic empires and steampunk worlds and gritty urban fantasy settings. I pulled together all the information I share in the workshop, as well as some additional material, and published it in WORLDBUILDING: FROM SMALL TOWNS TO ENTIRE UNIVERSES.

I describe mytechniques in creating a rich fictional setting, leading writers through the countless questions and topics one must consider. Whether it’s geography, climate, politics, economics, society, religion, science, arts, or history, all of these ingredients form the basis for a believable setting for your story to unfold.


We’ve also just reissued a long out-of-print classic on writing by Algis Budrys, master SF writer as well as mentor to many successful authors in the field today. WRITING TO THE POINT. The complete, concise guide to writing fiction that sells from one of the most popular instructors of the Writers of the Future and Clarion workshops.Get a master’s competitive edge in the writing business.

Bestselling writer, editor and renowned writing teacher Algis Budrys, known as “AJ” to his many students, has distilled his fifty years of success into Writing to the Point. Write better stories. Fix mistakes in your current stories.


Writing to the Point contains all the writing articles that appeared in the classic tomorrow Magazine, re-edited and expanded. Algis Budrys taught hundreds of people at scores of workshops, was a well-known critic, editor, and author in his own right.