Writing, Your New Normal

Today at the Writers of the Future workshop, I assigned a dozen new writers to go finish a short story in 24 hours. For some of those writers, in fact for most of them, this seemed like a pretty big challenge. As an old pro, it seemed more like another workday.

Maybe the problem is that as a new author, you’re not normally trained by a working writer. When I went to college, my first writing professor—a marvelous and talented professor—had never written a short story. Nor had my second professor. It wasn’t until my third writing class that I met a professor who had actually finished writing a few excellent stories.

But by the time that I finished my first novel, I suspect that my word count surpassed everything he’d written in twenty years.

You see, literature professors who study writing usually don’t write. They’re too busy teaching to get much writing done. Many of them have some odd notions that they perpetuate. For example, they talk about “waiting upon the muse.” A real writer doesn’t wait for his muse. If she doesn’t show up, the writer might have to grab a rifle and go hunt her, sneak into her lair, roust her out of bed, and pull her kicking and screaming into the daylight. (We do it by researching and brainstorming.) Or if the muse doesn’t show up, we’ll go ahead and keep writing anyway, just go it alone for the day.

You see, a real writer learns to manage his or her creative state, to fall into it when needed.

Then there is that fear of writing a whole story in 24 hours. Many non-writers balk at that. But I can write about four pages in an hour, so writing a short story of 32 pages, that’s about a day’s work. Sure, I might tweak it and add a new scene in a day, but we’re not really writing a finished story in 24 hours, just a first draft. It’s for practice. It’s for fun.

The thing is, if you want to be a writer and do it full-time, then you’ve got to learn to actually pull it off. You study how you like to put scenes together, figure out what works. I ask myself some simple questions: Where am I going to set this scene, and what time of day is it? Who is my viewpoint character? What is his/her/its problem? What’s at stake if the problem isn’t resolved? What obstacles does the character face? What strategy will the protagonist use to fix the problems? How can I twist this scene in unexpected directions? And there are dozens of other questions that surface as I begin writing.

I suppose that it sounds hard to someone who is new at it. Sort of like driving a car. You’re trying to figure out how to adjust the mirrors and start the engine and do the turn signals and apply gas and brakes and avoid collisions—all while driving to work. When you’re new, it’s all very self-conscious and confusing, but as you internalize the process, you do it all without conscious thought. All of those difficult-to-acquire skills become habits that then become hard to break.

On most days when I sit down to write, I have to admit that I’m not thinking about anything more than “How can I make this scene extraordinary?” and I suspect that someday when I’ve written enough, I won’t even consciously worry about that. I’ll just write, and it will come out extraordinary.

At least that’s the hope. But now while my writers are working their tails off, I get to relax for a bit. To reward myself, I’m going to work on a novel.


Quick Start Your Writing Career (Live Workshop)

Please join David for his new workshop, Quick Start Your Writing Career, held on June 30, 2018 at the the Provo Marriott Hotel and Conference Center at 101 W. 100 North, Provo, Utah

The workshop costs $99 for the day and lunch is not included. There is space for 80 attendees.

Dave will speak about the following subjects:

Breaking onto the Best-seller Lists
How to Get Discovered
Defining Yourself As an Author
Plotting Your Career
Going Indie vs. Traditional Publishing
Multimedia–Your Most Indispensable Asset
How to Reach a Vast Audience
Dealing with Agents, Editors, and Movie Producers.

Register here!

David Farland’s Fantasy Writing Workshop – 1 Spot Left!


YHA Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
August 22-August 28, 2018
Cost: $1099 for the workshop. Lodging, food, and travel are all the student’s responsibility

Join us for our most magical workshop ever! In this workshop, David Farland will be focusing on writing fantasy—building powerful magic systems, cultures, and worlds, creating fantasy characters, plotting fantasy, and writing powerful prose.

Students will need to bring a laptop, an unfettered imagination, and a strong work ethic. Being half-mad would also be a help.

This workshop will last three days longer than most of Dave’s workshops so that you will be able to focus on writing each day but still have some afternoons free to do some sightseeing. We will spend time visiting nearby sites like Stonehenge, The Eagle and Child Pub (where Tolkien and Lewis met with the Inklings writing group), Warwick Castle, Shakespeare’s home, and we will be within easy striking distance of London.

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