Horse Racing

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Horse Racing

David Farland’s Kick in the Pants—Horse Racing

Last week I got a note from a student who just had a novel accepted by a major publisher. He seemed a little surprised at how easily it had happened, as if he’d happened to enter a horse race and had just taken first place by accident.

But it’s no accident. I’ve heard a lot of writers talk about publishing and making money in this business as having an element of chance, as if writers who succeed are just lucky. I’ll grant you, it does seem to me that at times there is an element of chance.

For example, my friend Richard Paul Evans started out as a self-published author. He took his little book out to the Book Expo America—a huge trade show—and tried to get a table so that he could display it. But the tables were sold out.

Yet as he was walking through the exhibition halls, he noticed that one table was open—the vendor that had reserved it was a no show—so he quietly set up a little display and talked to people about his book. No one was interested, it seemed, but he was invited to a small bookstore in the South to do a signing.

He went to the bookstore, and had signed in the midst of a snowstorm. No one came. He realized that he had wasted his time and thousands of dollars in self-publishing, but then a woman walked in late, just before the store was about to close for the night.

She brushed the snow off of her coat and got to talking to him. She told him that she was a television producer for a morning news show—Good Morning America. Due to the snow, their guest the next morning wasn’t going to be able to make it. She asked if he would be willing to stand in for the missing guest.

That national attention, a coincidence, soon led to a million-dollar publishing deal and became the foundation for Richard Paul Evan’s success.

Was it luck? Coincidence? Perseverance?

I think it was a combination of factors. Richard Paul Evans perseveres. He’s also smart. But eventually, when he most needed publicity, he met someone who happened to need a guest speaker, and it changed his life.

Yet time and time again I meet young would-be writers who say, “You know, those authors who make it big? It’s all a matter of luck.” This becomes their excuse for doing nothing at all.

There’s no such thing as luck. I like what Kevin J. Anderson says, “If you want to attract lightning, be a lightning rod.” In other words, work hard. Be in the right place at the right time. Be ready.

It may seem that there is an element of luck to this business. I won’t deny that. I often hear people compare it to a horse race. But I have never known an author who got a major contract without first writing a big novel. So if you want to win, get a horse into the race.

In fact, because it’s the new year, I like to set goals for the next few months. I’m going to put three horses into the race this year.

See you at the track!


We have some new live workshops up:

Professional Writers Workshop

Have you started to write a book and wondered “What do I do now?” Would you like help in editing the book to make it as good as it can be, or help finding an agent or publisher? Would you like to get a better grasp of how to make a living as a writer, or how to launch your new career? Then this workshop might be for you.

It’s designed to help teach you the kinds of things that you can’t learn in most colleges—the ins and outs of the writing business.

The Professional Writers’ Workshop is strictly limited to 18 participants, people who are serious about writing.
March 16-20, 2015

Orem, Utah

Learn more

Worldbuilding Masters Class

One key to creating a blockbuster tale is to learn to transport the reader to another time and another place. In this workshop, Dave takes you through world building in fantasy, historical fiction, and science fiction, including dystopias and utopias.

You will learn how to view the world as a character and source of conflict, how to create planets, new life forms, societies, and economic systems, magic systems, political systems and so on. You will watch popular films where the author did it right—and you’ll perform exercises where you brainstorm your own world, create your settings, write key descriptions and scenes, and have them critiqued by the rest of the group and by Dave himself.

July 7-11th

St. George, Utah

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Casting Your Novel Master's Class

A lot has been said about creating characters--things that don't really work, like filling 100 pages of information about him or her. If you did this while brainstorming every major character in a novel, you would have 1,000 pages of notes on characters alone.

That's too much.

In this workshop Dave will teach you how to direct your energy to building characters that are not only believable and complex, but are ready to spur conflict, explore themes, and complete an emotion-empowered character arc.

July 13th-17th

St. George, Utah

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One of my short stories, Hellfire on the High Frontier, got three stars (the highest possible rating) on Tangent Online's Recommended Reading List for 2014.

You can find the story in the Dead Man's Hand anthology.

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