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Writing Advice

So, you wanna get published…

As I’ve detailed elsewhere, I make a concerted effort to reach out to my fans and try to be available to share my experiences of publishing in ways that I hope are helpful. I don’t consider myself a perfect resource for writing advice (or even a great resource) because I’ve only been in the industry for a few years… and because I only know what worked for me… and because what I tried didn’t work lots of times… and it only did “work” once. Nonetheless, I can hear you saying, “But Brent, what you did worked once, and I only need once, too!” Fair enough. So this is me trying to be helpful.

First, let me point you to a few places that have a wealth of information from people who’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have:

The SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America): Writing Tips, Manuscript Prep, Where to Submit Short Stories, and How to Sell Your Novel

Writer Beware Technically a subsection of the SFWA website, this deserves its own link. Ever been paranoid about getting ripped off? Feel so desperate that you’d pay an agent to read your work? (By the way: Don’t!) Feel like there’s a million sites all saying a million different things and don’t know who to trust? Well, trust these folks. Their whole deal is to keep writers from getting screwed.

Dean Koontz: Advice on Comedic Writing, Thrillers, an Interview on his writing style and more.

Hatrack River (Orson Scott Card): Writing Classes, Writers Workshop, and Uncle Orson’s Writing Bootcamp.

Jim Butcher: Scenes, Putting a Story Together and other info from his blog.

Donald Maass: The Career Novelist, The Fire in Fiction, Writing the Breakout Novel. These are all great books, and there’s a free download of The Career Novelist on the site I linked. Disclaimer: Don is now my agent, but I thought his books were dynamite–and terrifically helpful–before I ever met him. A lot of my advice is going to be terribly derivative of what Don has already said earlier and better.

And a quick Google search will probably show you a lot more as well. (If you know of great resources, please note them in the comments, and I’ll add them to the list.)

That said, I don’t want to be the writer who says, “It’s a hard, cold world out there. Go Google it, kid.” So here’s my plan:

I’m putting up a new web page called Writing Advice, complete with its own tab under Extras. (Thanks, Alex!) I’m gathering the writing questions I hear most often, and I’m going to post the overall outline there in the order I intend to address those questions. Some answers (if I’ve answered them in print before) will be pasted in from interviews or emails I’ve answered, but I also want to have the resource continue to grow. This way I hope to help you without burying me in work that doesn’t produce the next book. (Which, when it comes down to it, is what I get paid for.)

If you have other questions that you don’t see addressed in the outline, please feel free to add them to the Comments section on this post. Yeah, seriously, right below here. I will pick questions that I think will help the most people (and that I have something to say about!), and I’ll add those to the overall outline. I know it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s the best I can do.

I plan to update the Writing Advice page with new answers on the first of every month.

Not an April Fool’s Joke…

it just feels like one.

I have just made the New York Times extended Bestseller List at #31. (Apparently the Gray Lady didn’t resent that “pencil-necked rube” jibe a few posts back.) There are lists and then there are lists. It’s a little byzantine, so I’ll explain what I’ve learned:  The New York Times has bestseller lists for each book format: hardcover, mass market paperback (like mine), and trade paperback (the bigger, more expensive format). They also cover non-fiction and children’s books. Why so many lists? Because there are 172,000 books published every year in the US. And the main list of 15 spots is owned by nice folks named Patterson, Grisham, King, Steele, Picoult, Cussler, Coben, Meyer, and whomever Oprah likes. So in order to add some spice, the NY Times has the extra lists.

This is A Big Deal. Orbit says that according to their official guidelines, I am now “New York Times Bestselling Author Brent Weeks.”

When I graduated from college, I made a bucket list. On it, I believe the first three items were, “Write a novel. Get published. Make the NY Times Bestseller List.” As I got a little older and more mature, I finished the first item and realized how ridiculously improbable the second was, much less the third. My dream became slightly more modest: to just make enough to support my family while doing what I love. So this is surreal. I thought this was the kind of thing you work for a whole career to earn, and I certainly didn’t think I’d hit it with my first book.

I want to thank all of you who forced your friends to read my book. Hitting the bestseller list six months after publication tells me that this isn’t the result of a huge publicity push–not that marketing didn’t have a integral part in this!–but a late peak tells you that people are telling their friends. So you’re responsible for me being able to survive to write more books and live my dream. Thank you. And I want to thank agent Don Maass for taking a chance on me and Devi and everyone at Orbit for working so hard on these books. I also want to thank Borders. They’ve been awesome, and just last week they put up one of those little cardboard stands for me and fellow Orbit author Karen Miller/K.E. Mills. I wouldn’ t have hit the list if they hadn’t. There are supposed to be those stands at every Borders in the country, so I’ll post pictures as soon as I can drive out to my nearest Borders.