Would you like to hear the advice that Stephenie Meyer used to create Twilight, one of the bestselling books of all time? David Farland taught her and today he shares his advice on million dollar stories with you.
In the introduction, I mention Mark Coker’s fantastic post about the realities for indie authors right now, how amazing the STORY conference was and my writing update: Gates of Hell is back with my editor for final edit, and will be out in the new year. Delirium, London Psychic Book 2, is now out in audiobook format. I also mention the fantastic Author Marketing Live online conference, and you can get $50 off if you use the promo code penn.
This podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna
99 Designs financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and if you enjoy the show, you can now support my time on Patreon. Thank you!
David Farland is a multi-award winning and NY Times bestselling author of over 50 science fiction and fantasy novels, including the Runelords series, as well as screenwriting and working in the games industry. He also teaches writing workshops and has several fantastic books for authors, Writing the Million Dollar Outline, and Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing.
- How David started writing in the 1980s and won a number of awards early on, as well as writing for many gaming and popular sci-fi properties plus green-lighting for Hollywood screenwriting. He started teaching and his students included Stephenie Meyer, James Dashner and Brandon Sanderson. His rules are that a project has to be fun and he has to be able to make some money at whatever he’s doing.
- If it is your goal to write a bestselling novel, then you do need to consider certain principles. Write what you love but then figure out how to write for a wider audience than you started with. For example, old and young, male and female. The Harry Potter books clearly appeal to many different age groups.
- Transport your reader to another time and/or place. Generally speaking, the top 50 books and films of all time do this. We discuss the importance of length in this aspect – despite the recent move to shorter books, the biggest books of all time are doorstop size. You can use novellas over time to create ‘mega-novel’ series though, and a lot of people are using this strategy, particularly in romance.
- It must score high on the emotional Richter scale. It needs to impact people deeply and be remarkable so you get that word of mouth
- The word genre is really about emotions e.g. mystery = intrigue, thrillers = adventure, horror, comedy, fantasy & sci-fi = wonder, romance = love. Nostalgia is another powerful emotion.
- Resonance arouses an expectation that you’re going to like this type of book. Genre conventions are one aspect, cover design another, mentioning other books that people like is another. This is why similar tropes and characters are reused, as they have built in resonance. A good example was the recent Lego movie which was packed with resonance.
- This is not about plagiarism or re-using other material, but consciously choosing to riff off earlier ideas. David goes through the layers of resonance within Pirates of the Caribbean all the way back over centuries. You still have to be original, but add a twist on the past e.g. Meyer’s sparkly vampires.
Longevity and your career as a fiction writer
- You have to be a good storyteller and be able to write well. There are a lot of skills you need to learn in order to be successful fiction author and it’s equivalent to getting a doctorate degree.
- It takes about 7 years to become ‘publishable’ and another 7 years to become a bestselling author. To be one of the best, you have to take that onwards to the next level. [I love this because I’ve been writing fiction for 4 years, so I am halfway through the apprenticeship!] There are people who have some kind of special talent, but most great authors work really hard and practice over years.
- On paying attention to dreams and writing them down. It’s your sub-conscious talking to you! David talks about his process, thinking about his plot before bed so he can dream about it that night and then write in the morning. Keep a notebook or computer handy at all times!
- On fun and hard work as a writer. You have to consider your creative muse and not do the projects that don’t bring you alive. Figure out how to stay out of the ruts that the industry will try to put you in.
- On author name and branding. Dave’s real name, Wolverton, put him on the bottom of shelves in bookstores so when he started writing, he changed to the name David Farland. That is less important in a digital market.
- Loving the craft is critical for longevity, or why would you bother! You can always learn something new so there is a sense of a career path ahead. Understanding the markets and being aware of what people want is critical.
- It’s great to be able to publish in many different ways, and Dave self-publishes his books on writing. But sometimes authors are publishing too early and are slightly delusional in terms of their ability and expectations of income. It’s a great way to publish, but you need to learn the craft and get critical feedback before you can expect success.
You can find David and his books and courses at DavidFarland.com and MyStoryDoctor.com. You can also get 20% off his courses until Jan 2015 . This is a fantastic promotion, and if you want to learn more in 2015, check David’s courses out here. ** Due to technical difficulties, all workshops are discounted by 25% right now, and no code is needed**