Kobo Writing Life Podcast – Episode 030 – Dean Wesley Smith
Mark Lefebvre, Kobo Writing Life Director, in conversation with Dean Wesley Smith, a USA Today Bestselling author of books in multiple genres including Science-Fiction, Mystery, Thrillers and Westerns.
Currently producing novels in four different series, (including the time travel Thunder Mountain novels set in the old west, the galaxy-spanning Seeders Universe series, the urban fantasy Ghost of a Chance series, and the superhero series staring Poker Boy) Smith is also the co-publisher of WMG Publishing along with his partner Kristine Kathryn Rusch and runs a series of workshops designed to help writers become smarter not only about the craft but also about the business of publishing.
During their conversation, Dean and Mark talk about:
- The fact that Dean wasn’t born into writing, actually loathed it when he was in college (He has a Masters in Architecture)
- The various careers and roles that Smith played during his life, including his past as a Pro Golfer and hot dog skier
- How his goal of being a Golf Course Architect led to writing via an English course that he had to take.
- The English Professor who told Smith that his writing was too commercial
- The writing class that forced Smith to submit a poem to a college poetry market (at which he won second place and $300) – at the time, he had to go see the professor to ask about it because he had no idea what it meant
- After this experience, Smith tried his hand at fiction, wrote a 1000 word short story and mailed it off to a market right away. Then he wrote a second story and mailed that off right away. Both stories sold immediately.
- How, after these first three successes, Smith started listening to people’s advice (AKA myths) about writing, and re-wrote his stories to dead, and for the next 7 years never sold a single thing
- It wasn’t until 1982 that Smith ran across Robert Heinlein’s Business Rules of Writing, followed the advice, started selling again and has never looked back
- The RULES
- 1 – You Must Write
- 2 – You Must Finish What You Start
- 3 – You Must Refrain From Rewriting Except to Editorial Order
- 4 – You Must Put It on The Market
- 5 – You Must Keep It on The Market Until Sold
- Dean’s books: Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing and Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing.
- The magazine that Dean and Kristine Kathryn Rusch ran for 9 years, called Pulphouse.
- The Starfleet Corps of Engineers Series that Dean kicked off in the Star Trek Universe – a series about the people who follow up after Captain Kirk, cleaning up his messes (which was originally meant to be an eBook back in 2000 and knocked John Grisham off the eBook bestseller list when it was released)
- The challenge of writing within an existing restrictive universe, such as Star Trek, such as the reader having to hear Shatner’s voice when writing the character Captain Kirk.
- Smith’s lesson for writers creating character voice by paying really close attention to the differences in voice you can easily see created for the Star Trek characters of Kirk, Spock and McCoy
- Regency Romance as one of the only genres that Smith really can’t write in
- How Westerns, (the old West) and Science-Fiction are two of Smith’s go-two genres for writing.The FICTION RIVER anthology series that Smith edits with Kristine Kathryn Rusch and how this river of fiction brings in new talent along with some major names from the genre. (For example, the latest FICTION RIVER property, Pulse Pounders, edited by Kevin J. Anderson, included a previously unpublished sci-fi story by Frank Herbert)
- The Oregon Coast workshops where the FICTION RIVER anthologies are derived that include a board of 6 Editors critiquing the stories live on stage and how that helps inform writers that what one editor rejects another editor might have bought
- How the workshops that Dean and Kris started originated as the “Denise Little” short story workshops; because of the similarity to the way that editor/agent Denise Little liked to teach these principles
- A bit about Smith’s Monthly Magazine, which has both a paper and an eBook edition
- How Smith sees the approximate 80,000 words that he writes each month as still “not enough”
- Smith’s ongoing Blog in which he shares daily insights: Writing in Public
- How the teaching that Smith does is part of his desire to try to give back or pay forward to the industry in the way that the industry and writers before Smith have given so much to him
- One of the biggest myths from indie publishing, regarding indie writers not being able to get their indie published books into bookstores and the “fairy dust” that has long been spread regarding that
- How Smith isn’t anti-traditional but is 100% pro smart-writer
Mark then spends a bit of time talking back through Heinlein’s RULES, pointing out that, while the rules were written many decades ago, far before the digital revolution in publishing, that the same rules apply, regardless of whether an author is pursuing traditional publishing options or indie-publishing opportunities. Mark then cites an example from his own experience regarding keeping an item in the market (Rule 5) and explains how, more than 10 years after originally releasing a story in his collection One Hand Screaming, he sold the rights to that story to a textbook publisher who found it because it was available on the market in a book that he first self-published back in 2004.
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