Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Few Questions for Dean Wesley Smith

Dean Wesley Smith knows a few things about writing. The author of over 200 short stories and over 100 novels, Dean is currently ghostwriting a 70,000-word novel within 9 or 10 days and is sharing his progress on his blog--today will be Day 6 of the project. He posts daily with his word counts and the general flow of his schedule. Any writer interested in getting the work done, being inspired or just seeing how a true professional does it should follow along.

Dean has managed over 7,000 words on 4 out of 5 of the days so far. He has accomplished this by writing in sessions throughout the day, often at about an hour at a time. Everyone may not have a schedule that allows several one-hour writing sessions in a day, but I think most people can apply the general principle of writing in smaller bursts to their busy routines, whether writing short fiction or working on novellas or novel-length projects.

Two things Dean often talks about that I think are particularly relevent to W1S1 are letting the words flow (entertaining yourself as a writer and your readers, too) and following Heinlein's rules, which he said he adopted on January 1st, 1972, after about 7 years of writing slowly, revising endlessly and never selling anything.

Some of the most interesting and useful nuggets of information I've found have been in the comments and Dean's replies to them, so don't miss those! 

W1S1: You said something I love in your comments recently: Every story, every novel is practice, not an event. What advice would you give a writer who gets hives at the idea of sending "practice" someplace like Asimov's? 

DWS. . . I would ask them what the worst thing the editor could do might be? I’ve been a short fiction editor (and still am, considering that Fiction River Volume One is now out). If a story doesn’t work, we glance at it and reject it. Why writers think a busy editor will read every word of their story is beyond me. We only do that if we love the story and the writer has done their job to hold us in the story. Otherwise, the story just goes back, no big deal. Beginning writers think a bad story will ruin their career when in reality, they have no career to ruin. And mailing out a flawed story has never ruined anyone’s career at any level.

W1S1: With the ghost novel, you started out doing over 7,000 words each day. Do you often write that much in a day when you don't have a project deadline to hit? Do you think it's wise for writers to aim for a certain number per day or writing session, or just aim for whatever feels comfortable?

DWS... I never aim at a word count. But I often have days where I do far more than 7,000 words without a deadline. And I have days I do very little for various reasons. (None of them having to do with actual writing issues. (grin)) I think every writer is different and every writer should figure out what gets them practicing every day and use that until it doesn’t work and then figure out something else.

W1S1: You bust a lot of writing myths, many of them about agents and trade-publishing. Are there one or two myths that stand out to you with regards to writing and submitting short fiction for publication?

DWS... There are so many I can’t begin to start them. But that said, the fear you talked about in the first question is a big one and a silly one for most writers. The idea that you have to polish and rewrite your voice out of your story is another one. Editors buy unique stories, not ones that sound like every other story ever written. Leave your voice in your stories.


Thanks, Dean, for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer those questions and share so much of your knowledge on your blog!
Dean has also written scripts, been a publisher and an editor, and along with his wife, prolific and award-winning writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch, he hosts both in-person and online workshops to help writers improve. The workshops cover a range of things from nailing character voices to how to handle different aspects of self-publishing. Through WMG Publishing, they've recently launched Fiction River, an anthology magazine series where submission is by invitation only. The first issue, Unnatural Worlds, is available now. 


  1. 7K/day? Wow. I've managed 10K a couple times, but there's no way I could keep that up consistently -- even if I didn't have a day job! Lately it's been only 500 to 1K/day, and even that's been a chore. Looking forward to the summer...

  2. An amazing and informative post. I'm a huge fan of Dean's blog. He shows us how to treat writing as both an art and a business, the latter being something many overlook.

    Thanks Shelley & Dean!