Online Workshops

 Online Workshop Details


LIMIT OF ABOUT 12 WRITERS PER WORKSHOP.  This limit of 12 writers allows the instructor(s) to give each writer more personal attention.

Structure of every workshop:
— Each week for six weeks video lectures will be available for the writer to listen and watch in their own time.  (Video lectures will be about 6 to 8 or so minutes long each and there will be about six or so of them per week depending on topic.)
— Each week will include an assignment which will need to be sent as an attached file within five days. We will work personally with each writer or book designer, and send the assignments back to each person before the end of the week. (The assignments are not mandatory, but suggested to get the most out of each workshop.)
— Then each week we will record a short (5 minutes or so) video talking in general (never giving names) about the assignment for everyone in the class to watch. Then the following week’s assignment and lecture will be available.
— Each new video will be released on the same day of the week as the first one for six weeks. So if the workshop starts on Monday, the new weekly video session will be released every Monday.

Workshops are all SIX WEEKS LONG.

Cost of online workshops is $300.00 each. (Payment instructions at the bottom of the page.)

The workshops will have a distinctive web site. The website will have FAQ and comments sections for discussions and other areas of interest for each workshop. About one week before each workshop I will contact each writer signed up and get them a password to the class location.

NO REFUNDS. However, your money can be moved to a different workshop down the road if you have schedule or health problems. We will work with you.

My e-mail address for these workshops is Please put only WORKSHOPS in the subject line. Or if I do not respond, please try again. I try to respond fairly quickly, meaning within the same day.

Workshop Descriptions

Remember, all these workshops are limited to 12 writers per month.




Learn even more ways to keep your readers from ever leaving your stories.

Requirement: You must have already taken the Depth Online Workshop to take this one. (Information on that below.) This advanced workshop takes off where the Depth workshop ended.

And here are just some of the things we are going to cover in this workshop.

— How to hold readers in chapter and scene openings, once you have a reader down at depth.
— Shortcuts of depth.
— How to set character mood to help depth.
— How to use suspense to increase the power of depth in a story.
— How to use the correct levels of depth in different projects.
— Character voice and character attitude in creating depth.
— Depth with tags of all sorts, including character tags and setting tags.
— Depth increased by the correct use of pacing.
— Character pacing to increase depth. (If you don’t think characters inside stories have different pacing levels, just sit in an airport and watch people.)
— Depth killers to avoid. Things that will knock readers out of books faster than anything, such as too many names for the same character (among many other killer problems).

And so much more.

This workshop will also talk regularly about reader expectations in stories. It will be taught in the same style as the first Depth workshop with examples of each concept and assignments to test your skills in certain areas.

If you want to know what levels are possible to take your writing, this is the workshop for you.

It will be an eye-opening workshop, we promise.



Learn How to Help Your Books Get Found By Readers

In other words, this is the workshop you need to take when you are all done writing and your book is either coming out indie or traditional. How do you get your work into more reader’s awareness?

What can you do to get your book out there so that readers who love it will find it? That has always been the question in publishing and this new world is no different.

However, in this new world, writers are in control of this part of the business for the most part and now have a thousand choices to make on helping their books get found. And sometimes those choices vary from book to book.

You can do passive marketing such as pricing and branding covers and active blurbs, things that need to be done right no matter what else you do.

But how much time do you want to spend on websites, blogs, social media, and going after reviews for your books? And how to do all that effectively so that the marketing time does not eat into your writing time.

It has always been the case that writing the next book is the best promotion for your last book. But we all want to do more. So how much do you want to do? What is the value, and so on? This workshop will cover all that as well.

The point of this workshop is to give each writer choices in marketing. One choice for one writer might be perfect and work while the same choice for another writer would hurt their writing and not be who they are as a writer. And one choice for one book would suck as a choice for the very next book. You, as a publisher, a marketer, need to know when to do marketing, what kind works for that book, and when not to and go back and write the next book instead.

Outside of the craft workshops to help you write better books, this may be the best workshop we will do. It’s taken a village to put it together, that’s for sure.



Turn your dream into reality (without ever having to have a bestseller).

Every writer works and thinks differently. In this new world, no one road will get you to that dream of making a living with your fiction. But knowing how to set up goals and knowing which path to walk remains critical to success.

This workshop will help you find the right path for your fiction writing.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch and I both made a living for decades in the old system, and four years ago we moved to the new world, to the indie world of publishing. And now we are making even more money.

We now bring that knowledge to this workshop to help others.

Sometimes using parts of both traditional and indie systems might be right for some writers. Other writers only want to go indie. This workshop will cover both those paths and many others.

And this workshop helps you avoid wrong turns and bad decisions as much as possible.

So for a six week workshop online, we are going to help writers figure out how to get from dreaming of making a living with fiction to knowing it can be possible and how they can get to the dream.

This is a nuts and bolts business and money workshop, not a craft workshop. This workshop will work for you if you are just thinking of writing your first novel or if you have twenty novels written and want to finally make a living with the work.

And this workshop will be blunt, clear, and straight forward, as everyone has come to expect from me and Kris.

If you want to learn how to sell a few more copies of one book, take the Promotion workshop. If you want to learn how to build a career and make a living with your fiction over decades, this workshop is the one for you.



Kris and I are two of the most prolific long-term writers working today. And we have done that year-after-year for thirty years. Well, finally we decided to tackle the one area we have been avoiding in teaching.


That’s right, we’re finally going to teach that skill. And in this new indie world, productivity is a critical skill to have.

If you followed my blog last year and watched me write twelve novels, three nonfiction books, and thirty-plus short stories while working a day job with WMG Publishing and workshops, you know what productivity is. Kris and I can teach you how to do that and a lot of other ways of being productive.

If you are tired of looking back at a year and wondering why you didn’t write more, this workshop is for you.

If you think you just write too slow, this workshop is for you.

So for a six week workshop online, we are going to help writers become more productive and learn habits and techniques that will keep you productive for years to come. Six weeks of videos, five assignments. If you want an extra book per year, or just more stories, and can never seem to make it happen, this new workshop starting in September is for you.

We can all find extra time, but most writers don’t know how to convert that extra time over months and a year into more stories and novels.

This is a nuts and bolts workshop, not on craft workshop. This workshop will work if you want to write a first novel or just add more novels and stories to your yearly output. The techniques and methods we will teach in this workshop will work for all levels.




In this new world of publishing, short stories suddenly became critical to the success of any writer.

This workshop functions as a business and a craft workshop. We will show you how you can make a lot of extra money from short fiction, and how to write major short stories for any genre.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who helped set this workshop up (even though I do the talking) is the only writer in history to be in all four Dell Magazines (Asimov’s, Hitchcock’s, Analog, and Ellery Queen). She has done that in the same year four times now. She won the Asimov’s Reader’s Choice Award six times, and reader’s choice awards for Analog and Queen as well.

Kris also is the only person on the planet to win the Hugo Award for best professional editor and for her short fiction.

I was also on the Hugo Award five or six times for my editing. Kris edited The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Pulphouse. I also edited for Pulphouse, for VB Tech, and for Pocket Books, all in short fiction. Kris and I also won a World Fantasy Award for our editing of short fiction work.

Kris and I both have written well past 400 short stories each. And been professional short fiction editors.

We now bring that knowledge to this workshop to help others learn how to write and sell short stories.

Short stories play a major role in our new world of publishing. Any writer wanting to make great money needs to know how to write short fiction, even if they only write one for an invite anthology or a promotion. Discoverability is everything these days, and short stories help in more ways than possible to imagine.

This is a nuts and bolts business and craft and money workshop. All three. We will cover it all.

And this workshop will be blunt, clear, and straight forward, as everyone has come to expect from me and Kris.

If you want to learn how to write and sell short stories and improve your discoverability and make more money with your writing, this workshop is the one for you.



Taught by Dean Wesley Smith, author of at least two dozen thriller novels under various names. First taught here at the coast, this workshop will help you not only learn how to write a thriller, the hardest genre of them all to write, but this workshop will help you speed up all books when you want to.

This workshop combines a lot of different areas of how to relay to the reader to keep reading. From plotting to pacing to character and so much more. Some people call thrillers “big books.” That’s because thrillers often require scope, multiple characters, and other skills this workshop will help you get a handle on.

If readers can put your books down while reading them, if they stop along the way, if they give reviews that it was slow, this workshop will fix those problems.




Put together by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith. Kris is the only person to have won the Hugo Award for her writing and her professional editing of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Dean edited as well at Pulphouse and Pocket Books, writing and editing Star Trek for over ten years. He also wrote Men in Black original novels and many, many other very popular science fiction books.

Right now Dean is also writing two science fiction series under his own name and Kris is also writing two science fiction series under her own name as well as have short stories appear regularly in Asimov’s and Analog magazines. In fact, she’s won the Asimov’s Reader’s Choice Award five times and the Analog one a few times.

Kris and Dean, with Dean doing most of the talking, will lead you through how to write science fiction short stories and novels. You’ll learn all the sub-genres of the field, as well as how to write in each and what is required of each.

How to do science fiction series? That’s included, as well as some study of the classics and what made them classics in the field.

How to come up with ideas, how to build your science fiction worlds without needing orbital mechanics, and so much more.

Again, this will cover both short fiction and novels. Science fiction is such a huge genre, but we’ll try to pack it all in a short six weeks.




Taught by Dean Wesley Smith with the help of Kristine Kathryn Rusch. For both of them, many of their hundred plus novels each have been in series. And there are many, many skills to writing successful series books that hold readers from one book to another.

This workshop will cover series in all genres, from fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and even romance, which is a genre difficult to write series in. This workshop will talk about character threads through novels, plot arches, setting threads, and so much more, including how to even see that you might have a series idea. And with this new indie world, series are popular and sell better when a writer can do it correctly.

So everything you need to know about writing a successful series.




If you want to learn how to get down inside character’s heads and stay there, this workshop teaches you that and so much more. And if critiques tell you your setting seems thin, you need this workshop.

An intense craft workshop that will help you learn how to develop memorable characters, memorable settings, and learn how to write multiple characters that can be told apart. Gain control over your own characters and learn the techniques that make a character and the setting around each character come alive to a reader.

Taught for six years here on the coast, but now has moved online.




A sentence-by-sentence, clause-by-clause look at how you can write fiction, characters, settings, and plots with depth. Your writing, your characters, your fiction will take a huge jump forward with this workshop.

This workshop goes hand-in-hand with the Character Voice workshop and the Pacing workshop. Writing With Depth workshop adds in a third and final part to the puzzle of making characters and stories have real power that holds readers in your stories. And you can take the workshops in any order. They all just add to each other.

Last fall, Kris and I did a workshop called “Strengths” that looked at writers’ work up close and helped them, we hope, understand where they are strong, and where they need work. Almost everyone who took that class needed work consistency developing characters at a deeper level. But how?

In the Character Voice workshop, both here at the coast and now online, I often told writers they were just skimming over the surface and they needed to stay down in character’s heads more. But how?

The Writing With Depth workshop shows you exactly how.

Kris and I have finally worked out a way to get down into the details to show you exactly how to add depth to your characters and your work without hurting your plotting or your pacing.

Not a theory workshop. We show you directly how to do it and you practice it and get feedback from us on how to make your work even deeper.



Ever wonder how a writer makes you stay up all night reading? And sometimes when the story doesn’t really hold you? This workshop teaches you the tricks and skills that will keep your story moving at the pace you want it to move.

From writing slow family scenes to fast action scenes, you will gain the control of the reader that you always wondered about.

This will cover a vast amount of information and writing techniques. From short stories to novels and series novels, this class applies to everything you will need to know about how to keep a story moving and the readers turning pages.






How to keep a reader reading from chapter to chapter and from scene to scene.

There are many ways besides the standard “hero hanging from a cliff” that the name of the technique is named after. In fact, there are six major cliffhangers and each week in this course will cover another way to keep your readers hooked into your stories. It will also cover how to speed up your stories and even understand when a scene or chapter should end.

Understanding how to use the major cliffhanger techniques will jump your sales and keep readers coming back to your work.



Maybe the most important workshop we do.

This workshop will teach you how to write great ad copy for your stories and novels. Name value, then covers, then ad copy are the top three things readers look at before sampling your book.

This course will teach you how to write ad copy for electronic sales, for cover letters to editors, for catalog copy to bookstores, and also back cover copy for your books. This skill that takes time to learn and this workshop will get you on the road to selling more books and stories.





Writers seldom know what genre they write in. Every wonder why your book isn’t selling well?

Maybe it’s because you put your book on the wrong electronic shelf. Not only will this workshop teach you how to identify genres, but also will teach you the structure of all the major genres. That way if you decide to write a story or a novel in a certain genre, you will understand what you need to do.

This workshop goes down inside the structure of each genre and many subgenres. You will understand genre when you finish this workshop.


How to generate ideas for stories and then how to turn the ideas into solid stories. Professional writers never wait for the muse.

We know how to take anything and make it into a story. This workshop will get you over all the fears of starting and give you an entire bag of tools and tricks to take almost nothing and turn it into a story that sells.

From basic opening tricks to story structure, this workshop covers it all.





Taught by Dean Wesley Smith and Allyson Longueira, a professional book designer with a master’s degree in design.

Everything you need to know about book cover design, from basic layout to fonts and which fonts work together. This will include how to design covers for both electronic and print books, including spines and back covers. Make your books look professional.

This is taught in InDesign.


Workshop Schedule

Each workshop is 6 weeks long and is limited to 12 writers

Again, it will take you about four hours per week to do each of these. These are the starting dates of upcoming workshops. All have openings at the moment.

Class #51… June 1st … Advanced Depth
Class #52… June 1st … How to Write Series Novels
Class #53… June 1st … Discoverability
Class #54… June 1st … Ideas into Stories
Class #55… June 2nd … Pitches and Blurbs
Class #56… June 2nd … Depth in Writing
Class #57… June 2nd … Productivity
Class #58… June 3rd … Designing Covers
Class #59… June 3rd … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #60… June 3rd … How to Write Science Fiction

Class #1… July 6th … Making a Living
Class #2… July 6th … How to Write Thrillers
Class #3… July 6th … Genre Structure
Class #4… July 6th … Character Voice/Setting
Class #5… July 7th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #6… July 7th … Depth in Writing
Class #7… July 7th … Productivity
Class #8… July 8th … Cliffhangers
Class #9… July 8th … Pacing Your Novel
Class #10… July 8th … Advanced Depth

Class #11… Aug 3rd … Advanced Depth
Class #12… Aug 3rd … How to Write Series Novels
Class #13… Aug 3rd … Discoverability
Class #14… Aug 3rd … Ideas into Stories
Class #15… Aug 4th … Pitches and Blurbs
Class #16… Aug 4th … Depth in Writing
Class #17… Aug 4th … Productivity
Class #18… Aug 5th … Designing Covers
Class #19… Aug 5th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #20… Aug 5th … How to Write Science Fiction

Class #21… Sept 7th … Making a Living
Class #22… Sept 7th … How to Write Thrillers
Class #23… Sept 7th … Genre Structure
Class #24… Sept 7th … Character Voice/Setting
Class #25… Sept 8th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #26… Sept 8th … Depth in Writing
Class #27… Sept 8th … Productivity
Class #28… Sept 9th … Cliffhangers
Class #29… Sept 9th … Pacing Your Novel
Class #30… Sept 9th … Advanced Depth



Step One: In an e-mail or snail mail letter, answer the following questions. Please number each answer.

  1. Full Name
  2. e-mail address

Step Two: Also in the letter include the following:

1.  Pick the workshop number and name of the workshop you are signing up for.

(You can sign up for more than one if you like. We had a number of people do that and they seemed to do fine. In fact, we had one great writer who did five at one time, but I would not suggest that. (grin))

2.  List an alternate workshop or date in case the workshop is full by the time you get signed up. I will e-mail you if that is the case to work out a solution. (That has seldom happened in the last seven months, so no real worries about that.)

Step Three:

1. Send answers to: with the subject header WORKSHOP only in the subject line. Or mail to WMG Publishing Online Workshops, PO Box 479 Lincoln City, OR 97367
2. Send full payment of $300 for each workshop. Payment can be sent by check to the above address or by Paypal to Checks should be made out to WMG Publishing and please put the workshop number and workshop name on the check.

(If a workshop is full and you have paid for it, I will refund your money, so no worry there either.)

66 Responses to Online Workshops

  1. flutterby says:

    Dean – how about a short online workshop on the ins and outs of createspace and print distribution? I have about 3 novels under an old and cold pen name and another under a more recent (but almost as cold) pen name, plus enought related shorts for a themed collection under my current pen name plus, soon, three connected novellas under it. If not a workshop, how about a how to up for sale as an ebook? (Apologies if you’ve done such an ebook already, and please hit me with the link 😉 )

    Okay, almost 5am. Hopefully can set aside my insomnia and manage 1.5 hours of sleep before the alarm goes off. (Please pardon any typos, eyeglasses are in the bedroom.)

    • dwsmith says:

      flutterby, heavens, by the time I wrote it, even at my ability to stay parked in a chair for hours, the silly book would be out of date because they would have changed things so much. Maybe in a year after we have leveled into a new normal. We just did a new “Think Like a Publisher” workshop last month and wow was it different in a ton of ways from the first one we did 18 months before. Stunning how fast stuff is moving.

      But thanks for thinking I could do it justice.

  2. flutterby says:

    True, it’s a fast moving train. :-)

  3. Sasha says:

    Hi Dean – these workshops sound great. After the course, do students still have access to the videos to refresh their memories?

    • dwsmith says:


      The writers attending will have access to everything for the six weeks, plus the other few weeks until the next one starts. We’ve set these up every two months, so basically access for two months. I will be encouraging people to take notes and will have other aspects of the course to send at the end as well that will help with everything, such as outlines and lists and such that are talked about as the course goes on.

  4. Sasha says:

    Thanks, Dean, that’s good to know.

  5. Lassal says:


    just wanting to let you know how much the Pitches & Blurbs workshop opened my eyes to this topic. After listening to your explanations something inside of me just clicked and everything fell into place. Like a major AHA effect.

    I AM HAVING A BLAST redoing all my existing blurbs and all the back cover copy for the upcoming print versions.
    (Sorry for shouting, but there is no other way to say this)

    Thanks for the workshop.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for “shouting” Lassal (no, really!). I was really torn between which ones to take. I’ve narrowed them down to two: blurbs and how to plot, only now I can’t figure out which is more important of *those* two! LOL!

      Blurbs I just suck at. It always seems like I am giving way too much information, and when I cut back, I don’t give enough. Totally lost.

      Plotting…torn on this one too. You’d think after putting out 17 short stories I’d be an ace, but no. I’m half plotter, half panster, and get bogged down two thirds into the novel (switching from shorts to novels seem to require a different mindset.)

      I am guessing the “plotting” course is more important for me since I can always go back and change blurbs in a published book. Not so easy with plots!

  6. Joanna Penn says:

    Hi Dean – on the interior workshop, will it be using MS Word or Pages i.e. normal desktop software OR/ will it be using InDesign or other specialist software?
    Thanks, Joanna

    • dwsmith says:

      InDesign, since anyone can get it for about $45 for a month. It’s the best. But design features are design features. But we will be using InDesign.

      • Jim Johnson says:

        Dean, could you go into more detail as to how InDesign is used in conjunction with the covers workshop? Can a participant do the workshop without access to InDesign?

        • D J Mills says:

          Jim, I took both cover and interiors and loved the courses. I also wondered if I could do the course without using InDesign and the answer is Yes, I Could. Once I understood how InDesign worked (layers & font tweaking) I replicated the same covers I created in InDesign in Adobe Photoshop Elements and in Scribus (free software similiar to InDesign). In the end, I could not tell the difference between the pdf files created in each program. Hope this helps. :-)
          Did I say Dean’s courses were excellent? :-) They are!

          • dwsmith says:

            Thanks, DJ. Much appreciated and glad they worked to give you the book design no matter the program used.

  7. Yoni says:

    Hi Dean,

    Is the Idea to Story workshop suitable for a total beginner?

  8. jax says:

    Hi Dean!

    I am in the Openings workshop and would also like to saddle up for one of these two courses: Cliffhangers or Idea to Story.

    Which one do you think I should pair with Openings?

    I DO intend to take the Plotting course, the World Building course and the Genre course in a couple of months.

    Your thoughts would help on which one to take with Openings.
    I appreciate you imput and…Thanks in advance,

    • dwsmith says:

      Jax, Since Cliffhangers talks about part of the hook that is required to keep a reader reading and Openings talks about the other half of that hook, they are a natural fit. (grin) Just e-mail me if you have more questions.

  9. Eric Stocklassa says:

    As of April 15th 2013, I have attended every workshop and lecture Kris and Dean have put out so far.
    The order I went through was the following (the ones with /’s are the ones I took simultaneously):
    1. Openings
    2. Idea to Story / Essentials / Cliffhangers
    3. Genre Structure / Pitches and Blurbs / the first three lectures (Heinlein’s Rules, Read like a Writer, Short Story Writing: The Basics)
    4. Covers / Interiors / Plot / World Building / the other two lectures (Carving out Time, Writer’s Block).

    That being said, which ones do I recommend?
    All of them. Not sorry about a single cent or minute I spent. Only sorry that I didn’t take more of them simultaneously from the get-go. I have completed fifty assignments, I have hundreds of handwritten notes, I do not regret a single crossed t on them.
    When it comes to the descriptions up there: Trust them. They are one-hundred-percent-spot-on-accurate, no hype or exaggerated claims. Ideas to Story, Openings, Cliffhangers and Essentials alone have given me the skill level to make my first professional sale. Though, cynical as I am, I will believe it when the check clears (Hi Kris! :-) ).

    The lectures will give you the basic Kris and Dean perspective. Those you pay once for and can get into again and again for refreshers. As an absolute beginner, start here. The Short Story lecture is also used for the Short Story Workshop on the Oregon coast. I sat together with a dozen professional writers on the floor of Stephanie Writt’s office to watch this (the second time I’ve seen it and I still ended up with three pages of notes!). Heinlein’s rules is such a good motivational lecture that $75 becomes a career investment. Also if you are a lit major or have ever even been spoken to by an English teacher, please consider taking Read like a Writer.

    The workshops will be six weeks, with the first five weeks ending in an assignment.
    Beginning writers will want to take: Ideas to Story, Openings and Essentials. Also consider taking Cliffhangers in tandem with Openings, since those two concepts flow into each other. They are the most awesome basic training your money and time can buy.
    Advanced writers will pick and choose, but I would bet you could learn something from all of them.

    Tips on taking some of those simultaneously:
    – Craft workshop assignments you can bang out fast (Openings, Pitches, and so forth).
    – Cliffhangers is pretty research-heavy. Essentials has one nasty reading assignment for week 2, requiring you to have read eight NYT bestsellers of the last ten years, four of which you liked, four of which you didn’t like. Completely worth it though and assignments are optional.
    – Covers and Interiors require that you get InDesign. And I would recommend that you spent $25 at to get the basic training in the program. You can do without. I did without. But I also shouted an un-Christian amount of cusswords at my computer screen, when I did the assignments.
    – Yes, you can take more than one and still have a day job and a life. Figure five hours per workshop and week. If you have a brutal day job, don’t take a workshop on a Monday and you will have all weekend to do the assignments. In fact just doing one workshop was waaaay too slow for me. I just kept looking forward to it, way too much. :-)

    Hope this comment was of some help. Feel free to ask me in a comment if anything was unclear.

    • dwsmith says:

      Thanks, Eric. Very, very much appreciated.

    • Kate Pavelle says:

      I have 2 books and 2 short stories out in gay romance, and have been told that I really should make it to GayRomLit or some other writer/publisher/fan convention. And I considered it. Last week, I followed my writing friends and their wild partying over FB. They cavorted at GRL and there were classes to take, and they autographed their books and it all looked so official and fun. I felt like a Jewish kid at Christmas.

      Yet, the money I’d have spent on airfare, hotel, a new writer admission, and booze was much better spent taking a Strengths and Openings seminar here. I, too, look forward to Thursdays. There is so much to learn. Those fun shindigs can wait until I can justify their cost by having enough work out there, and that will happen faster if I target my weak points. I’d lie if I said the assignments are easy. Even screwing something up is rewarding, though, because looking at a way in which I made a mess shows me what I need to work on.

      Hanging out here has been good for my writing morale. I can do 3k words, and yes it’s an effort, but it’s easier than it used to be. The only downside, I guess, is being tempted to redraft everything I haven’t sent out yet. It’s hard to leave well enough alone.

  10. Linda Adams says:

    How friendly are these courses for people at the extreme end of panster-dom? I’ve run into numerous courses where I can’t use the material because it’s too tied to the assumption I’m outlining.

    • dwsmith says:

      Totally friendly. In fact, since that’s how I write, off into the dark, I tend to assume that others do that as well. (grin)

  11. Ken Schneyer says:

    Hi Dean,

    While I have lots of short-story publications, I have not yet started a novel (hope to do so this summer). After Clarion, the Cambridge SF Workshop, and my various stories, I feel reasonably confident about my “pure writing” skills and how to improve them, but the business- and design-end workshops — pitches & blurbs, covers, and interiors — are topics about which I know zilch.

    So: Given that I don’t have a novel or even a novel outline at this point, would any of these three workshops be better to put off until I do have one? (I’m imagining an assignment like “Do X task for your current novel”.)



    • dwsmith says:

      Ken, you’d be fine on all three, actually, since if you are selling anything indie, either short stories, collections, or novels, you need to know how to design covers and interiors and do pitches. You get through those three, which are tough, but don’t take a vast amount of time per week, it will kill all fear of ever indie publishing.

      See all the covers I did and put up in the recent post. Those are all short stories I put into trade paper form. With blurbs. (grin)

  12. Jill Nutter says:

    Hi Dean,
    I’m thinking about taking the book cover design course. Loved Idea to Story but this one has me very nervous. Do you need any special computer software, etc.? I want to develop some of those stories I came up with in your class and try my hand at indie publishing within the next six months.

    • dwsmith says:

      Jill, yes, you will need InDesign for the covers workshop. We help with some of InDesign, but mostly you’ll have to pick it up on your own through tutorials such as as you go along. Many, many have done it and it works great. But it is a stressful few weeks in the middle of the workshop. (grin)

      You can Adobe InDesign for a subscription of about $20 per month if you only get it and nothing else. And is $25 per month and you would only need to be on it for a month or so while the workshop is going on.

      The key is once you have it, you will feel free to do any covers you want for any books you want. That’s the fun.

      • Jill Nutter says:

        Thanks Dean. Hmm. A stressful few weeks in the middle of the workshop. Now I have to figure out just how stressed I want to be during my time away from college students. :)

  13. Kate Pavelle says:

    I am really excited about the Character Voice and Setting workshop being available online, and plan to take it come January.

  14. ARW says:

    Hi Dean – I’m thinking of signing up for one of the January workshops, either “Ideas to Story” or plotting (while I wait for February, and the Cliffhangers & Openings workshops to roll around). I’ve been working with a developmental editor on my current WIP and I think my plotting is really weak :(

    For instance – I have a vague idea for the next book:
    A and B find a dead body, apparently business espionage, and then encounter the cops who think A is the killer; A must then solve the murder. [The opening is already very detailed and vivid in my mind.]
    So, to improve starting from this point, would you recommend “Ideas to Story” or “Plotting”? What are the differences between the two? One of my main concerns is that my mystery “novels” tend to be pulp-fiction sized, and not fleshy enough; another is that my subplots (romance, family) aren’t weaved in well enough.

    What are your thoughts on having a developmental editor? I know you don’t generally recommend editors for indies, but my current editor *really* helped me improve my current story, gave me some great ideas for developing humor (which I want to do), and gave me some tips on making minor characters stronger. But, I might not work with him again, mainly due to the expensive.

    Other than workshops, do you have any tips for writers to improve their craft? I feel like this could be a topic for a blog post :) Unless I’ve missed something.
    I know many indie writers are like me – an obsession with reading and fantasizing which lead to writing, but no formal degree in writing/literature. I’ve devoured fiction, non-fiction, and specific “how to write better”-type books, and people tell me I should join a critique group. The grand dream is to be a best-seller, but I feel I wouldn’t “deserve” that if I didn’t improve my writing!

    • dwsmith says:

      ARW, first off, my thoughts on a “developmental editor” whatever the hell that is. My first thought is scam. But my second thought then goes to a simple question for you… “Why would you want a collaborator on your work?” Trust me, I’ve written with dozens of people over the years, including my wife, and I love writing my own books. Just me. So why pay someone to collaborate with you who doesn’t know your voice, your way of approaching the world? Trust yourself and keep learning, which is the point of your overall question.

      As for your question on how writers can improve their craft? Read for pleasure. Critical. Practice craft. Learn how to practice as a writer. Take focused online classes where you can find them. Go to writer’s conferences and workshops and listen for tidbits. You learn craft one detail at a time when you are ready to learn it.

      And mostly follow Heinlein’s Rules. That forces you to always move forward and practice and keep learning. Nature of those rules.

      There are hundreds of ways to plot a book. The plotting workshop works through some of those ways, through the places that stop you. And without reading a word of your work, I can tell you why your subplots are weaved in enough… you think of them as subplots, which is an English teacher term and useless to creative writing. You are not down inside your character’s heads letting they act and react to the events. You are still standing up high, trying to direct traffic. Nope, your plot will come together when you get into a character’s head and stay there. The rest just flows.

      But the plotting workshop helps with that in various ways, including a bunch of ways on how to outline a novel. So if you can get past the English terms, the plotting workshop might help you at least understand where the worry needs to be based. But sounds to me like it’s more of a character problem and a writer not getting inside the character. Character Voice and Setting might be a better one to solve that plotting problem. Not kidding.

  15. ARW says:

    Thanks, Dean. I really appreciate your reply. I’ll have a bit of a think about which workshop to sign up for in January – I think you may be right, Character Voice and Setting may be more appropriate… hmm…. :)

  16. michael says:

    Dean, your website is amazing. I have learned so much! I am very interested in taking your online courses, but I feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount and variety. Can you give any advice on which ones I should start out with and in what order? My background is I have a ton of nonfiction writing experience– I’ve been published and have probably written well over a million words in nonfiction. I’ve written short stories in the past but only now seriously looking into transitioning to fiction. I’m a good writer, but would probably need some specific instruction on elements that are specific to fiction writing – See more at:

    • dwsmith says:

      Michael, let me give you a couple entry points. If you fear you have trouble coming up with ideas for stories or novels, the ideas workshop would be a good place to start. If you fear writing a novel because it’s too large, the novel plotting workshop would be a good start.

      If you want deep craft of fiction only, then Character Voice, followed by Pacing, followed by Depth workshop. Any of those three will open you up to a ton of new worlds in your writing.

      Business of writing, start with pitches and blurbs, then promotion if you are going to indie publish. If you want to learn to do it all yourself, the design workshops. Hope that helps?

  17. Teri Babcock says:

    should I have any particular software for the electronic formatting course?

    • dwsmith says:

      You’ll need InDesign for covers. That’s about $29 per month to buy. And Jutoh which is a one-time price that’s pretty low, but don’t know how much at the moment.

      • Nancy Beck says:

        When I bought it, Jutoh was $39 one-time price, and it’s still at that price. Great software. Took care of the ePub when I went direct at Kobo.

  18. Lisa Cindrich says:

    I saw that for the cover design workshop, you recommend InDesign. Does the workshop also require photo manipulation software like Photoshop? Do you know if anyone taking the workshop has successfully used a combo of freeware like Scribus and GIMP to substitute for InDesign and Photoshop? (It looks like a previous commenter did use Scribus. Didn’t see anything about whether Photoshop or similar programs were absolutely necessary to do the course assignments or just a nice extra.)

    Thanks so much for all the great info on this website! Just uploaded a novel for the first time to KDP last week. Had a friend with graphic design background do a cover for it, but I’ve realized I really would love to be able to do at least some of that work myself.

    • Kate Pavelle says:

      I’m not an “early adopter” and learning new software is a huge pain in the butt, but I did go and licensed InDesign, and it started to pay off after less than a year. The more you do the more you’ll learn. It’s a powerful program and learning it felt like pulling teeth, but now that I am sort of functional, I can make a cover and publish a book. There’s more I need to learn, but after a year of messing around, I have three books out there under my own imprint, which is an okay result. The Covers workshop really helped, but figure you’ll want to invest at least 20 (more like 40) hours on to get your feet under you and learn the basics. I wish I had done that first :-)

      • Teri Babcock says:

        I did exactly what Kate is suggesting. I spent over 30 hours over a month period on Lynda, using the free trial Adobe offers, to make sure that I had my feet under me before I took the covers course. I heartily recommend this approach, because I think you’ll get the most out of the course that way, and keep your hair.

        (FWIW I also looked into using GIMP and Scribus, but it is so much more difficult to find quality instruction for Scribus that I abandoned the idea of using it entirely. It wasn’t worth my time.)

  19. Thom says:


    Would love an online course on short story writing. Any plans?


  20. Zahra Brown says:

    Could we do two courses at once e.g. Genres and Blurbs?

    • dwsmith says:

      Oh, sure, Zahra. A number of people have taken more than that at once, but I suggest that unless you have a lot of free time, no more than three workshops at once, and I will tell you if workshops don’t work well together at the same time. Three takes about 10-12 hours per week, which is more than it sounds. Two takes about 3-6 hours per week. Genres and Blurbs work great together and should average about 4 hours per week total in time. And I will work around any vacation issues, no problem.

  21. Peggy says:

    Hi, Dean.

    I’m wondering what kind of things are addressed in the productivity workshop. I don’t need help finding time to write. Does it spend time on that, or does it just assume we’ve found the time to write and then teach us strategies to be more productive in that time?

    Thanks! The workshop descriptions are great; the three I am most interested in are Productivity, Character Voice & Setting, and Depth in Writing.

    Was the “Strengths” workshop an in-person workshop? Will you be teaching that again soon?

    • dwsmith says:

      Peggy, the Productivity workshop spends very little time on helping you find more time to write, since that’s an individual thing. We touch on it a tiny bit at the start, but that’s it. The workshop is all about how to use the time, and the frustrations around production and energy and time and so on. The mind games we all have. Finding the time is the easy part, this workshop works on how to use the time and gain more stories of quality out of the time you have found. That make sense?

  22. Emily Casey says:

    Was the originality workshop discontinued? I wanted to take that one next.

    • dwsmith says:

      Emily, yes, it wasn’t working the way Kris and I wanted it to function as a workshop. So we are thinking of bringing it back, all six weeks of lectures, as a long lecture instead of a workshop. So hold on, it will return. Just not as a workshop. (grin)

      • Emily Casey says:

        Do you think it’ll be ready by the end of the year? I’d love to take Originality, but if it’s going to be a long wait, I can fill my schedule until then.


        • dwsmith says:


          I doubt it will be by the end of the year. But December for me is pretty calm time, so I might get to it. Just not certain is all. So more likely sometime in the spring of 2015.

  23. Harvey Stanbrough says:

    I posted this here in case it and your response might help other writers too. I’m good and getting better at just writing into the dark. Been writing and publishing at least one short story per week since April (haven’t missed, fingers crossed). I’m currently signed up for the Science Fiction workshop and the Ideas workshop in November. I will start my first novel soon and maybe two concurrently. (I will choose among three ideas.) Thing is, I want to write the novel(s) into the dark as well (no outline, etc.). Of Pacing and Depth in Writing, which would be more useful to me for writing into the dark on a novel? Thanks in advance.

    • dwsmith says:

      Depth of writing by a long ways, Harvey. Pacing is good, but Depth will help you get over the white page problem of writing into the dark and help you get inside characters better. So depth by a long ways.

      • Danielle says:

        Harvey, Good idea to post to assist others.

        Depth is helping me, for sure. I recently sent in assignment 3 and can see the improvement already. For example, while doing that assignment I saw ways I could’ve gone deeper in the second assignment.

        I just signed up for the Writing Into the Dark lecture series and I’m looking forward to it.

        The Getting Your Book in bookstores lecture gave me the info needed so that I was able to finish getting my first book set up in CreateSpace (Expanded Distribution channel). I just didn’t understand the discounting and royalty structure prior to that lecture.

        The Productivity workshop made me think of even more ways I could be more productive. So I’m using some of his suggestions as well as some of my own. It’s progress.

        The Pacing workshop may be next. We’ll see.

        I’ve had to create a list of these lectures and workshops so that I know which I’ve taken. There are so many to choose. Keep ’em coming Dean!

        • dwsmith says:

          Thanks, Danielle. Glad they are working. And yes, the depth is a workshop that really helps. Sort of an up and down process, but a lot of writers have told me after finishing the workshop that they now understand and can see openings and depth.

          So thanks!

  24. Sheila says:

    Did you just totally kill Worldbuilding? I was planning on taking that next.

    • dwsmith says:

      Afraid we did. It had gotten dated along with the plotting and interior book design. We might try to bring it back in a more modern fashion later in the year if we keep going with these.

  25. Danielle says:


    Several questions here. Does the short story workshop involve writing a complete short story? If so, would it be based on your idea, similar to what you do in Depth in Writing, or do we use our own ideas? Would this workshop be too much to take with Character, Voice, and Setting?

    • dwsmith says:

      Danielle, you write a short story per week for four weeks, based on anthology assignments. So yes, it might be a little much with Character/Voice, which has some writing as well, but not that much. (grin) However, taking it with Productivity or Making a Living shouldn’t be bad at all. Or Genre structure, workshops without a lot of actual fiction writing.

  26. Julie says:

    How many words each week in the writing assignments for the ‘strength’ workshop, please?

    • dwsmith says:

      About a thousand words or so per week, give or take. Enough for us to see how you are doing in any area we are asking about. There will be six assignments over the six weeks.

  27. Ulrike says:

    I am considering taking the Depth In Writing workshop. Can you give me an estimate how many words or pages per homework assignment are required?

    English isn’t my first language, so I need to take translation time in account. I am a really slow writer too. :(

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