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Naïve Artists

12 February 2011

David Farland is one of the great writing teachers.  You may recognize the names of two of the students he taught at Brigham Young University, Stephanie Meyer and Brandon Sanderson.  There are many more former students, both from BYU and from Dave’s writing seminars, earning a living as professional fiction writers.  One of the reasons Dave is such a good teacher of writing is that he is also a successful and prolific author himself, writing as both David Farland and David Wolverton.

Dave provides a free daily email newsletter, David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants, which is full of excellent insights and advice on being a writer.  I can’t find a newsletter archive on his blog, but I have a link to the signup page at the end of the excerpts from one of his recent emails.


Unfortunately, I see people mess up potential careers time and again because they think that it’s easier than it is. You might say, “I could write a book!” And I’d think, Yes, you probably can. “I could write a great book!” Yes, but that’s a bit harder. “I could write a great book and publish it myself!” Yes, but that’s a bit harder still. You’d have to come up with money to publish it, and then spend time marketing, shipping, and so on. “I could write a great book, publish it myself, and sell as many copies as HARRY POTTER.” Well, you’re delusional if you think you can do that. You’ve gone from imagining something that’s hard to being a crackpot. You’re delusional. You may understand the art of writing, but it’s the intricate relationships of marketing, publishing, filmmaking, film distribution, and so on that you don’t understand.

When you work with a large publisher, you’re dealing with a firm that has been building up relationships with major retail chains, publicists, independent bookstores, sales reps, editors, art directors, news agencies, magazine editors, and so on for hundreds of years. You can’t see it from the outside, but tens of thousands of man hours might go into creating a bestseller, along with huge investments of capital, and hundreds of thousands of hours of making connections and nurturing relationships. You alone, as an author, can’t duplicate that, at least not in fiction writing. (You can do it in nonfiction.)

. . . .

As an artist, don’t try to be a master at everything. I like to write. That’s my thing. I don’t see myself, for example, ever directing a film. I once took a class in directing, and learned enough so that when I see a director doing a good job, I recognize that he’s doing well. I’m enough of an artist that I could probably do quite well at directing—if I wanted to spend a lifetime mastering the craft.

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David Farland, Writing Advice