Or are you taking a continuing education class? Going to writing seminars at conventions?

What are you doing this year to improve your craft?

And yes, this is at least partially an introduction to a plug . . .


On Thursday afternoon I fly down to Los Angeles for the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference. This is an intensive three-day conference specifically oriented toward novelists. The schedule of speakers and topics is fantastic, and once again they were gracious enough to invite lil’ ol’ me!

I’ll be running two sessions this weekend.

First, on Friday morning, an intensive three-hour “boot camp”: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels. We’ll cover as much as we can in that time, focusing on what makes the SF and fantasy genres a unique writing challenge. And for what it’s worth I can answer that in one word: Worldbuilding.

Then on Saturday morning, I bring my Living Dialogue workshop to LA for the first time. This one is for authors of any genre, and we get into some real kung-fu dialog skills, inspired by a post first offered here.

And you know what else I’m going to be doing this weekend?

I’m going to be attending other seminars.

One of the great benefits to being invited to speak at conferences is that it gets you into the conference itself, so when I’m done being a font of wisdom, I can go drink from some other fonts. There is no point at which you’re done learning to write. This is not something you can perfect—I don’t care who you are. And the more opportunities you give yourself to learn, the better you’ll be.


Okay, so maybe it’s not in the budget to, with a couple day’s notice from me, register for this event and book a flight to LA and a hotel room, and meals, and so on. Okay, then what else are you going to do?

When I teach Living Dialog at Bellevue College it costs less than a hundred bucks (I think . . . don’t quote me on that, the college sets the price, not me) and no one so far has driven more than fifty miles or so to attend, so I’m not asking you to book a trip from wherever you are to Seattle for that, though I certainly wouldn’t stop you!

So what’s going on where you live? There are at least two great writer’s conferences in the Seattle area every year, and a couple of SF, fantasy, comic book, video game, and anime conventions that have writing programs. Every community in America has a community college, right?

And then, of course, there’s the internet.

Once again thanks to the good people at Writer’s Digest I’m bringing my Worldbuilding class online. This is a slightly abridged version of the eight-week course I’m teaching now at Bellevue College, but we’ll do some of the same writing assignments, and cover an awful lot of the same ground, and you’ll be able to ask questions, have your text reviewed . . . I wouldn’t have signed up if I didn’t think it was worth it.

Still out of your budget?

Do you have a library? Can you get your hands on a book? Maybe a book about writing? How about any book at all? You can and should be reading constantly—every author who’s ever lived can be a mentor.

There’s wisdom out there for the taking—go get it!


—Philip Athans





About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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  1. Shawn Colletti says:

    Great post and wonderful advice as always. I wish I could make it to just one of those sessions but for now I’ll have to stick with my other sources which include your amazing blog and few choice books that have helped me along the way.

    Also, I have to agree that the number one hardest thing about writing fantasy and science fiction is the worldbuilding. I won’t pretend that writing in something like a shared world setting is easy but it’s got to be easier than starting from scratch.

    • Philip Athans says:

      Yes and no. Though when writing in a shared world you don’t have to do all that worldbuilding yourself, the experience is much more like writing historical fiction. You have to do, in some cases, just as much research and you’re bound by the “reality” of that world in the same way you’d be bound by real world history. It’s all a different set of challanges, but no one ever said it was going to be easy!

      • Shawn Colletti says:

        Agreed. The work load and dedication is definitely the same so “easier” was the wrong word to use. I guess I just meant that in a shared setting, you at least have that established world to fall back on. But I don’t really have any experience to fall back on. Just speculation.

  2. Craig says:

    Have you considered writing a book on World Building? $80 bucks (USD) for the webinar is a bit steep. I’m interested though as clearly this is an area where you have a lot to offer…

    I keep referring to my good ol’ AD&D 2nd edition Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide for ideas and organization…

    • Philip Athans says:

      I have considered a worldbuilding book, for sure, and may just be pitching that in the next few months. Stay tuned!

  3. Pingback: Cover Reveal: The Winter Creek Hunter - My Writer's Cramp

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