I’m really starting to hate that word, “busy.”

“How you doin’?”

“Busy. You?”

“Totally busy.”

“Well, it’s good to keep busy.”

“Oh yeah, love being busy.”

This is a conversation I’ve had over and over again, instigated by me as often as not. I like to Tweet about how busy I am, blog about it, too, and sometimes complain about it, but I think I need to stop that. I’m actually starting to get on my own nerves.

So instead of a post about how busy I am, how about a post about how lucky I am to have all of these opportunities happening at the same time?

And I’m honestly not being sarcastic about that.

I have had months where it seems like a whole years’ deadlines have all converged on a three-week period. That’s not literally true, of course. It seems like that. And this month, it has definitely seemed like that. I can’t remember a time in the last several months at least when I was so b—I mean . . . rich in opportunity.

This month is a bit different than other times, though. Instead of feeling the effects of my own tendency to procrastinate—not always, but often enough that it can sometimes be an issue—this is really just a matter of scheduling.

But so far I’m not in really bad shape, deadline-wise, and I’m staying on top of it and you know what? I’m actually having a ball.

I love the work I’m doing, especially the teaching.

And that’s really where stuff is piling on, for the better.

Now I start trying to sell you stuff, so bear with me. Or better yet, come along with me, because this isn’t work. This is fun.

The next run of my Pulp Fiction Workshop begins this week—still plenty of room to sign up for that We’ll start writing a pulp-inspired 6000-word short story this Thursday, October 20.

This afternoon’s priority will be finishing up the written course material for a new online course I’m teaching for Writer’s Digest University:

Horror Writing Intensive: Analyzing the Work of Genre Master Stephen King

Here’s how it’s being sold:

It’s no accident that Stephen King is one of the world’s best-selling authors. He knows what scares us—it isn’t just kids and clowns—and he knows how to use words to invoke that fear in the same way a horror movie director uses lighting and editing.

In this two-session course we’ll look at each of those two vital elements: knowing what scares your readers, and knowing how to use words to bring that fear to life. We’ll look at examples from Stephen King’s writing to take a deep dive into both the why and the how of writing horror like a (Stephen) King.

In this class, you’ll have the opportunity to write an outline and a 2,000 word short story or chapter incorporating elements of suspense that moves towards a well-paced climax. These two assignments will be submitted for instructor critique.

This workshop also offers two video tutorials in which author and instructor Philip Athans discusses horror writing by analyzing the writing of Stephen King.

To get the most from this workshop you should:

Do the writing! Even if the assignments don’t match up perfectly to your current work-in-progress, go ahead and create something fresh. You might just surprise yourself with a great short story, or the seed for your next best-selling novel.

I’m really excited about this—looking forward to getting some great horror writing, but more than that, the online conversations that happen when course participants actually, y’know, participate.

You should sign up for this—the inaugural course starts October 27.

And that’s the same day I get on a plane to sunny Los Angeles for the:

Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference


This’ll be my third trip to LaLaLand for that (or a similar) event and I’m so looking forward to it.

This year I’ll have two seminars:

Friday, October 28 at 11:30 is Exploring Science Fiction and Fantasy—what I hope will be mostly Q&A on a subject you know I can talk about forever. Keeping that to an hour will be a challenge, but I’ll rely on the good people at Writer’s Digest to gently but firmly usher me out so no one misses lunch. This will be similar to the event I just did a couple weeks ago at another outstanding event, Write on the Sound, here in Western Washington. I left that event exhausted but energized at the same time, and expect nothing different in LA.

And that’s not all for me there. On Saturday at 10:15 I’ll give the attending authors a wake up call with Lessons from the Pulps for Writers in Every Genre. I know it must seem as though I’ve become overwhelmingly pulp-obsessed of late, but ever since I ran the first pulp workshop as a two-session in-person class at Bellevue College it’s been one of my absolute favorites. The lessons we learn from that fast-and-furious writing style, and with advice from the great Lester Dent and others of his contemporaries, has yielded some amazing stories (oops, see what I did just there, that actually wasn’t intentional!) in every iteration both online and in-person. This is the first time I’ve ever had to try to cover it in just an hour, though, so wish me luck.

Oh, and I’m deep into an online Worldbuilding course right now as well, with the next one of those scheduled to start on November 10th.

And I have the regular workload of editing and consulting . . .

I’m busy!

And I’m loving every minute of it because so much of what’s keeping me busy is also keeping me in touch with the greatest people in the world:



—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 the recently-released How to Start Your Own Religion and Devils of the Endless Deep. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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4 Responses to BUSY BUSY BUSY

  1. Nice way of thinking differently about busy.

    Have fun speaking at LA

  2. I really appreciate this post. The response to “how’s it going?” seems to be always “crazy busy,” and this is stressful. It’s important to remember that sometimes that busy-ness is a product of opportunity.

    This post also sort of reminds me of John Scalzi’s post this week about all the projects he has on the docket right now. It was the sort of post that I hope to have the opportunity to write once a year when my own writing career is farther down the road, a little more established.

    For me, I find that finding a work-life balance is especially hard because writing and authoring isn’t my only career. I also teach full-time. I also have a young family. (In other words, I’m “crazy busy.”) I’m trying to find the opportunity and joy in all of that, but finding a non-stressful even keel can be tough sometimes.

    Anyway, thanks for the enjoyable post. 🙂 And have fun in Los Angeles! I’ve been to the WD conferences out there a couple of times and found them to be really great!

  3. Beverly Buchanan says:

    Hi Phil,

    You sound so much less stressed now than earlier in the year. I hope that is the case. Enjoy LA. I wish I could be there (or you would consider coming to Toronto).

    If anyone is on the fence about Phil’s courses, let me just say I have taken both and enjoyed them, as well as getting great feedback and information. Now to see if I can find the money for the new course and get my writing back on track.

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