Allston & Stackpole Expand Writers’ “Inner Circle”

Aaron Allston and Michael Stackpole began Saturday’s series of “Inner Circle” hourly writers’ workshops with “21 Days to a Novel,”  Sat 10AM Hanover A-B.  Starting on day 1 with a sentence describing one character, Stackpole built a working, yet flexible, novel outline in a mere 21 days.  In spite of the tight schedule, he advised that this was not a sprint, but an endurance, survival race.  “To become a novelist, you just write to the end.  Don’t worry about speed.”

By day 18, Stackpole warned about “brain melt,” but said to resist the temptation to edit.  After the outline is finished, he advised to leave it for a minimum of two weeks before returning to start the work.

Allston took over for “Style and Mood,” a panoply of techniques for the craft of writing, at 11:00.  He said to learn craft first, then style.  Warning against unnecessary adjectives and adverbs and clichés, he described these as insulating the reader from what she/he should be feeling.  He also dissected techniques that created moods with elevating energy and action.  He continued to stress evoking emotion.  “You need to feel emotions when you write…try to write your guts onto the page; you need pure emotion.

Stackpole returned for “Writing a Successful Series” at 1PM.  A series “keeps readers coming back.  In our hardwired hind brains, we collect everything, the Pokemon principle.”  He stressed character growth and talked about three classes of series characters.  “The true secret of writing a series is thinking ahead.”

“Ruining Your Career Before it Gets Started” at 2:30PM mixed Allston’s positive tips and what to avoid in launching a writing career.  “Write the best you can,” he began, and abjured “diva behavior” which would wreck a writer’s future.  “Know your markets” and “be nice” to your fans.  “Be an author in public,” he counseled.

Stackpole continued his countdown to a capacity crowd with “21 Ways to Kill your Novel” at 4PM.  “Is writing to a fad a good idea?  No.”  He listed both historic and fictional bubbles that were traps.  “Look for evergreen areas that constantly need content….You must have a long-term plan.  You are not writing a novel, but creating an entertainment property.”

Stackpole again stressed the importance of characterization and other rules of the craft.

The hourly writers’ workshops with Allston and Stackpole will conclude on Sunday with seminars beginning at 10AM, “Plotting”; 11:30AM, “Plot Analysis”; 1PM, “Edit to perfection”; and 2:30PM, “Showing Off Your Manuscript” in Hanover A-B in the Hyatt.

Author of the article

Amy L. Herring (Louise Herring-Jones) writes speculative fiction, with a preference for historical fantasy and alternate mystery. Her stories, appearing in fourteen anthologies, include “The Poulterer’s Tale” in God Bless Us, Every One—Christmas Carols beyond Dickens (Voodoo Rumors Media, 2019). Amy is a NaNoWriMo co-municipal liaison. She also coordinates the Huntsville (Alabama) Literary Association’s writers’ group. Visit her online at