Settled amidst his horde (enough tomes to incite any literate dragon’s envy), author and long-time Dragon Con regular David B. Coe revealed insights about his writing practices and career to aspiring students and alumni at Jody Lynn Nye’s Writers’ Workshop Friday morning. Coe described building a reputation in epic fantasy, publishing his first novel with TOR books in 1994 after submitting only five chapters and an outline. He said that would never happen today and attributed his beginner’s launch into traditional publishing to his editor’s free rein after Terry Goodkind’s first novel Wizard’s First Rule had “gone gold.”
He later adopted the pseudonym “D. B. Jackson” at TOR’s request before emerging in another genre, historical urban fantasy/self-styled “tricorn punk” (Thieftaker Chronicles). (He also wrote his latest series of time-travel fantasy, The Islevale Cycle, as Jackson.) This alternate penname is now an open secret and a sometime occasion for gentle ribbing. Using his good friend A. J. Hartley as an example, however, Coe described how an author can write across genres and for different age groups under principally one name while maintaining an authorial brand and achieving success.
Beginning with his first website, Coe transitioned into a variety of platforms for author marketing, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Although blogging achieved its apparent apex of popularity 10 to 15 years ago, Coe now blogs three times weekly (“Monday Musings,” Writing Tip Wednesday,” and “Photo Friday”) and said that fresh content was helpful. He has experienced an increase in traffic to his staple website, initially to his “Events and Appearances” list and now to his “About the Author” bio (after in-person appearances were limited by the pandemic).
Coe waxed lovingly about his writing space and declines to write elsewhere in favor of ready resources (all those books!) and a regular weekday schedule. He writes to a specified word count (2,500 words for novels/novellas, 1,500 to 2,000 words for short stories) each writing day and fits in other author tasks and additional hours depending on his progress. He also admitted to a preference for an afternoon treat of sugared ice coffee. Over time, he has developed a clear perception of his own author’s voice and can read books in the genre in which he is writing without losing his own unique style as he composes. He also edits as he goes, but preserves more major changes for final revisions, the end results of a veteran’s confidence in his own time-tested methods. Although his research is profuse, he tries not to get caught in “rabbit holes” and uses the Literature & Latte program Scrivener as a writing and research collation tool.
Coe encouraged the assembled writers to submit their work, but to follow strictly each publishing venue’s submission guidelines and avoid obvious errors which could lead quickly to a “thanks, but no thanks,” rejection. He described his experiences as a co-editor (with Joshua Palmatier) for Zombies Need Brains, LLC, anthologies to clarify the conflict inherent in an editor’s need to conquer an enormous slush pile versus taking the time to “tease out the merits” of each story. But he also applauded the virtue of bypassing an obvious story in favor of a unique tale that fit the anthology’s theme. Coe paraphrased Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” in suggesting that emerging writers take “the [path] less traveled” in their creative direction to discover what he, as an editor, is looking for.
For more about Coe (and Jackson), including those Wednesday blog writing tips(!), visit http://www.davidbcoe.com/