We wrote a novel from scratch in 30 days, LIVE, in front of a thousand people. Want to see how we did it, every step of the way, with nothing held back?
Watch as two full-time authors “unbox” their 1.5-million-words-per-year process, moving from NO IDEA on Day 1 to a finished novel on Day 30.
You'll get over forty-seven hours of video, audio, and the corresponding transcripts. You'll see our mistakes, successes, meetings, emails, edits, and notes … and every inch of our struggles.
You'll read every word of every version, from rough draft to final polish, and watch a new world be born out of nothing.
Stuck In Your Writing? Feeling Frustrated? We Totally Get It.
In 1999, Johnny — one of the three partners here at Sterling & Stone — wrote his first novel. It then took him twelve years to turn that rambling manuscript into something others might want to read.
Stephen King once compared the process of writing a novel to crossing the ocean in a bathtub, and during those twelve years, Johnny could relate.
When you're halfway through your journey and unsure where you are, sometimes all you can do is to keep going, hoping that it will all work out.
But in today's competitive publishing world, no one can wait that long. Today, not only do you have to finish the book you're working on right now … you have to finish the next one, and the next one, and the next one.
Some writers manage to pluck great ideas from the aether and churn out one book after another. But whatever secret brings them amazing ideas and fast, quality production, they're not sharing.
The bad news is that you really do have to write a lot to get noticed today.
But the good news is that given our production rate of over 1.5 million words a year (that's one and a half times the full Harry Potter series), we might be just the guys to show you exactly how to do it.
And we're ready to share!
Our Door Is Open
Writing can be hard, like building an engine is hard.
At least in the field of engine-building, there are courses and apprenticeships. At least there are people out there who will show you, bolt by bolt, how it’s done. But that’s not true with writing.
There are some great books out there on the craft, and in the 12-year span between beginning his first novel and finishing it, Johnny read plenty.
But reading is never the same as seeing, and studying lessons is nothing compared to sitting by an expert’s side, observing their every move.
Yet, try as he did during those dozen years, Johnny couldn’t find a single successful writer willing to let him stand behind them, taking notes as they penned their masterpieces.
You're luckier than Johnny.
Because although there used to be no successful, full-time authors willing to let people peek over their shoulders, that's changed.
We are Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and David Wright — the Sterling & Stone team. And if you'd like to peek over our shoulders while we write a full-length novel from start to finish (starting without even an inkling of an idea and publishing a month later), we'd be honored to have you.
We're Bestselling Authors, Podcasters, and Authorpreneurs
When we first said we wanted to:
write a book in 30 days …
in front of a live audience …
with absolutely no idea what story we'd be telling…
our favorite response came from a woman who said we were “drool bucket crazy.”
We're actually not crazy.
We're just used to pushing the boundaries of independent publishing.
The three of us (Johnny, Sean, and Dave) are co-hosts of the top-rated Self-Publishing Podcast and co-authors of the #1 Marketing bestseller Write. Publish. Repeat: The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success.
Together we've published well over 6 million words of popular fiction — more than a hundred books.
Our publishing company, Sterling & Stone, runs several distinct imprints including Collective Inkwell (dark horror and fantasy), Realm & Sands (thoughtful, genre-defying fiction), and The Smarter Artist, an educational line that shows authors and artists how to “get smarter faster.”
We believe in taking risks, sharing what works for us — no matter how uncomfortable or raw it might be.
We also believe in iterative growth. Because as much as we knew when we wrote Write. Publish. Repeat., we lapped ourselves the next year with massive developmental leaps in storytelling.
Despite the tight constraints of Fiction Unboxed, the project produced one of our best novels to date.
It also spawned a first-of-its kind “open source fiction” project and a landmark Story World Summit … which, in turn, forced us to ratchet up another notch with our most complicated work yet: a mindbender novel called Axis of Aaron that wouldn't have been possible a year earlier.
Every week, thousands of people tune into our podcast to hear what we're willing to try next. So when we announced our plan to let the world watch us write a story (warts and all, with not one tiny iota of the process held back) they didn't think it was drool-bucket worthy at all.
Quite the contrary. We've received more thank-you mail about this project — from writers who say they finally finished long-stalled stories after watching us “demystify” the art of telling stories and seeing that it's just a matter of doing the work — than anything else we've ever done.
Hear From Fellow Unboxers
It has been so inspiring to see Sean and Johnny write a book in 30 days that I've finally written the first draft of the book I have started on over and over again during the last year. To anyone who’s the least bit interested in writing or have a long lost dream of becoming an author: You should take this deal. You won’t regret it!
1,000 Writers Have Already Joined Us. Now It's Your Turn!
We're “Unboxing” What Used To Be A Black-Box Process
After releasing Write. Publish. Repeat., we were slammed by a reader tsunami. They loved the nuts-and-bolts advice in our bestselling book, but they still had one huge question:
“Okay, I understand that I need to write a lot of books in order to get noticed and feel creatively fulfilled … but HOW do I do that, exactly?”
There were many versions of that question:
- How do you come up with story ideas?
- How do you turn raw ideas into plots?
- How do you create believable, realistic characters that readers will understand and connect with?
- How do you get past writer's block?
- How do you keep from writing yourself into corners … and how do you get out of those corners when it happens anyway?
We thought about writing another book to answer people's questions, but a better solution was to show them instead.
We started from ground zero, without a single idea (no plots, no hooks, not even an inkling of our forthcoming book's genre), because that's where so many writers find themselves today.
Then we brainstormed, trying to generate ideas, and we filmed those sessions.
Once we had a raw idea, Sean fleshed them out into a bare-bones story frame. We shared that framework, and we filmed our meetings as Johnny shot holes in the story, prompting Sean to make it better and fuller.
When Johnny began writing, he posted each day's new rough-draft words, allowing participants to read the in-progress story even before Sean saw them.
(This part of the process made Dave cringe. Dave, like most writers, would NEVER let the world see his rough drafts. Doing so was like standing on a stage naked.)
When we got stuck, we met to untangle the knots, and filmed those meetings, too.
We showed it all; we held nothing back.
By the end of 30 days, we had a finished, polished, and publication-ready novel: a 100,000 word steampunk young adult novel called The Dream Engine that took place in a story world in which dozens of other writers were already starting to tell their own stories.
We also had a full 28 hours of recorded meetings (along with accompanying audio versions and transcripts), a complete story diary showing Johnny's thoughts and plans as he discovered the story's twists and turns while writing, a bevy of emails between us, three stages of drafts, an amateur reading of the book Sean made as he did his final polish, and more.
After that, whenever people asked us any of those troublesome questions like, “How do you blast through story problems when you get stuck,” we could simply point to Fiction Unboxed and say, “That's how.”
What Fiction Unboxed Will Teach You (And The One Lesson You'll Never Forget)
Fiction Unboxed isn't a course.
There are no lessons, no homework, no bulleted points of take-home messages. But with all that video, audio, and written content (not to mention all those drafts of our story), it's much better than a course.
Rather than teaching at you, we did for you.
Rather explaining storytelling theory, we told a story. And by standing at our sides, you'll learn so much more than you could from a lecture's worth of distance.
You'll Learn That Great Ideas Are a Dime A Dozen
One of the things we said in Write. Publish. Repeat. is that good writers don't find great ideas; good writers understand that they can make any idea great. The idea that became The Dream Engine (and, subsequently, spawned our series and an open-source story world in which dozens of other authors are now writing their own books) was spawned during a one-hour break on Day 3. Sean started his walk around the lake with nothing, but returned with six one-sentence story-starters. We picked one, then began stretching it into the shape we wanted it to be.
You'll Learn What to Do When You Get Stuck
In the final five rough-draft days of Fiction Unboxed, we held four emergency meetings to untie complicated knots in our storyline. We'd backed ourselves into corners; we'd opened boxes that no longer made sense to us; we'd even totally screwed up the ending. Everyone gets stuck. The trick is seeing how to get unstuck … and trusting that there is always a way.
You'll Learn A Pre-Production and Outlining Process That Will Make You Write Faster
If you want to write quickly and not get stuck as you try to outrun your doubts, the best thing you can do is show up to the page with a plan already in mind. Sean's detailed “story beats” process is one of the only reasons we're able to move as fast as we do, and in Fiction Unboxed, you'll see it in action.
You'll Learn How To Build A Book In “Layers,” and How It's Not Important to Get Things Perfect the First Time Through
One of our favorite parts of the process happened within the last few days, when Johnny took his final pass through the draft to add mentions of things that only came out at the very end of the story, and to “salt” recurring themes that hadn't been in place during the first two drafts. We call this “reverse foreshadowing”: a way of arriving at exciting story climaxes and only THEN going back to add the leading events.
You'll Learn How Much Detail to Give Your Outline Versus How Much to Trust That Your Story Will Reveal As You Go
Stephen King said that stories exist in the ground like fossils, and that the writer's job isn't to create them so much as to discover them. As you watch us craft The Dream Engine, you'll see how true that was — how much didn't exist in the outlines or meetings, but only appeared from nowhere during Johnny's draft.
You'll Listen in as We Decide How to Market the Finished Book
Telling a story isn't the same as selling it. We owed it to the others writing in our new story world to make the Dream Engine series popular, and in one of Fiction Unboxed‘s final sessions, you'll hear our five-year plan for blowing it up.
The Unboxing Starts Now
We did the work — writing a book from scratch in a month, in front of a live audience, to demystify fiction and show frustrated storytellers what's possible. We recorded it all, documenting every nugget forever. And now Fiction Unboxed‘s huge, nothing-held-back archive is there for you right now, ready to show you what's possible and supercharge your writing process.
It's your turn to decide whether or not you'd like to take the ride of your creative lifetime.
If you've ever wanted to write a book but convinced yourself that you couldn't do it, I highly recommend Fiction Unboxed. Johnny, Sean and Dave prove beyond any doubt it's possible to go from brainstorming to finished product in 30 days. Sometimes, when you're doubting yourself, all you need is someone to show you it can be done. Johnny, Sean and Dave showed me it can be done. Now I'm going to go do it!
If you're someone who likes to have every bit of the process broken down, Fiction Unboxed is for you. If you like seeing how other creatives work and cherry-picking the tools that work for you, Fiction Unboxed is for you. If you need to be motivated, then this is the kick up the bum you've been waiting for. Super inspiring and intense, these guys will have you laughing and learning at the same time.
Change the Way You Write Forever
Destroy the barriers keeping you from creating your best, most life-changing work.
Fiction Unboxed will show you exactly what we do when we get stuck, how we prepare for our stories so that hiccups are relatively rare, and how we layer our book to deliver maximum delight to our reader.
You'll see us start from ground zero, without a single idea, then brainstorm, generate ideas, massage our raw idea, flesh it out into a bare-bones story frame, start our rough draft with each day's words posted in order as the story developed, and untangle every one of our knots.
Fiction Unboxed comes with the fully finished novel The Dream Engine novel. And with every recorded meeting (along with accompanying audio versions and transcripts), a complete story diary, all our emails, three stages of drafts, and an amateur reading of the book that Sean recorded during his final polish, you'll see exactly how our story went from “vapor to paper.”
And from now on when people ask you, “How do you blast through story problems when you get stuck?” you can simply point to Fiction Unboxed and say, “That's how,” (or keep the secret to yourself).
Ready to Unbox?
Fiction Unboxed includes every story meeting (in video, audio, and transcripts), every draft of an in-progress novel, every bit of communication between the authors, every outline and note taken during the process, and much more.
Basically, you're buying a complete record of what it takes to write a novel from start to finish. It might just change the way you write forever. Over 1,000 happy writers have already joined us.
“But Wait, There's More!”
We know it's a cliché. But there really is more, and it's AWESOME.
Because we want you to succeed, we've decided to add two huge bonuses for writers who want an unbeatable bundle that will give them a lot more for their investment.
So when you invest in Fiction Unboxed, you will also receive:
BONUS #1: Fiction Unboxed 1.5 ($79 value)
We decided to step into the excitement of November's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and do a pared-down version of Fiction Unboxed that we're terming “1.5” as we write the sequel to The Dream Engine.
1.5 wasn't as compressed as 1.0 — we followed a more linear process — but you'll still see all our meetings and all our drafts, day by day as we write them for NaNoWriMo. And as you go through 1.5, you'll find a special surprise waiting for you at the halfway point.
We saw very cool new lessons in 1.5 that we think you'll love, because sequels are different animals than first-in-series books.
How do we expand on the characters and the world and up the stakes?
How do we revisit the same themes in new ways?
How do we add to the property and maximize the profit potential of the series?
You'll see it all unfold just as you did with the original Dream Engine.
BONUS #2: Our 5-Part “Planning & Outlining Novels Using Scrivener Writing Software” Course ($20 value)
When we started talking about how effective our “story beats” process was in helping us write better books faster, our tribe begged us to tell them more. The answer was this five-module video course in which Sean takes you through his step-by-step process for taking a one-sentence premise and expanding it into a story summary and then a full (but entirely flexible and creatively unrestricting) chapter-by-chapter outline.
Sean explains our filmmaker-like methods of “casting” characters (so you know exactly who they are, what they look like, and why they do the things they do) and “location scouting” (so you can see your world vividly inside your mind, before you write your first sentence).
People were clamoring for this series throughout Unboxed, and now, with this the bundle, you can get it for free.
Cool bonuses, right? So now the only question that remains is…
What Are You Waiting For?
The World Is Growing.
The Dream Engine launched to an enthusiastic reception, immediately garnering a 4.8-star average and attracting a ton of attention.
The first round of readers said they couldn't believe that such a quality book had been written from nothing to polished final draft in a month, and the second round, who'd never heard of Fiction Unboxed, praised its depth and believable, relatable characters.
We've published the second and third Dream Engine books, and with each book, the momentum behind the project is growing.
Thanks to Fiction Unboxed‘s “open-source fiction” nature, any writer who chooses may write and sell their own books (in any genre, for any age audience) in the world without asking our permission or paying us royalties.
Dozens of writers are already doing so, and we met in person with five of them at our landmark Story World Summit. They're writing canon series to augment the core series.
As the world grows, interest in the world will naturally expand. Even if we never work directly together, we're all in this together.
The More Fans Any Book In The World Has, The More Potential Fans Any Other Book In The World Will Inherit
Maybe you'd like to write your own book. It's a growing world with a quickly blooming, built-in fan base, and you'll end Fiction Unboxed with our story world templates, if you choose to use them.
But If You Do Choose To Write In The World, You May Want To Do It Soon
This big engine we built is running faster by the day. Now's your chance to get in on the ground floor. As part of Fiction Unboxed, you get full access to all canon world documents!
We Want to Change Your Game!
While designing Fiction Unboxed, we kept asking ourselves, “What Would WE want to see and learn as writers?” The answer (which was “EVERYTHING successful writers do, down to the tiniest detail“) constantly scared us, so we knew it was right.
We pushed past our fear and promised to do the most difficult thing we could possibly do: Write and publish a book starting from nothing (not even a genre!), showing every molecule of our work, in front of a live audience.
We wanted to prove that our approach to storytelling could make stories easier to tell. We hoped that what's worked for us so far would hold true if put to the ultimate test. It did, and the results were outstanding.
The book produced during Fiction Unboxed — The Dream Engine — is a 100,000-word novel that features a strong lead, a deep yet thrilling story, and an exciting new world to play in. By joining Fiction Unboxed, you'll watch two artists craft a compelling tale populated by intriguing characters in less than 30 days. Then — because the world we created is “open-source fiction,” allowing others to publish in the world without asking permission or owing royalties — you might choose to publish and sell your own stories in the growing world of Alterra, using the provided world template that's part of Unboxed.