In today’s Journal
* A Looking-Back Fairy Tale
* Threatened? Really?
* Topic: Expect to Sweat
* Of Interest
A Looking-Back Fairy Tale
Once upon a time I hosted a site called Pro Writers Writing (PWW). The idea was to do something similar to what they’re doing over at KillZone blog. At PWW, a bevy of professional writers, in rotation, would hold forth on writing, publishing, and marketing topics that interested them.
To skip over the details, PWW ran successfully for about a year. Then, out of the blue, one of my weekly contributors quit. She cited her own weekly blog and the invitation she’d received to write a weekly post for another site, one similar to PWW but with a much larger following.
Anyone can understand that. After all, what writer doesn’t want more exposure? Plus we’re all different. Maybe expecting her to continue with PWW and therefore write three posts per week was just too much.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. When I asked whether, instead of leaving altogether, she might rather just step back a bit and contribute something monthly to PWW, the dam burst.
She admitted she was leaving PWW mostly because “too many” PWW writers talked “too often” about the benefits of Writing Into the Dark, cycling, adhering to Heinlein’s Rules, eschewing the myths of writing, etc. All the talk about WITD, she said, was especially repetitive and annoying.
Never mind that you can’t read or listen to a conversation ANYWHERE about writing fiction that isn’t the same old regurgitated propagation of the myths. And as it turned out, she was steeped in those myths.
She wrote in the traditional way, she said. She didn’t outline except at the very start, but she did follow “signposts,” revise, seek critiques, rewrite, edit, polish, and employ beta readers. Frankly, I was surprised to learn that she was that insecure as a writer.
Frankly, I don’t believe the writer who left PWW found the mentions of WITD and Heinlein’s Rules “annoying” so much as threatening. But the end result was the same. PWW faded into memory.
Of course, the writer who left PWW couldn’t admit openly that she found WITD threatening. That would just be silly, wouldn’t it? Threatened by a concept? And one that wasn’t even holding a gun or a knife? (grin) Yet she literally fled PWW.
I’ve never understood that. How can any writer be threatened by any technique? All you have to do is say No. And if you DO try the new technique and fail—or, more likely, decide you don’t look all that good in sweat beads—you can easily return to what you were doing before you tried the new way, right? No harm, no foul.
But really, it’s fine. My personal philosophy of social interaction is simple, easy to follow, and a great balm for wounds of the sort that writer inflicted: Be honest or be on your way. I don’t like people who lie and I’d rather not be around then. Life’s too short.
For that matter, it’s too short for blubbering over bad fairy tales too, especially those with unfortunate endings. So let me write a new, hopeful ending with this Personal Salute to the writer who left PWW high and dry.
Topic: Expect to Sweat
If you DO decide to try WITD, with either me or someone else to guide you or on your own, you should expect to break out in sweat beads periodically. Your palms probably will get a little clammy and your heartrate might even increase a bit.
All of those are symptoms of your conscious, critical mind in its ongoing, usually welcome effort to protect you from yourself. After all, you’d rather the conscious mind were on guard to keep you from walking into the path of a speeding truck or plunging your hand into a pot of boiling water.
That’s completely understandable.
But why does the conscious mind try to protect you from so benign an act as writing a short story or novel?
Well, because as you’ve been told your entire life (and as all beginning writers with their weeks of experience agree), you are incapable of writing a story or novel by yourself, so chances are good you’ll fail, and failure is embarrassing.
The conscious mind’s reasoning goes like this:
- If you give yourself over to the creative subconscious and write into the dark, you’ll actually enjoy writing and you’ll write a lot more.
- The more you write, the more stories and books you’ll produce and publish.
- And the more stories and books you publish, the more times you open yourself to rejection, ridicule, and embarrassment. (Notice there’s zero mention of all the readers who LIKE your book.)
So there’s the rub. If you don’t like the sweaty forehead, clammy palms, and increased heartrate, here’s what you have to do:
- Don’t risk it.
- If you must be a writer, first outline, then write, then revise, invite critiques, rewrite, edit, polish, and finally submit your work—to beta readers.
- If any of them don’t like something you’ve written or would have written it differently, revise or rewrite it until they’re satisfied.
- Do this long enough and you’ll never publish. And if you never publish, you’ll never open yourself to rejection, ridicule, and embarrassment, and the conscious, critical mind’s job is done.
In other words, the fear—the sweat, the clammy palms, the increased heartrate—is unreasoning, but it’s real. And frankly, it means you’re on the right track. Keep going and you’ll be amazed.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Queen Elizabeth II: A day-by-day guide from now to the funeral” at https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-62861617.
See “Want to Build Tension?” at https://www.janefriedman.com/want-to-build-tension-encourage-the-reader-to-ask-questions/. Some gems, but take this with a grain of salt. Absorb the knowledge, but defend against the mythis.
See “Repeating Details About the Workshops In the Kickstarter” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/repeating-details-about-the-workshops-in-the-kickstarter/.
See “What Writers Can Learn From Casablanca” at https://killzoneblog.com/2022/09/what-writers-can-learn-from-casablanca.html. If you set aside the myth-driven bovine excrement, there are some good points here.
The Journal…………………………………… 1010 words
Writing of (novel, tentative title)
Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXX
Total fiction words for September……… 3277
Total fiction words for the year………… 69708
Total nonfiction words for September… 9880
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 138110
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 207818
Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 67
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: Along with discussing various aspects of the writing craft, I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. WITD is “the only way” to write, but it is by far the easiest, most liberating, and most fun.