Bradbury Challenge, and a Note to a Writer

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* The Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting
* Live from the Hovel: Inspiration from Artwork
* A Note to a Writer
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“In our modern world, we call writers who spend a lot of time producing new words ‘fast’ writers. But fast has nothing to do with it. Just a work ethic and a love of stories.” Dean Wesley Smith (See Of Interest)

Live from the Hovel: Inspiration from Artwork

I went live yesterday on YouTube for about 20 minutes. If you want to, you can view the video here.

In the video, I show off some artwork I’ve used for inspiration, and the last few minutes I get a little grouchy about what you’ll see below in “A Note to a Writer.” Comments are welcome.

The Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting

To take part, write at least one short story per week (or add to your novel), then submit the story title, word count, and genre to me each week for publication in the Journal on Monday.

The whole point is to have fun while growing as a writer.

During the past week, in addition to whatever other fiction they’re writing, the following writers reported their progress:

Short Fiction

  • Balázs Jámbor “Key of the truth” 2000 Weird crime
  • George Kordonis “flip of the switch” 2654 urban fantasy
  • Adam Kozak “Life Debt” 2645 General Fiction
  • Christopher Ridge “The Screaming House” 4500 horror

A Note to a Writer

A long while back, a writer either emailed me or left a comment in which she wrote that “WITD is actually just another process/system like every other writing process/system out there.”

I still remember that writer’s first name (it was unique) but it doesn’t matter. The comment might have come from almost any beginning or would-be writer. The myths are just that prevalent.

Here’s the essay that resulted:

Thanks for all of that, Writer. I can argue only one point, really, but it’s the only one that needs a defense.

Writing Into the Dark is not actually a “process/system,” much less one that’s “like every other writing process/system out there.”

Writing process/systems, every one of them, call on the writer to invoke the conscious, critical mind.

WITD does not. Ever.

The simple fact is, the conscious mind can’t imagine or create anything. It’s too rational and logical. It can only build and construct, step by step by plodding, preplanned, over-analyzed step.

WITD is about “letting go” instead of “doing” anything other than writing. In fact, proponents of WITD will tell you

  • DON’T preplan, that the plot is only the footprints the characters leave in the story as they pass (Bradbury). We say
  • DON’T allow critical thought into what your creative subconscious has created, even from your own critical mind, much less others’ critical minds (Heinlein), and we say
  • DON’T revise or rewrite or edit (Heinlein).

Proponents of WITD say JUST WRITE. Just record the story that your characters are living as you run through it with them. Then spell check it, then submit or publish it.

I’m not sure I see a “process/system” there. Let’s see: Write. Publish. Write. Publish. Write. Publish. Nope, so process or system.

On the other hand, over on the other side they actually DO have a “process/system.” In fact, EVERY  SINGLE  STEP is about actively clinging-to and hovering-over one work instead of letting go of all that and just writing.

We tell you to be confident in yourself, to believe in yourself. Those who advocate a process/system teach you to lack confidence. Which do you suppose is the more beneficial?

Most of the steps involved in any writing process/system aren’t even writing! Would-be novelists are advised to preplan (or outline or plot or erect sign-posts, etc.), write (yay!), then second-guessing your characters and yourself with revisions, seeking critiques, rewriting, editing, and polishing. And every step takes you farther from the original, unique, authentic story.

So yes, I freely admit, to me the whole argument is very much a binary problem: WITD vs. Traditional (Tied-to-the-Myths) Writing.

Almost every long-term professional fiction writer writes into the dark.

But very few talk about WITD publicly even in passing because they’re smarter than I am. They know readers have heard (and absorbed) all the same BS myths that we writers heard (and absorbed).

As a result, they know the (erroneous) perception among readers is “Hey, if that guy finished a novel in a month, it can’t possibly be any good.” So most of them don’t talk about WITD.

Readers (and far too many writers) believe that to create a good story, a writer must

  • plot or plan a novel in advance;
  • revise, edit, and rewrite numerous times;
  • seek critical input from other writers;
  • then polish (whatever that is); and that
  • submitting work to traditional publishers is the only “valid” path to publication.

But none of that is true. It’s all lies.

It’s all smoke and mirrors propagated by those who want to sell “how to write” books to fiction writers.

Are you really going to defend their efforts to take your hard-earned cash in exchange for books on writing that say exactly the same thing as all the other books on writing?

Honestly, I believe I’m the only consistently prolific writer who regularly preaches WITD. And that’s why I do it.

And yes, I too sell non-fiction books on writing. But they aren’t like all the others out there. in fact, you can find almost everything I teach in one book, currently (until May 1) on sale for only $9: Writing Better Fiction. No fluff, just the truth about every aspect of fiction writing.

On the other hand, anyone can find—in fact, they are unable to avoid finding—literally THOUSANDS of voices, books, blogs, etc. teaching that the “only” way to write fiction is to plot, write, revise, seek criticism, rewrite, edit, polish, etc.

Go figure. But keep a tight grip on your pocketbook.

One more point, on fear—As for whether those who are mired in the myths are mired because of fear, what do I know? I believe they are, but as another writer pointed out, it really isn’t my call. That’s up to you.

So Are You Mired in Fear? Here’s a Simple, Private Self-Test

Fortunately, there’s a simple self-test you can conduct in the privacy of your own home.

But be aware, most beginning and would-be writers are SO mired in the myths and so frightened that they won’t even try this. Because if it works, they’ll no longer have the time-wasting, put-off-writing excuse of needing to plan, revise, rewrite, etc.

Here’s the test:

Take a deep breath and give WITD an honest, prove-it-or-disprove-it for yourself try. You don’t even have to tell anyone about it. (I did this back in 2014.)

If you break out in a cold sweat from simply TRYING to write into the dark (as I did), check in with yourself. That’s fear of breaking free and letting go of all the safety nets that a bunch of non-writers have told you are necessary. In my case, this only made me want to try the test again, and again, until the myths (safety nets) were gone.

If you DON’T experience any symptoms of fear, that’s wonderful. I’m happy for you.

Just please don’t lie to yourself. Don’t say “Well, it just isn’t for me” or “It’s fine for people who’ve written a ton of books already.” Not that anyone else would know you’re lying, but YOU would know.

And for the record, I’ve written every short story and novel, from the very beginning in 2014, into the dark. So I hadn’t written tons of stuff before I found and tried WITD.

What you see in me is what you get.

Actually, if I cared at all about appearances, I’d write one novel per year—under each of around 20 pseudonyms.

All of those pseudonymous “authors” would probably have large followings because they only turn out one “quality” novel per year, never mind that I wrote all 20 novels.

I could even have my personas write nonfiction how-to books on plotting, revision, rewriting, etc. (grin) Why not? It’s what people want to believe, so why not take their money?

Sorry to get a little snarky, but I hear it constantly from writers who are mired in the myths: “Oh, I could easily do what you do, but I want to put out quality fiction.” (grin)

What I want to say to them is, “Yeah? Then try WITD. Do it for only one novel.” But they never will. They’re too mired in the myths. Too frightened.

But you do whatever you want. I really, honestly, sincerely Don’t Care. If a situation doesn’t literally affect my personal productivity, my paycheck or my time off, I’m not gonna lose any sleep over it.

I get nothing from folks who try WITD and succeed, other than a good feeling that maybe I’ve made someone’s life a little easier and a little more enjoyable.

I doubt very much that any of those who push the traditional myths and “process/system” can say the same.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

Pulp Speed Post is Back! In case you missed it yesterday.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1530

Writing of Blackwell Ops 24: Buck Jackson Returns (tentative title)

Day 1…… 3724 words. To date…… 3724
Day 2…… 3706 words. To date…… 7430
Day 3…… 2110 words. To date…… 9540
Day 4…… 3243 words. To date…… 12783
Day 5…… 1606 words. To date…… 14389
Day 6…… 1306 words. To date…… 15695

Fiction for April…………………….….… 51956
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 277748
Fiction since October 1………………… 580804
Nonfiction for April……………………… 19090
Nonfiction for 2024……………………… 147810
2024 consumable words……………… 425558

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 7
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)……………… 89
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……… 239
Short story collections…………………… 29

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing are lies, and they will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

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6 thoughts on “Bradbury Challenge, and a Note to a Writer”

  1. Oh I like this terminology. Letting go of fear/systems/processes can make the impossible. However, I still have my fights with these kinds of thinking.

    The saying WITD is for those who wrote a ton, is the most contorversial, I believe. If I want to be there then I have to write a ton, but if I follow the rules I won’t write a ton, which makes it impossible to be the person who follows the letting go way of thinking of WITD.

    And quality fiction. Nothing ensure anyone to write quality fiction. If there would be a system what works like this, everyone would follow it. But writing is never about to write the perfect novel. If there is a way to the best writing you can do is WITD – you practice, you become better, and there is no limitations where you can improve.

    But still, it’s not about the perfect novel. That doesn’t exist. Even seemingly the systems/processes offer you the key to it…

    • Exactly. They say following the steps will ensure good writing, but the only thing that can ensure that is a lot of practice. And if you follow the steps, you don’t have much time to practice writing. Most of your time is consumed with following the steps. Makes sense to me, but a lot of people want to follow the steps instead of writing. Which makes no logical sense.

  2. I think a few of us remember the old “If you want to get to Carnegie Hall, you had better practice a lot along the way.” (I’m paraphrasing here, obviously.) In order to get ahead, no one wants to practice anything, any more. It’s too time consuming. It’s too difficult. It’s too much work. It requires thinking too hard. It takes too much time away from other things. Not to mention, how can one be known as a tortured writer if he has output? It’s so much easier to spend a year, two, five, ten years on the “special project” and whine and snivel when someone makes the mistake of asking how the writing is going.

    And on and on. Oh well. Good fortune to them all.

  3. I would add a small detail that looks obvious for people who aren’t into WITD much.
    The thing is: unstuck in time just from beginning. it’s ok to start from any scene that comes to your mind.
    And it’s ok to proceed to any scene comes to mind. Maybe they be connected in a short time.
    I’ve asked DWS about it and he said that it’s ok.
    Just to avoid chance to critical voice to block starting a story.

    • Sounds right to me. I know KKR often writes scenes out of order, then goes back and rearranges them later.

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