Clarification on Vella, and About Challenges

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Welcome
* Clarification on Vella
* On Being Prompt (guest post)
* A Few Words About Challenges
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself … that’s where it’s at.” Jesse Owens


Welcomg to Zoey, Clint, Lakshmi and any other new subscribers to the Journal

I hope you will visit the Journal website at There you will find numerous free downloads on the Free Archives page. I also recommend visiting the If You Really Want to Write Fiction page on that site, and the Writer Resources and Writer Downloads pages on my author site at

When it comes to writing ficiton, this is a no-myth, no BS zone. Enjoy. Anything I can do to help, feel free to email me at

Clarification on Vella

Before we get to the guest post, I want to clarify something for you guys.

The “episodes” (chapters) I’m sending to Vella are my version of “writing in public,” like Harlan Ellison used to do in department store windows.

If you don’t know the story, he would sit in the window, receive story ideas from onlookers, pick one and write a short story as they looked on. Each time he finished a page, he would have an assistant tape it to the inside of the window so onlookers on the sidewalk could read it in real time. (If you don’t believe me, please Google it.)

Obviously I’m not quite doing that, and not EVEN on an electric typewriter, but it’s roughly the same thing. For example, a few things back in Chapters 1-3, which are already live in Vella, and also in Chapters 4-8, have already changed in the full-length novel, a result of necessary cycling.

The novel will be very close to the combined episodes on Vella, but it will be different, cleaner and better.

I admit I’m also using Vella as a marketing tool to expand my readership. If readers enjoy what they see there, they might look up my books, Blackwell Ops and otherwise.

And yes, I absolutely advise you to use it in the same way. Vella is nothing more than a tool.

Now the guest post by Dan Baldwin.

On Being Prompt

Guest post by Dan Baldwin

My good buddy and fellow writer Harvey Stanbrough and I recently spent a long night on the Gila River committing philosophy and, as usual, the conversation roared around writing.

One session involved the ubiquitous “Where do you get your ideas from?” question we writers encounter on an all-to-common basis. Harvey and I have pretty much the same response: Where don’t we get our ideas!”

Our conversation waddled into a discussion of the articles, blogs, and even entire books dedicated to writer’s prompts — those lists of idea starters that are apparently necessary to jump start the creative process. Who in the hell needs a prompt to start writing a story, novel, screenplay, poem or whatever?

As a mental game, and in a somewhat semi-serious mood, we began shouting out story ideas at the slightest provocation. A jet flew over and we jumped on just a few of the ideas by playing the what if game.

What if — a passenger was running from the law, or running to a lost love, or was a sky marshal with a death wish, or was a stewardess or pilot who sensed something wrong with the craft, or was a woman suddenly going into labor, or what if the passenger saw William Shatner walking on the wing?

A beautiful green hummingbird circled our camp, and that started off a round of story ideas. What if the bird was the size of an automobile? What if it was the spirit of a departed soul? What if it flew into our truck’s windshield, was hurt and needed care? What if one of us chased it and ran over the nearby hillside never to return? What if the bird spoke?

We noticed a bit of cloth pegged on the needles of a barrel cactus. Was that torn from a Wild West cowboy looking for strays? An Apache warrior looking for stray cowboys? The key piece of evidence in a rural murder? What about a story told from the perspective of the torn piece of cloth?

This went on for a couple of days. We were just making an obvious point to ourselves. The only writing prompt a writer really needs is his or her imagination. Set free, it needs no prompting at all.

Quote of the Week: “New Ideas come into this world somewhat like falling meteors, with a flash and an explosion.” Enry David Thoreau

A Few Words About Challenges

Writing challenges are great, especially when they lead to streaks. But remember to keep the writing fun.

By that I mean the challenge is there to nudge you to write. It is NOT there to pressure you.

Most challenges necessarily include deadlines, like Monday morning before the Journal post goes live. But even the fake (the world won’t end) deadline exists only as a goal to be reached.

So how do you keep the writing fun and avoid feeling pressured while fulfilling the requirements of your challenge while under a deadline?

The answer is simple: You have a safety net.

The safety net is the knowledge that you’re checking in on your characters and recording their stories only as an escape. Only to have fun.

You write fiction only to record what you experience (see, hear, feel, smell and taste via the POV character) as you run through the trenches of the story with your characters.

The longer you go, the longer you’ll feel compelled to go. That’s the power of the challenge and the power of streaks.

But when you finally miss or intentionally drop out, that’s still a positive experience. You’re still moving forward, not remaining static or moving backward.

Any story or novel written is a success. And any number of stories or novels written for a challenge is not a failure. That’s also a success.

If you do feel that you’ve failed, temper it with the knowledge that you’ve failed to success.

When I wrote 14 novels in 7 months during the first half of 2021, my intention was to do the same for the rest of the year. I failed miserably.

When I first started the Bradbury Challenge in this Journal, likewise I failed, dropping out after only a few weeks.

But in both cases, I failed to success. I wrote 14 more novels and 4 or 5 more short stories than I would have written without those challenges. My “inventory of product” was increased by 18 or 19 titles with my name on them.

So do what you gotta do, but have fun. You write to lift yourself up, not beat yourself up.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “September Sucks” at[dot]com/live/GHuLQnsgrTU.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1150

Writing of Blackwell Ops 10: Jeremy Stiles
The Way Things Go

Day 1…… 1635 words. To date…… 1635
Day 2…… 2464 words. To date…… 4099
Day 3…… 1615 words. To date…… 5714
Day 4…… 3808 words. To date…… 9522
Day 5…… 2057 words. To date…… 11579
Day 6…… 3563 words. To date…… 15142

Fiction for September…………………… 27124
Fiction since August 1………………… 174844
Fiction for 2023………………………… 179433
Nonfiction for September……………… 8870
Nonfiction for the year……………… 183340
Annual consumable words………… 362773

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 3
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 74
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)… 232
Short story collections…………………… 31

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 will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

2 thoughts on “Clarification on Vella, and About Challenges”

  1. Hello!

    I’ve dropped out of the Bradbury challenge just to write longer stories – one story starter longed to be written as a novel. Now I can report my numbers for that too. I liked how many more short stories I’ve written this year since the start of the challenge! However I dropped out not just once, I managed to write more than the last whole year! That is a success! And this year is not ended yet.

    About the prompts… I rarely use them, but there are some occasion I do. When I use them, I do it in a way I open the prompt’s book at a random place, and randomly choose one of them. Then I play with the idea until I get a starting point. Most of the time I don’t actually write the prompt, just the story they led me to. Most of the time I don’t need them because I have more ideas than I can write during my time, but when I want something new… Something fresh… Then I just play the game. Like how DWS uses titles to start his own writing, or Harvey uses pictures. Maybe I’m wrong and I will get used to not doing it.

    But actually yes, there are ideas and story starters everywhere…

    • In my opinion you’re doing exactly the right thing, Balázs. You’re on your way. Just keep it up and keep having fun!

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