Defend Your Work

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Defend Your Work
* Cycling
* Writers’ Resources
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“The only person with whom you have to compare yourself is you in the past.” Sigmund Freud

“When I came in contracts were basically licensing contracts and you could get your IP back at a certain point. Now the contracts are all rights for the life of the copyright and you never see your book again.” Dean Wesley Smith

Defend Your Work

As I probably have said before, if I could teach fiction writers only one overall concept, it would be to defend your work, and I mean zealously, against all comers. It’s simple—be true to your creative subconscious, your characters and the story that they, not you, are living. It isn’t your story. It isn’t happening to you. It’s happening to your characters.

Both Dean Wesley Smith and I advocate depth in setting and in the POV character’s opinion of that setting. One hallmark of my own fiction is that the reader feels s/he is actually in the story, in the setting, with the characters. That, in my opinion, should be your goal with every story.

But—and this is of maximum importance—that level of depth can be delivered accurately and authentically only by the POV character. It is not your place as the author to go back and add details that you, the writer, “think” should have been included.

You are the writer, the reporter. You are external to your characters’ story. Yes, even if you’re running through it with them. You can observe and record what you see and what the characters say and do in their reaction, but if you influence the story in any way, it ceases being authentic.

Someone out there right now is thinking, “Well, what about typos, Mr. Writing Instructor Person?”

Simple—if You made the typo or misspelling, by all means, correct it. But if you have a dyslexic (for example) character who occasionally makes an error, leave it alone. Understand? That’s the difference. The story isn’t Yours, it’s your characters’.

In your story, you’re sitting alone in a room with your fingers on a computer keyboard. With any luck at all you’re typing, recording your characters’ story as you (the observer and recorder) and they race through the trenches of that story.

Whatever comes as you Just Write The Next Sentence and the next and the next is the authentic story. As you cycle and your characters add or subtract details or dialogue or emotion or whatever else, those aspects are also authentic. But if you, the writer, the outsider, engage your conscious, critical mind and “look for” details or dialogue or emotion or whatever to add or subtract, those “fixes” are not part of the authentic story.

Which is to say, it is not the place of the critical voice—yours or anyone else’s—to second-guess what the POV character sees, hears, smells, tastes or feels, physically or emotionally, in describing or delivering an opinion of the setting.

What’s the difference?

Well, for just one example, you personally might abhor the smell of pipe tobacco smoke. But you can be certain others don’t mind it or even like it, right? Because people are different. They enjoy and dislike different things, and they have different opinions of those things. As it should be.

But within the story, whether you like, don’t mind, or abhor the smell (or taste or feel or sound or emotion) of anything at all simply doesn’t matter. All that matters is how the POV character feels about those things.

This is precisely why I preach so strongly against critique groups and critique partners. Critique, every single time, is a function of the conscious, critical mind. And trust me, if I won’t allow even my own critical voice to “correct” my creative subconscious, I certainly won’t invite anyone else to do so. And neither should you.

Others defend being mired in the myths by saying “whatever works” for them is “right,” even if it doesn’t actually result in new words put on the page, stories or novels finished and published, etc. In other words, “whatever works” even if it doesn’t actually work.

I respond to “do whatever works” with “write whatever comes.” That is the only path to writing an authentic story.

Now, all of that said, if you can’t escape the fear or if for any other reason you personally want to engage your conscious, critical mind to “correct” or change things in what was once your characters’ story, that’s completely up to you. You already know my advice: don’t do it. My advice is trust yourself and defend your work from all comers, whether internal or external to your own mind.

But again, you do you. Whatever works, whether or not it actually works . Please just don’t tell me about it. I’ve written far too long and put far too many words on the page to believe author intrusion is ever a good idea.


As I’ve said many times before, cycling (a function of the creative subconscious) is perfectly fine. To cycle, simply read over what you’ve written, but don’t read critically, “looking for” errors or omissions. Read strictly as a reader, strictly to enjoy the story.

As you read, allow your fingers to rest on the keyboard and allow your creative subconscious (the POV character) to touch the story as you go. The POV character might add more depth, more details about the setting, and s/he might not. But don’t second guess.

Don’t read critically. If you find yourself consciously thinking anything at all about the setting—shouldn’t it be darker? lighter? warmer? cooler? louder? quieter? maybe I need more of this? less of that? etc. —ignore it. Don’t allow your critical voice to second-guess your POV character,

For a great deal more on cycling, key-in “cycling” into the Search block in the sidebar at For a great example of a secondary use of cycling, key in “Aunt Marge” and read the example.

Writers’ Resources

In today’s “Of Interest,” the first link is to a must-read article by Dean Wesley Smith. The post is so good I added it to my list of Writers’ Resources over at

And that reminded me those resources are there. Stop over there and browse sometime. Like most of what I offer, my links to those resources are free, and there are dozens of them. I can only wish I’d had such resources available to me when I started writing fiction in earnest.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “I Feel Bad For New Writers” at If you read nothing else today, read this.

See “Go Wide or Run Away or Amazon Fail” at See PG’s take too.

See “The history of Cinco de Mayo” at

See “Six Word Stories: How to Write the Shortest Story You’ll Never Forget” at Disappointing. I had high hopes for this article, but I knew it was BS the instant I read “you’re not going to be able to tell an entire life story in six words” (great negativity, yes?) and “Six word stories are a great way to practice your writing without actually having to write much.” More negativity. What real writer doesn’t want to write much? And none of the author’s examples approach the professional level of Hemingway’s (attributed) “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1240

Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)

Day 11… 0323 words. Total words to date…… 19819
Day 12… 2445 words. Total words to date…… 22264
Day 13… 3184 words. Total words to date…… 25448

Total fiction words for May……… xxxx
Total fiction words for 2023………… 83464
Total nonfiction words for May… 5380
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 87520
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 170984

Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

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

2 thoughts on “Defend Your Work”

  1. My “F-U muscle” is pretty well developed when it comes to others’ opinion of my work.

    When it comes to my own ICBM (inner critical b****y meddler)…not so much. Usually, it shows up in the form of demanding that I get something “right” – whether that be how artificial gravity would work on the moon, or what kind of legal procedures might be in place for a certain fantastical situation.

    In the past, the ICBM has sent me down research spirals that all but destroyed my interest in the then-current story.

    This past weekend, it led me to thinking about the story in progress and what legal procedures might be in the world I’ve been creating one story at a time. Thankfully, I realized that was happening this morning before I did much more than read a couple of articles online.

    Instead, I cycled back to the beginning of the story and started reading the 2,000+ words I have, listening for the POV character’s reactions.

    Progress, not perfection, as they say. Or maybe two steps forward, one step back?

    Either way, it’s just one more thing to guard against/defend my work from.

    As always, thanks for all you do!

    • Thanks, Peggy. It’s a fine line to walk, but the critical mind DOES have a purpose other than protecting us from both things we need to be protected against and things we don’t. That other important purpose is learning. If you look at today’s post and scroll down to the Notes under “An Invitation,” the first sub-point under the third point you’ll see this: “Planning and learning and familiarization activities, such as diagramming your lunar colony or generation ship or desert hacienda for yourself separate of the actual writing process is perfectly fine.” The key is to learn and absorb what you need, then forget about it and just write the story. The creative subconscious will draw upon what you learned as necessary. (If you ever read my novel The 13-Month Turn you’ll see a perfect example of this.

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