In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“A champion is afraid of losing. Everyone else is afraid of winning.” Billie Jean King
“In Heinlein’s Rules, Product Focused writers have trouble with Rules #1,#2, and #3. Process Focused writers have a horrid time with Rules #4 and #5.” Dean Wesley Smith
to my hometown friend Leslee E. and several other new subscribers since I started posting to Substack.
Most writers who are steeped in the myths are also mired in the fear of rejection. They are what Dean Wesley Smith called “product focused.”
It’s “important” that everyone likes their novel, so they start with a carefully constructed outline. Then they write, then revise. They seek critical input, rewrite at least once (and often several times) and then do a final “polish,” whatever that means. And with each revision and each rewrite, the story gets farther and farther from the writer’s unique, original voice.
Yes, of course every fiction writer, myself included, hopes millions of readers around the globe enjoys his or her stories. But the simple fact is, that’s largely out of our control. All we can really do is write the best story we can at our current skill level and publish it. Everything else is up to the reader, as it should be.
But notice I said “WRITE” the best story we can. I didn’t say you should hack your unique, original story to death with revisions and rewrites from your and others’ critical minds. That is counter productive.
And frankly, the only people who get flustered and angry and yell at me when I say things like that are other writers who have nonfiction books for sale in which they propagate the myths. As Twain once wrote, “It’s easier to fool people than it is to convince them they’ve been fooled.”
Years ago, when I was steeped in those same weary myths and mired in the same ridiculous fear, Dean Wesley Smith suggested I “turn the fear around.”
What does that mean?
It means, instead of being frightened of what might happen if you publish a story that’s less than “perfect,” be afraid of how you will feel if you don’t finish the story at all. That rang absolutely true to me.
The truth is, if you publish a story that’s less than perfect (in your opinion) it will be perfect in someone else’s opinion. If you trust your characters and write what they give you to the best of your current skill level, most people will like your story, a few will love it and a few will hate it. Nature of the business.
But no matter what, if you write a story to the best of your current ability and then publish it, there will be only good consequences:
1. You will feel better because you’ve accomplished something (written and finished another story).
2. You will have published another story.
3. Your inventory will have grown and your name will be more widespread.
And if someone doesn’t like your story, can you name even one bad consequence?
You can’t. Nobody will come to your house to beat you up. You won’t “ruin” your career. (If you think this way, you don’t have a career to ruin.) And nobody remembers the title or author of a story they didn’t like.
So believe in yourself. Follow Heinlein’s Rules: Write. Finish. Do not rewrite. Publish. Start the next story.
I searched Dean’s site for variations on “turn the fear around,” but unfortunately I found nothing. Very odd. I was certain he talked about that very topic in a blog post in early 2014, but (shrug) what do I know?
Maybe it was an aside as he talked about his early days as a writer with his friend Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Or maybe it was part of his Heinlein’s Rules lecture, or one of the many workshops I took. I only know it was a life-changing concept for me.
I did find “Deadly Problems For Writers” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/deadly-problems-for-writers/. (His quote of the day above is taken from his response to my comment on that post.)
Ah. In his post on Chapter Four of his Heinlein’s Rules book, I found this passage where he’s talking about the Rules. (I reparagraphed it a little):
“Think of the rules this way: Rule #1… You Must Write. Not writing is failure. Rule #2… You Must Finish What You Write. Not finishing is failure.
“So if you are having fear issues, move the fear over to not writing and not finishing. … The idea of not writing and not finishing what I write scares hell out of me.”
So there is is: Instead of succumbing to the fear of what might happen if you write or what might happen if you finish what you’re writing and are faced with submitting or publishing what you wrote, turn the fear around. Fear how you’ll feel if you don’t write or don’t finish or don’t submit or publish. That fear at least makes sense and it has real, negative consequences.
And yes, I also strongly recommend his book Heinlein’s Rules: Five Simple Business Rules for Writing.
Finally, if you’re writing while suffering a chronic illness, I second Dean’s recommendation in “Of Interest” of Kris’ book, Writing With Chronic Illness.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Two Recommendations” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/two-recommendations/. I second his recommendation of Kris’ book.
See “The Last Furriers” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-last-furriers/. See PG’s take.
The Journal…………………………………… 910 words
Writing of The Stirchians (novel, tentative title)
Day 21… 2621 words. Total words to date…… 42178
Day 22… 5133 words. Total words to date…… 47309
Day 23… 1240 words. Total words to date…… 48549
Day 24… 4535 words. Total words to date…… 53084
Day 25… 2867 words. Total words to date…… 55951
Day 26… 3825 words. Total words to date…… 59776
Total fiction words for November……… 33667
Total fiction words for the year………… 195192
Total nonfiction words for November… 16380
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 192010
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 387202
Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2022 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2022 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 68
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: Because It Makes Sense, I preach trusting your characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living. Duh. This practice greatly increases your productivity and provides the fastest possible ascension along the learning curve of Craft because you get a great deal more practice at actually writing. This is not opinion. It is all numbers and facts.
2 thoughts on “Fear”
Turning the fear around is working for me. I’ve got so many unfinished projects I want to get done. And that doesn’t even include all the new ideas I get all the time. I still fight my critical mind but am getting better at it.
The stories want to get out there, be read. Characters and stories keep showing up. The least I could do is get them down and out into the world.
Great attitude, KC. During my “comeback” I’m still remminding myself almost every day to just let go and write what the characters give me. I’m very glad I have that streak of 13 novels in only 7 months to look back on to remind me what’s possible.
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