In today’s Journal
* Slow Start
* A New Routine
* Topic: Grasping the Most Difficult Basic Technique
* Of Interest
With the daily news updates and the succession of events that will take place between now and Monday, September 19, I’ll make a slower start than I anticipated in getting back to writing fiction.
No matter. It will come. I’d rather my progress is slow than not at all.
A New Routine
As part of my attempt to reboot myself as a fiction writer, I’m also starting something new with my own daily routine.
Instead of researching, writing and posting the Journal each morning, I plan to write fiction in the mornings and research and write the Journal later in the day after I’ve finished writing fiction. The only difference to you is that you’ll be getting some of the links in “Of Interest” a day after they were previously available in the Journal.
The Journal will still go live at 10 a.m. each morning. For example, I wrote this particular edition on Saturday afternoon, September 10, and pre-posted it to be mailed out on Sunday morning, September 11 at the usual time.
This one will contain a blank under Numbers for fiction. After looking over two different openings for The Jury, I’ve decided to throw them both out. I will either recast the story from the beginning (write a new opening) or I’ll move on to write something else entirely. There’s at least a good chance that “something else” will be the first novel of a new series, though at the moment I have zero idea what it might be.
Yes, if I don’t finish The Jury I’ll be breaking Heinlein’s Rule 2. But I hope doing so will help me get back to following Rules 1, 2 and 3 in the very near future.
Topic: Grasping the Most Difficult Basic Technique
Arguably, the most difficult basic technique to grasp is trusting yourself, your creative subconscious, and your characters. But if you think about it, that’s all really one thing said in three different ways. The key word is Trust.
You may choose to exercise that trust in the way that makes the most sense and/or is the easiest for you—you may choose to trust yourself or your creative subconscious or your characters—but whichever you choose, there is no other path to being a long-term, prolific professional writer.
I started by simply making a conscious decision to trust myself, a decision I had to reaffirm several times over the first couple of weeks. But really, that was an easy enough committment to make. Because if it didn’t work out, what was the worst that could happen?
Nothing. There were no real-life coincidences.
I couldn’t ruin my reputation or my career as a writer (fears I hear often from beginning writers), because at the time I didn’t have either one. And nobody, least of all other writers, would come to my house and jeer because I was unable to trust myself. As if.
On the other hand, once I proved I could write better and more easily by trusting myself, that’s when a lot of other writers and even would-be writers started telling me I was going about storytelling in the wrong way. Little did they know. (grin) All the while, I just smiled at them, nodded, and kept writing and publishing.
And it only got better. After a few years of writing fairly prolifically (publishing several novels per year), I had a personal epiphany: It was easier for me to trust my characters even than it was to trust myself or my creative subconscious. That minor change in attitude made all the difference.
I saw my characters as living creatures who actually existed. Maybe in my mind, maybe in another dimension I was tapping into with my creative subconscious. But where they exist doesn’t matter. What matters is that they do.
Real humans’ lives go on whether or not you’re personally aware of it, right? Likewise, my characters—just like my neighbors or relatives or friends or strangers across town or in the neighboring state or in another country or on another continent—live and continue living their lives, their stories, whether or not I look in on them.
That epiphany occurred on December 1, 2019. I know the specific date because that’s when I started turning out a novel no less than once a month, and for a while, every 14 days.
That level of productivity continued for well over a year, from December 2019 right through August 6 of 2021. During that time (19 months and 6 days) I turned out 23 novels and 20 short stories.
In the novels alone, I wrote and published 1,102,254 words. In the short stories, I wrote and published an additional 45,308 words. As an aside, for those 19 months I averaged only 60,398 words per month, or about 2,013 words per day. Two hours of work. Total slacker. (grin)
The thing is, if I can do it, so can anyone else who can dedicate two hour of every day, on average, to their fiction.
But my story takes a downturn that yours doesn’t have to take. Since that time ended, I’ve written only one novel and no short stories. Which brings us to the present.
Recently, a new writing friend (LJ) wrote in an email, “I find just following my characters around harder than I would have thought. I wish you could give me a secret to do that, but I know that doesn’t even exist.”
Fortunately for my friend and for some of you as well, that “secret” DOES exist. Here’s my reply:
The only advice I can give you regarding “following” the characters around is to NOT follow them.
The key here is that The characters have invited you in. Not as a participant in the story, but as an ever-present witness and the Recorder of the Story. (Stephen King calls himself his characters’ stenographer.)
With that in mind,
- don’t ascend into an authorial ivory tower from which you can oversee and control everything about the story, and
- don’t even go down to perch along the parapets at the edge of the story and try to watch and overhear the story from there.
- trade your authorial robes for jeans and sneakers and maybe a t-shirt. Then
- roll off the parapet into the story and race through it with the characters. You probably won’t always be able to keep up. That’s what cycling is for.
So as you write, just
- record the story—what happens and what is said—as it unfolds all around you. Then,
- once an hour or so, take a break (even if only to walk away and back), and then
- read over AS A READER, FOR FUN what you’ve written. But let your fingers rest on the keyboard as you read.
- Don’t “look-for” ANYthing as you read (just read, just like when you’re reading someone else’s novel), but if anything pops out at you, fix it. Then,
- when you get back to the white space, keep writing as you continue to race through the story with the characters.
When I cycle and get back to the white space, I sometimes hear one of my more snarky characters say, “Ready? Think you can keep up this time?”
Seriously, folks, if you can bring yourself to trust yourself, your creative subconscious, and/or your characters, you’ll be miles ahead of most contemporary would-be writers and actual writers today. Well, barring the Stage 3, 4, and 5 writers who already know this stuff and are already practicing it. And as a bonus, you’ll have more fun writing than you ever could have imagined.
As you all know, having read yesterday’s edition of the Journal, I’m right there with you, though my problem is slightly different.
So I’m just saying, take heart. You really can do this.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Revisiting the ‘Magic Bullet’ in the JFK Assassination” at http://dyingwords.net/the-magic-bullet-in-the-jfk-assassination/.
See “Persistence Pays the Weary Writer” at https://www.janefriedman.com/persistence-pays-the-weary-writer/. Some gems.
The Journal…………………………………… 1310 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… 8870
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 137100
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 206808
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.