How Can You—Oh. Never Mind. You Can’t.

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* How Can You—Oh. Never Mind. You Can’t.
* The Writing
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“Everything is theoretically impossible until it is done.” Robert A. Heinlein

“Today I want to focus on the micro level—the scene—and make a pitch for the mini-outline.” James Scott Bell

Does this guy ever allow the characters to breathe and just be who they are?

Anyway, I assure one and all, I wrote the topic for this post before I checked Kill Zone blog this morning, which is where Mr. Bell holds court. Enjoy.

How Can You (Plot A Novel)? Oh. Never Mind. You Can’t.

I thought about writing a series of posts under the umbrella title How Can You. Then I realized no matter what subtopic I addressed in the series, the answer is always the same. And really, there isn’t even room for discussion. More on that in a moment.

The point is, only one post is necessary. This, which was going to be my debut post in the series, is it. Because Oh. Never mind. You can’t.

Currently, at least, actual time travel is impossible. (Bear with me here.) Even if it ever does become possible, to avoid direct conflict with various time-travel parodoxes, it will have to be more of a lateral move than a move backward into the direct past or forward into the at-this-moment-intended future.

The time traveler could still visit the past or future, but only in a different timeline: they would visit amidst what might have happened if something else had happened to cause it. S/he won’t be able to travel within the same timeline, so s/he won’t be able to say or do anything that might affect his or her own past or future. Say for example, a novel s/he would like to write.

So how can you plot a novel? You can’t.

How can you look back on and record or write or convey in any manner to others something that hasn’t happened yet?

Again, the answer is You Can’t. But go ahead and work it out for yourself if you want. I’ll wait.

Or if you want, here is a given and some practice questions:

When you first chance upon your characters or their situation or whatever other story starter you might use, the story hasn’t happened yet, right? So…

  • How can you plot that?
  • How can you foretell a timeline of events or occurrences?
  • How can you know a character’s response to an event or to another character before the event happens or before the other character does or says anything?
  • How can you witness the character’s response before s/he responds?
  • How can you see what s/he hasn’t yet done or hear what s/he hasn’t yet said?

Your characters (and you) can only experience events as those events unfold. You can look forward to things or look forward to putting them behind you. You can even look forward to the time when the sharper edges of a bad memory will finally go dull.

You can hope certain things will happen and that certain things will not. You can fervently hope someone will say yes or at least maybe and you can just as fervently hope someone will say no. You can even make plans that you hope will unfold as a result of any eventuality.

Certainly you can hope the story you’re writing as you run through it with your characters will progress in a certain direction and come to a satisfying conclusion. You can hope some characters will be preserved and others killed or otherwise lost. You might even believe particular facets of the story will occur at certain times in certain places and happen to (and-or be caused by) certain characters.

So we’ve come full cirecle and here we are. We can hope for whatever we want, but if we’re dedicated to creating, in truth we can only hope and roll the dice. Because what happens in the future, in our own lives and in our characters’ lives, is something we can’t foretell. And it’s certainly something we can’t control.

You can’t look back on something that hasn’t happened yet.

A Way Out—If you’re really that frightened of what might happen and you absolutely have to know in advance, there is a way.

You can give up any pretense of “creation,” turn away from your creative subconscious and turn TO your logical, conscious, critical mind. And with that staid and solid tool, you may build, block by tightly controlled block, a faux story, one that never happened and never will but is only a product of your conscious, critical mind.

Writing it won’t be fun. That’s the tradeoff. Well, and it won’t be original or unique in any way. It will sound (and smell) like everything else in the slush pile. And readers won’t be excited because they will be able to see what’s coming in advance. Why? Because they have a conscious, critical mind too. What you can “figure out in advance,” so can they.

But at least you can plot that sort of thing. You can world-build and mind-map and character-sketch and outline to your heart’s content. In fact, I recommend it. I’m a big fan of consistency. Why switch horses and start believing in yourself and your characters midstream?

Good luck with that.

Oh, and welcome to Broxton and other recent subscribers. See what you’ve wandered into? (grin)

The Writing

I’ve had an enjoyable surprise visit with my youngest son this weekend. Great fun digging the holes and setting in concrete two new pressure-treated posts for a new front gate for the yard. Well, mostly I watched him do it.
Exhausted me just watching him work the trenching spade, post-hole digger, and shovel. I did add water to the quick-set cement and help backfill and tamp the holes.

Visits like that take precedence over everything else for me, even writing. I still worked on the novel very briefly, but mostly I wrote the Journal posts. Today, sometime, I’ll write a short story for the Bradbury Challenge.

I hadn’t forgotten about it, but I did manage to put it off until the last day. Still, as I write this I have 19 hours until midnight. That’s potentially 19000 words and I only need a few thousand, so I’m not worried. (grin)

No idea what the story will be about, what genre, etc but I”ll report it in tomorrow’s edition of the Journal along with input from the others who jumped into the Challenge with me.

Of course, you can still jump in. The water’s warm and crystal clear. And no sharks.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Some Suggestions (about the half-price sale)” at

See “ALA: Book Bannings in the USA Broke All Records in 2022” at See PG’s very short take.

See “Belgian woman blames ChatGPT-like chatbot ELIZA for her husband’s suicide” at Well, here we go. Hands inside the ride, please, and hold onto your hats.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1170

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

Day 1…… 3231 words. Total words to date…… 3231
Day 2…… 2990 words. Total words to date…… 6221
Day 3…… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 8026
Day 4…… 2025 words. Total words to date…… 10051
Day 5…… 1451 words. Total words to date…… 11502
Day 6…… 1886 words. Total words to date…… 13388
Day 7…… 2002 words. Total words to date…… 15390
Day 8…… 1060 words. Total words to date…… 16450

Total fiction words for April……… XXXX
Total fiction words for 2023………… 66188
Total nonfiction words for April… 2180
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 64440
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 130628

Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 2
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 219
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: Because It Makes Sense, I preach trusting your characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living. See for free stuff on writing.