Let It Be, and The Bradbury Challenge

In today’s Journal

* Welcome
* Correction
* The Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting
* The Writing
* The Kris and Dean Show
* Of Interest
* The Numbers


Welcome to Alex and any other new subscribers or readers of the Journal. I hope you will find it useful.

Get the Archives and other free downloads at the Journal website. Just click the links and a PDF will download in a new page.

I also recommend reading the posts “I Believe in You” and “Fear”. Can’t hurt, and it might help.

Oh, and check out this half-hour video where bestselling author Vin Zandri and I are chatting about writing on The Writer’s Life.


Of course yesterday, when I mentioned my own personal calendar year goal of writing 1,000,000 words of published fiction in a year, I meant to say that year would begin on 1 September 2023 and run through 31 August 2024, not 30 September 2024.

But as Bob B mentioned when he called me on that goofy error, if the baker’s dozen approach works for you, go for it. (grin)

The Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting

Reporting your numbers to other writers can help encourage them and yourself to keep writing. It’s why I post my new numbers each day in the last section of the Journal.

Anyone can jump in (or jump back in) and join or rejoin the challenge at any time. There’s no cost.

This is a great way to jumpstart your writing and get more practice pushing down the critical voice.

Notice, there’s no pressure re submitting or publishing. That’s up to you.

The point of this challenge — the point of all writing challenges — is to have fun and grow as a writer. Learning to keep track of your writing is a bonus.

During the past week, in addition to whatever other fiction they’re writing, the following writers reported their progress:

Short Fiction

  • George Kordonis “Forbidden Detour” 3557 SF Adventure
  • Adam Kozak “Superior” 3387 Cosmic Horror
  • Alexander Nakul “Case Study of the Pied Piper of Hamelin” 1365 Magical Realism
  • Christopher Ridge “The Boy” 1800 Horror
  • K.C. Riggs “Walking” 3228 Mixed Reality

Longer Fiction

  • Balázs Jámbor *Kylen’s Story* (tentative title) 2800Fantasy (19800 to date)
  • Alexander Nakul *The Meerkat Watch* 4418 Urban fantasy (10479 to date)

The Writing

Let it be.

I’m not talking about the now-ancient Beatles’ song.

I’m not even talking about letting the story be whatever it wants to be or letting your characters say and do whatever they say and do. Although yes, of course you should.  You’re only the recorder. It’s their story.

Here I’m talking about something I learned yesterday.

I’ve said I don’t know how many times to trust the process. You can buy all the how-to books in the world, and lectures and workshops or seminars or Masters Classes.

And all of those — IF they aren’t peddled by bogus instructors who should be selling air conditioners to denizens of igloos — can help you improve in the CRAFT of writing. The mechanics.

But only by practicing, by which I mean putting new words on the page, can you actually improve your writing.

No one else can do anything to improve your writing. Only you can do that, and only by writing. The more you write, the better your fiction will get. Period.

In every novel before the current one, I’ve tried (conscious mind) to keep my chapters under 1500 words. That’s a throwback to some old crap I learned from my inadvertent mentor, Dean Wesley Smith. He cited readers’ shorter attention spans.

Um, what would a reader with a “shorter attention span” be doing with a novel in his lap?

But honestly, the guy doesn’t know everything. Still, this is only the second time I’ve seriously deviated from his advice because I disagree with it.

And I only learned this one yesterday, as I was writing. It’s all about structure.

In the first eleven chapters of this book, if you could see my reverse outline, you would almost feel the chapters straining. Most of them are in the upper 1400s. (Yes, I’m so anal that I actually include the word count of each chapter on the RO. Again, goes to structure, your honor.)

But Chapter 12 ran to 1673 words. I can’t cut a word of it without harming the story.

Yes, sometimes I cut words while cycling. I can do that without slipping into critical mind. I don’t “look for” anything. I just read for pleasure, and if something unnecessary pops out at me, I cut it.

And Chapter 13 — and when this realization hit me I interrupted cycling through it to move to my business computer and write this — is currently at 1544 words.

And I’m betting it will go higher.

Because I do not like soup-sandwiches. I like precision. I like the reader to see, smell, taste, feel, and hear precisely what the characters and I see, smell, taste, feel, and hear as we race through the story.

Tip: That’s why my readers keep emailing to tell me they feel as if they are “in” the story with the characters. It is also why I continually advise you to slow down as you’re writing. Be sure that everything the POV character senses, and nothing that you the author sense, goes onto the page.

So from this point forward, in this novel and all future novels, I will allow chapters to be as short or long as they naturally are. If a chapter goes too long, I’ll break it into two chapters.

Update: I would have won the bet above on Chapter 13. As I ended my writing/cycling day, it stood at 1726 words. Amen.

Now if the stuff above isn’t slap-your-grandma valuable information I don’t know what is. Aren’t you glad you read this? So share it with your friends already.

The Kris and Dean Show

In Of Interest, Dean mentions Kris’ challenge, which begins today, and a new one of his own, which begins January 1.

I don’t personally believe either Kris’ 15-day writing challenge or Dean’s year-long challenge will get many takers. It would appeal only to professional writers. Only they would not feel intimidated by Kris’ or Dean’s numbers, and why would they bother? Like me, they might shadow it stricly as a matter of curiosity, but otherwise, nah.

Besides, not to sound snarky, but how many working dads or moms with children, who can’t write as much as I can because of other committments, will attempt to match my humble numbers?

It’s all silly. As I’ve said many times, the only valuable, authentic comparison is what you do today vs. what you did yesterday.

If you can hit 4000 words per day or more regularly, I invite you to tell me about it. I’ll cheerlead for you. If you can’t, that’s perfectly fine. Use my numbers as inspiration, not as a hammer or depressant.

Of course, your opinion might differ.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

Dean Challenge 2024 (scroll down) I’ll probably shadow this one.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1140

Writing of Tarea-Garcia 1

Day 1…… 4968 words. To date…… 4968
Day 2…… 3677 words. To date…… 8645
Day 3…… 3307 words. To date…… 11952
Day 4…… 4467 words. To date…… 16419
Day 5…… 4193 words. To date…… 20612

Writing of “The Love of Charlie Task” (blue)

Day 1…… 1079 words. To date…… 1079

Fiction for December…………………… 70742
Fiction for 2023…………………………. 471576
Fiction since August 1………………… 355952
Nonfiction for December……………… 14170
Nonfiction for the year……………… 269750
Annual consumable words………… 737819

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 10
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 8
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 81
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 236
Short story collections…………………… 31

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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.