Let’s Take a Breath

In today’s Journal

* Bob Beckley
* Let’s Take a Breath
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Bob Beckley

Writer, reader, and TNDJ subscriber Bob Beckley just paid for a one-year subscription for “whomever Harvey chooses.”

What a great gift this is! And like most gifts, it came from completely out of the blue.

I was thinking about running a contest or something, but I decided for now I’ll just use it to pay for one of the comped subscriptions.

Thanks again, Bob!

Let’s Take a Breath

before we plunge into the final two posts in the Storytelling at Depth series.

Let’s talk for a moment about the whole point of TNDJ and these posts: Writing Fiction.

Recently I’ve deluged you with in-depth craft topics. Unfortunately, I know a lot of would-be writers who have acquired a ton of knowledge about the various aspects of the craft of writing fiction but who—for a variety of reasons—seldom actually write.

This post is primarily for those unfortunates.

Folks, for the record, “write” is an active verb.

  • Researching is not writing.
  • Constructing outlines and character sketches is not writing.
  • Attending writers’ conferences is not writing.
  • Reading other writers’ work is not writing.
  • Learning about writing is not writing.
  • Talking about writing is not writing.
  • Even writing about writing, as I do in TNDJ every day, is not (fiction) writing.

Writing is putting new words on the page.

I very much appreciate both paid and unpaid subscribers. I appreciate you reading TNDJ and I am excited and glad for you as you absorb the information with your conscious, critical mind.

But from there, if you’re a fiction writer, two things are supposed to happen:

  1. The newly acquired or reacquired knowledge seeps into your creative subconscious. It really does, in everybody, even if you aren’t aware.
  2. Then, As You Write, that knowledge seeps out into your characters’ stories as they pour forth from your fingertips into your keyboard (or along your pen onto your legal pad).

But the second one doesn’t happen for everybody. It happens only if you sit down to write.

Gained knowledge in any field of endeavor doesn’t really matter if you don’t put it to use in practice.

It’s true that once you have knowledge, nobody can take it away from you. I suppose that alone gives it some value.

But if you don’t put that knowledge to use, someone might as well have taken it away from you.

I had a very dear friend whom I’d known since 1967. After high school, he went to college. When he was finally finished satisfying his hunger for learning around 40 years later, he had acquired a few doctorates (PhDs) and several more master’s degrees.

Then he went to work for a very small-town police department as a dispatcher. He was one of the most intelligent people I knew. But other than in general philosophical discussions with me and a few others, he never used his knowledge.

The only way to practice and improve as a writer is to trust yourself and your creative subconscious and actually write.

I received an excellent email a couple of days ago from Dave, a writer and longtime reader of TNDJ. After he wrote that he spent the entire month of June “doing everything but the things that needed to be done,” he wrote this:

“I spent the last few days listening to Zen and the Art of Writing for second time. I had a couple of interesting experiences as I was listening.

“On July 1 I read an email that contained a story about someone getting a spot on his shoe and finding a shoeshine gentleman who fixed his shoe while sharing a bit of philosophy.

“I didn’t think much about it until a couple hours later when I was taking my sweetheart shopping. I was listening to Zen as I wandered around aimlessly. The chapter I was listening to talked about Ray Bradbury seeing something and rushing home to write a short story.

“I’m not kidding. That shoeshine story hit me like the metaphorical ton of bricks. When we got home, I sat down and had almost 1100 words of a story loosely based on the situation in the email.

“I added to it on July 2 and I thought it was done on July 3, but when I woke up on July 4 the voice in my head said, “Hey there’s more to this story.” By lunch time on July 4 that little story was 2577 words. After I finished writing the last sentence, I could swear the characters said – that’s it.

“I ran back through the story and cleaned up the spelling and hopefully all the grammar issues, printed it out and laid a copy on the couch by my wife. Her comment at the end was ‘This story made me cry.’

“I figured I’d get you my numbers and title for the Bradbury Challenge on the fifth, but I got sidetracked by another crazy experience.

“We were driving and Tom Petty’s ‘Learning to Fly’ came on the radio. I’ve heard that song a million times, but this time I started seeing a story. Now I’m 1,122 words into it, and I intend on seeing how many more I can add tonight before the old man gets tired.

“The Journal topics on Storytelling and Stages of Writers have provided a fire under my butt. Seems like you send out topics just when I need to see/hear them.”

There you go. Legit advice directly from a writer who’s gaining knowledge and motivation from TNDJ. But who’s also—and much more importantly—putting it to use with his awakened and excercising Story Idea Muscle.

My sincere thanks to Dave, and I wish his palpable excitement for all of you.

Okay, back tomorrow with Storytelling at Depth 6: Endings and then one more post in the series.

Talk with you again then.

Of Interest

Opening lines and open endings: writing tips…

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 980

Writing of Blackwell Ops 26: Tailor Moses

Day 1…… 2069 words. To date…… 2069
Day 2…… 3438 words. To date…… 5507
Day 3…… 1464 words. To date…… 6971

Fiction for July…………………….….… 14179
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 417944
Fiction since October 1………………… 706822
Nonfiction for July……………………… 11610
Nonfiction for 2024……………………… 222490
2024 consumable words………………… 626255

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 10
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)……………… 92
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……… 241
Short story collections…………………… 29

Disclaimer: Harvey Stanbrough is a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog he teaches Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing are lies, and they will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. Harvey will never teach the myths on this blog.

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