On Style, and an Affidavit

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Note on Heinlein’s Rules Free Download
* Addendum to Writing Fiction
* Affidavit
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“My concern with this opening is that it feels a bit choppier than it needs to because information and context is dribbled out rather than just situating us cleanly the first time a concept is described. There’s not much to be gained by forcing the reader to piece everything together. Err on the side of being clear the first time around.” Nathan Bransford

Note on Heinlein’s Rules Free Download

This is an updated link to Heinlein’s Rules.

There is also an updated link on my Free Archives & More page at the Journal. For awhile, “the internet” advised against downloading it because it was first delivered via an http link (vs. the secure https). I’ve corrected that.


I will add the following to Appendix H of Writing Fiction. Of course, I’ll update the PDF as well, but I probably won’t send it out again until my first reader’s gotten it:

Finally, a Note on Style

Many would-be writers and early-stage writers refuse to read others’ works even for pleasure, much less to study them. Their fear is that reading others’ works will “influence” their own writing style.

As Michaele Lockhart—who is an astute reader and an excellent writer and writing instructor—wrote to me in an email, “They should be so lucky.” She is correct.

Let me put your concerns at rest:

Reading others’ works that you enjoy will definitely influence your style. Not only that, what you learn by osmosis even from only the act of reading and enjoying the story will actually inform your style.

And when you intentionally (meaning “with intent”) go back and re-read and study sections (hooks, cliffhangers, openings, scenes, setting descriptions, etc.) that intrigued you, the fiction you read will inform your style more quickly and thoroughly and the techniques will sink into your creative subconscious more immediately.

That is a good thing, because it renders the techniques ready for your characters’ use in your own writing.

But what you write will not be a mimicry of Hemingway, for example. Again, you should be so lucky. Unfortunately, his style is inimitable. But that is also a good thing. Because what you write will be only a better expression of your own inimitable style. Reading others’ works will inform and enhance your style, not replace it.

It’s how your brain works. It assimilates everything you see, hear, smell, taste and feel (physically and emotionally) to create a better version of your mind. A new, improved version of yourself as writer, colleague, husband or wife, parent or child or sibling, etc. ad nauseam.

To intentionally slam the door on helpful new information by refusing to read others’ works that you enjoy is to deprive yourself. That decision—like any “decision”—is a function of your conscious, critical mind.

That alone should tell you it’s a bad idea.

Now for some fun.


My buddy took the snapshot below of me as I sat in the passenger seat of his new pickup. We were on our way to the Lower Gila Box Wilderness for a pleasant few days of camping as we slathered bent, twisted, and otherwise altered philosophy across the land.

Of course, my friend being the fully adult and responsible driver-person that he is—and despite any obviously doctored footage from the New Mexico State Highway Patrol from ground or air—he probably was NOT doing 85 along a two-lane New Mexico highway as he held the steering wheel with his knees and manually focused his Canon, then snapped the shot.

Also, despite the aforementioned footage and the volunteer testimony of farmers who live along the road and have nothing better to do than fabricate a little excitement, I’m sure also that buzzards, rabbits, mule deer, antelope, cows, big cats and maybe even a bear or two were NOT leaping frantically out of the way as we passed.

And by the way, my youngest son did not escape the fate of being a mini-me. Have pity. This is how he will look in another 33 years.

Finally, a personal note to my friend: the half-inch deep impressions of fingers in the dashboard of you new pickup are decidedly NOT my fault depite any future forensic evidence to the contrary. I will not be moved.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

Leap Year in Different Calendars Interesting.

Episode 900: Un-Zon Blocked! Don’t use emojis in the manuscript you upload to Amazon.

Sharpen the details

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 760

Writing of Blackwell Ops 21: Johnny Mercer

Day 1…… 4190 words. To date…… 4190
Day 2…… 2599 words. To date…… 6789

Fiction for February……………………. 46988
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 164592
Fiction since October 1………………… 467647
Nonfiction for February………………… 67230
Nonfiction for March…………………… 760
Nonfiction for 2024……………………… 99950
2024 consumable words………………… 264542

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 4
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 86
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 239
Short story collections………………… 31

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.

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8 thoughts on “On Style, and an Affidavit”

    • Great question, Sebastian.

      I picked on Nathan a little bit for the exact wording he used in the quote. I NEVER recommend conscious-critical mind editing. Ever. Primarily because that opens the door to intrusive, external writer (vs. internal character) input.

      BUT as I cycle and allow the characters to touch the work, there is almost always some tightening-up, sometimes some trimming, more often some additions, and almost always a sharpening, especially in high-action or high-tension scenes.

      In every case, it is the characters’ authentic story, period. But it is my (the writer’s) responsibility to convey that story as accurately as possible to the readers. I’m the one making the little black marks on the screen with my laptop keys. Make sense?

  1. Its silly when writers fear ‘being influenced’ by other writers’ work. I guess they don’t watch TV, enjoy movies, or play video games either then? Since those can influence you as well (I know they do with my work, and I think its great).
    As someone who finds himself writing more and more historical nonfiction these days, I can’t tell you how influential historical fiction has been, not only in terms of new book ideas (I’m currently reading a novel by Conn Igguldun set in ancient Persia, and its great, giving me the desire to write about the history of that period). It also helps me understand how I can make history come to life using more descriptive language and so on.
    Being influenced isn’t a bad thing, it is a good thing. Being influenced doesn’t mean you aren’t ‘original’, but no one comes up in a vacuum, we’re all influenced by our lived experiences and the media we enjoy. Its unavoidable and should be accepted and used as ways to learn.

    • Spot on, Matt. That’s exactly why I’ve read and re-read Hemingway’s work (especially his short stories in the Finca Vigia edition) and Stephen King’s The Stand.

  2. Sure does. Thank you for the clarification and reminder. Still, I like poking weeds for snakes. Fun.

    As in your solid technique of revealing a character’s Full Name, being a must; during composition I get the benefits of giving the reader all the info up front, if that’s what the character is experiencing, versus ever holding back. That part of the daily quote was throwing me off, initially.

    Anyway. Critical Mind is a no. Looking forward to “Writing Fiction”.

    • Thanks, Sebastian. I’ll use your first comment and my response in tomorrow’s Journal too. Great stuff. Thanks again.

  3. I think it’s because English isn’t my native language and because I learned new ways to express myself in English from books, but I never worried about being influenced by other writers style. I saw it as adding tools the toolbox. I just typed in Patricia A. McKillip to see how the scene worked and I learned more than I had hoped to. I’ve heard other writers talk about reading a lot, maybe it’s changing or I’m hanging around different types of writers.

    I found your blog through Dean Wesley Smith’s blog. Great source of learning.

    • Thanks, Emilia. You can also get some great insights into Writing Scene (and Setting, in which Scene takes place) from Chapters 6 & 7 of my new book, Writing Better Fiction. See today’s (and yesterday’s) posts of the Journal. I also posted a full (later enhanced and revised) post on Setting and another one on Scene free in the blog not too long ago.

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