In today’s Journal
* Quote of the Day
* A particularly insightful quote
* You Can’t Make This Shup
* Of Interest
Quote of the Day
“You don’t concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results.” Chuck Yeager
A particularly insightful quote—
“I think a lot of people forget what got them to the NFL. We’ve already defied the odds. Chances are, you shouldn’t have been there statistically. … If I want to [have a new career] I have to put in the time and effort. You have to become obsessed all over again.” Tony Gonzales, retired pro football player, on becoming a broadcaster and actor
This quote touched me because I’ve known so many hugely successful people who, after they retired, chose to become ficiton writers. But instead of putting in the time and effort to learn the craft and then trust what they know and PRACTICE, they chose to follow the shortcuts served by the myths.
Understand, if following the mechanical steps of story construction worked (outline, write, revise, garner critical comments, rewrite, polish, submit), it would work every time for every writer.
“If following the mechanical steps of story construction worked,
it would work every time for every writer.”
The more you construct stories like “everybody else” does it, the more your work sounds like “everybody else” wrote it. The only path to that original, unique voice even all the big traditional publishers say they’re looking for is to trust in your creative subconscious and convey the story that your characters, not you, are living.
You Can’t Make This Shup
“China plans to shoot down a mystery object spotted over port city. The report comes on the heels of the U.S. shooting down multiple high-altitude objects in the past week. Beijing has accused Washington of waging ‘an information war’.”
What’s next, a slap-fight between Biden and Li Keqiang?
Thanks to my friend JG, who emailed me about my short story, “Keep Calm & Carry On.” He said he thought the story was among my best, then asked whether I wrote the story “pre-WITD.” The short answer, as I reported yesterday, is No, I didn’t write it before I started practicing WITD or before I knew what I was doing by that name.
I first learned about WITD by name in February 2014. I wrote that particular story in April 2014 during a flurry of short story writing. Most of the stories I wrote during that time came from what I consider my Hemingway-esque persona of Nick Porter and the magic-realism persona of Gervasio Arrancado. The psychotic Eric Stringer snuck in a few of his odd stories back then too.
Only Gervasio’s work (magic realism) predates my learning about WITD. I wrote and published some of that back in 2011 when I first discovered Smashwords. Otherwise most of my writing and publishing (traditional and later indie) were poetry collections, essays and articles, and nonfiction how-to books, not on writing fiction but on the language itself.
But—and this is a big but, no pun intended—I’ve never pre-planned or rewritten a short story. So I was WITD (and following Heinlein’s Rule 3) for short fiction before I knew WITD by that name and before I was aware of Heinlein’s Rules. It was just story telling, and one can hold an entire short story in one’s head without much problem.
Of course, you can’t do that with a novel, which is why so many would-be novelists succumb to unreasoning fear and start with an outline.
In those pre-WITD days, I DID outline (and outline and outline, ad nauseam) a novel. I pre-planned a cast of characters, established plot points, took care with character arcs, etc. All the typical (and mythical) BS taught by all the non-writers in academia and parroted by would-be and young or inexperienced writers who don’t know any better.
I worked on that outline for over three straight years, and I still have never written that novel. And I won’t.
Most of that time, I was “stuck,” partly because I was bored out of my mind (I knew the story backward and forward) and partly because I entertained a pair of unreasoning fears: One, what if I wrote the book and nobody liked it? And two, what would that do to my career as a writer?
So I stuck to writing short stories.
Then one day in early 2014 I remembered Dean Wesley Smith, whom I had met in the mid-to-late 1990s when we both were presenting sessions at a writers’ conference. I was presenting on writing poetry, and he was presenting on how to land a New York agent.
Just for grins, back then Dean’s advice to landing an agent was to submit your manuscript yourself to several publishers. When a publisher bites, tell him or her you’ll have your agent get in touch. Then call “the” agent you would like to represent you, tell him or her you have a publisher already and only need the agent to work out the details. The agent will jump at the chance to make his or her 15% for doing nothing but negotiating rights, and you’ll have a permanent agent. Tada!
Of course, these days Dean, like I, warns against agents, traditional publishing contracts, etc. No need for any of that nonsense. We are in a golden age of indie publishing. If you are dedicated to learning and practicing the craft of writing, there is no limit to how far you can go.
Anyway, I looked Dean up online, found his website, and emailed him about my fears. He responded to my first concern with, “So? Who cares?” and to my second with, “Um, what career?” And as usual he was absolutely right.
I started reading Dean’s blog posts about WITD and decided to test it for myself. Frankly, I was skeptical. But it worked. What I really learned then was to give myself over to the characters, to be the vessel through which they told the story that they were living.
I did that from February through most of October, then took a deep breath and started my first novel, Leaving Amarillo. As I had done with my short stories, I forced myself to trust myself, my creative subconscious, and the characters (WITD). It worked, and I’ve never looked back.
And yes, I also continued writing at least one short story per week. I did that for 72 weeks before I foolishly and intentionally broke the streak myself. I still kick myself over that.
So I appreciate the comments on my stories. But honestly, the fact that you enjoy a story by anyone probably means it was written into the dark.
You can always tell a story or novel that wasn’t WITD—one that was preplanned or thought through—because at pretty much every turn you’ll be able to tell in advance what’s coming. Why? Because the writer “figured out” (conscious, critical mind) what happens next, and if the writer can figure it out, so can the reader.
Only the characters themselves can outwit the reader.
When you give yourself over to the characters and let them use your fingertips on the keyboard to convey the story that they, not you, are living, they will surprise you. And if the characters and story twists surprise you, the writer, they will definitely surprise the reader.
If you have any questions at all about this, please either leave a comment at https://hestanbrough.com/pre-witd-and-post-aicolypse/ or email me at email@example.com.
In her comment on my post “AI: Um, Why?” writer Kate Pavelle wrote in part that she is going to mark all her works “as ‘created by one human author, not written by AI’.”
I think that’s a great idea, and beginning with my next publication, I plan to do something similar. Whereas I put most such things in the end matter, this or something similar will go up front:
This fiction is a Creation, the result of a partnership between a human writer and the character(s) he accessed with his creative subconscious. This is in no part the clunky, block-by-block, artificial construction of any sort of AI or of any conscious, critical, human mind. What you read here is what actually happened there.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Getty Images Sues Stability AI For Copyright Infringement” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/getty-images-sues-stability-ai-for-copyright-infringement/.
See “U.S. Copyright Office tells Judge that AI Artwork isn’t Protectable” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/u-s-copyright-office-tells-judge-that-ai-artwork-isnt-protectable/.
The Journal…………………………………… 1400 words
Writing of “Hortencia Alvarez” (shrug—I dunno)
Day 1…… 1089 words. Total words to date…… 1089
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
Total fiction words for February……… 1089
Total fiction words for 2023………… 47962
Total nonfiction words for February… 11980
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 32330
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 80292
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: Because It Makes Sense, I preach trusting your characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living. Duh. See My Best Advice for Fiction Writers at https://hestanbrough.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/My-Best-Advice-for-Fiction-Writers.pdf.
6 thoughts on “Pre-WITD? and Post-AIcolypse”
I started putting the line “Human-Generated Content” up front in my stories and on my website, just for fun.
Cool idea. And a lot less wordy than mine. 🙂
Nothing personal – but holy cow, did I misread this caption at first. I thought it was A L (lowercase L) and was trying to make some kind of pun out of alcohol apocalypse…
Grin. Thanks, Peggy. Yep, I noticed that too just before I posted it. Had the title been in a serif font, that would have made it better. Barring that, I considered following the uppercase I with another hyphen, so “Post-AI-colypse” (and I probably should have), but I didn’t want two hypens in such close proximity and I didn’t want to omit the one after “Post.” Choices writers make, eh?
Hi Harvey, I hope you don’t mind if I ask a question in the comments. I’m currently on a break from fiction and working on nonfiction (I’m writing history at present).
My question is do you think WTD can work in nonfiction as well as for fiction?
Hi Matt, Just about to post today’s edition of The Journal.
Barring getting the facts (dates, places, etc.) right—that requires the conscious, critical mind—yes, I do. However, what I write in The Journal is not aimed at nonfiction. Re “history,” as with memoir, how events unfold is closer to fiction than to nonfiction because everything depends on who’s telling the tale or givin gthe account.
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