Response to a Mentoring Student

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: Response to a Mentoring Student
* On Paid Book Reviewers
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“[I]f your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.” David Foster Wallace

Topic: Response to a Mentoring Student

Here’s a response I sent to one of my mentoring students yesterday morning. I did change it a little or add to it here and there. But since it was already largely written, I had only to copy and paste it, then schedule the post to release this morning. The whole process, including adding links below (if any) took maybe a half-hour instead of the usual 1 – 2 hours.

As I wrote yesterday, the tidbits in this response are varied enough that I at least hope it will help some of you along your journey:

Re all the writing “stuff” you’re going through, been there, done that. I was exactly like you in that I wanted to prove or disprove to myself that WITD would work. I honestly expected it wouldn’t work — that’s why I was able to give it an all-out honest try — and then I could get back to what I’d been doing before: spinning my wheels and getting nowhere very, very slowly.

But to my never-ending surprise, delight, and joy, it DID work. If it hadn’t, I’d probably still be working on the outline for my first novel instead of having written 67 novels, 8 novellas and well over 200 short stories.

And if I’d ever completed that outline, I’d never have written the novel. I’d know the whole story. Where’s the fun in writing that? Nope, I’d have given up on being a writer years ago and gone fishing or something instead.

I was also like you in that I didn’t “get” some of the stuff, like cycling. I just trusted Dean, and therefore assumed I just hadn’t understood yet.
Sure enough, that’s how it turned out. I kept thinking about cycling, trusting myself and my characters, how rational it all was, and how much sense it all made. And one day I finally just understood the concept of cycling (creative mind) vs. revising/editing/rewriting (critical mind). I have faith you will too.

Just keep reminding yourself to trust your characters, that you’re only their stenographer, the writer they invited along to convey their story.

And since you were invited INTO the story by the characters, you don’t have to climb up into some authorial ivory tower and control everything from afar. In fact, you don’t have to control it at all. The story will unfold as the characters live it. Your only task is to write it down.

You aren’t even invested in the stories except to enjoy them (as a reader) as they unfold. They aren’t personal to you, anymore than your neighbor’s or friend’s story about his/her trip to Zimbabwe is personal to you. It’s interesting and fun to hear or read, but it doesn’t make any real difference beyond entertaining you for a few minutes or hours.

What you write, the individual story or novel, just doesn’t matter. THAT you write something does matter, but only because you’re a writer. Equate the title with the act. Characters live stories that, to us, are fiction. Fiction writers record those stories.

“Let go and just write.” Don’t ruminate over this. Don’t think about it and mull it over. Just take a deep breath and do it.

To break out of Stage 1 and 2 writing, focus on Story. Words are insignificant in the overall scheme. Words are to Story what nails are to a new house. They enable it to be built, but individual nails are not important in their own right. If you swap one for another, they still work fine and make absolutely no difference to the resident of the house.

The resident doesn’t think about the individual nails. S/he simply enjoys the house. The reader doesn’t think about individual words. S/he simply enjoys the story.

“Why do I search for anything in my own writing?” On the surface, you do that because you want the story to be better. Underlying that is the real reason: your belief that it isn’t good enough.

If you thought it was good enough, would you try to make it better? Umm, no. Pure critical mind. Give yourself and your characters the same benefit of the doubt you give other writers whose work you read and enjoy.

Keep at it. Believe in yourself and you’ll get there.

On Paid Book Reviewers

Today over at KillZone (see “Of Interest”), Debbie Burke quoted multi-genre author Maggie Lynch as writing, “Paid reviews have always been around, long before the advent of the Internet. Who do you think paid for placement in magazines, journals, and newspapers?”

To that statement alone, I’d respond, “Hey, whatever you have to tell yourself.” No doubt some will say, “But it’s legal.” Yes, it is. But the fact that something is legal shouldn’t mitigate personal responsibility even for a crooked politician, much less a writer.

Here’s the comment I left on Debbie’s post:

“I can’t agree with your guest that paying for legitimate advertising (more prominent placement or presentation of a product) is the same as paying someone to say they like something. Paid reviewers are scammers, period.

“Even usually unscrupulous television producers require small-print notices on ads, something like ‘Paid endorsement by an actor.’ Of course, you’ll never see ‘This is a paid review.’ If the reviewers were honest they wouldn’t be pimping their opinion in the first place. So it’s all down to the authors, isn’t it? What price dignity?”

Just my two cents.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Architects design a model of a suspended city that encircles the Burj Khalifa” at

See “Maybe Changing Hotels for In-Person Workshops” at Sounds like Resorts World.

See “To Pay or Not To Pay – Book Reviews For Sale” at Never. Never, never, never. For my take, see my comment on the post.

See “What Blogging Has Taught Me About Writing” at Meh. Writing is writing is writing.

See “Lessons Learned From 11 Years As An Author Entrepreneur” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1000 words

Writing of (novel, tentative title)

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for August……… 13935
Total fiction words for the year………… 66431
Total nonfiction words for August… 21490
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 127730
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 194161

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 67
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: Along with discussing various aspects of the writing craft, I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. WITD is “the only way” to write, but it is by far the easiest, most liberating, and most fun.