The Daily Journal, Friday, April 5

In today’s Journal

▪ Day One of my days off
▪ Topic: Writing Action Scenes
▪ Daily diary
▪ Of Interest
▪ The numbers

Well, today will be Day One of my days off. I’ll still visit with you each morning, but I plan not to begin a new fiction project until the visit with my friend is over.

My first four years in the USMC were akin to many other people’s college time. It was a time during which I mostly grew up, had parties, learned a ton of new stuff, and made lifelong friends.

The guy who’s coming (probably today, all the way from Missouri) to visit is one of those I consider a lifelong friend. I’m not sure how long the visit will last.

When my friend Corky and I met, I was a Hawker. Not a guy who sells stuff on the street out of a suitcase, and not a guy in Oceanside, California who tries to persuade passersby to go into one shady business or another.

A Hawker in our situation was a guy who understood and operated various pulse- or continuous-wave acquisition radars and fed the lieutenant information so he would know when to lean slightly forward and push the big red button. (grin)

At which point a HAWK missile would launch so quickly it couldn’t be seen by the naked eye (the speed is still classified, I think), fly downrange and destroy any incoming medium- to low-altitude target.

But my buddy “Corky” was not a Hawker. He was in our communications platoon. A comm guy. And a really good one. He and I were also whiskey afficionados, pretty good pool players, and young enough to get ourselves into (and out of) situations I wouldn’t attempt today.

Like Seinfeld’s old Jewish uncle, I could wag one hand in your direction: “I could tell you such stories, you wouldn’t believe!” (Don’t worry. I won’t. Probably.)

But I hope to relive that time period over the next few days as Corky and I remind each other of a lot of them.

We had only a few years together. I got out, spent some time as a truck driver and a cop, came back in and ended up retiring from the USMC. Corky went on to retire from the Missouri Prison System — as a guard, not an inmate (Thank you, Jesus) — though there were times I thought it might’ve gone either way. (grin)

The point is, the bond we forged during our short time together has endured for over 45 years, many of which we were completely out of touch with each other. Pretty amazing.

Good friends, and lifelong friends — that’s what’s good about getting older.

Topic: Cycling vs. Editing or Revising, Revisited

I wasn’t planning to write a topic today, but I was handed this one on a silver platter. (Thanks, Linda.) Huh. I almost wrote “on the proverbial silver platter,” but to my knowledge there is no silver platter mentioned in Proverbs.

Anyway, Linda wrote

“Cycling requires a tremendous amount of trust from the creative side. That you’re not going to meddle with the story unnecessarily….”

I omitted much of her comment, but she ends with “But the trust gets rewarded.”

I wrote a brief response but decided to elaborate here. It’s been my experience that what one person asks, twenty others want to ask.

Yes, cycling requires tremendous trust in the subconscious. In fact, it requires EXACTLY the same tremendous amount of self-confidence and trust in the subconscious that is required of writing into the dark in the first place. Same “source” (the subconscious), same process except that you’re reading (as a Reader, not an editor) and allowing your characters to touch the story.

I would never allow myself to meddle with the story, in the writing or in the cycling. In fact, once you “get it” — meaning once you trust yourself enough to write off into the dark and learn how truly freeing it is — meddling with the story becomes an alien concept.

For me, the path to that trust was this: It isn’t my place to meddle with the story because it simply isn’t my story. It’s the POV character’s story. I have no more right to influence it than I have to meddle with the lives of my neighbors or my adult children or anyone else.

And as I pointed out in the previous post, ANY negative that pops into your mind as you read comes from the conscious, critical (negative) mind.

If, while I was writing or cycling, I heard “this is horrible” (or “awful”) or anything else negative, I’d get up and take a walk or go do something else, all the while telling my critical mind to shut up and get back in its corner.

If you get a little sick feeling in your gut when you make a change while you’re cycling, that’s another sure sign that somewhere along the way you’ve slipped into the critical, conscious mind.

When that happens (and it still occasionally happens to me), I recommend immediately hitting Undo on your screen. Then go take that walk, etc. until you are able to relegate the conscious mind back to its cage. It has no place in writing, and it has no place in cycling.

Or put another way, editing and revising (coming as it does from the critical mind) requires concentration and work. Cycling, like all things from the subconscious creative mind, is always a joy. If it isn’t, or if it’s negative, you aren’t cycling. You’re editing. And you will make the story worse.

The fact is, until you learn to trust yourself, your creative subconscious (and your characters to tell their own story), you won’t be able to cycle, but neither will you be able to write off into the dark in the first place.

To take a roadtrip with no map and no idea where you’re going or when you’ll get back home requires a great deal of trust in your abilities. And that’s exactly what you’re doing when you write “off into the dark” or as my friend Michaele Lockhart calls it, “off into the unknown.”

Imagine for a moment you’ve decided to chronicle the life of your adult son and his wife and children. Without them being aware you’re doing so, of course.

You want what’s best for your children, so it takes a lot of trust in them to let them make their own decisions and live their own lives, especially while you’re watching.

Yet you know in your control-freak heart of hearts that their life will be better And More Authentic than it would if you tried to levy control over it. So instead, you support them in their decisions and let them live their own life, their own story.

(And if you don’t know that yet, think about it: How much did you want to live your own life instead of letting your parents control your every action, interaction and comment?)

Exactly the same thing is true of your characters and their life, their story. Exactly the same thing.

So to return to Linda’s comment, ANY “meddling” with the story is done “unnecessarily.” And it will harm the story. Period.

Perhaps worse than that, allowing your critical mind to meddle with the story will tell your subconscious you DON’T trust it. And that, my friends, will kill any chance you have of being a writer and telling interesting, authentic stories.

Rolled out shortly after 2 this morning, wrote the stuff above and scanned the internet.

Later today, before my friend and his lovely wife arrive, I’ll prep and send off Blackwell Ops 5 to my first readers, mow the yard, then work on a website for another friend. I think I have to do a load of laundry too.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “How I Write – Or: D.I.Y.” at

While you’re there SUBSCRIBE or browse some of the other topics. There’s a lot of great stuff from some very good writers.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1230 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 1230

Writing of (novel)

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

Total fiction words for the month……… 10038
Total fiction words for the year………… 227839
Total nonfiction words for the month… 5780
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 82850
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 310869

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 5
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 42
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 193
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

4 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Friday, April 5”

  1. I do love writing into the dark but I don’t know how to sustain it ( I leave holes in the story as I write). And I really don’t know how to cycle. That’s where my critical mind creeps back in usually. I need a bigger stick.

    I’m looking forward to learning more in both areas!

    • Sure you do. You sustain it the same way you do it: trust yourself and your characters to tell the story. (grin)

      I know that seems almost clichéd at this point, and I can almost see you nodding as I say it.

      But you don’t understand it, really, not yet. If you did, you wouldn’t think your story has plot holes. (grin) The good news is, you will understand it soon. The little light will blink on and a whole new world will open up. You’re getting closer every time you think about “Trust your subconscious and the characters to tell the story.”

  2. I often find my subconscious unwilling to cycle back. I am still learning and training myself to cycle after writing one page.
    Yet, often there goes my creative voice and is running with the characters. Before I realize it, the story advanced by another three or four pages until bog down.
    By then, the motivation to reread the words is … well … not available.

    Sometimes it helps getting out of the chair, stretch a bit, open the window for fresh air, then come back and cycle.

    If I finally get myself to scroll back up and cycle through the latest words, mostly I enjoy reading them. I add some words, a sentence here, clean up a typo there and continue writing. Whatever comes to my mind and feels good, while reading appreciative without looking for something specifically.

    • It sounds to me like you have cycling down pretty well. Now you just have to train yourself a little to keep doing it, turn it into a routine. What you’re practicing now is pretty much the way I do it. And all writers are different. Dean, for example, has said several times he cycles back about every 500 words. (For me, that’s 1/3 to 1/4 of a scene.)

      I usually write for about an hour (or a little longer), then take a break. When I come back, I read through what I just wrote (so usually 800 to 1200 words or so, cycling) then begin writing again when I hit the blank spot. 🙂 So it sounds as if you and I are doing it very similarly. But that’s a habit I had to develop. At first, I had to force myself to take a break about every hour. Now it happens automatically.

Comments are closed.