The Daily Journal, Saturday, May 25

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Dude, where’s my royalties
* Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Chapter 8)
* Daily diary
* Of Interest
* The numbers

Quote of the Day: “There’s many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” Flannery O’Connor

In “Of Interest” you’ll see “Dude, Where’s My Royalties?” When I’d read the article, a quick scene popped into my head:

Me tapping him on the shoulder. “Um, pardon me.”

He turns around, smiling, his eyebrows arched. “Yes?”

I try to maintain a polite smile and fail. “Why in the HELL are you not indie publishing?”

Very frustrating. When you think about going tradpub, I suggest you lie down until the thought passes.

Chapter 8: Cycling

What I call “cycling” goes hand in hand with writing into the dark.

In the previous chapter, I mentioned that WITD is a techniqe by which you write one clean draft, send it to a first reader or copyeditor, apply the “fixes” they recommend (and that you agree with), and then publish it. Period.

That’s two-thirds of the basic formula. The rest of it is what I call “cycling,” a term first coined by Dean Wesley Smith (as far as I know) but one appropriate enough that I kept it.

On the surface, this will seem to many of you like revision or rewriting. Actually, you can call it whatever you want. Labels don’t matter. What matters is the technique itself.

And like everything else in this book, the great divider between what works and what doesn’t is the critical mind.

Editing is most definitely a function of the critical mind. You can’t edit with your creative subconscious. Likewise (in my mind), revision and rewriting are both functions of the critical mind. You can’t revise or rewrite with the creative subconscious.

In fact, if you choose to revise or rewrite something your characters wrote, you’re actually harming your process.

If you’re going to evoke the critical mind to “fix” what the creative mind wrote, why should the creative mind bother showing up at all? And even if it does continue to show up, it won’t do so joyfully.

The entire key to being able to write freely off into the dark is trusting your subconscious, creative mind.

Yet if you choose to revise or rewrite, you’re telling your subconscious, creative mind that you DON’T trust it. That it has little or no value. That is a serious mistake, and you will pay for it.

Want a shortcut to not being able to come up with story ideas? Want a shortcut to writing being difficult at best? Telling your subconscious it was wrong is the best shortcut I know.

We use the creative subconscious for both writing and reading fiction. When you buy a novel and “suspend your sense of disbelief,” that means you’re setting your conscious, critical mind aside. You aren’t there to inspect the author’s technique. You’re there to read and be entertained.

(If the author has polished his original voice off the novel, rendering it boring, or if he isn’t advanced enough in the craft to pull you into the story, that’s a different matter. But the REASON you pick up a novel in the first place is to be entertained.)

Enter cycling while you’re writing.

Cycling, like writing and reading, is a function of the creative subconscious.

Basically, it means you’re “unstuck in time” in your storyline. Although the reader will read your short story or novel in a straight line from A to Z, you don’t have to write it that way.

Say you’re writing along into the dark and suddenly Aunt Marge, one of your characters, pulls a .32 caliber revolver out of the pocket of her housecoat.

It’s a complete surprise to you. Remember, the characters, not you, are telling the story. You’re only recording it for them.

But where in the world did Aunt Marge get a revolver? She doesn’t seem the type.

If you were following some silly outline, of course, you would delete that part and make Aunt Marge mind her manners and act more “in character” with the character sketch you did of her earlier.

But since you’re writing into the dark, you didn’t do a character sketch or an outline. You’re trusting your characters to tell the story.

So instead of straightening out Aunt Marge, you stop, cycle back in the manuscript to the point where Aunt Marge puts on her houserobe.

And the characters reveal that as she’s about to leave the bedroom, she decides for whatever reason — call it an urge — to slip her deceased husband’s .32 caliber Owl revolver into the pocket of her housecoat.

Then you go back to where you stopped writing and write the next sentence.

So that’s one major use of cycling: to foreshadow or set up an event that you didn’t see coming (because You aren’t telling the story… your characters are).

Another major use of cycling is to allow your characters to add things you might have missed as you race through the story with them, trying to keep up.

Dean Wesley Smith told me he cycles back regulary about every 400 t0 500 words. Hemingway would begin each day by reading back through what he’d written the day before. I cycle back once per session, so about every 900 to 1200 words.

After I’ve written for about an hour, I save the document and then take a break. Meaning I get up out of the chair and get away from the story. The break might be only a few minutes — say, a walk to the house and back — or, if I have a chore to attend to, my break might last a half-hour or an hour or longer.

But no matter how long the break is, when I come back to write, I sit down, scroll back to where I started writing the previous session, and put my fingers on the keyboard.

Then I begin reading what I wrote. Just reading it, as a reader. Not as a critic, not as an editor, and not as a writer.

Note that this is not revision. I’m not reading critically and “deciding” what to add or delete.

I’m only reading as a reader, with my creative subconscious engaged. I’ve suspended my sense of disbelief (my critical mind).

And as I read, I allow my fingers to rest on the keyboard. And if the characters make them move, I let them move.

With me, most often, my characters add depth to the scene. After all, the eventual reader of your story or novel can only sense (see, hear, smell, feel, taste) what you put on the page.

So most often as I read (my fingers resting on the keyboard), my characters add some important detail, some important bit of the setting, that I didn’t notice as we ran through the story.

Just so you know, I don’t always see the importance of what they add, but that’s conscious-mind stuff so I push it down and add the detail anyway. Apparently the characters see the importance of it, and as I keep saying, it’s their story, not mine.

But again, this isn’t simply revision by another name. This has nothing at all to do with the conscious, critical mind.

If, as I’m cycling, I “hear” a negative thought (like “Really? Is that detail important?”), I know it’s my critical mind trying to push through. And I ignore it.

I also ignore things like “Ugh, that sentence is too long” or “Didn’t you use ‘that’ too many times in this paragraph?” or even “This is boring. It’s too much description.”

Fortunately, that doesn’t happen very often to me. Why? Because I’m just reading as a reader, not critically. So if a sentence is “too long” or I used “that” too many times, I won’t even notice. Again, I’m just reading and enjoying the story, not “looking for” (critical mind) “problems.” I’m not reading critically.

A brief digression: as long as the description of the setting and the events come through the POV character — meaning they’re filtered through the POV character’s senses and accompanied by his or her opinions of the setting or events — they can’t be “too much.”

Some of you are probably thinking, “But what if the description doesn’t have anything to do with the story?”

First off, if you’re writing into the dark, you have no idea where the story’s going, so how can you know whether the details have something to do with the story?

The only time there’s too much anything on the page is when it’s coming from the writer (critical mind: “I’d better add this”) instead of the POV character.

Besides you’ve taken a solemn oath to let the characters tell their own story, right? So fuggitaboudit.

Secondly, if the POV character noticed it and thought it was important enough to mention, who are you to tell him he’s wrong?

Again, fuggitaboudit. Finish cycling through the scene, and when you get back to the white space where you stopped writing before your break, Write the Next Sentence.

That’s cycling in a nutshell. And that, my friends, is how you write a clean first draft.

Okay, so what’s next? That’s coming up in the next chapter.

Abbreviated day today. My son and his family are visiting. (Yay!) To the novel at 5. Did a little cycling, then headed to the house for a break, and while I was there my son showed up. Back later.

An good breakfast and some good conversation, and to the novel for awhile at 7:30. I might get only cycling done today. Either way, it’s fine.

Tell you what. I’m gonna go ahead and post this so the RSS subscribers get the topic early. If I get a chance to write anymore later today, I’ll add the numbers in tomorrow.

Talk with you again then.

Of Interest

See “A Question From My Daughter” at

See “The Curious Incident of the Dog & the Missing Royalties” (especially PG’s take) at

See “Dude, Where’s My Royalties?” at

See Michaele Lockhart’s “Historical Novels—Perceptions and Interesting Definitions” at

See “Some Really Fun Photos” at

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1720 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 1720

Writing of In the Cantina at Noon (novel)

Day 10… 1365 words. Total words to date…… 20874
Day 11… 3696 words. Total words to date…… 24570
Day 14… 1050 words. Total words to date…… 25620
Day 15… 1622 words. Total words to date…… 27242
Day 16… 1413 words. Total words to date…… 28655
Day 17… 2098 words. Total words to date…… 30753
Day 18… 1222 words. Total words to date…… 31975
Day 19… 2586 words. Total words to date…… 34561
Day 20… 1890 words. Total words to date…… 36451
Day 21… 2961 words. Total words to date…… 39412
Day 22… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 39412
Total fiction words for the year………… 300882
Total nonfiction words for the month… 32250
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 144110
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 444992

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 6
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 194
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

2 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Saturday, May 25”

  1. I learned about WITD from reading Dean Wesley Smith’s blog. Then I found you. It was an encouragement toward WITD. And hearing about cycling from your experience has helped me understand it. Now to put it into practice.

    • Stay tuned, Loyd. More coming. (grin) And there’s no time like right now to start a new habit.

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