The Daily Journal, Sunday, May 26

In today’s Journal

* If you haven’t yet taken part
* I wasn’t going to write
* Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (new Intro)
* Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Chapter 9)
* Daily diary
* Of Interest
* The numbers

If you haven’t yet taken part in Kris Rusch’s Kickstarter, why not?

Anyway, now is the time to jump in. For as little as $5.00 (five dollars) you will get around $500.00 (five hundred dollars) worth of books, lectures, workshops, etc. Just sayin’.

Today, Kris’ Kickstarter campaign hit the 4th stretch goal. So everybody who supported it gets everything at their support level PLUS all the stretch goals. You can find the Kickstarter at

I wasn’t going to write a topic for today. I was going to take the day off from nonfiction and ride with Wes for awhile.

Then I encountered the first item in “Of Interest” and decided to offer up both my rewrite (it’s nonfiction) of the Introduction to the book AND to write the next chapter of How to Quiet the Critical Voice.

I’m doing this not only because it will address a particular need of the person who instigated the post in “Of Interest,” but because it might. If anyone truly NEEDS this series of posts, it’s that would-be writer and the group of which he is a prime example.

First, specifically for that writer (and those writers) I’m going to post the rewritten (again, it’s nonfiction) Introduction. In the original form, it was too far-reaching and delved into too many things I covered in later chapters.

Then, for those of you who’ve been following along, I’ll post the all-new Chapter 9. So another long post today.

Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (new Intro)


Well, you can’t. Not entirely. There, I said it.

But writing should be fun. It should be an escape for you, just as your story will be an escape for your eventual readers. And nothing about listening to input from a negative Nellie is ever fun.

The fun in writing begins when you stop allowing negative input — from anyone or anyplace — into your writing process.

Yet practically everything we’ve learned over the years was either how to delay writing (outline, character sketch, world-build, etc.) or negative (what you write will not be good so you must revise, rewrite and polish).

And in every case, we learned all of that from one of two sources:

* At first we learned it from non-writers, like our English and Composition teachers in school at various levels.

* And later the same delays and negatives were reinforced by other would-be writers and writers who were taught exactly the same things by the same non-writers.

Quieting the critical voice is an ongoing process.

First you must learn to recognize it. That’s easy. Anything that delays you from writing or is negative comes from the critical mind. Period.

Second, you must learn to make the critical voice shut up and leave you alone. That isn’t as easy, but you can do it. The critical voice will visit less often as you become more experienced at telling it to shut up and leave you alone.

You can learn (quickly) to recognize it. And you can learn, with time and practice, to remand it to a cell in a back corner of your brain. The ability to do that is a direct result of your desire to write.

But what is the conscious, critical voice?

The conscious, critical voice exists to protect you from yourself. Its sole purpose in writing is to KEEP you from writing, and if you write, to KEEP you from finishing what you write, and if you finish what you write, to KEEP you from publishing what you’ve written.

To be fair, the conscious, critical mind has its good purposes too. For example, we learn new information and new techniques with our conscious mind.

But it has no place in actual writing. Once you’re actively engaged in writing a story (of any length) you need to set that conscious, critical voice aside.

For just one example, you have to let go of the urge to critique (critical mind) what you’ve just written. Read over it as a Reader for enjoyment, yes. You read for enjoyment with the subconscious mind, suspending the critical sense of disbelief. So do that. (Much more on this in Chapter 8.)

But if you find yourself being critical (negative), that’s the critical voice.

You’ve been taking in Story since you were too young to even be aware there was an alphabet, so well before you began to commit words to paper. What you learned about telling stories seeped into your subconscious. It’s waiting there for you to tap into it.

Consider thought — later, in school at various levels — you were taught to capitalize the first word of sentences and to dot the lower-case I and cross the T and put a period or a question mark at the end of a sentence.

So you do those things automatically. Without “thinking” about it. Without evoking the conscious, critical mind.

Likewise, once you learn to trust yourself and let go of all the negative thoughts and delaying tactics, you can engage your creative subconscious and Just Write.

But wait. You say capitalizing the first word of a sentence and putting a period at the end DOES come naturally but the various parts of telling a story don’t?

That’s because you were TAUGHT that they don’t. You were taught to double-check yourself. You were taught to not trust yourself.

Now, if you want to be a writer—and more importantly, if you want to actually ENJOY being a writer—you have to let all that negativity go.

You have to learn to trust yourself.

And you have to learn to quiet your critical voice.

In every case, the urgings that come from the critical mind are based on fear. They are always, ALWAYS negative.

The simplest fears are stated bluntly by the critical voice: “I can’t do this” or “Writing a novel is overwhelming” or “What was I thinking?” or “Maybe someday” or “No way can I get published anyway.”

The majority of would-be writers are stopped cold by these fears alone.

But the more common and stronger fears lie in wait for writers who get beyond those simplest ones and decide to actually write. These critical-mind stumbling blocks are a little more complex and a lot less straightforward.

Most of the time they’re difficult to recognize because they’re disguised as delays (as opposed to outright refusal to allow you to write or reinforcement of the outright certainty that you “can’t”).

But the result is the same:

* Your manuscript remains in your mind, unwritten.

* Or you’ve started it and it lays in a drawer or remains in your computer, unfinished.

* Or you’ve finished it but it remains unsubmitted and unpublished.

The critical voice has new tricks for each level of this journey. In this book, I’ll look at each level and help you recognize as many of the tricks as possible. This will not be an easy journey for you. It wasn’t an easy journey for me. But I promise, the benefits far outweigh the initial discomfort as you purge the myths you’ve been taught about writing.

Now, if you experience fear while reading this, that fear is coming from your critical mind. It doesn’t want you to learn the techniques I outline in this book. I strongly recommend you finish the entire book. Then, if you’re still experiencing the fear (you will be) put the techniques into practice. Soon the fears will diminish.

But let’s start at the beginning. Let’s say you want to write a novel. And let’s say you’ve gotten past all the “I can’t do this” stuff.

Now you’ve entered the realm of the “Prep Delays.” What are those?

I’ll be back with Chapter 1 to tell you.

Note: You can find the succeeding chapters at the links below:

Chapter 1: Recognizing the Critical Voice Prep Delays

Chapter 2: Recognizing the Critical Voice Post-Prep Delays

Chapter 3: Recognizing the Critical Voice Pre-Publication Delays

Chapter 4: Attacking the List

Chapter 5: A Digression

Chapter 6: Paying Your Dues — What’s That Mean?

Chapter 7: Following Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark (WITD)

Chapter 8: Cycling

Which brings us to…

Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Chapter 9)

Chapter 9: Now What?

In the previous chapter, I wrote, “If you choose to revise or rewrite something your characters wrote, you’re actually harming your process.”

That is, if you choose to allow your critical mind to jump into the process and “correct” your creative subconscious, you’re teaching your subconscious that you don’t trust it after all.

Yet the whole purpose behind writing into the dark is to trust your subconcsious. To trust your characters to tell their own story, the story that they themselves (not you) are living.

So once your creative subconscious learns that you’re going to revise and rewrite what it gives you anyway, why should it bother giving you any other stories to write?

That alone should be enough to cause you to reconsider your policy of revising and rewriting.

But if it isn’t, consider this: The worst way you are harming yourself when you revise or rewrite is by changing or outright censoring your own unique voice.

As I write this, in the past few days I had a comment via email from a writer:

He mentioned that David Farland recently wrote a post in which he mentioned “that [creating a] ‘too original’ world would overload and bore reader.”

As I told that writer,

“I haven’t read that post, but in my opinion there is no such thing as “too original.” For one thing, there ARE no original ideas or original worlds. Everything has already been written.

“The only thing that’s original and unique is your voice, the way YOU present the idea and the way YOU describe the world. And the only way to do that is to write off into the dark and allow your characters to tell their own story. It really is that simple.”

Almost every call for manuscripts or submission guideline I’ve ever read has said the publication or publisher is look for “a unique voice,” a voice and style that are uniquely your own.

Then they advise you to edit, revise and rewrite. And you take that to mean until your work “sounds like” their (or your) favorite author. Hmmm.

Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing at all wrong with wanting to enjoy the same level of success as Hemingway or Chandler or Rusch or King.

And it’s also all right that your voice is informed by the voices of your favorite authors. In fact, it’s inevitable.

However, all of those folks (and every other professional long-term writer) achieved their success by writing in their own unique, original authorial voice. And because they did, they set trends. Notice, they SET trends. They did not FOLLOW trends.

But in consciously (critical mind) editing, revising or rewriting your work so it sounds more like the work of someone else, you will “polish” (another English-teacher term directly from corporate-speak) your unique voice OFF the work.

And you will be left with a manuscript that reads like the works of those other authors, but one that is written far below their level of skill. After all, you can write only at your own skill level.

So it will sound like something that is not unique to you, that doesn’t have the ring of your truth, and that looks exactly like everything else in the acquisition editor’s slushpile.

So what’s next?

What’s next is Practice.

There was a time when little Billy Shakespeare (and little Ernest Hemingway and little Kristine Katherine Rusch et al) didn’t even know there was an alphabet, much less how to actually form the letters, and much, much less how to write so much as a sentence.

Just like me. Just like you.

The difference was that they were driven to practice their craft. They were driven to write story after story, novel after novel, learning more each time and applying what they learned to the next story or novel. Always moving forward, not back, and not hovering.

I often get the question, “Shouldn’t I go back and rewrite my first short story (or novel) and include what I’ve learned up to this point?”

And my answer is always No. Let it stand. That story or novel is in your past, not your present or your future. Keep moving forward.

So how do you practice?

The same way you increase your chance at discoverability by readers. You write a story or novel to the best of your current ability, and you publish it. Then you write the next story or novel. Then the next. Then the next.

Along the way, you’ll read blog posts from reputable sources like Dean Wesley Smith or Kristine Kathryn Rusch or yours truly. You’ll read nonfiction books on writing by reputable writers (meaning fictionists who know what they’re doing), again by Dean Wesley Smith or Lawrence Block or me. You take writing courses online or at your local college.

You’ll do all of those things with your conscious, critical mind. If something feels right, you should accept it and internalize it; if it doesn’t, you should consider it and then move on. What you need (for example, pacing techniques or adding depth or story structure, etc.) will filter down into your subconscious and come out through your fingers as you’re writing, without conscious thought.

(As an important aside, if you ever hear any writing instructor say something like “I know it when I see it but it’s difficult to explain,” I recommend you leave the class immediately and don’t come back. That so-called “instructor” should be doing something other than teaching writing.)

All of this brings us to the post-partum period of writing a novel. So what is that?

For many writers, when a story is finished, they feel a need to take some time off. I won’t run down any other writer’s process. I can only speak to my own experience.

For me, when I finish a novel, I experience no joy, no elation and no real post-partum desire to do something else for awhile. No feeling that I need to escape writing. After all, writing IS my escape.

Instead, when I finish a novel I experience a time of sadness because the story is over, which means I won’t get to hang out with those characters for awhile, or maybe ever again.

Bummer. But to get over that feeling, I begin the next story or novel, sometimes on the same day, often on the next day, and almost always within a few days.

Just as in life, I celebrate beginnings, not endings. Just as I mourn the death of a family member or friend as briefly as possible, I celebrate a birth at the time and every year for the foreeeable future.

So what do I do (and recommend doing) when I finish a story or novel?

I look forward, not back. I don’t allow much time for mourning the end of a novel, and I don’t take much time off from doing what I love. I understand that I’m a lucky, lucky guy.

I write the next story or novel. And the next. And the next.

If you still feel your conscious, critical mind injecting negatives (“But I can’t write a novel!” “This is all too much to take in!” “Maybe this works for other, more experienced writers, but not for me!”) I suggest you go back and re-read this book.

Then, when you’re ready, move on to the next chapter on publishing or submitting your work for publication.

Rolled out late at a little after 4 this morning. I won’t write any fiction today (3rd day in a row!) as the visit with my son and his family is ongoing, but I wanted to get this out. So here it is.

Probably no topic tomorrow, at least not in the Critical Mind series. I need to ride with Wes for awhile.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “Let’s Help a New Writer Out” at Oh my. And Oh. My. God. Yes, read this (as any nonfiction) critically.

See “MurderCon: Interrogating LAPD Detective Paul Bishop” at

See Karla Brandenburg’s “Post Partum period of writing a book” at

See “Moral Rights” at

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 2610 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 2610

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… 34860
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 146720
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 447602

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