The Daily Journal, Thursday, May 23

In today’s Journal

* Happy birthday to my dad
* Short day today
* Note
* Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Chapter 6) (See the note below.)
* Daily diary
* Of Interest
* The numbers

Happy birthday to my dad. He would have been 91 today.

Short day today, so this will be a brief post other than the topic below. Of course, short days and long days don’t matter as much on this WIP since I’m in no rush to finish it. (grin)

Note: I decided to turn the “digression” I wrote on May 21 into Chapter 5 of the book. If you missed it, you can read it here

Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Chapter 6)

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

I was going to talk about what I recommend writers do instead of following all the items on that silly list in the previous chapter.

But I thought maybe I ought to talk about paying your dues first. It ties in. And yeah, paying your dues is a thing.

But chances are, it doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means.

Most writers believe “paying your dues” means laboring for long hours to “perfect” their craft doing all the things I’ve been preaching against in this book: outlining, editing, revising, rewriting, etc.

And then going on a years-long agent hunt. The difficulty of finding an agent, many believe, is all part of paying your dues.

When you finally land an agent, you submit what you’ve “perfected” to her, and she will will most often require (!!!) another set of revisions and rewriting.

(I put the !!! after “require” because an agent should never be allowed to “require” anything of you. She works for you, remember? Not the other way around.)

And when those revisions and rewriting are finished and the agent finally deems your work acceptable, she ostensibly begins trying to place your work with a publisher. This can take another year or two or five. All of which many writers believe is just part of paying their dues.

And if a publisher bites and the agent makes a deal, the book goes into the publisher’s catalogue where it will languish for another year or so before it finally appears on shelves in a dwindling number of brick-and-mortar stores. Again, it’s all part of paying your dues.

Only it isn’t. And you aren’t.

Paying your dues doesn’t mean hovering over one work. You can’t “perfect” your craft, ever. Art can’t be perfected. You can only improve your craft with subsequent bits of art, applying what you learned the previous time.

But you can’t even improve your craft if you spend all of your time hovering over one work.

So paying your dues doesn’t mean revising, rewriting, and polishing the same work over and over while waiting a number of years for your rewriting skills to improve.

To help me explain, imagine for a moment that all publishers still paid exactly one cent per word.

If that were the case, and if you wanted to make a living as a writer, you’d quickly realize that every time you revise or rewrite, you’re cutting into your own profits.

How many pennies would you have to make in a given month to live comfortably? Do your own math.

Time equals money. It’s as true in writing as in any other art form or any other business.

And improving your craft requires practice. Again, it’s as important in writing as in any other art form.

But back to money for a moment: You’re paid for the finished product.

Just remember this: How much your paid on an hourly basis is strictly up to you. You are paid what you believe you are worth.

Here’s what I mean.

At one cent per word, the going rate for a 60,000-word novel is $600.

If you write a clean first draft of your novel in 60 writing hours (because you believe in yourself), you’ll make $600. So ten dollars an hour. (Not bad at all back in the day of a penny per word.)

But if you spend 60 hours writing, then another 60 hours revising, then another 60 hours rewriting, then another 60 hours polishing because you don’t believe in your own abilities, you’ll still be paid the same $600.

Only now it’s divided by 240 hours: So now you’re making two point five dollars per hour. Again, you are paid what you believe you’re worth. And you did it to yourself.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Again, paying your dues doesn’t mean hovering. Paying your dues means practicing. Many, many long-term professional writers have said the same thing.

Paying your dues means improving your WRITING skills — your storytelling skills — not your editing and revision and rewriting skills. It means believing in yourself, moving forward, not back, and not standing still.

Many long-term professional writers also say when you’ve written and published 1,000,000 words (yeah, that’s six zeroes) you will have approached the ability to be a good storyteller.

And no, writing and then rewriting a 60,000 word novel doesn’t add up to 120,000 words of practice.

So how do you practice?

First, by never hovering. By always looking forward, not back. You practice by writing the best story you can at your current skill level, learning something new, then writing the next book. Then writing the next book. Then writing the next book.

But here, let’s get all the pigs in one pen so we can look at them.

As I mentioned a little earlier, you are paid to write. What you are are NOT paid to do is

* Outline,
* Prepare character sketches,
* Research locations and settings,
* Know the ending in advance, or
* Take writing courses.

In short, you are not paid to delay writing your short story or novel.

And after you’ve written, you also are not paid to

* Let your finished manuscript cool off,
* Read over it again with “fresh eyes,”
* Edit,
* Revise,
* Send it to a series of “beta readers,”
* Revise again,
* Rewrite however many times, or
* Polish.

You’re paid for what you publish (or what you submit to the publisher that is accepted). You’re paid for the finished product. And your per-hour rate boils down to whether you believe in yourself.

Keep moving forward.

If you’re a person who needs a routine or a pattern, instead of trapping yourself in one place, writing, editing, revising, and rewriting, get into this pattern: Write, learn, write, learn, and write some more.

You will be richer for it in more ways than one.

Okay, so with that out of the way, in the next chapter I’ll begin telling you what I recommend.

Rolled out late at 4. Searched for items “Of Interest” and immediately enrolled in Dean’s “Learn Along” (see below). This is a fantastic opportunity, and very inexpensive considering all the knowledge I plan to gain.

With limited time today, to the novel at 6:30.

I wrote off and on with breaks and had a pretty good day, especially for a short day. And the novel’s still running.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “Business Musings: Inventory” at

See “Learn Along With Dean” at I’m definitely taking this one. Already signed up.

See Dean’s posts on The Magic Bakery at Or just go buy the book. (grin)

For those of you who write short, see “SICK: Now Seeking Submissions” at

Also see “9 Free Writing Contests” at

Fiction Words: 2961
Nonfiction Words: 1180 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 4141

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

Total fiction words for the month……… 39412
Total fiction words for the year………… 300882
Total nonfiction words for the month… 28300
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 140160
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 441042

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