The Daily Journal, Tuesday, May 21

In today’s Journal

* From Kris Rusch
* Topic: A Digression
* Daily diary
* Of Interest
* The numbers

From the Too Good to Pass Up department, see Kris Rusch’s “Good News” at

Topic: A Digression

Note: Chapter 4 of How to Quiet the Critical Voice will appear here tomorrow. I had it ready to go, but this has to take precedence.

Wow. Especially considering that I’m smack in the midst of writing a nonfiction book on beating the critical voice, I had to talk about this.

For an excellent example of someone who for right or wrong is fully immersed in the myths, see PJ Parrish’s “Before And After: Does Your First Draft Look Good Naked?” at

PJ Parrish is actually a writing team of two sisters. Her novels have appeared on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. She has written 15 novels and one novella.

I tried to read two of her novels. I wasn’t able to get into the story in either of them.
I’m supposed to say that was only a matter of my personal taste, but in my opinion it was because the books were flawed with various things that either pulled me out of the story or didn’t allow me to get into the story in the first place.

As you already know, I do not see that as a matter of personal taste. I see that as a matter of the writer not being knowledgeable of the either the basics of the language or the techniques used to pull the reader into the story (or both).

Furthermore, I’m convinced some of the things that kept me from getting into the story were the direct result of PJ rewriting and “polishing.”

I didn’t leave a comment on the post. I knew doing so would be a waste of my time. I also didn’t want to disagree with the author in her own house (the KillZone blog).

But if I were asked on the record, “Does Your First Draft Look Good Naked?” I would answer, “Yes. It does.”

And I would answer immediately, confidently, and unequivocably.

My “first draft” looks good for only one reason: I write it that way.

Even as “fast” as I write, you couldn’t pay me enough to make me write a sloppy first draft, then go back and rewrite it.

To me, that makes as much sense as filling a wheelbarrow with dirt, moving it partway toward the destination, then dumping it. Why? So I can come back tomorrow, load the dirt into the wheelbarrow again, and move farther toward the destination.

Every time I rewrite, I’m refilling the wheelbarrow. Uhh, no. Bad idea. I’m lazy. I don’t like touching work twice, much less several times.

So I write my story “clean” the first time through. I cycle back every thousand words or so to clean up any small errors that pop up (misspellings, etc.) and to allow the characters to add what I missed as I wrote. Then I keep writing.

After that I run a spell check, send it off to my first readers, apply their recommendations (if I agree). Then I publish it. Period.

All of that being said, once you’ve gotten through the intro and Chapters 1–10 of the book I’m writing on how to beat the critical voice, you’re free to do whatever you want.

It’s absolutely true that every writer is different.

However, it’s also absolutely true that you can train yourself to be whatever kind of writer you want to be.

You can take the easy path and train yourself to remain embroiled in the myths, or you can square your shoulders, puff out your chest and take a chance on Trusting Yourself and your own original voice.

It’s strictly up to you.

Just a couple of days ago as a friend and I were talking, I was reminded of an in-person seminar I taught on Writing Off Into the Dark. Around a dozen writers attended the seminar.

Of those dozen or so writers, all but one left enthused about writing into the dark.

But as close as I can figure, maybe 3 were able to break away completely from the myths and are still writing off into the dark.

Of the others, some still say they are but occasionally drop little “tells” that they really aren’t. And that’s fine. Whatever works for them.

The one who couldn’t bring herself to even try the technique told me (even before the seminar was over, as I recall) that she simply couldn’t do it.

She “had,” she said, to write word-by-word, line-by-line, and attempt to make her story perfect. Then, she said, she would revise, rewrite and polish.

I remember wondering why she would do that if she’d already rendered the story “perfect.” I guess the revising and rewriting was an attempt to make it “more” perfect.

But what could I do? I only smiled and told her that was fine, that every writer is different.

The funny thing is, I actually saw the fear on her face, just as if she was standing on a railroad track, her shoe caught, and she’d just decided to let the shoe go and leap out of the way.

I’m not kidding. The look on her face was that filled with fear.

I remember thinking at the time, that was the actual face of the critical voice. If was as if she’d been possessed by a demon and the demon was letting me see its face.

Anyway, again, what could I do? For that matter, what can I do even now?


I really don’t expect other writers to accept what I’m saying at face value. I only hope they’ll do what I did: be skeptical, but try it on their own terms. But be honest with themselves and really try it.

The thing is, if it doesn’t work, they’ve lost nothing but the time it took for them to try it.

But if it does work, it will open up a fresh new world they’d never imagined possible.

I know this for a fact, because I live in that world.

But I honestly don’t write all this stuff, including writing a nonfiction book “live” right here in posts, because I think everyone is listening.

I don’t even write it in an attempt to change anyone’s mind. Really.

I do it because I know there might be ONE writer listening and I really want to pay forward the best thing that ever happened to me.

I hope for your sake you’re that one writer.

Back tomorrow with Chapter 4 of How to Quiet the Critical Voice.

Very slow start today. I didn’t get up until almost 5 a.m., a true oddity for me.

Got to the Hovel, did all my usual stuff, and ran across the KillZone blog post that prompted today’s impromptu topic.

Finally to the novel at 10. With one short break, I wrote a little over 2000 words before noon, then took a slightly longer break.

The story is racing along, happily with no end in sight.

Whoo. Over an hour break. I got a lot done during that hour, but still.

Back to the novel at 1:15. Then Wes’ son asked him a question and I had to do a little research, which meant reading back over some of Wes’ earlier adventures.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “Just a Day” at Uncanny, given that I was just wondering about this myself.

See “What Is a Scene?” at

Via CrimeReads, see “Hannibal Lecter’s Creator Cooks Up Something New (No Fava Beans or Chianti) (Interview) at

See “We’ve just improved your status!” at

See “The True Cost of Multitasking Isn’t Productivity—It’s Mental Health” at

See “Are You Self-Publishing Audio Books?” at The big takeaway: Read All Publishing Contracts Closely.

Fiction Words: 2586
Nonfiction Words: 1300 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 3886

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

Total fiction words for the month……… 34561
Total fiction words for the year………… 296031
Total nonfiction words for the month… 25470
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 137330
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 433361

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, Tuesday, May 21”

  1. No matter what you do in life, what example you set, what experience you share, you might never get to know who or how many you helped. Do it anyway. I guarantee it’s more then you’d expect– even if you never know for sure…

    • Oh, there’s no shutting me up. (grin) No worries there.

      DWS and I were talking a couple of years ago about WITD and sharing it etc. He said if I taught 100 writers WITD, chances were maybe one would be strong enough to overcome the fear and actually do it. Fortunately I’ve had greater success than that. I’m thankful others will get to experience the freedom it brings, but I remain unattached to Outcome. I’m just very very glad I was one who “got it.”

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