The Daily Journal, Wednesday, August 7

In today’s Journal

* Last Saturday
* Topic: I Rescind My Topic Statement
* Daily diary
* Of Interest
* The numbers

Last Saturday, August 3rd, I wrote about flash fiction. A respondent from Japan and I have been exchanging comments on that post.

In one of them he metioned “100 Word Story” at Interesting website.

That put me in mind of 55 Story, a book I bought a long time ago that started me writing flash fiction. You can find the current edition here.

If you’re interested in writing flash fiction, I recommend the following (though all of these are the 55-word form):

55 Fiction: Writing a short short story at

55 Fiction | New Times San Luis Obispo at

Corinne Rodrigues at at

If you key “55-Fiction” into your search engine, you’ll find a lot more.

Definitions of flash fiction length vary depending on the source. For me, flash fiction is double-digit fiction, anything up to 99 words, including the title.

As you can see from the above, the 55-word form is very popular. Other proponents give you up to 500 words and some even up to 1,000.

To me, that seems silly. To me, anything from a few hundred words to 1199 is a “short-short,” a form nobody talks about anymore. But to each his own.

Topic: I Rescind My Topic Statement

I rescind my topic statement from yesterday. Actually, I haven’t been pushing Writing Into the Dark too much or too hard. In a world as noisy as ours and one in which most of the noise consists of horrible advice, there is no such thing.

As far as I can tell, I’m one of only a handful of professional fiction writers who are even owning up to writing into the dark, much less pushing it.

The other most outspoken proponent is Dean Wesley Smith, from whom I learned both Heinlein’s Rules and writing into the dark. A few others are Michaele Lockhart, Dan Baldwin and Robert Sadler.

The incredibly prolific Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury have all at least strongly hinted that they did the same thing.

At one point, Harlan Ellison actually set up a typewriter on a table in a department store window and wrote short stories page by page as people gathered on the sidewalk to watch. As he finished each page, he posted it on the window for the viewers to read. He was truly writing in public.

We know the old pulp writers wrote into the dark too. They had to. They were writing on manual typewriters, and they understood in a very real way that they were paid to write, not to rewrite, so it was one clean draft or nothing.

So I rescind my topic statement. The topic itself, I’ll let stand. Even the last few paragraphs, the section that begins with “But it’s really all up to you.”

Because it really IS all up to you.

But the truth is, outlining, writing word by meticulously chosen word, rewriting, etc. are all functions of the conscious, critical mind. And as such, they’re all based on fear.

They just are. They’re nothing more than a way to slow the process, to put off publishing as long as possible. The sooner you publish, the sooner you open yourself to ridicule.

The conscious mind exists to protect you. It would prefer you don’t put yourself, your views, and your unique voice “out there” at all. But if you must, then you should do everything you can to ensure perfection and lessen the chance of that ridicule.

The problem is, the conscious, critical mind knows NOTHING about creating. So outlining (and sticking to your outline), revising, rewriting, and anything else you do from the conscious mind will harm your story. Let me say that again: any activity of the conscious, critical mind will harm your story.

With each rewriting or polishing pass, you’ll polish off a little more of your original voice.

So your real choice is whether to publish your unique, original voice or to polish all the originality off of it.

Still, it remains your choice. If you feel you need the safety nets of critique groups (external critical voices), rewriting, polishing and so on, go for it.

Or, as Dean says, you can “Dare to be bad.” You can publish your unique, original voice and dare to fail.

Chances are, with some readers you will fail. And so what? But with others, you’ll succeed in a way that exceeds your wildest expectations.

And best of all, writing will stop being “work.”

Writing was never fun for me until I found the freedom afforded by Heinlein’s Rules, writing into the dark, and trusting in my own creative subconscious.

And of course, I wish for you the same freedom and the same fun.

Rolled out late at 4 and hurried through my various “usual” tasks.

Sometime in the next day or two I’ll add all of my short fiction collections to GooglePlay. I’d been waiting for XinXii to take down the two they’ve uploaded there, but they haven’t. (One more reason I won’t be using them in the future, or restricting sales by them only to their own store.)

Today also I’ll write. I’ve been writing a lot actually, but only openings that I then throw out (and don’t count). Maybe today I’ll hit on one that works.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “Myth Lectures” at I recommend these. If you can’t afford them, you can also learn a lot about the myths by read Dean’s series of post on “Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing” at And yes, I recommend buying the actual books.

See “Life” at Alison Holt poses an interesting question. I invite you go go answer it.

For potential story ideas, see “Dogs Versus Robots…” at

See “The Creative Compulsions of OCD” at

After serious consideration, I won’t be posting many more (if anymore) links to the Kill Zone blog. So if you want to follow Kill Zone, I recommend you bookmark it and check in each morning. I also recommend you carry your salt shaker with you.

Occasionally the writers there hit on something useful. However, always bear in mind that every writer there is mired in the myths and most bend their posts toward traditional publishing. Which is fine, but that just isn’t what the Daily Journal is about.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1060 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 1060

Writing of ()

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

Total fiction words for the month……… XXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 358737
Total nonfiction words for the month… 8460
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 226530
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 585267

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 7
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 194
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

8 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Wednesday, August 7”

  1. I truly don’t care at all how people choose to write, because I know everyone has to find their own way to get the stories in them out into the world, but I really do think it would help a lot of people enjoy writing more if they did “dare to be bad.” 😀

    • Agreed, Lynn. My sentiments exactly. As a teacher, it’s difficult for me to watch someone willingly enter into something I personally know is so frustrating, but all we can do is spread the word and let those who will, listen.

  2. Hi Harvey, One interesting thing I’ve learned about many of my favorite writers is that they WITD and are essentially one draft writers. They aren’t necessarily “proponents” in that they don’t often discuss it, but if you read enough interviews with them it often surfaces. Some examples: James Lee Burke, Lawrence Block, George Pelecanos, Joe Lansdale, Dennis Lehane (I believe, for sure his first novel), Robert Randisi, many others that I’m forgetting. The interesting thing to me? I love all of those authors not because of whatever plot gymnastics they manage in their stories, but because of 1) their compelling voices 2) they write memorable, kick-ass scenes. I love that there is a connection to the stories I love, and the process by which I write. I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all. I tend to write what I like to read. There is a very popular writer who I’ve always liked but never loved. His stories are all more tightly plotted than those by the authors I’ve listed above. He’s incredibly popular, so he’s obviously doing something write by heavily outlining (which he admits to), but I find his voice almost non-existent. Probably, because it is polished right off his prose. Anyway, it was enlightening to me to match-up the writers I love to writing process I practice.

    • Agreed, Tony, and thank you for the excellent and informative comment. Lee Child is another “name” who WsITD.

  3. Hi Harvey. It’s a “she” but I don’t mind 🙂 Genders aren’t essential to writing.
    Thank you for your recommendations and I will most certainly check them out.

    And for WITD, I noticed the same phenomenon with the drawing/art world, though in that world the “outliners” are more relaxed about their views. They are more “do whatever works for you”.
    I’m guessing this is because most people come in to art already knowing that you use your subconscious to draw. It may be cliche, but the popular conception of the artist connecting with the divine is pretty widely accepted.
    With writers though, I’m guessing that they are coming more from an academic POV than an artist’s. Probably has something to do with the act of writing being intimately linked to good grades/praise as a child. I see it in blogs all the time: young people writing like 19 century British aristocrats, especially in literary writing circles. It’s the Serious Young Man syndrome. It’s hilarious.

    • Yuko, thanks. No, genders aren’t essential to writing, but maybe helpful in understanding. (grin) In America (and elsewhere) students are taught all the myths (that writing is difficult, that anything worthwhile must take a lot of time, that outlining and rewriting are essential, etc.). Of course, they’re all nonsense. In all other art forms, the artists know (and are taught) the only way to get better is to practice. With writing, though, they’re taught to hover over each work, rewriting and polishing it, instead of practice (do your best, publish, then do your best again on your next work). It’s insane, but millions buy into it every day.

  4. Oookay, you meant it in a DWS kind of interpretation. I forgot to mention it but I follow him too, and have taken some of his paid lectures. I pretty much agree with you on the myths. It’s kind of sad to think that hundreds of people are quitting everyday because of those lies.

    It’s strange that people are willing to work hard for music and painting, but for some reason writing is put on a pedestal. It’s similar in Japan too, except that over here people don’t like sharing knowledge (for fear of looking arrogant or some other bs) so there really is no writing community to speak of lol.

    • Yep, I pretty much always agree with DWS. If it weren’t for him, I literally wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer. He’s also a very decent human being. He’s done things for me he absolutely didn’t have to do.

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