The Daily Journal, Wednesday, July 17

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Update
* Topic: Be Very Careful…
* Daily diary
* Of Interest
* The numbers

Quote of the Day

“If I write a novel in 15 or 20 days, how does that directly affect the guy who is on his fifth rewite seven years into one novel?

“Writing is no different than any other religion. To those who spend all their time trying to convince ‘fast’ writers we’re doing it wrong: We understand that you’re going to heaven and we aren’t ’cause you’re doing it ‘right’ and we aren’t.

“The ting is, we’re cool with that. Good for you. Safe trip.” Harvey Stanbrough, responding to a derogatory comment on a post by Dean Wesley Smith a few years ago


I’m still feeling overwhelmed by things I feel I need to do but that I really don’t. That’s mostly a holdover from having to do everything myself (writing and publishing) over the past five years.

But the publishing end is Mona’s now to learn and invent, so I’m going to mostly let go of that.

Of course, I’ll try to tidy up the business end so I can hand it over as cleanly as possible. But mostly from here on out, I’ll write fiction. Otherwise, I’ll answer any questions she might have as they arise.

In a related note, for the time being I’ve decided to hold off on uploading my books to aggregators other than Smashwords and D2D. The additional markets will provide only nominal income, except possibly in China where, allegedly, the citizens are hungry for English-language fiction.

That makes the time I have to spend on the learning curve less attractive at the moment. If I (we) decide to upload to those in the future, I’ll report here.

Yesterday I listened to Dean’s excellent PopUp lectures on building your own online bookstore. I recommend it. Hint: it has to do with establishing a presence on Ebay, ABE, Etsy as well as on your own website (and maybe YouTube, Patreon, Kickstarter) and so on.

If you have several novels out (or a half-ton of short stories and the attendant collections, or both) this is something you might want to consider. If not, I wouldn’t worry about it.

I’ve written a few thousand words of fiction over the past few days but I haven’t reported it. I’ll start reporting again when I get into a project that wants to run.

Topic: Be Very Careful Where You Get Your Writing Advice

As you all know, I use a technique called writing into the dark. I learned it from Dean Wesley Smith. He didn’t invent it. As he studied the old pulp writers, he came to see the wisdom of writing one clean draft.

Why? Because we’re paid only for the words we write. Duh.

We’re paid for the new words we put on the page. We aren’t paid extra for any hours we spend revising or rewriting, and we who are proponents of WITD see absolutely no reason to polish our own original voice off the work.

We who write into the dark also don’t outline. The characters reveal the story as we write, and that’s a Good Thing. It’s what makes WITD so much fun, and it’s what keeps writing from becoming boring and dull.

The characters are the ones who are living the story. So why shouldn’t we let them tell it? Besides, we like to be surprised and entertained.

I bring this up because yesterday, a writer whom I thought was also a proponent of WITD referenced an article in her blog.

I read the article.

I wish I hadn’t. Frankly, it angered me. And I mean chewing-wheels and spitting-nails angry.

Not because the author spoke against WITD—in fact, he spoke in favor of it—but he made his case with terribly misleading misinformation.

I did a quick Amazon search for the author of the offensive article and found he has published exactly one novel. Yet he considers himself a “book mechanic.”

I won’t mention the name of the blogger here and I won’t mention the name of the author of the offensive piece. Every writer is different, and we’re all entitled to our opinion.

But misleading misinformation can be harmful regardless of intent. So I will rebut some of the ridiculous statements he made in the article.

Before I do, let me say this: Although I am a firm disciple for both Heinlein’s Rules and writing into the dark, I don’t care how you write. All of that’s up to you.

Writing into the dark is all about trust.

* You have to trust your subconscious to do what it’s known how to do—tell stories—since before you were even aware there was an alphabet; that negates the need for an outline.

* You have to trust your characters to tell the story that they (not you) are living; that negates the need to engage your conscious, critical mind while writing.

* And you have to trust in your own ability to write your story cleanly the first time through. (You’ve long known how to write a sentence, where to put a period, etc.)

If you aren’t yet able to trust yourself to that degree—if you don’t have that level of confidence in yourself—then you can’t write into the dark. And that’s perfectly fine.

You can choose to write some other way, or to not write at all. Find something fun to do instead.

But please don’t claim you understand the technique and then spread a bunch of bovine excrement about it.

Here are some examples of bovine excrement, in quotation marks, followed by my rebuttal:

“As writers we’re supposed to struggle.”

Well, this is just assinine. I hope he meant this statement to convey irony, but just in case: If you really believe writing is a “struggle,” for God’s sake don’t do it.

Writing isn’t some pretentious, elevated calling. It isn’t something you “have” to do. It’s an elective process. Life is far too short to spend it struggling with something as vexing and labor-intensive as Writing A Bunch of Sentences in a Row.

“We like to equate effort with quality, but it’s not always the case.”

Actually, yes, effort DOES equate with quality. But the effort comes in being dedicated to the craft and learning all you can learn, not in poring over each word as you write. And it comes in PRACTICING instead of hovering over one work for months or years.

“[Dean Wesley Smith is] an author who can write 17 books a year (yep, 17).”

How wrong can one guy be? Even the most cursory research would tell him DWS can write a 60,000 word novel in 7 days. He’s written four novels in a month on at least one occasion that I know of.

Hell, even I can write 17 novels in a year, and I’m a slug compared to Dean. He could easily write at least 26 novels in a year. I’m just surprised he hasn’t challenged himself yet to write 50 novels in a year.

“[When writing into the dark we] push the creative side of our brain harder….”

Uh, no. Those of us who do this don’t “push” anything. We step back and allow our creative subconscious to flow past as the characters tell their story. We get our critical mind out of the way so the creative mind and the original story can flow.

“Not everything we write will work, but we’ll write so much the flops won’t matter.”

Ugh. This completely misses the point. We who write into the dark are not simply slinging stories against a wall and hoping some will stick. There are no “flops.” Or alternatively, everything is a “flop.”

What works for one reader won’t work for another. The point is to trust yourself to write the best story you can at your current level of craft, then submit or publish it and let the readers decide whether they like it.

“Dean writes … anticipating the story — getting excited about what will happen to the characters.”

Again, no. Practitioners of WITD “anticipate” nothing. We just write the next sentence, then the next sentence and the next until the characters carry us through to the end of the story. We’re entertained as we go.

“[Dean] goes back and re-reads what he just wrote, tweaking the story as he goes. Yes, he does re-write and edit as he works through the novel….”

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Practitioners of WITD do cycle back, always in creative mind. As Dean himself has plainly stated numerous times, he rewrites and edits nothing, either during or after the process of WITD.

Rewriting and editing is a function of the critical mind. It’s an absolutely certain way to destroy a story. (For much more on the cricical mind, see my Quiet the Critical Voice (and Write Fiction).

“To keep from writing bad endings….”

Nope. If the characters create the ending, a “bad” ending isn’t possible. When Dean “loops back” (cycles), he’s still in the creative subconscious, allowing the characters, not his conscious, critical mind, to tweak what’s on the page.

“Don’t go nuts and attempt a novel on your first go.”

To this one I can only say why not? Writing into the dark—trusting yourself and your creative subconscious to do what it knows how to do—is not limited by length. Let your characters tell their story, however long or short it may be.

Over the past five years, I’ve written in the vicinity of 4,000,000 (four million) words of published fiction in short stories, novellas and novels. Every word of it was written into the dark. In every case the story unfolded as the characters told it.

If you trust the characters, they will carry you through to the end. Your only role is that of Recorder, to put your fingers on the keyboard and write what you’re given to write. Write the next sentence, then the next and the next. You will be amazed at what happens.

Okay, that’s more than enough.

Folks, writing into the dark isn’t a matter of sacrificing quality or writing “fast” or any of that. It’s simply a way to keep us from revising, rewriting, and polishing our own original voice off the work.

Publishers want to see something “original,” right? That’s what they all say. Think about that.

I’ll talk tomorrow about a related topic: the myth that “fast” writing equals “bad” writing.

Rolled out at 1:30 and vastly revised the topic above. Yes, revised. But it’s nonfiction. Honestly, I usually write my topics into the dark too, but this time I made an exception, mostly to temper the anger I felt as I wrote the first draft.

Today I’ll try to finish tidying up everything so I can hand it off to Mona and get back to doing what I do well: writing fiction.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “National Shooting Sports Month” at

See “Wow, What A Bad Ending” at

See “The Rhythm of Words” at

See “Amazon Publishing: What is it Like to Get Signed By Them?” at Note: Presented for instructional purposes only. This is not a recommendation for Amazon Publishing.

See “Comparing the 5 Most Popular eBook Distribution Companies” at

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1850 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 1850

Writing of ()

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

Total fiction words for the month……… 7399
Total fiction words for the year………… 358737
Total nonfiction words for the month… 20930
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 205130
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 563867

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)…………………………………… 44
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 194
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

2 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Wednesday, July 17”

  1. >>“Don’t go nuts and attempt a novel on your first go.”
    >> To this one I can only say why not?

    Maybe I can answer that one.

    I found that, at least with me, writing short stories didn’t seem as daunting to test the WitD waters and throw off the myths. After succumbing to the critical voice on a couple of previous novel attempts, I discovered I could get through a short story and feel more comfortable with the concept of trusting my abilities–not unlike completing a few 5Ks before hitting the marathons. They were a confidence builder and have allowed me to write longer pieces now with much less worry.

    It’s all psychological, of course, but most of the time, it’s the mind games that can hold us back or push us forward.

    My two pennies!

    • Thanks, Phillip.

      I could have answered that one myself, and for the same reason.

      When I first started WITD (April 2014), I did exactly the same thing. It took me until October of the same year to realize I wasn’t “really” WITD because I could hold an entire short story in my head. So on October 19, 2014, I took a deep breath and decided to REALLY test WITD to see whether it was real. Around 20 days later I’d completed my first novel. Then I took another deep breath and published it. The very first reviewer wrote that it was “one of most tightly plotted novels” he’d ever read. (grin) And just like that, I was hooked.

      That’s why I don’t agree with specifically advising anyone to “don’t go and attempt a novel on your first go.” As you said, it’s all psychological.

Comments are closed.