In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* The First Quote of the Day
* Of Interest
* The Numbers
Quotes of the Day
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Stephen King
“Pace is the speed at which your narrative unfolds. There is a kind of unspoken (hence undefended and unexamined) belief in publishing circles that the most commercially successful stories and novels are fast-paced. Like so many unexamined beliefs in the publishing business, this idea is largely bullshit. … I believe each story should be allowed to unfold at its own pace, and that pace is not always double time.” Stephen King
The First Quote of the Day
I remembered the first quote of the day a couple of days ago when a young writer emailed me. (Thanks, E. D.) Overall, she was worried about how much reading other writers’ work would influence her own.
In her own words,
“I’ve just finished reading a wonderful story … written by a fantastic author, and I find myself beginning to write a story much like hers. Her story really impressed me, to the point where I can hardly stop thinking about it. But I don’t want to write a copy of her story.”
This has always been a concern for newer writers. Some even flatly refuse to read other writers’ work because they’re afraid that work will influence their own.
Let me put your mind at rest. Yes, if you read the work of other writers, especially stories you really like, that work will inform your own. Even their writing style will inform your own writing style, but it won’t replace it.
As I told this young author, the way around this is to Just Write the Story. Don’t worry about what the other author wrote, and don’t consciously think about it (or anything else) as you’re writing. Shut out the conscious, critical mind.
If you just write whatever comes, that story will be coming out of You and Your Creative Subconscious. Because of that, it will be unique and original and authentic. Because nobody else has your creative subconscious.
The only way for you to gum it up and write what that other author wrote is to write with your conscious, critical mind.
E. also wrote in her email,
“I’ve tried writing other stories, but this character—who I created years ago—is just nagging at me, dying for me to tell his story.”
So write it! Jump on his story and write it before he withdraws the offer!
“He has a fantastic voice and I really enjoy him. I’m not sure what exactly his story is, and I’m excited to find out, but I realize as I’m writing that my story is touching on a lot of the same points her novel is[: mental health, medicine, trauma, war, family]. The last thing I want to do is copy (even unconsciously) what she wrote.”
A few things:
- “I realize as I’m writing….” That is pure critical mind. Don’t think. Again, write the story already. Jump on it and write it.
- Of course you aren’t sure what his story is. It hasn’t unfolded yet. It will do so as you and he race through it together. Just trust him and yourself and write whatever comes.
- The author you mentioned is not the first to write about “mental health, medicine, trauma, war, [and] family” and neither she nor you will be the last.
- And most importantly, as good as her novel is, it wasn’t written from your creative subconscious.
A very personal example—
I don’t believe I’ve ever admitted this before, but to this day, when I think of my enduring character Texas Ranger Wes Crowley, in my mind I see Texas Ranger Augustus McCrae (as portrayed by Robert Duvall in Lonesome Dove). Ranger Otis “Mac” McFadden was vaguely based on Woodrow Call.
I enjoyed Lonesome Dove and the prequels and sequels very much. But when I sat down to write a Wes Crowley short story (“Adobe Walls”), Wes and Mac (especially Mac) were already doing things that Gus and Woodrow never would have done.
And when I started writing my first novel (Leaving Amarillo), which turned out to be the fourth novel in the Wes Crowley saga, it was strictly by invitation. As E. put it, Wes was “just nagging at me, dying for me to tell his story.”
Sometime after I finished writing “Adobe Walls,” Wes tugged on my sleeve and whispered, “Wouldn’t you like to know how I came to be here [in the situation in ‘Adobe Walls’]?”
I said yes, then wrote three novels. I thought I was through with Wes and his story and his world.
Then he tugged on my sleeve again. “Wouldn’t you like to know the beginning, how all of this started?”
Of course, the answer to that was yes too. I wrote three prequels to Leaving Amarillo, and then I wrote six more novels, all sequels to South to Mexico.
Finally, Wes noticed there was a 16 year gap between Book 2 and Book 3. He turned to me again. “Shouldn’t we tell some of what happened during that time?”
Yes. Yes we should. And the Wes Crowley Gap series was born. As it turns out, I’m still writing it. There are 12 novels in the original Wes Crowley saga, and I’m on the 10th novel of the Gap series.
For the record, I wrote every Wes Crowley short story and novel into the dark. I rode through each story with my characters as the story unfolded around us, and frankly I counted myself fortunate that they asked me to come along.
As a result, despite the partial source of the original idea (a character like Gus McCrae), Wes and Mac and all the other men and women in the Wes Crowley saga are uniquely and authentically themselves and nobody else.
I should note that I also wrote every novel and series of novels and short story in the overall Wes Crowley story as a direct response to an invitation from and at the behest of the characters.
So when E. wrote that “…this character—who I created years ago—is just nagging at me, dying for me to tell his story,” I almost leapt out of my chair to say, Then Write It! Right now! Sit down right now and let it flow out of you!
Folks, when you are fortunate enough that even your characters are doing their best to get you to trust them and just write into the dark, you really should take advantage of that. If you don’t, sooner or later they will give up and withdraw the invitation.
As for mimicking anyone else’s work or style, you will, so don’t worry about it.
And as for touching on universal themes—for example, mental health, medicine, trauma, war, and family—if you don’t write about those or other universal themes, you won’t write, period.
There really is nothing new under the sun (or, as I learned with my 10-volume Journey Home series, in the universe) except your unique take on old stories.
But you can’t consciously think your way to anything unique or original. That unique, original, authentic story can come only from your creative subconscious. And it will. If you trust it.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Oh, my” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/oh-my/.
See “How to Embrace Being a Discovery Writer” at https://writingcooperative.com/how-to-embrace-being-a-discovery-writer-775a2508a9c.
See “The Passive Income Myth” at https://www.youtube.com/live/cpCOgwPBSII. I recommend subscribing to this free You Tube channel. Vin Zandri makes a lot of sense, and I agree with a lot that he says. As always, take what works for you and leave the rest.
The Journal…………………………………… 1260
Writing of Rose Padilla (WCG10SF5)
Day 1…… 4283 words. Total words to date…… 4283
Day 2…… 3963 words. Total words to date…… 8246
Day 3…… 1463 words. Total words to date…… 9709
Day 4…… 2445 words. Total words to date……12154
Total fiction words for June……… 12154
Total fiction words for 2023………… 110022
Total nonfiction words for June… 5010
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 114430
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 224452
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date………… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
I.M. An angel, my angel, left this earth on April 11, 2023 just before 10 a.m. My life and my world will never be the same.
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.