The Journal: 10,000 Trillion Ants

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Rewording Heinlein’s Rule 4
* An Analogy
* Dean Wesley Smith’s post yesterday
* An Anniversary of Note
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“There are, by some rough estimates, 10,000 trillion ants in the world at any given moment, and their combined weight would match the total weight of the planet’s human population.” Christoph Irmscher, paraphrasing Edward Osborne Wilson in “The Ant Man’s World.” Idea for an SF novel or series of novels?

Rewording Heinlein’s Rule 4

I was talking with screenwriter MGP again and he inadvertently proved the wisdom of Heinlein’s Rules. As part of his most recent email he complained about the number of times most scripts are rewritten:

“[I]t’s a common industry standard that every script be rewritten numerous times, even by people who didn’t write it…. [B]y the time the project goes to production … it is, in many cases, vastly different than … the original.”

As a work-around, he fell back on Heinlein’s Rule 4, or at least his version of it: “[J]ust sell the script, move on to the next one, and never look at the finished product.”

Exactly. With only a couple of exceptions, that’s exactly what I do with my novels, novellas, short stories and collections. Always keep moving forward.

Looking back (revising, rewriting, etc.) does nobody (or the work) any good. Revising or rewriting replaces your original, unique voice with how you “think” (critical mind) the work “should” read. And if you’re revising or rewriting, you aren’t creating the next new work. You aren’t moving forward. So looking back effectively a double-whammy.

Conveniently, that thought—just publish the work, move on to the next one, and never look back—leads us right back to Heinlein’s Rule 1, and the process starts all over again. All of which makes it easier to just have fun with the story and the process: writing into the dark.

This brought to mind again how “important” our work is. The individual story isn’t important at all. It’s only a piece of inventory, something to be sold or licensed.

An Analogy

A writer who loves writing is exactly like a brickmaker who loves making bricks.

What is important is not the individual brick, but that the brickmaker has fun as s/he keeps turning-out bricks. If s/he slows the process to try to smooth and polish each brick, two bad things will happen: the brick will still be flawed, and production will slow to a halt.

And all of that is silly. The brickmaker’s clientele want bricks, but they don’t expect perfection. They only want good bricks that won’t crumble to dust.

So the brickmaker wisely invests in learning the craft and continuing to improve the product overall. Not the individual brick but the brick-making process. Because as any good brickmaker knows, the process creates the bricks and the bricks create the paycheck.

Dean Wesley Smith’s post yesterday contains an increasingly rare bit of information about writing. I recommend reading the last five paragraphs of “Some Clean Up… And Writing Stuff” at Interesting to see that after four or five decades in the business, he still struggles at times with critical voice.

An Anniversary of Note

My wife told me a reminder popped up on her Facebook account. Seven years ago today (October 19, 2014) I sat down at my writing ‘puter and typed the following paragraph:

Wes Crowley leaned forward and poked with a stick at an ember that had popped out of the campfire a moment earlier. “Been a long trail this time, boys.” His attention fixed on the ember, he worked the tip of the stick under the edge nearest him, then flipped it backward into the fire. A few sparks released. “Sure lookin’ forward to gettin’ back.” He looked up, a tired, easy grin on his face. “What about you, Mac?”

Those were the first 78 words of Leaving Amarillo, my first novel, and the book that eventually became the fourth novel in a 16-volume series. It was also the first of 66 novels and 8 novellas overall. As a nod to our recent discussions, all of those were written into the dark. Amazing how quickly the time goes.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “How to Use Real People in Your Writing Without Ending Up in Court” at I disagree with the author’s contention that “every fiction writer bases characters on real people.” I don’t.

See “Chapter Titles Are a Great Marketing Tool in the Age of E-Books” at Food for thought. This might also be a useful vehicle for the inclusion of “keywords.”

See “A Writer’s Greatest Super Power” at A decent take on Observation.

See “David Sedaris’s 5 Tips for Observing the World” at

See “Spanish crime writer Carmen Mola reveals her most stunning plot twist: She doesn’t exist and her books are penned by three men” at I had to laugh. Too good to pass up, especially in today’s world. If this happened in America, somebody would get sued.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 830 words

Writing of WCGN 5: Tentative Title (novel)

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

Total fiction words for October……… XXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 623282
Total nonfiction words for October… 7350
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 173310
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 796592

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 13
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

3 thoughts on “The Journal: 10,000 Trillion Ants”

    • Thanks, Tari. Let me know if I can do anything to help. By the way, according to my browser (Firefox) your site’s certificate is expired.

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