The Journal: A Writing Secret

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* A Writing Secret
* The Link Between Poetry and Novels
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“Less is more. My first drafts [sic] went into phenomenal detail about absolutely everything. … A sense of place is good. Overwhelming readers is not. I had to keep reminding myself to make sure everything related to the plot and characters.” Terry Odell (See my vehement disagreement in the Topic below.)

“As a writing instructor, I find that most of the time when writers teach classes, we focus on teaching people how to write, not how to be a writer. They’re distinct skill sets.” Dave Farland

“There are rare writers who are solitary creatures who manage to go into their attics and pump out manuscript after manuscript, but those are about as rare as unicorns.” Dave Farland

I reckon I’m a unicorn. (grin)

Topic 1: A Writing Secret

Here’s a writing secret for you. And you don’t even have to give me the special handshake.

I should have mentioned this yesterday when I featured in “Of Interest” the Kill Zone Blog post from which I took today’s first quote.

Ready? Here you go: Every word of your story or novel should come through the physical senses of the POV character and be accompanied by his or her opinions.

It took me awhile to “get” this after I first heard it. But it sounded right, so I just stuck with it until eventually the little light came on.

How does this relate to the first quote of the day?

If you tell the story, including the description of any settings, through the senses and opinions of the POV character, it’s practically impossible to write too much description. You don’t have to think your way through it. (Mic drop.)

Your POV character is living the story. If the POV character notices (sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches or feels physically or emotionally) something in the setting, it’s germane to the story. Period.

Likewise, if he notices something in the setting, chances are he’ll have an opinion about it.

POV characters are exactly like you, me and every other human: We each experience settings differently depending on our phobias, past experiences, memories, etc. and we each have different opinions of those settings.

To one POV character, the smell of pipe smoke (part of the setting) is a stench (opinion), but to another it’s an aroma. Maybe a dimly lighted room (part of the setting) fills one POV character with a sense of fear or forboding (opinion). It will leave another feeling warm and soft. The sound of distant sirens (part of the setting) will make one POV character feel safe and protected (opinion); it will make another feel annoyed, and maybe give another flashbacks. And so on.

If, on the other hand, we — the writers — add descriptions of the setting (author intrusion), it will almost always be too much. Why? Because we are external to the story. We, the writers, are not part of the story. We’re outsiders.

Note this: Too much description has nothing to do with the number of words, the length of paragraphs, or the time spent describing a particular setting. Too much description is the direct result of description coming from the writer instead of through the POV character.

Now, because we are very fortunate, and because we have acquired and are willing to hone the requisite skills, the characters have invited us to record their story.

But they didn’t invite us because they’re stupid. They aren’t. They invited us because they aren’t physical beings and therefore have no fingers with which to manipulate the keys on a keyboard. If they had a physical presence complete with fingers, we would all be out of a job. Then again, there would be a lot fewer info dumps and other author intrusions in novels.

Topic 2: The Link Between Poetry and Novels

In today’s “Of Interest” I’ve linked to Garry Rodgers’ post in TKZ. I found it very instructive, but like many of Garry’s posts, it’s long, so settle in and enjoy.

I suspect not everyone knows I made my bones as a poet. I published the first-ever full-length poetry collection (a little over 100 pages) as an ebook (Lessons for a Barren Population, 1999, Hardshell Word Factory). That was nominated for the Book of the Year award at Frankfurt Book Fair. Later I also received other major nominations for my work, most notably including Beyond the Masks (poetry collection, nominated in 2006 for the National Book Award).

When I started writing fiction full time in 2014, I soon realized how much my experience as a poet helped me. In any dialect, English is an accentual-syllabic, metrical language. As writers, we should at least be aware of the flow and emotion inherent in the rhythms of the language itself. (Yet another reason to read your work aloud. While you’re at it, go ahead and emote. grin)

Reading and studying poetry or songs can improve the rhythm of your writing in prose. To help, I even created an audio course called Poetry Techniques for the Fictionist, Course 10 at

To date, hardly anyone has taken it. Writers tend to have (and nurture) a disconnect among literary genres. Hence fictionists believe they can learn little if anything from poets (and vice versa).

And the disconnect extends to commercial fiction genres as well, so that those who write Mystery don’t believe they can learn anything about writing from those who write SF and so on (and again, vice versa).

If you fall into any of those shutter-minded categories, trust me folks. You’re missing a bet.

Talk with you later.

Of Interest

See “How Understanding Songs Benefit[s] Novel Writers” at

See “The truth is” at

See “A Guide to Conquering Your Demons with 5 Mathematical Sci-Fi Books” at

See “Learning to Write vs Becoming a Writer” at Yes! What Dave Farland said! I could have taken a quote of the day from almost every paragraph of this post. Don’t miss it. (If the page loads with problems, scroll down.)

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1020 words

Writing of The Ark (novel)

Day 1…… 3196 words. Total words to date…… 3196
Day 2…… 1441 words. Total words to date…… 4637
Day 3…… 3284 words. Total words to date…… 7921
Day 4…… 1606 words. Total words to date…… 9527
Day 5…… 2881 words. Total words to date…… 12408

Total fiction words for the month……… 16823
Total fiction words for the year………… 352017
Total nonfiction words for the month… 14540
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 164930
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 516947

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 5
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 13
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 50
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 214
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31