The Journal: Crawl Before You Walk

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Memorial Day
* Topic: Crawl Before You Walk
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“[W]e writers are great with imagination, yet we don’t know enough about licensing and copyright to imagine what products could come from our IP.” Dean Wesley Smith

“He had just about enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wanted to eat, but certainly no more.” P.G. Wodehouse

“It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.” P.G. Wodehouse

Memorial Day

I passed a quiet Memorial Day. I didn’t write any fiction.

I thought specifically about some relatives, some personal friends, and some acquaintances who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this nation. I also thought about those I never knew but on whose strong shoulders we all stand today.

Then I watched the Indy 500 with my Hoosier wife and girlfriend (Oh stop it. She’s the same person.) Not a bad race. My personal faves finished 10th and 3rd. But I have to say I was glad Marcus Ericsson won since he was well on his way to winning (he had a 3 second lead at 219 mph) before race officials pulled that red-flag nonsense with only 4 laps to go.

I hope your Memorial Day was as enjoyable as ours was, or that it will be that enjoyable today if your state still celebrates the traditional Memorial Day.

Topic: Crawl Before You Walk

Note: The following isn’t about how you or I or anyone else writes. How you write is your own business. This also isn’t about craft or technique. It’s about talking smack without a license. And yes, it’s indended to be tongue-in-cheek. Well, parts of it.

There’s an old saying that you should learn to crawl before you walk. That goes for giving out advice too. First, know what you’re talking about; then talk.

I personally wish there was some sort of physical/mental interlock that would automatically interrupt a person’s ability to communicate with speech, writing, hand signals or even eye blinks when s/he is about to hold forth on something s/he knows little or nothing about.

The reason for this post is that yet again I’ve been made aware that someone heard in a social media writing group that “you have to receive critiques of your work in order to get better at the craft of writing, that otherwise you’ll never improve.”

My initial response: Oh no! So the sky really IS falling this time, Chicken Little? Yeah? Well, how about this: Shut the hell up. Stop acting as if you have the slightest clue what you’re talking about. You don’t.

Yeah, I know, it’s a free country and you can say whatever you want. I myself despise censorship. That’s why I wish there was some sort of biomechanical mechanism to keep people from blathering on from a knowledge base that holds zero data or repeating things they’ve heard but have never validated for themselves.

But I know my luck. That biomechanical thing is never gonna happen except maybe in a SciFi story (note to self). Besides, even if someone developed such a device, congress would manage to ban it. Goes against their self-interest.

But since I can’t do anything L E G A L about those morons endlessly flapping their gums in social media writer groups and in “boards” and on websites where amateur writers have wormed their way in and masquerade as professionals, doling out the same tired old advice cavemen first chiseled onto cave walls, I’ll just talk directly to you, whom I consider my learnéd choir.

Having your work critiqued is not a way to learn anything about the craft.

Having your work critiqued is how you learn to write something in a way that pleases the person who offers the critique. It’s how you learn to write your story the way someone else would write it.

But unless I’m missing something here, you aren’t someone else. You’re you.

So write your story the way you write, and keep everyone else out of it until the story’s written. Then let your first reader and/or a good copyeditor see it or just submit it for publication or publish it. But don’t rewrite it and don’t worry about pleasing anyone else.

Trust yourself.

And Practice — practice is how you get better at the craft of writing, and it is the ONLY way to get better at writing, or at any craft.

And learn — if you want to learn

1. Read for pleasure and then study the fiction of masterful writers whose work you enjoy. Then practice.

2. Take a course or online workshop on a particular craft topic from a valid source, then practice. Listen to an audio or video lecture on a particular part of craft, then practice.

3. Read a book from a valid source or a blog from a valid source on the craft of writing and then PRACTICE.

And for goodness’ sake stop spinning your wheels and testing fate by seeking critiques from ANYONE, least of all the writer wannabes who populate social media groups and other venues in their bid to feel important.

You’ve all been around long enough to know that you can write a story with no help from anyone except your characters, so just do it already.

You’ve also all been around long enough to know if you want advice on plumbing, you don’t go to a carpenter. So here are a few questions for you:

Would you allow a first-year medical student to remove your appendix or take a tumor off your brain? Or a first-year law student to defend you against a murder charge in Texas?

So why in the world would you seek advice on how to write fiction from people who either don’t write fiction at all or who have only started writing it?

To be a little more specific, why in the world would you accept advice on writing novels from any writer who hasn’t written at least a dozen novels? Or twenty? Or thirty?

And why would you accept advice on writing short stories from a writer who hasn’t written at least fifty or sixty or a hundred short stories?

Think about it. You are worth more than that, aren’t you? And isn’t your potential career as a writer worth more than that?

I can personally vouch for the fact that life is far too short to spend even a minute of it doing things that either don’t work or are self-defeating.

So stay away from social media groups and “writer boards” and other venues where young writers who don’t know Anything At All about writing constantly parrot stupid crap like, “Um, no, seriously dude, you have to invite critiques of your work in order to get better at the craft. If you don’t, like, you’ll never improve. And then, like, the world will, like, end or something.”

Notice I said they “parrot” that stuff. All they’re doing is repeating what they’ve heard, often without having tried it themselves to be sure it works, and almost ALWAYS without having tried it and succeeded. If you wonder, ask them. Maybe that will shut them up.

But again, think about it: just the fact that they can’t seem to put together a single coherent original thought on the topic should tell you something. Right?

They’re children, these people, regardless of their chronological age. They’re trying to impress you (and anyone who will listen to them) without having done anything at all that’s impressive. Are those really the folks you want to take advice from?

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Licensing Expo First Notes” at

See “MS Word Keyboard Shortcuts” at

See “…On the Novelistic Universe of Edith Wharton” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1320 words

Writing of Blackwell Ops 8 (tentative title, novel)

Day 1…… 2371 words. Total words to date…… 2371
Day 2…… 1305 words. Total words to date…… 3676
Day 3…… 1107 words. Total words to date…… 4783

Total fiction words for May……… 4783
Total fiction words for the year………… 10576
Total nonfiction words for May… 19900
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 79550
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 90126

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
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.

8 thoughts on “The Journal: Crawl Before You Walk”

  1. Oh man, I learned this the hard way. I sold a few short stories and nonfiction articles before I learned anything about the “right” way to write, and then stupid me joined a writing forum and spent years learning a bunch of myths that ended up holding me back. Luckily, I never bought into critique groups and thought they were a waste of time, but I’m now cleaning out other myths that are slowing me down. Live and learn.

    • Most of us learned the hard way, Grace, myself included. I outlined one novel — it would be my masterwork — over a period of years a few decades ago. Never wrote a word of it until several years later when one character led me through several short stories and 18 novels (so far). And none of them had anything to do with that original outline.

  2. I was on Facebook before reading this and…I kid you not, a woman was saying how she rewrote her manuscript ten times over five years (on a post about how much work writing is of course)
    I wanted to say go back to the first draft (assuming she still had it) check for typos, and publish but I held off. I know now that trying to help people who are so deep into the myth is rarely fruitful.

    • Yup. You can’t help them. They’re too invested in how “important” it is to be “called” to be a Writer.

      • Its a shame. Most of the comments were bragging (that’s the best way I can put it even if that’s not how they meant it) or bemoaning how ‘hard’ writing stories is.
        I swear, if writing were as hard as some make it seem, I’m surprised their brains don’t explode, given how much exertion they have to muster just to write a single sentence.

        • Yup. I feel sorry for them. But as I said, there’s nothing anyone can do to help them. Lika any lost souls, they have to want help before they can find it.

          • I don’t think their problem is that they don’t actually want help; if they didn’t want help, they wouldn’t be turning to writing forums or critique groups in a search for that help. Rather, their problem is that they really only want help on their terms, which is to say they only want help in solving whatever it is they themselves erroneously perceive as being their problem, when all the while they’re failing to recognize the real problem: their addiction to the myths they’ve been so thoroughly indoctrinated with that any truly useful advice they receive is rejected outright because it goes against all what they have come to so fervently believe.

          • Absolutely spot on, Russ. They want someone to validate for them that yes, spinning their wheels will eventually get them where they’re going even though it hasn’t thus far. Anything else is far out of their comfort zone to comprehend. More of that unreasoning fear.

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