The Journal: Frustration in the Time of Cholera

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Yesterday
* Topic: Frustration in the Time of Cholera
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day (Still bingeing on Bradbury)

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” Ray Bradbury

Yesterday the writing started slow, but it picked up (see Day 11). I could have written probably one more session, but I was tired and I stopped in a really good place. It should take off again this morning.

For a few days I thought this novel might be closer to my usual length at around 40,000 to 50,000 words, but it’s looking like it might run longer.

Great fun, trusting myself and my characters and letting the story run to whatever length it needs to be.

Topic: Frustration in the Time of Cholera (with apologies to Gabriel García Márquez)

As I write this, my jaw is so tight I feel I could chew wheels and spit nails.

In the Kill Zone blog today, James Scott Bell posted “You Imagination Needs Regular Play Time.” The title is misleading.

His essay is an outright slander of writers who spend time, money, and many thousands of words (practice) to learn and hone the craft of writing, BUT then actually TRUST what they’ve learned and allow their CREATIVE (duh!) subconscious to apply it as they write.

The arrogant disdain is palpable.

He wrote,

“Flash Fiction … is the ultimate pantser’s paradise, for you get an idea and start writing and go wherever you please [emphasis mine].”

I write into the dark, which means I don’t use any kind of outline. I also don’t rewrite, and I don’t workshop my writing through critique groups. I cycle as I go, meaning I revise while in the creative frame of mind, and I write the story once, beginning to end, cleanly. Then I send what I’ve written to trusted first readers who point out any errors and are gracious and honest enough to tell me if anything in the story confused them. Then I publish and move on to the next story.I don’t “hover”; I practice.

To Mr. Bell this means I’m a “pantser.” But I do NOT “get an idea and start writing and go wherever [I] please.” And I suspect Mr. Bell knows it. I suspect his misleading statement is intentional.

Unlike writers who are mired in the myths, I understand the story isn’t about me; it’s about the characters. It isn’t my story; it’s the characters’ story. Or if you wish, it’s the story my characters, not I, are living. So I get an idea and start writing and go wherever the characters in the story take me.

Then he writes,

“Will you end up with a story that works? Probably not. [There’s that arrogance again.] You’ll most likely be painted into a corner or lost in a dark forest.”

As absolutely anyone who writes into the dark knows, because he trusts himself and what he’s learned, if he simply writes the next sentence that occurs, he will write himself OUT of that corner or that melodramatic “dark forest.” Again, it’s about trusting the characters and allowing them to tell their own story.

And almost unbelievably, later in the article, he notes,

“One of the great stylists of all time was Ray Bradbury. You simply can’t go wrong copying a page from his work.” [Finally, some truth.]

Then he actually types-in a passage from Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine.

Yet he fails to mention (intentionally, I’m sure) that of Dandelion Wine, Bradbury himself wrote,

“Dandelion Wine, like most of my books, was a surprise. I simply got out of bed each morning, walked to my desk, and put down any word or series of words that happened along in my head.”

I don’t like arrogance, and I especially don’t like arrogance born of ignorance, intentional or otherwise. I also don’t like hypocrisy, and I don’t like people holding forth on topics they’ve never had the temerity to try themselves. It frustrates me, it makes me angry, and it torques my jaw.

So I won’t risk further advancing the blatantly obvious bias of Kill Zone blog and its participants. Of course, you’re free to subcribe yourself.

Here’s the thing about following Heinlein’s Rules AS THEY WERE WRITTEN and writing into the dark:

1, If you honestly try WITD and it doesn’t work for you, you can easily revert to writing, rewriting, and workshopping your writing through critique groups. You’ve lost nothing but a little time.

2, But if you try it and it WORKS for you, you will have gained a whole world of confidence in yourself, belief in yourself and your work and, if you want it, a career as a professional fiction writer.

I’ll say it again: I only wish I’d found Heinlein’s Rules and WITD when I was in my 20s and was wise enough to trust it.

In my experience, every person who tried and failed at WITD did so because they couldn’t quite bring themselves to let go of that last finger tightly clenched around a safety net.

And frankly, I feel bad for them. But as literally millions of beginning writers will tell you, whatever works for you is fine. Perfectly fine.

Today, once I’ve worked the tightness out of my chest, I’ll write.

I find it tragic that of the thousands of professional writers out there, to my knowledge only Dean Wesley Smith and I are willing to share the truth about how very freeing it is to follow Heinlien’s Rules and write off into the dark.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Goals…” at Includes an exciting announcement.

See “WWYWTR- Series or Standalone” at

The Numbers

Fiction words yesterday…………………… 3881
Nonfiction words today…………… 900 (Journal)

Writing of The Good of the Galaxy 2 (novel)

Day 9…… 3258 words. Total words to date…… 34842
Day 10… 4682 words. Total words to date…… 39524
Day 11… 3881 words. Total words to date…… 43405

Total fiction words for the month……… 8563
Total fiction words for the year………… 288157
Total nonfiction words for the month… 2420
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 105530
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 393687

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 4
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 12
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 49
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 208
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

8 thoughts on “The Journal: Frustration in the Time of Cholera”

  1. Hi Harvey! You and Dean have made writing fun for me again. I know I’ve mentioned it before but last year I was working on a novel that was 10 years old. I started the thing in 2009 and had filled multiple notebooks with outlines, character sketches and plot points. (I even used James Scott Bell’s books on plotting, etc.,). Writing was no fun at that point.

    Then I started following you and Dean on your blogs. It didn’t take long for me to realize I wanted what you guys have … the enjoyment of making up stories for the pure fun if it.

    I signed up for Dean’s Great Publishing Challenge in January and am now writing novella #5. Yay! It’s been a total blast … and I have you and Dean to thank for that.

    Thank you soooo much, Harvey!

  2. You might want to consider no longer looking at blogs like that. I had to because it was too frustrating. You can’t tell people what they don’t want to hear.

  3. The mainstream writing community is a religion. They have too low self consciousness to be helped.
    You will make much more of an impact helping people that have already “woken up” instead of trying to make them listen to you.

  4. I agree with what Yuko said. What you and Dean write about WITD and Heinlein’s rules is invaluable information for those of us who are already convinced, but still working our way to letting go completely. You can ditch the plotting fanatics completely, it’s too infuriating to try and advocate organic storytelling to people who will never listen. Don’t waste your energy on them! Waste it on us instead! 😉

    • Thanks, Charlotte. Oddly enough, critical mind will continue to sneak up on you (it does me) into the future, the result of years of being taught not to trust ourselves. All you can do is continue to push it down.

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