The Journal: Here Come the Fatalists

In today’s Journal

* Here Come the Fatalists
* Of Interest

Here Come the Fatalists

Fatalists? Do I have the term right? Isn’t that what you call people who focus on telling you what you will surely never be able to do so you shouldn’t even try?

Whatever you call them, I don’t like them. People have called me negative before, but I’ve never told writers a bunch of things they can’t do: I’ve always focused on what they CAN do, on how much they CAN achieve, on their positive capabilities.

Believe in yourself and you can do anything. Trust yourself and your characters and you can be a prolific, highly successful writer.

But don’t take my word for it. Just ask Dean Wesley Smith or Kristine Kathryn Rusch or Brandon Freakin’ Sanderson or Lee Child or Stephen King or any of hundreds of other writers who have learned the secret: Trust and you will succeed.

But there are also those who NEVER learned to trust themselves and their own characters. They seem to revel in pulling other writers—especially beginning writers—down into the negative, can’t-do muck with them.

“Whatever you do, don’t trust yourself,” they say. “If you think your writing’s good, just remember that you’re the worst judge of your own work. Of course, if you think it sucks, you’re probably right. So either way, don’t think you’re any good at all at telling stories.

“And for God’s sake, DON’T trust your characters! Outline everything before you write. And after you write, bring in your conscious, critical mind to double-check your characters and revise and rewrite their story. Then bring in other conscious, critical minds to critique the story and tell you how they would have written it.

“And whatever you do, remember that this is WORK, not joy; it’s SHEER DRUDGERY, not fun. If you enjoy it, pal, well, you’re obviously doing it wrong, and I’m here to tell you that you will fail miserably.”

Yawn. Stretch. Yeah, whatever. I’m here to tell you all of that is a heaping, steamy pile of fresh bovine excrement.

I suggest you avoid those manure-spreading fatalists (or as Spiro Agnew called them back in the day, “nattering nabobs of negativism,”) literally like the plague. Unfortunately, masks do no good against them. Attitude works better.

Here’s your chance to test that. Over on KillZone blog today, James Scott Bell wrote about Brandon Sanderson’s recent mega-success with his recent Kickstarter campaign. As part of that article, he wrote, and I quote,

“However, some things to keep in mind at this stage of my post.

“1. You are not going to make millions via Kickstarter.

“2. Kickstarter campaigns are notoriously difficult to run successfully. The time and effort do not, in my opinion, offer enough Return on Investment (ROI). ….

“3. Forget about Kickstarter.”

You’re kidding, right? Look at all that negativity! And remember, thousands of writers turn to this guy for advice. Thousands. I’m fighting a frustrating, uphill battle, and the hill’s getting steeper all the time. I understand that.

But seriously? “Forget about Kickstarter”? But why? Just because this guy believes you can’t do it, even in light of ample evidence to the positive?

Of course, most of the comments on the post seemed to come from a mutual-admiration society. That’s what I’ve come to expect over there, and that’s fine, but it’s hardly useful in any real sense.

And I like information to be fair and even-handed, so I posted a response to his article as well. You can see it in the comments at

If you don’t want to visit the site, here’s what I wrote:

Just to play devil’s advocate for a moment, Dean Wesley Smith and Loren L. Coleman put up a FREE course on Teachable. It’s called Kickstarter Best Practices for Fiction Writers, and you can view it at

There is also an accompanying book titled, Crowdfunding Your Fiction: A Best Practices Guide by Loren L. Coleman. Thus far, the only place I’ve found the book available is through the course. But again, the course is free.

Also, for a more positive take on what Sanderson did, I recommend reading the post and the comments at

What Loren did with his campaign, which was 20 years in the making, was blow the doors off Kickstarter and open a new way for fiction writers—all fiction writers—to earn money from their writing. I’ve already had several friends run successful small and mid-range Kickstarter campaigns, earning from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.

In full disclosure, this doesn’t matter at all to me personally as a writer. I myself have neither designed nor run a Kickstarter campaign, nor, more than likely, will I do so. But I enjoy spreading the word just in case some other writer might benefit from it. There is absolutely no good reason not to try. Unless, like me, you completely suck at business and couldn’t care less about it.

I love conveying my characters’ stories so that others may enjoy them as much as I do. But although I’m an extremely successful fiction writer (66 novels, 8 novellas, over 200 short stories, hundreds of poems, nominations for major awards), my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren—should there be a business mind among them—will be the ones who profit from my writing. And that’s more than fine with me.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest


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.

4 thoughts on “The Journal: Here Come the Fatalists”

  1. Well, that didn’t take long. And how I appreciate being “this guy.” Yeah, Mr. Negative. That’s how I’m known. A little rhetoric in a blog post is the basis of an entire rep. Harrumph!

    Do you disagree with #1?

    #2 is “my opinion.”

    #3, three words long, is obviously built upon the above and meant to get a reaction (like yours). O, the negativity!

    Look, I responded to your comment with a simple ROI calculation, and anyone is free to ignore that. I would frankly love to see real results from authors who are not named Sanderson or Godin, who have seen this as a consistent stream, as opposed to a one-off of a few thousand bucks, from Kickstarter. Truly. “This guy” is open to revision. And I’ll be happy to post that revision a year from now if the evidence comes forth.

    Fair enough?

    • Thanks for dropping by. My apology if I annoyed you. That wasn’t my intention. Yes, I disagree with #1 as a one-size fits all blanket statement. Who knows? Had someone said that to Sanderson 20 or 30 years ago (if Kickstarter was around back then) he probably wouldn’t have done it either.

      Yes, #2 is your opinion, and writers have a right to disagree, but they generally look to you as a successful writer for valid advice. To me, #3 sounded like a chiseled-in-stone mandate, not a conclusion based on 1 and 2. The difference between your intent and my perception.

      I hope you noticed that over at your stomping grounds, I was careful only to offer alternative information so readers could see at least two sides of a multi-faceted issue. I didn’t even point your readers to this blog. That wasn’t what it was about.

      That being said, here on my tiny little Journal (fewer than 100 subscribers) sometimes I vent my frustration at being primarily the only prolific professional who advises writers regularly to trust themselves, quiet their critical voice, and create with their creative subconscious.

      Even the other professional writers who write the way I do (99.999% of them) don’t talk about how they write because readers like to think writing is hard work to give our efforts value. I understand all that, but it’s still frustrating.

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