The Journal: How do you know which story idea to write?

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* PQ Topic: How do you know which story idea to write?
* The novel continues
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Ernest Hemingway

“It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.” Paul Gallico

“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood from on your forehead.” Gene Fowler

“No wonder so many writers spew the ‘sweating blood’ line. Of all the jobs in the world, we have one of the cushiest and certainly one of the most personally rewarding. Hence, the emotional need by so many of us to be ‘tormented’ by our work. It’s a justification.” Dan Baldwin

PQ Topic: How do you know which story idea to write?

Today’s Prevalent Question fits hand in glove with yesterday’s How Do You Get So Many Ideas?: How do you know which story idea to write? I’ve seen this question a lot lately. But like yesterday, I know the reason behind this one too.

Cause: This question is a direct result of writers thinking everything we write has to be “special.”

Let me talk briefly about that myth first.

As I’ve said here many times, if you’re a writer, THAT you write is all-important. But WHAT you write is not important at all.

To you, what you produce might be anything from your special baby to just another story or novel. But to the reader, it’s nothing more than a few minutes’ (short story) or a few hours’ (novel) entertainment for your readers. That’s all. Nothing else.

Yet all over the internet, from Kill Zone blog to Writer Unboxed to Writers Helping Writers and elsewhere, I see the question pop up: Which story idea do you write? Or How do you choose which story idea to write?

My answer is simple: Write the idea that comes. Just sit down, put your fingers on the keyboard, and write it. Yes, unless your fingers are in casts, it really is that easy.

I also hear a variation on the question: How do you tell a short story idea from a novel idea?

I know the result of the particular story idea I had a couple of days ago about the 12th book in the Wes Crowley series will turn into a novel.

But in my experience, knowing what form the story will take (short or long) is a rare occurrence. Most often in my own practice, I don’t have a clue how long the story will be when I start it. I simply let it unfold and trust it and let it be whatever length it’s going to be. Stories are very good at determining their own length. Your job is to trust it and go with it.

In fact, harkening back to yesterday, one very good way to both become deluged with story ideas AND choose which ones to write is to get in the habit of writing a story story at least once a week. If you want to write two a week, or three, or five, even better.

Again, if you trust your creative subconscious it will also come to trust you, and it will give you more story ideas.

Why is writing one or more short stories per week a good practice? Because if you start writing short stories, some of them will want to become novellas or novels.

And really, the only difference is that a short story is about One Event. The novella is about a few events, and the novel is about more than a few. That’s it. That’s all.

Even when a particular short story doesn’t take off and run to a novella or novel, it might inform a novella or novel, and lead to it in that way.

I mentioned a few days ago how a stand-alone short story I wrote called “Adobe Walls” soon led to a novel, then a trilogy, then three prequels, then five sequels and eventually became the (currently) 11-volume Wes Crowley saga. That approximately 600,000 word saga all started with a little 6,000 word short story. It all came about because I trusted my creative subconscious and wrote “Adobe Walls.”

And I’ve had other short stories that either turned into novels or led me to write novels. The novella I recently finished and the novella or novel I’m working on right now came from the 4,000 word short story “Rider Jones and the Portals.”

And so it goes. Not only does the creative subconscious make the story work (if you trust it to do so), it makes YOUR life-story as a writer work from story to story to story.

This is the truth, folks. This isn’t the same old regurgitated crap you read all across the internet on the “boards” (whatever those are) and the more popular writer websites.

The novel continues to run. I had a couple of necessary interruptions yesterday, so I didn’t get quite as much done as I wanted to. But that’s why they make tomorrows.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Hospice: Heartbroken” at Please give if you are able.

See “Two Days Left in Workshop Sale” at

See “Titles and Comp Titles — How To Find the Best Ones For Your Book” at Just so you know up front (from about halfway through the article), “Comp titles are books that are similar to yours.”

See “10 Tips for Choosing the Right Title for Your Book” at

See “The Appeals and Perils of the One-Word Book Title” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 970 words

Writing of Rider Jones and Wes Crowley (novel)

Day 1…… 3288 words. Total words to date…… 3288
Day 2…… 5145 words. Total words to date…… 8433
Day 3…… 2732 words. Total words to date…… 11165
Day 4…… 4092 words. Total words to date…… 15257
Day 5…… 2537 words. Total words to date…… 17794

Total fiction words for May……… 6629
Total fiction words for the year………… 377908
Total nonfiction words for May… 2380
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 87240
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 465148

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 7
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 60
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
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.