The Journal: How I Got Here

In today’s Journal

* Topic: How I Got Here (and How You Can Too)
* Of Interest

Topic: How I Got Here (and How You Can Too)

Yesterday, Alicia commented on my post, “I haven’t had a mentor for writing – I tried once or twice and it was not pretty. But I have read a hundred or more books on craft….” That’s enough to provide the context of today’s topic, but you can read the rest of her comment and my original response here. (Thanks for providing a catalyst, Alicia.)

I tried that same approach for around 40 years, reading book after book after book about “how” to write. The authors all said basically the same things (the myths), over and over. Each book was basically a regurgitation of the others. Often, they even said the same things in the same way.

I finally decided I’d rather stop writing fiction altogether than turn it into the misery and drudgery that virtually all the “how-to” authors made it out to be.

Fortunately, that’s about the time I found Dean Wesley Smith’s blog and learned that writing fiction could actually be fun. In fact, it was supposed to be fun. Who knew?

Dean talked about Heinlein’s Rules (free download) and pointed out that they were ridiculously simple (true), yet incredibly difficult to follow (also true).

He also talked about how relatively new the traditional publishing industry was, and that it was they and critics and other non-writers (not fiction writers themselves) who invented all the BS myths about outlining (fiction!) and revising and rewriting and inviting critiques and on and on and on. Basically, about the writer allowing his or her conscious, critical mind to second-guess and overrule the characters who were actually living the story in the writer’s creative subconscious.

Everything Dean said made perfect sense, but I still didn’t automatically buy-in. I was far too jaded from having tripped and fallen so often into the smelly stuff. (For just one example, I spent over three years of my life outlining one novel. A novel that’s never been written. I already know the whole story. What’s the fun in writing that? It’s like watching a movie after someone has told you the twist ending.)

So I decided to try following Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark for myself. I thought if I tried it honestly, really gave it my best effort, that would prove once and for all it didn’t work. Then I could get on with going fishing or doing other fun things. At that point, I no longer cared either way about writing fiction.

Getting started at trusting myself and my characters (my creative subconscious) was among the hardest things I’ve ever done. But once I learned to let go of all the crap all the non-writers (and early-stage fiction writers who also try to teach writing and have absolutely no business doing so) had taught me about writing fiction — and once I learned it was all right to trust myself and my creative subconscious — I enjoyed a transformation of the Saul-to-Paul kind.

All of a sudden I was writing much better stories and having a lot more fun than should be allowed by the law. What could be better than that? And yes, once I gave in and learned to trust, it was just that quick.

Now maybe, just maybe, it would be more fun to host a pretentious “launch party” to celebrate my “debut novel.” I could enjoy brie cheese on soy crackers while sipping champagne. And I could do all that with one forearm flung dramatically across my forehead as I complained to my nodding, sanctimonious friends about what terrible drudgery one must endure to write fiction.

Yeah, somehow I don’t think so. Ever heard Garth Brooks’ song “Friends in Low Places”? As regards launch parties, that would be me.

Once I realized what writing fiction was really all about, there was nothing I would rather do. When my writing time was over each day, I had to tear myself away from the story.

What’s more, I was nervous all evening and had to almost force myself to go to sleep so I could get up and get back to the story the following morning. I couldn’t wait to get back to the computer and my characters and their world.

That’s the wonderful world I lived in from early 2014 until August 6 of last year. Then came my forced almost-year off. (The muddled mental confusion that resulted from me stopping smoking cigars.)

Now I’m slowly getting back to that happy place. I only wish everyone could experience such joy. But sadly, that will never happen.

Today I wrote about how I got here. Tomorrow I’ll talk about why most fiction writers will never get here. That said, please remember that it really is all up to you.

The Novel

I’ve had two non-writing days in a row. I meant to write yesterday, but I wrote this and tomorrow’s post instead. No matter. I’m not overly worried about it.

Sometimes I have to take a deep breath and remember that I’m easily among the “fastest” and more prolific fiction writers working today. And by “fastest,” I mean although I write only about 1000 words per hour (about 17 words per minute), I put more time in the chair.

Plus the current novel, my first after almost a year-long layonff, is kind of my test novel. It’s part of my master plan (grin) to get me back into the writing groove. But I’ve reached some goals, so at this point I’d just like to finish it so I can get started on something new. And I suspect that will happen in the next few days.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “A Streak Without Desire” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/a-streak-without-desire/.

See “Podcast for Authors: Hiring a Book Marketing Company With Less Risk” at https://www.amarketingexpert.com/2022/08/04/podcast-for-authors-hiring-a-book-marketing-company-with-less-risk/. If you visit her site, try to figure out how to sign up for her free newsletter. It’s well worthwhile.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 980 words

Writing of Blackwell Ops 8 (tentative title, novel)

Day 19… 2117 words. Total words to date…… 41729
Day 20… 2025 words. Total words to date…… 43754
Day 21… 1770 words. Total words to date…… 45524
Day 22… 3296 words. Total words to date…… 48820
Day 23… 3259 words. Total words to date…… 52079
Day 24… 2712 words. Total words to date…… 54791

Total fiction words for August……… 5971
Total fiction words for the year………… 58467
Total nonfiction words for August… 3510
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 109750
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 168217

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: I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. I’ve never said WITD is “the only way” to write, nor will I ever. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among other topics.

3 thoughts on “The Journal: How I Got Here”

  1. The Saul to Paul analogy is a funny coincidence as only an hour ago I finished reading the Acts of the Apostles haha.
    I wish the myths would die but I fear they’ll be around for a long time yet. I just hope that someday enough writers will see through the BS so that, while not completely dead, the myths will be on life support.

    Reply
    • Acts was among my favorite chapters in the New Testament (KJV), followed closely by Corinthians I & II for some reason.

      Human nature and the herd metality being what they are, I can’t imagine the myths will ever diminish. Too many writers are too timid to think on their own or try something they believe is “new.” As Heinlein wrote in the paragraph following his list of business habits, “But they are amazingly hard to follow—which is why there are so few professional writers and so many aspirants, and which is why I’m not afraid to give away the racket!”

      Reply
      • The Gospel of John is my favorite book in the NT. I like its mysticism and it always moved me more than any of the other Synoptic Gospels, which is ironic (at least to me) since my grandmother and my mom named me after the Apostle Matthew.

        Herd mentality has done a number on humanity as a whole, not just in the field of writing. Thinking on your own or coming to your own conclusions based on personal research and/or trial and error seems to be hard for many.

        Reply

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