The Journal: I Have a Question

In today’s Journal

* Topic: I Have a Question
* Non-writing day yesterday
* No “Of Interest” section today
* The Numbers

Topic: I have a question.

Why are writers so insanely frightened of writing into the dark?

I don’t mean individual writers being frightened to test the waters. I used to be one of those. I’d almost break out in hives at even the idea of sitting down and just writing without a clue as to which characters would appear or what they would do or say or which twists and turns might appear in the story, unbidden, unforetold and un-figured-out.

I know some of you can relate. Want to run a self-diagnosis? If you experience feelings of dread when you think about going to your writing computer, you might have an unreasoning fear. Again, I used to be that guy.

That was scary stuff. Today, though, the same stuff is exhilarating.

I finally figured out all of that was unreasoning fear. I finally figured out that even if I wrote a terrible story, one that sucked canal water from all 50 states, nobody was going to come to my house, honk their horn, and then shoot me when I pulled the curtain aside to see who was out there.

And even if I wrote a terrible story (or novel) it wouldn’t “end my career,” as so many people believe. What career? I didn’t have a career. Hell, I was too petrified to write anything but an outline. (grin)

So if I wrote a terrible story (or even a great story), some readers simply wouldn’t like it. They’d put it down and find something else to do. Meh. Or they would like it. Didn’t matter. I didn’t have time to worry about it. I was busy writing the next story.

And that’s what happens if you write a bad story (or a great one): Nothing. You just write the next story.

But I’m not talking about individual writers and their unreasoning fears. I get that because I used to be there. I understand it. Some of you are probably going through that right now in your writing “career.” Be strong. You’ll get through it. I’m living proof.

But in this post, I’m talking about other professional fiction writers, the ones who literally attack me and others, not for writing into the dark, but for talking about writing into the dark.

What are they afraid of?

Are they afraid a practitioner of WITD might turn out a story better than one they’re capable of writing?

Or are they just annoyed that they will never know their full potential?

How would readers react if those writers just wrote the best possible story they could write, checked it for typos, and then submitted or published it without rewriting and critique-grouping and polishing all the originality off of it?

They’ll never know.

And they’ll never know that sinking feeling at the end of the year when they realize they’ve written and published only 8 or 10 novels instead of 12 or 15. Instead they’ll relish in the sense that they’re “prolific” because they somehow managed to write a novel in only six months.

But I can tell you that WITD practitioners don’t care that others take months or years to churn out a novel. For us, that just means less competition. So are they frightened that if they worry only about themselves we might take over the world?

And while I’m on the topic, why are they so quick to assume WITD practitioners are turning out works that “aren’t ready” without bothering to read even one? Are they that frightened of a novel that takes only two weeks to write?

One of those types, a real person, once responded to me in a comment, “But I ilke to turn out quality work.” Seriously? Like what, I’m trying to turn out garbage?

Or are they just afraid some up and coming young writer might find success without jumping through all the same hoops they chose to jump through with their outlining and character sketches and worksheets and all the rest?

As far as I know, I’m one of only two viable resources on the entire Internet who’s willing to tell writers it’s all right to forget all the crap they learned about writing fiction from people who don’t write fiction. And I’m probably the only one who does so consistently.

So I’m here to say, “Individual writers, it’s all right to let go of you unreasoning fears and self-doubt.

“It’s all right to write a story or novel to the best of your current ability and then let it go and write the next one. (It’s called “practice.”)

“And it’s perfectly all right to believe you can write a great story without the input of critique groups and developmental editors and all the rest.

“Because you can.”

Consider, before you were intentionally taught in school that you couldn’t possibly measure up, you told stories all the time. You made up stories on the fly before you even knew there was such a thing as an alphabet.

You accessed your creative subconscious and you told stories to your parents and other adults, and probably even to your siblings other children.

Then some teacher in junior high or high school who had never written a piece of fiction in her life told you if you wanted to write fiction, you had to learn how to outline “appropriately,” and it would be a good idea to run your story through a critique group (the first critique group you probably participated in was in class), and that you had to think it all through very carefully, etc. etc. ad nauseam.

I know. I remember. I was there too. And it’s a pile of bovine excrement.

And other professional writers, listen: We who write into the dark understand you think we’re doing it all wrong and we’re going to Hell in a handbasket. But we don’t care, because we know better and have the following and sales to back it up.

And while your readers are waiting for your next novel to come out six months or a year or two from now, they can easily pick up our latest release and know they’ll get another one in about a month. Even if we’re not writing all that “fast” at the moment.

And while I’m on that topic, we don’t write any faster than you do. We just spend time in the chair. It’s called a work ethic.

So here I am. A guy like me comes along with over 50 published novels and over 200 published short stories. Or better yet, Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Stephen King and Lee Child and countless others come along, all NY Times and USA Today bestsellers, some having garnered tons of writing and editing accolades and awards, some having written hundreds of novels and probably thousands of short stories—

And young writers consciously choose to believe their English teacher, who has written zero fiction, and all the other baby writers they see on the boards on the internet.


I had a non-writing day yesterday. I was a little under the weather and discombobulated so I basically did nothing all day.

And the novel’s at a major turning point, so I think I’m going to set it aside for today and write a short story for the Shared Worlds class and get that sent off.

Talk with you again soon.

No “Of Interest” section today. I published this before they all got up and about.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1260 words

Writing of The Journey Home: Part 7 (novel)

Day 1…… 6065 words. Total words to date…… 6065
Day 2…… 3887 words. Total words to date…… 9952
Day 3…… 3170 words. Total words to date…… 13122
Day 4…… 3862 words. Total words to date…… 16984
Day 5…… 3905 words. Total words to date…… 20889
Day 6…… 2845 words. Total words to date…… 23734

Total fiction words for February……… 85536
Total fiction words for the year………… 183013
Total nonfiction words for February… 17530
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 42860
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 225873

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 3
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 57
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 215
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31