The Journal: I’m a Fortunate Guy

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: I’m a Fortunate Guy
* If you haven’t pulled the trigger
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou

“In writing, the critical voice always makes the wrong decision. Readers don’t read safe, easy, dull books. Just like no one watches the perfectly behaved child walking beside their parent and doing nothing. Nope, people watch with laughter or shock or stunned amazement or horror the out-of-control funny child. Your book needs to be that child, not the dull, quite one. Critical voice is always wrong in creative things.” Dean Wesley Smith, as quoted by Garry Rodgers of Kill Zone blog

Topic: I’m a Fortunate Guy

As a writer, I’m a fortunate guy, timing wise. I’ve said here many times before that if it weren’t for Dean Wesley Smith, and me stumbling on his website back in February 2014, I probably wouldn’t have written even one novel, much less be working on my 60th right now.

Yesterday, I left a comment over on Garry Rodgers’ post at the Kill Zone blog. He asked about mentors, and I was only too happy to sing Dean’s praises.

This morning I read his response. A writing friend pointed him to DWS and Kris Rusch “a few years ago, and their influence in indie writing/publishing was game changing.” No surprise there.

Then he wrote, “‘Writing Into The Dark’ is news to me, so I Googled it.” Then he posted a quote from Dean, which I copied and pasted as the second quote of the day above.

I was astounded to hear that my friend had been sent to Dean and Kris a few years ago, but that WITD was news to him. Literally astounded. How can you know of Dean Wesley Smith and NOT have heard about writing into the dark?

I guess I just happened on Dean’s site at the right time. He hadn’t been teaching formally in online lectures and workshops very long at that point. He was still talking about Heinlein’s Rules and WITD in his blog a lot.

And about the new world of publishing. And about killing the sacred cows of publishing. And more about WITD. A lot more.

Thank God I stopped by that day.

But early on, in an exchange of emails about WITD, Dean told me I shouldn’t talk about my writing process with anyone. “They won’t believe you,” he said. “And if they do believe you, they won’t buy your books because they’ll think they’re all trash because you wrote them so quickly. Which is to say, because you have a work ethic and actually spend time in the chair writing.”

He was right. Today I get comments from other writers like “Well, I would try writing into the dark but I want to turn out quality work.” Meaning, of course, it would be all but impossible for anyone who doesn’t outline, revise, rewrite, etc. to “turn out quality work.” (That quote was the parting shot of the woman who left PPW in the lurch and started its eventual demise when she departed for greener, less-threatening pastures.)

And of course, she and others like her judge me and my work without bothering to actually pick up even one of my short stories or novels and actually read it.

But I just shake my head and go on. Hey, it’s their loss. Because there’s no saving someone who’s so frightened of a new process that they won’t even try it.

As I’ve also said here many times before, I Don’t Care How You Write. If you try WITD and it doesn’t work for you for whatever reason, that’s fine. In fact, if you are unable to let go of your fears enough to even try it, that’s fine too. It makes no difference to my bottom line. I only labor at this Journal every day to pay it forward.

But those who want to learn can read my blog. If they want to learn more quickly and with a focus on their own work, they can take one of my mentorship programs.

I have to admit, when I find someone who’s so frightened of something that has Zero Consequences that they won’t even try it, I do get a little disgusted. If you’re in that camp, please continue to write drab, lifeless books. Continue to revise and rewrite and polish your original voice off the book until (you think) it sounds like a Hemingway or King or Whomever book.

But it doesn’t. Because Hemingway or King or Whomever didn’t write it.

Still, I’m all about paying it forward. Really, that’s the only reason I talk about Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark.

So finally, let me pass on one final bit of Dean’s wisdom: To those few of you out there who write into the dark, meaning you spend more time in the chair actually WRITING and PRACTICING and IMPROVING YOUR CRAFT, keep doing it. But don’t tell any other writers except the select few who also WITD.

If you do, they’ll attempt to beat you to death with their own fears.

If you haven’t pulled the trigger yet on trying WITD (and if you want to), I recommend Dean’s Writing Into the Dark, his book on Heinlein’s Rules and my own Writing the Character-Driven Story.

Soon, I’ll be back with a series of topics focused on various writing techniques. For now, I have a novel to write.

Talk with you again then.

Of Interest

See “Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction” at I also recently added this to Writers’ Resources under Dictionaries and Translators.

See “Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction” at

See “Isaac Asimov’s Law of Robotics” at SF Grand Master Jack Williamson wrote a novella titled “With Folded Hands” based on Rule 1.

See “Character Growth” at

See “What if Planet Nine is a baby black hole?” at A writing prompt?

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 980 words

Writing of The Journey Home: Part 9 (novel)

Day 1…… 2019 words. Total words to date…… 2019
Day 2…… 3650 words. Total words to date…… 5669
Day 3…… 3760 words. Total words to date…… 9429

Total fiction words for March……… 46417
Total fiction words for the year………… 245425
Total nonfiction words for March… 14700
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 60730
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 306155

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 5
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 59
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
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 it both regularly and publicly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

6 thoughts on “The Journal: I’m a Fortunate Guy”

  1. Sort of off topic, but not really.

    I bought that Farland recommended? Infostack Writer Craft 2 thing you pitched twice (I trusted you man, never again, jk), that $5000-or-so thing for $49, and oops, I have never been more disappointed. Bunch of outliners. People unable to separate the idea of learning techniques and practicing them. I have certainly been beaten by their fears all over the place, signing up for essentially crap, trying to weed out the mess. I may have to ditch my email address, because between their spam and their courses I am inundated with how hard writing is, and how you have to have a plan regardless of whether you are a pantser or plotter, their words.

    Um, no. Writing is not hard. I found Dean about the same time you did (2014?), did not get the real straight dope you did, unfortunately did not strike the hot iron, instead fell into his Kickstarter-kick, got bored with him about four years ago when he stopped talking about craft (though he’s still amazing, I know, cause I got tons of their books and lectures); found you and a renewed sense of purpose, and then PWW, lost that resource when it blew up; bought your books on WITD and Character-Driven, et cetera. Found action. All of which, is to say, you, Harvey, totally pointed me back in the right direction. I can plainly recognize the benefits of real theory and actual practice.

    Still, it’s funny, buying that Infostack mess, you again taught me a extended lesson. A misguided one, I don’t know, maybe. A clarifying one. Stick with learning from the best. I don’t need a thousand, all-over-the-place, learning resources. I already have the thousand teachers. People can not help themselves, squealing for a buck. Never stop learning, sure. But, go to the top to do it. While there may yet be a few gems in the Infostack-thing somewhere, from some of the bigger names, or smart indies, I am tempted to seek a refund.

    But seriously, you are at the top. I know WITD is real. Guess I’m a lucky guy too.


    • Thanks so much, Liam. If it makes you feel any better, I too bought into InfoStack at one time. The trick (though I don’t always remember to drive it home) is something you said in your comment: “…there may yet be a few gems….” Indeed.

      If you still want my recommendations, read Lawrence Block (both nonfiction and fiction) and Stephen King. Those are my staunchest recommendations. Also (reaching back a bit) Jack Higgins, especially his World War II stuff. My primary unintentional mentors these days are King, Hemingway (sort of) and Block.

  2. Agreed, Higgins is awesome, naturally. I focus myself to learn from them too, through their fiction, of course.

    Writing-advice wise, Hemingway is a wash, since he is a total essay bullshitter. His writing is magnificent, as everyone knows. Wish he had written more.

    Block is the best for clear non-fiction lessons on technique. His fiction is unparalleled.

    King is a special case. Sometimes hard to sift out the bs in his essays, they stretch clear back to the seventies. Even in his short-on-purpose-to-eliminate-bs “On Writing” is bs. I read that thing to death, so I know. King totally WITD with cycling, so absolutely lies about editing slog (for the fans), King is so done at Heinlein 2nd. He plays at 3rd, and has an entire industry tripping over him at H4, he doesn’t need to do anything but H1, write. His talented, practiced brain, and subsequent publishing machine spits out gold. Dean explained that schtick. King is the writing master though because of it. Epic.

    • Yep, again I agree word for word. IMHO King is the only Stage 5 writer working today, but as you said, it’s because he can focus on H1 (in other words, practice). I love his books, and I love going back through to study this part and that and try to figure out 1. what he’s doing to me as a reader and 2. why he’s doing it and 3. HOW he’s doing it. But of course, all of that is a ton of sheer fun.

      On a lighter note, I wonder how many would-be writers out there have believed enough BS about Hemingway to try getting drunk and then write standing up in their underwear? (grin)

  3. I don’t think writing into the dark is necessarily something you have to hear about or even learn to do. I think for many writers, it comes naturally. In fact, I believe it is the default mode for writing fiction if you’ve never had any ‘guidance’ from English teachers. You just, as you’ve so often pointed out, write one sentence after another. I know it was that way for me.

    I remember in high school starting a story about school bus accidentally hitting a wrinkle in the space-time continuum and ending up on another planet. It was just a half-assed idea I had and I ended up with about 100 typewritten pages before something took me away from the story, perhaps finals or a summer job. Never finished it. Early in college in one of those mass required humanities classes, we had an assignment to write a paper on the concept of hubris. I wasn’t even sure what the word meant. So after putting off the paper until the day before it was due, I handed in a short story that I wrote in a couple of hours. I ended up getting an A from the prof who said he admired the effort even if it had nothing to do with hubris. One of the few good English profs I had.

    However, by the end of college, I had learned that the way I wrote was wrong and I eventually went into journalism and public relations where the conscious mind mode of writing is more appropriate. It wasn’t until I heard Elmore Leonard talk about how he wrote – and he didn’t do that very often, so I was damn lucky to hear him – that I learned that I’d been right all along. It is appalling that so many learned professors and luminaries in the mainstream publishing industry say you can’t write quality fiction by WITD. Especially when there are so many highly successful authors who do just that.

    • Thanks, Bob. You’re right, of course, a great many very well known fiction writers churn out story after story, novel after novel. Of course there is some clean-up required (I cycle back as I go, so that’s what I recommend), and even rewriting is acceptable if you know how to do it and if you’re good at it. But even then, the trick is to keep the critical (negative) mind at bay. I’m flat stunned when anyone who’s “known” me even only via email tells me they’ve never heard of pushing down the critical voice and Just Writing (aka, WITD). Even if they choose not to do it, saying they’ve never even heard of it makes me want to yell, “Um, have you MET me?” (grin)

      But again, I think by and large Dean was right all those years ago when he said to never tell the truth about how we write. In fact, in one of a famous times when Hemingway wasn’t screwing with people he said basically the same thing. “Don’t tell people you had to learn to write. Let them think you were born with it” (paraphrasing).

      I remember Dean told me once when writers at conferences asked him how many drafts he wrote, he told them three. What he didn’t tell them was that Draft One was the finished product, Draft Two was the few minutes he spent spell-checking it, and Draft Three was him applying first-reader input that he agreed with. Then it was out the door. (grin)

      It would be neat to have a few cups of coffee as a group of writers sat around talking about all the BS they (and more famous writers) have told beginners and readers over the years.

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