The Journal is a Politics-Free Zone

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* The Journal is a Politics-Free Zone
* Why Do Writers Seek Criticism?
* December 1
* Isaac Asimov
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“I agree with Stephen King: Stories — and maybe all art — already exist, whole and complete, in some other place. It’s our job as creators not to make that art or tell those stories, but to uncover them.” Johnny B. Truant (emphasis added)


The Journal is a Politics-Free Zone

My personal political preferences might seep out now and then or a reader might read-into something I write either here or in my fiction, but I will never blatantly inundate you with my beliefs. Not my department.

Besides, this isn’t the place for that. We’re all here to learn more about writing, right?

Nor do I subscribe to the selfish notion “It’s my blog so I’ll write what I want.” If the purpose of your blog is to convey information on a subject, stick to the subject.

The one thing I abhor about human beings is their tendency to believe they have the right to force their views on others. The second thing is suppositories, but I repeat myself. So I don’t do that, anywhere.

Until and unless this nation is attacked in a manner that I can affect with a personal response, I’ll keep my personal opinions on political matters, well personal. In the unlikely event of such an attack, I’ll do what we do as writers: act instead of talk (show, don’t tell).

Yesterday I ran across a ridiculously childish post on another website by a successful writer. I won’t share his name or where I saw the post because I don’t want to advertize the guy. But I left a comment and thought it appropriate for the Journal.

Here’s the comment:

“I unsubscribed from [the writer’s] posts long LONG ago. Not because of his gratuitous use of foul language — I was a Marine, so meh, the guy’s an amateur — but because I couldn’t take the constant assault of blatant political innuendo, half-truths, and outright lies like the inane ‘Nazi’ comment in his post.

“Seldom have I seen a more blatant example of the south end of a horse walking north specifically to advertise the glory that is that south end. Poor [guy]. Who will defend him when the baddies hit? Not this kid.”

A few years ago I unsubscribed from Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Business Musings posts (and stopped reading her fiction) for precisely the same reason. They were awash in political nonsense.

As a result I missed learning a great deal about the business end of writing. I know. My fault, and that’s fine. I’m good with taking personal responsibility for my actions. I literally couldn’t abide the barrage. So instead of surrendering, I withdrew.

And that’s too bad. She could have been SO helpful to SO many writers across the board if only she had kept her Business Musings about writing and publishing to writing and publishing (duh) and kept her politics to herself.

Like I do in this Journal.

Why any writer would even risk alienating readers is unfathomable to me, much less why s/he would do so intentionally. Doing so intentionally is cutting off one’s nose to “get back at” one’s face.

Hatred takes many forms on both the dominant and pre-dominant sides of the political aisle. And that’s true no matter who’s in power at the time. I will not abide it and I will not help spread it.

If that doesn’t make you want to share this Journal, I don’t know what will.

Why Do Writers Seek Criticism?

A writer emailed me with a question: “Why do you think writers believe criticism and critiques from other people help improve their writing?” (Thanks, Matt.)

Here’s my response:

Because that’s what they’ve been taught. Just imagine it. They’ve been actively taught in all negatives:

  • that they don’t know enough,
  • that they cannot trust themselves, and
  • that they are functionally incapable of putting out a quality story without first
    • outlining it,
    • character-sketching and world-building,
    • revising,
    • seeking critical input, and
    • rewriting X number of times.

They are actively taught that they are incompetent. And they lap it up. Head-shakingly inane.

And just for the record, EVERY successful professional fiction writer I’ve seen or heard who advises new writers to go that route also has nonfiction books for sale telling them how to do so. Every one of them. Conflict of interest? Anyone?

Then I congratulated him on not being a lemming.

December 1

For me personally, a new year starts every night at one instant past midnight or, if you prefer, with each sunrise. Or with the click of every second off the clock. Each of those begins a definitive new period of 24 hours, seven days, 52 weeks, or 12 months.

But if you’re one who is more attuned to the traditional calendar, today is a great time to begin thinking about your writing goals for the next year.

Whatever goals you set, I encourage you to break them into smaller increments:

If your goal for the year is to write 1,000,000 publishable words of fiction, that will feel impossible.

But it will feel much less impossible to write 83,334 words per month. Or 19,231 words per week. Or 2733 words per day on average.

Or if your goal is to write 500,000 publishable words of fiction, those numbers fall to 41,667 per month, 9616 words per week, and 1367 words per day.

I know one “professional” writer who laboriously churns out TWO (count ’em, 2) 50,000 to 60,000 word novels per year. She is considered by some to be prolific.

That’s her process, and of course “whatever ‘works'” is fine. But prolific? Please, do the math.

At the top end of that writer’s production, she averages 10,000 words per month. Or 2308 words per week. Or a paltry, embarrassing (to me) 328 words per day.

Divide that by the 16 hours most of us are typically awake during the day and you’ll find it’s a blazing-fast 21 words PER HOUR: one-third of one word per minute.

C’mon, wo/man. You could do that if you wrote only during bathroom breaks. On your phone.

Isaac Asimov

Dan Baldwin pointed me in the direction of Isaac Asimov’s final collection of short stories and a novella: Gold.

According to Dan, “About 60 percent of the book is Assimov writing on writing science fiction.”

There you go. The opportunity to learn from a master. I ordered a trade paperback copy immediately from Amazon for only $11.42 including tax.

Just thought I’d pass it along.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

We Are All Just Inspirations for the Record… THIS. This is a must-read for all Journal subscribers and readers. You don’t want to miss it.

Astronomers find six planets orbiting in resonance Delightful. All but incredible.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1120

Writing of Blackwell Ops 14: Charlie Task

Day 1…… 1359 words. To date…… 1359
Day 2…… 3002 words. To date…… 4361
Day 3…… 3349 words. To date…… 7710
Day 4…… 1687 words. To date…… 9397
Day 5…… 2271 words. To date…… 11668
Day 6…… 3095 words. To date…… 14763
Day 7…… 3924 words. To date…… 18687
Day 8…… 3278 words. To date…… 21965
Day 9…… 4093 words. To date…… 26058
Day 10…. 3764 words. To date…… 29822

Fiction for November…………………… 82190
Fiction for 2023…………………………. 400834
Fiction since August 1………………… 286289
Nonfiction for December……………… 1120
Nonfiction for the year……………… 256700
Annual consumable words………… 654027

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 8
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 7
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 79
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 235
Short story collections…………………… 31

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Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

8 thoughts on “The Journal is a Politics-Free Zone”

  1. Yes! The answer you wrote for Matt, yes, they say you can’t write, as if they would have known… Its the same when some editor (who wants to make a living) says you can’t write, you must be edited. And she is an editor, so she knows better…

    Yes, sometimes I can be better. And as I am learning and changing my older works doesn’t seem to be as good as it seemed to be when I wrote them. But did I give in everything I had? Yes. So, even if I’m not as good as I think I am, I can be, and I am working on to be… But this is my job to do, not someone who doesn’t even write…

    I set up a new goal for myself, also. I’ve learned many things during the past months, that I don’t have that much time I want, that I’m slower, that I need some day-off from writing (and be with my family&friends)… So, I set up an average 1500 words/writing day goal. Now this goal could motivate me enough, while I need focus to reach it. One month later I will revise if it works…

  2. Its certainly not a cliff I’m willing to hurl myself off of haha. I’m lucky in the sense that I’ve never truly bought into the whole critique thing. I have done it, don’t get me wrong. I won’t lie about that.
    But in the back of my mind I always thought “how do they know my story better than me?” And, “It sounds like they’re always telling me how THEY would write my story.”
    Eventually I just stopped and trusted myself and it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as a writer. So yes, I’m happy not to be a lemming.
    I remember a post Dean wrote years about how a certain writer had their novel at their ten beta readers and it made him shudder. I can definitely relate to that feeling. I can’t imagine one person telling me what to change or, as they would say, ‘fix’. Let alone ten.

    • Hi Matt, I suspect we’ve all been there. And you’re right. Most often other writers want to tell you how they would have written it. Which doesn’t matter. When I hear that now, I say, “Well, go do it. Titles and even ideas are not protected by copyright.” But I know they won’t. And even if they did, obviously it would be a very different story, not to mention stilted and stifled if they constructed it via their critical mind.

  3. I, for one, am thankful you keep overt politics out of the journal. Even when I agree with someone, I really dislike being preached at (this is one reason I’m a wedding/funeral church goer – grin).

    I’ve always had difficulty setting internal goals; for whatever reason, my subconscious is rather fond of “you can’t make me” and other forms of what a friend humorously calls mule-sitting. (The mule sitting in the road that won’t be moved for blood, love, or money.) Lately, I’ve been trying to focus on process rather than outcome, though that’s a difficult mindset shift when pretty much all the advice out there mirrors yours.

    Not, I must stress, that the general advice isn’t good and potentially useful for a lot of folks. I’m just odd. GRIN

    • Hi Peggy, Yes, learning to focus on anything other than Outcome is difficult. And that outcome is usually in the form of a value judgment (one person’s opinion) on the story or novel. It’s something I suspect every writer has had to overcome.

      I don’t focus on anything. I just write. I do that because I love experiencing the charcters’ stories as they unfold.

      I might have misunderstood, but are you saying you believe “pretty much all the advice out there mirrors” the advice I dole out in the Journal?

      If you believe that’s true, please give me some examples. I would love to support and advertise other successful prolific fiction writers who only try to encourage other writers and teach them to believe in themselves. But from my perspective, the opposite is true. Pretty much all the advice out there preaches the myths and all the things a writer “must do” to be successful. I don’t do that. Ever. And I won’t.

      All I ever say is “Hey, try this. You can always go back to slave labor if having fun and being free of ‘must-do’s’ isn’t your thing.” The only other place I’ve ever heard that is from Dean Wesley Smith back in the day, and the only other place I hear it nowadays is — no wait, there ARE no other places to hear it. And unfortunately, most writers lack the confidence in themselves to even try it.

      If you were talking specifically about my advice to set goals, yes, I advise folks to do that, but whether they do is up to them. Doesn’t affect me or my bottom line either way. Just trying to help. And dang, I don’t even have a nonfiction book to sell to show them HOW to do it. (grin)

      If I misunderstood, please clarify.

      • I was referring specifically to your goals advice, which does mirror a lot of what I see elsewhere (i.e., set your big goal, break it down to daily chunks, etc.). My apologies for not being clearer!

        As to your writing advice – nah, you know me better than that! GRIN You’re a lone voice in the wilderness. Or so it seems, anyway; while I do know of more than a handful of authors who write into the dark, almost none of them blog about it in any meaningful (for lack of a better term) way.

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