The Journal: Just Write and Have Fun

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Topic: Just Write and Have Fun
* Of Interest

Quote of the Day

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.” Michael J. Fox

I’ve seldom if ever read a better quote on this topic.

Topic: Just Write and Have Fun (Confession Time)

I wasn’t going to post an edition of the Journal today, but Matt asked me a question about redrafting: tossing out an opening that isn’t “working” and starting over from scratch. He wanted to know whether I ever do that.

Of course I do. But before I address that, caution about how you define what “works.”

If an opening grabs you and takes off, it works, period. If it doesn’t grab you, I recommend you either start a new opening from scratch for that idea (so redraft) or move on to another idea. Ideas are not golden and they aren’t rare. They’re literally everywhere.

I caution you against defining what “works” as a function of the conscious mind, like the lack of some craft element (e.g., “it doesn’t have enough description” or “it doesn’t start in the middle of the action”) or whatever else. Just write and have fun.

Ideally, an opening either grabs me and takes off or it slogs along. If it slogs along — and if I recognize what’s happening — I toss it and either try to redraft the same idea (very seldom) or just move on to another idea.

If I DON’T recognzize what’s happening, I might try to “fix” it, moving this segment down there or that conversation up here, and so on. And It Never Works.

Confession time — That’s exactly what happened to me with my current novel: the opening slogged and slogged and slogged. And I tried and tried to fix it, causing it to slog some more.

I like to think that happened because it’s been so long since I last wrote easily. But that can’t be true. If it is, then why didn’t the same thing happen when I very first started writing novels?

This novel slogged down because I’ve written and finished novels before. It happened because writing fiction has been easy and fun for me before and I want it to be that way again.

I consciously wanted the story to “work,” meaning I wanted to get back into the flow of having fun writing again. But that’s a paradox:

The conscious mind can’t force the creative subconscious to work.

The creative subconscious is like a small child. It likes to have fun, and the harder you try to make it work, the more it will resist.

I wanted badly for this novel to work. I wanted to have the sheer joy of writing again, like the first 7 months of 2021 when I couldn’t wait to get to the writing ‘puter every day.

And all of that made this particular story “important” to me, which hobbled it even more. Eventually (at about the 7,000 word mark) I recognized what I was doing and tossed out the first 7,000 words or so, putting the story out of its (and my) misery.

Now the story is moving along fairly well. Mostly it runs, but I’m still experiencing jerks and starts where my conscious mind tries to creep in. If you look at the numbers below, you can actually see the progression, generally:

The initial opening ran to over 2300 words (Day 1). Note that it was probably fine, if only I’d trusted it.

Then my conscious mind popped in and I started second guessing everything (Days 2-4) because this story was so “important” to me.

On Day 5, the story slogged a bit more. Then I finally realized what was going on. I tossed out the first 7000 words and started a new opening. And Days 6 – 10 were much better. (On Day 9 I just got busy with other things.)

Day 1…… 2371 words. Total words to date…… 2371
Day 2…… 1305 words. Total words to date…… 3676
Day 3…… 1107 words. Total words to date…… 4783
Day 4…… 1201 words. Total words to date…… 5984
Day 5…… 1872 words. Total words to date…… 7856
Day 6…… 2505 words. Total words to date…… 10361
Day 7…… 3581 words. Total words to date…… 13942
Day 8…… 2147 words. Total words to date…… 16089
Day 9…… 1714 words. Total words to date…… 17803
Day 10… 2303 words. Total words to date…… 20106

When a Story Isn’t Running

1. When an opening isn’t running, when it isn’t fun, toss it Right Now and either write a new opening based on that idea or move on to another idea. But that’s just for an opening (so the first 500 to 2000 or so words).

2. If a story has been running along fine but it seems to bog down sometime later, there’s usually a reason. Most often it’s because my conscious, critical mind is creeping in, questioning things (e.g., “would the character really say that?” or “don’t you need more/less description” or “that wouldn’t really happen, would it?” and so on).

The trick is to recognize as soon as possible that the conscious mind is interfering so you can stop it. At those times I just take a deep breath and write the next sentence (whatever comes), then the next and the next. Soon the story’s flowing again.

That said, I’ve also had a story slow a few times when I’ve inadvertently written past the end of a chapter (that’s happened a few times), or even past the end of the novel (once).

How can you tell? You’re writing along fine and suddenly you notice the writing just bogs down. When that happens to me, I get up, walk away for awhile, then come back and read what I’ve written. Usually the end of the chapter or novel pops out at me and I move on.

Hope this helps. Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “More Workshop Sales?” at The man is a master. This is an enticement. Read this very specifically worded post carefully. It doesn’t really say what it appears to say on the surface. (Of course he’ll continue the half-price sales. They make a ton of money on them.)

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1000 words

Writing of Blackwell Ops 8 (tentative title, novel)

Day 10… 2303 words. Total words to date…… 20106

Total fiction words for June……… 14122
Total fiction words for the year………… 25899
Total nonfiction words for June… 5540
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 86150
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 112049

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.

4 thoughts on “The Journal: Just Write and Have Fun”

  1. Thanks Harvey. I think you’re right, I am writing from my conscious mind and didn’t even realize it until now.
    I’m going to put the ‘slogged’ idea aside and start something new and do my best to let the subconscious, creative mind do its job.

  2. Thanks for this post – your struggles mirror mine in that I was also wanting writing to be fun and easy again. Then, not only did I want the writing to be easy again, but also I was writing a new genre for me – SF Mystery – and I got caught up in “Am I doing this right?”

    That start (10-20K, I think?) still sits on my hard drive. Maybe it’s time to delete it and start over.

    • Thanks, Peggy. Nothing wrong with tossing those words. They’re only tools of the trade. Amateur carpenters will spend time trying to straighten a bent nail; a pro will toss it aside and grab a new one. (grin) If you do go back to them, there’s a chance you’ll get mired in the same old muck. If you liked the core idea, just write the story. And don’t worry about the genre. The genre will decide itself.

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