The Journal: Lansdale, Orwell, and Farland

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Lansdale and Orwell
* Farland
* Wholeness
* Yesterday
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“Here are keys: Relax and write. It’s not a root canal. It’s writing and you should write something you care about. It can be light, or insightful, or whatever, but it always works best when you come at it with enthusiasm. That way, if it’s hard, you still have fun. Otherwise, it’s just hard.” Joe R. Lansdale

“The point is, are you holding your attention? If so, you just might hold the reader’s attention.” Joe R. Lansdale

“Entering a scene late and leaving early is a good rule of thumb.” Joe R. Lansdale

“We are all part of cultural shifts, but I don’t worry about it if the story requires the use of certain language. It is not the word, it is the intent. … [I]f you get your feelings hurt by language there’s always Doctor Seuss.” Joe R. Lansdale

“I write as if someone else is telling me the story and I’m writing it down for them. That someone else is my subconscious. … Most often if I write out an outline, I no longer want to write the story.” Joe R. Lansdale

“I don’t wait for inspiration, since it’s me doing the inspiring.” Joe R. Lansdale

Yeah, a LOT of quotes from Joe R. Lansdale. There are a lot more (and a ton of wisdom) in the Q&A segment of his bio, which I linked to both yesterday and today in “Of Interest.” I strongly recommend you read it.

I especially like his quote (admonition) about treading lightly when it comes to the use of certain language: “It is not the word, it is the intent.” In other words, if you want to convey the character’s intent, you have to let the character use the appropriate word or words.

Around 30 years ago I hosted a critique group in Roswell New Mexico. One “everybody’s grandma” little old lady had written a story about a 14 year old inner-city gangsta wanna-be in Chicago.

The character was unbelievably polite as he violently ripped a purse off an elderly woman’s shoulder and shoved her through a plate glass display window. He said, and I quote, “Gimme that purse, you darn old lady.” (Not kidding.)

When I mentioned that the antagonist’s language wasn’t realistic, the writer said she couldn’t possibly use the words the character probably used during the assault. And I told her, as gently as I could, “Then you can’t write this kind of story.”

If you’re a fiction writer, you have to be willing to allow characters to speak as they do, to commit violence if they do, and to be who they are. Anything short of that, you’re cheating the reader.

Whatever some folks would have you believe, the real world is not made up of butterflies and fairies and fireflies and lace. Of course, you have every right to believe holding hands and singing Kumbaya will solve all the world’s ills.

Just be aware that, as George Orwell once wrote, “One can only abjure violence because others are prepared to endure violence on their behalf.” That is the real world.

There are also a pair of good posts from David Farland in today’s “Of Interest.” Primarily they’re about using the POV character’s physical and emotional senses, but it might make more sense coming from someone other than me. Give ’em a read.


Years ago, I taught a three-day retreat and a shorter course on Observation for Writers. The purpose was to help writers sense the world around them and their place in it, not from a perspective “above” the rest of creation but on a par with it. I finally gave up teaching that course.

The human ego, supported by the underlying collective human insecurity (we get our “stature” by deriding everthing else as being below us) was simply too much to overcome. The thought that humanity might be on a par with other creatures on Earth was a trigger long before I’d ever heard of triggers other than those on firearms.

The thought at the base of that concept of Wholeness originated from a word which, in both Greek and Old Hebrew, could as easily have been translated “wholeness” as “holiness.” Of those two concepts, the former is all-inclusive and the latter is exclusive to whatever group is using it/defining it at the time. I’ve often wondered how different the world would look today if only the translation of that one word in all the relgious texts had gone the other way.

Boiled down to its lowest common denominator, the concept of Wholeness illuminates that there is no such thing as humanity vs. nature, but rather that humanity is an integral part of nature. Only our collective insecurity as a species causes us to think of ourselves as “above” everything else rather than an equal but different and integral part of everything.

The concept still intrigues me, has always and always will. So imagine my thrill when I read “Make whole that which is broken” at Especially the last two-thirds of the last sentence: “[T]he repair we are asked to accomplish requires that we see the sacred hidden within the ordinary — the wholeness that exists in all things, everywhere.” If only.

Yesterday I finally got back to Rider Jones. I’d been away only four days, but it seemed like roughly half of forever. Still not sure whether it will wrap as a long short story, a novella or what. It seems to want to wrap as a short story. I expect I’ll find out today.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Joe R. Lansdale’s Bio” at Especially the interview section where he talks about writing.

See “Appealing to the Senses” at

See “Appealing to the Senses Part 2” at

See “Grammar-Nerd Heaven” at

See “Twelve Years” at

See “Shoot to Kill or to Wound? The Answer May Surprise You” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1000 words

Writing of The Origins of Rider Jones (short story, maybe longer)

Day 1…… 4293 words. Total words to date…… 4293
Day 2…… 2458 words. Total words to date…… 6751

Total fiction words for April……… 62479
Total fiction words for the year………… 349566
Total nonfiction words for April… 14060
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 81460
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 431016

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 7
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 61
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 WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

2 thoughts on “The Journal: Lansdale, Orwell, and Farland”

  1. Only vaguely remember hearing of Joe Lansdale, but your quote yesterday had me follow the link. Halfway through the Q and A, I stopped and saved a copy to my computer. Then I started over and read it. Then I read it again. It is now part of my file on writing.

    Thank you. It is aluays good to read different takes. Im glad you take time to share.

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