The Journal: Magic Realism, Writing, and the WIBBOW Rule

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* How I came to write magic realism
* The WIBBOW Rule
* A Note on Covers
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“Writing to me is an advanced and slow form of reading. If you find a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. … It took me a long time to do a short book; a long time to leave the world of language and the building up and shaping of the book, but once it began to float I knew I could not not do it….” Toni Morrison

“I write the kind of stuff I’d like to read but can’t find. If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t write it.” Mickey Spillane

“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” Beverly Sills

“As a writer, I’m always trying to create the book I want to read, but can’t find anywhere.” Janet Fitch

“Sometimes if there’s a book you really want to read, you have to write it yourself.” Ann Patchett

Two major topics in the Journal today. I almost split this into two posts, but I didn’t. So get a beverage and settle in. First, a reader of the Journal emailed to ask me “How did you come to write magic realism?”

Another reader a few days ago mentioned in an email that one of the least-developed characters in one of my magic realism stories (the character’s patiently waiting in the wings to become a major character) is her favorite of all my characters. I was a little surprised, but pleasantly.

So I thought I’d talk here a little about how I came to write what I write. Sometimes thinking about why you write what you write will spur you to write more.

First, my definition of magic realism — A magic realism story occurs when the characters live and breathe at the precise point on the horizon where reality folds into imagination.

I say “on the horizon” because whether it occurs in a physically distant place or within one’s own body or mind, it’s something the reader can’t quite get a handle on but can only sense and experience from afar, as in a waking dream.

The magic realism event is something that can neither be seen nor ignored but only felt. In that way, it’s the impossible brought to life and experienced (hands-off) by the reader.

Oddly, the writer has to experience the magic realism event the same way: hands-off, but simultaneously at a distance and in the center of it.

I came to write magic realism because I fell in love with the stories of Franz Kafka (The Metamorphosis and The Trial) and Octavio Paz (“My Life with the Wave”) and Isabel Allende and Jorge Luis Borges and several others. I enjoy the writing of Gabriel Garcia Márquez, but not as much as Paz and Allende and some others.

I even wrote a magic realism short story collection (Stories from the Cantina) in which each story stood alone but were also interconnected with the others. So when taken as a whole, the collection is also a short novel. It was patterened after The Stories of Eva Luna by Allende.

But the same is true with short stories and novels (and films) in other genres: crime, war, historical western, detective/private investigator, SF, action-adventure and thriller. I love those genres so I write stories and novels in them. I can’t imagine writing in a genre I haven’t enjoyed reading.

As many others have said (see Quotes of the Day), if there’s a story you want to read but you can’t find it, you should write it. That’s what and why I write. A character pops into my head with a line of dialogue or a scene and off I go.


Dean Wesley Smith often quotes the WIBBOW Rule, which he attributes to writer Scott William Carter. Dean reportedly applies the rule often, especially when he’s faced with deciding what to work on next (or at all) in his multiple roles as writer, instructor, publisher, and old-guy trying to stay in shape.

The acronym stands for Would I Be Better Off Writing (WIBBOW).

I’ve really never slowed down to apply the WIBBOW rule. Shrug. I just write. Or did for the longest time.

But it’s no secret that my own writing has slowed — a lot. I’ve typically written 10 novels and dozens of short stories every year. At this point, the best-case (but realistic) scenario for 2020 is that I’ll finish the year with 53 novels (so only 3 new), 8 novellas (0 new), and maybe as many as 220 short stories (20 new and only 7 more than I have right now).

Part of that is because I have plenty of other things to do, all on the marketing and/or publishing side of the business. And thoughts of all those other things sometimes feel overwhelming. Sometimes they effectively freeze me in-place. Apparently those thoughts have intruded into my writing.

For example, I need to re-do and brand or rebrand some of my covers (both series and stand-alones), rewrite some of my sales copy, and (lesser importance) put together a few templates to make future jobs easier. (To that end, I’ve removed some things from my Numbers section this morning. They aren’t dead. Just waiting.)

I also want to put more of my titles in paper, and I want to do it myself, so that’s another job and another learning curve. For me personally, saddled with my particular personality, that’s a bit of a daunting task.

Finally, in order to do all of that, I also need to familiarize myself with a new program, one I bought about a year ago but haven’t made time to learn yet. I’ve been cruising along in my comfort zone with an older program I’ve been using for years to create book covers (Serif PagePlus).

That program still works fine, but it won’t suffice anymore. Support for the program has gone the way of the mastadons. More importantly, though it will work for the cover re-dos and branding (sales copy doesn’t enter in), it won’t suffice for interior design or cover spreads (for putting my books into paper). And it won’t suffice for a major new project I’ve had in mind for about a year now.

So I’m at a turning point that includes three stages:

1. I have to invest the time NOW to learn the new program. With my personality and way of doing things, that means writing will have to take a back seat until I’ve learned the new program.

2. As a function of learning the new program, I’ll practice. I’ll begin creating new, rebranded ebook covers (so at least that much will be out of the way). Plus I’ll probably get a good start on that new project I mentioned above (albeit only in ebook format at first).

Stages one and two should take a week to two weeks. Of course, as I learn new things about the program or otherwise, I’ll share those things here. So I hope you’ll stay tuned.

3. Once I feel comfortable with the new program, if going to paper still feels important to me I’ll create interior layouts and full-spread covers and publish to paper. This one is shaky. This is where I’ll probably apply the WIBBOW rule and maybe return to writing instead.

In the past, again because of my personality and way of doing things, I’ve separated Writing and Publishing into separate compartments. It’s always been difficult for me to move smoothly from one to the other in the same day. If I’m writing that day, I write. If I’m designing covers and writing sales copy and publishing, I do that to the exclusion of writing.

But I hope that once I’ve settled into using the new program, I’ll be more able to do both, writing part of the day and publishing part of the day. So that’s where I stand at the moment.

If you’re at all interested, the new program is Serif’s Affinity Publisher. It’s intuitive and an attractive rival to Adobe InDesign, but instead of being saddled with a monthly subscription fee you can buy the program outright for $50. You can read about it at

A Note on Covers

No matter which program you’re using to create covers (and if you are prolific and aren’t designing your own covers you’re wasting a lot of money), you need to study covers that are selling.

How? Go to Amazon. Look for modern bestsellers in your genre. If a cover attracts you, study it. Learn that the author name and book title should always be HUGE so they can be seen plainly in the thumbnail version. Learn the kind of artwork used in your genre. Just knowing the program isn’t nearly enough.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “One of My Favorite Pictures” at I was fortunate to study under Jack Williamson at ENMU at Portales (the town Dean mentions in his post) in 1994. He was a great man and a great writer.

See “Amazon Author Insights” at And see the post that occurs after this one at TPV.

See “5 Ways Paragraphing Supports Story” at Also, start a new paragraph when the focus shifts character to character or scene to scene.

See “Having Fun In Week #2…” at I seldom find fault with DWS, but all I can think of to add to this is “monthly means every month.”

See “Vietnamese Publishing House Co-Founder Arrested” at And be sure to read PG’s addendum.

See “The Virtual You” at

See “Just Who Are You Calling Old?” at

See bestselling author John Gilstrap’s YouTube channel at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1620 words

Writing of “Turnaround” (short story, probably)

Day 1…… 1092 words. Total words to date…… 1092
Day 2…… 1287 words. Total words to date…… 2379
Day 3…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 1287
Total fiction words for the year………… 336481
Total nonfiction words for the month… 4410
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 154800
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 491281

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 5
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 12
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 50
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 213
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

3 thoughts on “The Journal: Magic Realism, Writing, and the WIBBOW Rule”

  1. Same idea, different form of art:

    I finally came to the fact that I wanted to listen certain music. But I couldn’t find it. There was no band at that time that would satisfy me, and therefore I created such a band by myself.

    Yegor Letov
    “That’s how it was. Creative and political autobiography”

  2. Wonderful quotes.

    Can I recommend a book called Writing and Marketing Systems. It’s not out yet, but I was lucky to get an early copy. (Oct 15th, I think)

    I miss your word counts. I struggle there myself, (often because of marketing messing my day up) and I found your posts so inspiring. Lol. I guess I’ve told you that. I’m doing better but I’m still not where I want to be.

    Affinity publisher looks good. I used blogger in the beginning to create html. Lol. Then Jutoh, and now Vellum. (Mac computer) Vellum is awesome. With a click of a button– paperback!

    Good luck with everything. It seems that this career is all about learning new things, all the time.

    • Done, Diane. Thanks for the recommendation. I miss my word counts too (grin). I hope to get back to being prolific soon. I’ve used Serif PagePlus for years. Now I just want to make the leap to Affinity Publisher. It does so much more. Oh, and on YouTube, you can also search for Affinity Revolution Tutorials. Happy writing!

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