The Journal, Monday, May 21

Hey Folks,

Well, I almost posted this Journal yesterday, but only for the “Of Interest” section. And it isn’t time-sensitive, so I waited until today.

Had a great visit on Saturday and part of Sunday with my son Roy, Dana, Brandon, Lucas, and Joey (aka Fred, a linoleum salesman from Cincinnatti). Thanks for dropping by, guys.

Rolled out at 3 this morning. The little girl and I were outside by 3:30, but an old owl screeched from somewhere closeby at a little before 4, so I ushered her back inside.

There are several good items in “Of Interest” today. Chief among them for bargain hunters, DWS is offering $900 worth of online workshop credits for $500. You can use them anytime, but the offer is for one week only. Take a look.

Topic: The Purpose (and Value) of the Conscious Mind

I talk a lot in this Journal about quieting the conscious, critical mind and allowing the subconscious free reign when you’re writing.

After all, the subconscious has been making up stories since before you even knew how to combine two longer lines with a shorter one to make a capital letter A. Even before you knew there was such a thing as an alphabet or a sentence.

It won’t surprise you to know I stand by that truth. Whether or not you choose to believe it, the fact remains that it’s a fact.

But of course, you still have a choice and it’s purely yours to make. Every writer is different.

You can choose to don your robes and be the Almighty Writer on High, outlining a story to within an inch of its life, then controlling every aspect of your characters and forcing them to your will. This is the product of the conscious, critical mind. This is drudgery. This is work.

Or you can choose to put on your grungy clothes, roll off the edge of the trench, and run through the story with your characters, writing down what they say and do. This is the product of your subconscious mind. This is you having fun.

None of that isn’t to say I advocate writing a sloppy “first draft.” I don’t.

Writing a sloppy first draft is self-defeating. It’s like loading a wheelbarrow full of dirt, moving it partway toward where you actually want it, then dumping it so you can come back tomorrow and the next day and the next day, load it again and repeat the process.

But the conscious mind DOES have a valuable role to play in our functioning as writers: It enables us to learn.

We use the conscious, critical mind when we sit in classes and workshops and lectures. The conscious mind is where both the sponge of our hunger for knowledge and our BS Detector is located.

The latter, the BS Detector, if we’re paying attention, keeps us from buying into pure nonsense, like the absolutes that some writing instructors toss around:

▪ Never use “had.” It creates passive voice. (Um, no, it doesn’t.)

▪ All adverbs are bad. (No. Like any other part of speech, some, but not all, are unnecessary.)

▪ Never use state-of-being verbs. They create passive voice. (Again, no, they don’t.)

As an aside, passive voice is more accurately described as passive construction. It involves moving the responsibility for the action in the sentence from near the beginning to near the end.

“Roy kicked the ball” is active.

“The ball was kicked by Roy” is passive. What makes it passive is not the state-of-being verb was. It’s that plus the prepositional phrase.

The former, the sponge of our hunger for knowledge, soaks up what is necessary regarding grammar and syntax and punctuation. It absorbs how and when to create cliffhangers and how to ground the reader and write openings. It sops up sentence structure and the uses of sentences and paragraphs of varying lengths.

The conscious mind is useful in learning which hot buttons readers of certain genres expect, and where and how to place those hot buttons.

So one primary function of the conscious mind is to learn. That’s a very good function.

But another primary functions of the conscious mind is to protect us, more often than not, from ourselves. The conscious mind is what keeps us from walking out in traffic or leaning our hand on a hot stove.

And the conscious mind, once allowed (or, perish the thought, invited) into the actual writing process, wants us to do anything BUT finish our current WIP.

So celebrate the conscious mind for its ability to enable us to learn. In that regard, it is invaluable. Celebrate it even for its efforts to keep us from doing stupid things that would cause us physical harm.

But when it comes to writing, tell it to go sit in the corner and keep its thoughts to itself.

Then celebrate the subconscious for its ability to free up our creativity and let it flow onto the page.


I didn’t go out to the Hovel until 8:30. From then until 10 in an extended session I finsihed the epilogue, which doubles as the last story in the novel. That was a quick 1700 words.

I took a break, then went back to the Hovel and started cycling through the novel itself. All of the stand-alone stories are finished, as is the epilogue, which does double duty as a stand-alone story and the cap of the novel.

I still need to fill out four or five intermissions too. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m ignoring the stand-alone stories and cycling through only the overall story (the novel) which consists of the prologue and the intermissions.

As I’m doing that, I’m also changing the novel itself to a first-person narrative. It’s more comfortable that way since it’s told from one poing of view. So as I cycle through I’m making those changes, which are only in the intermissions between the stories.

There. Adequately confused? (grin) I know I won’t ever write one like this again.

See you soon. ​

Of Interest

See “Time of Great Forgetting Special Offer” at This is a GREAT offer if you want to learn the craft of writing or hone your skills.

See “How to Write an Eating Scene” at

Then see “Advanced Scene Technique: The Jump Cut” at

If you want to browse for awhile, you can find all of James Scott Bell’s Kill Zone blog posts at

Fiction Words: 3270
Nonfiction Words: 1060 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 4330

Writing of A Storyteller (novel and short story collection)
Brought forward…………………………………………………………………… 44837
Day 16… 3117 words. Total words to date…… 47954
Day 17… 2680 words. Total words to date…… 50634
Day 18… 1278 words. Total words to date…… 51912
Day 19… 1687 words. Total words to date…… 53599
Day 20… 1792 words. Total words to date…… 55391
Day 21… 1998 words. Total words to date…… 57389
Day 22… 3270 words. Total words to date…… 60659

Total fiction words for the month……… 35674
Total fiction words for the year………… 196960
Total nonfiction words for the month… 9160
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 58630
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 255320

Calendar Year 2018 Novels to Date………………………… 3
Calenday Year 2018 Novellas to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2018 Short Stories to Date……… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 30
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 5
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 182