In today’s Journal
* Quote of the Day
* Topic: No Seriously, Nobody Cares
* Of Interest
* The Numbers
Quote of the Day
“Nobody cares.” Dean Wesley Smith
Topic: No, Seriously, Nobody Cares
This morning, Kris Rusch wrote a kind of rambling Business Musings post titled, “Nobody Cares.” When it goes public in a few days, I’ll link to it in “Of Interest” so you can see it for yourself. I suspect it was rambling because she was tired from just having finished teaching a live workshop in Vegas.
(I wanted badly to tell her she could have waited a few more days, literally that “nobody cares,” but I thought she might see that as facetious so I didn’t.)
In her post, she mentioned that she thought Dean had used the phrase, but she didn’t look back far enough and wound up equating her “nobody cares” with Dean saying “I don’t care what others think of my work.”
By which he means he doesn’t allow others’ comments, reviews, etc. to influence how he writes or what he writes. “I don’t care” is a healthy and incredibly freeing attitude, and one all writers would be better off to develop.
But so is “nobody cares.”
When Dean wrote “nobody cares” awhile back, he was talking about submitting manuscripts to traditional magazine markets and/or failing to success when you miss your daily or other goals.
In the first case, he was alluding to the fact that editors at tradpub magazine markets don’t remember writers whose work they reject. Being rejected there doesn’t blackball you. If you just keep writing per Heinlein’s Rules, as Heinlein himself wrote, “Somebody somewhere will like your work enough to buy it” (paraphrased).
The second case is even more important though. Re missing your goals, “nobody cares” means if/when you do miss a goal,
1. the goal resets to 0 anyway, and 2
2. the world won’t end.
In other words, nobody’s going to come to your house and beat you up or shoot you just because you missed your daily word-count goal. Nothing bad will happen just because you wrote “only” 46 short stories or “only” 9 novels in a year when you were aiming for a story a week or a novel every month.
And that’s REALLY freeing.
Yesterday a man and writer whom I consider a friend emailed me. The gist of his email was that he writes into the dark BUT he finds it all but impossible to publish something he feels he can improve.
Another writer, in a very similar vein, in a comment on another blog, wrote “WITD only goes so far. At some point, you have to know what’s right and follow that path.” Can you hear the fear?
But she was right, and I said so in my response: “Yes, [WITD] goes ‘only so far’ for you, apparently, and for others. For me, ‘what’s right’ is always up to the characters.” After all (again), its the story that they, not I, are living.
Another commenter on that same post wrote that if you trust your characters to tell their own story, “That assumes your characters know how to structure a story. Many of them don’t and require some guidance.”
I responded with this: “Nope. It assumes only that I [the writer] have studied and learned story structure and am able to trust that what I need has seeped into my subconscious creative mind. My characters aren’t writing a story. They’re living it, and borrowing my fingers to convey it.”
But I do understand the concern of folks who can’t bring themselves to write off into the dark at all or can do so only up to a point. After all, EVERYBODY wants to put out the best possible story every time they write. (No, plotters and outliners and rewriters, you really don’t hold the moral high ground on wanting to put out quality stories. (grin))
I am a case in point. I don’t write sloppy. I’m just determined to write the best story I can the first time through and have fun instead of laboring over it for months.
So I write about a thousand words, then take a break. (grin)
When I come back to the computer, I read over what I wrote (FOR PLEASURE, IN THE CREATIVE SUBCONSCIOUS) and allow myself to touch it.
I’m what Stephen King calls a putter-inner, so as I read, I add sensory details that I missed when I was WITD, but always through the POV characters’ physical senses and with the POV characters’ opinions added. I might add a line of dialogue, or insert a missing word, or correct a typo. But again, never from the critical mind. If something pops out at me while I’m reading, I fix it. If it doesn’t, I don’t.
Again, I do all of that in the creative subconscious. That’s why it’s important to read for pleasure instead of critically. And reading for pleasure while allowing myself to touch the manuscript is called “cycling.”
That process takes no more than a few minutes (how long does it take you to read 1000 words?) and when I reach the blank page again I’m back in the flow of the story. Then I just write the next sentence.
And according to my readers, it works.
1. My readers get my original, unique voice instead of the slashed, gashed, watered-down “sameness” that would result from rewriting.
2. When I write “the end,” take a break, then cycle through the last 1000 words or so, the book is done, and it’s done in one clean draft.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: If I knew going-in that I would have to write a story and then go back through the whole story again to read it critically and nitpick and rewrite the whole thing, I wouldn’t be a writer. At all. Life’s too short to steep myself in that much misery.
Why? Because Perfection.
Not to argue with Dean and Kris et al, but perfection really DOES exist. But each person has their own idea of what’s perfect. I attain what I think is perfect by WITD (letting the characters tell the story that they, not I, are living) and by cycling to make the story the best I can at my current skill level. When I’m through, the story is perfect (enjoyable, entertaining) to me.
BUT — and this is a huge “but” — what I think is perfect, another writer or reader will think is just so-so and another will think needs improvement and another will think is horrible. And that’s all up to them. It’s really none of my business what they think.
Which is exactly why I write “one clean and done” and then publish. I don’t hover over one work because I trust.
I trust that what I’ve learned about writing and storytelling over the past 67 years has seeped into my creative subconscious and that I will learn even more between stories.
I trust that my neighbors, friends, offspring, siblings, and characters can live their own lives better than I can.
And I trust that readers really do want to read my unique, original authorial voice instead of something smoothed-out and “perfected” into a bland sameness by rewriting.
Now, all of that being said, please take it or leave it as you want. What I choose to share or teach is up to me, but what you choose to believe or try is strictly up to you.
Besides, seriously, nobody cares. (grin)
Oops. I thought I was finished, but here’s one big caveat to what I wrote above: I DO occasionally have false starts.
If I write an opening, or even if I’ve gotten some distance into a story and suddenly find myself yawning because the opening or the story bores me, I cut my losses and toss it out. Most often at that point, I write something completely new.
If the original story idea still intrigues me, I might recast it, meaning I start with a blank screen and write a opening again based on the same idea. If it takes off, I run with it. If it bores me again, I toss it again.
So “internal boredom” is the one line I won’t cross.
I imagine, in light of what I wrote earlier, some of you are thinking, “But what about all the readers out there who might like what you tossed out?”
My response is this: “Screw ’em. I’m writing to entertain myself first. So if what I’m writing bores me, it will never see the light of day.” (grin) That’s different than failing to publish something because I don’t think it’s “good.” That’s a judgement call, and remember, writers are the worst judges of their own work. Thinking something is good or bad isn’t the same as being flat bored with it.
Today—one pig was back today, but when I tried to drive him home, I learned something new. I ran about 20 yards trying to cut off the pig, and both my legs went to rubber. I guess my ticker doesn’t like me running anymore. Sigh. How far I’ve fallen.
So I decided to let ol’ Mr. Pig stay right where he was. If the owners want him they can come get him. I suspect he ran off anyway because he knew he was destined for a pit in the ground, so I don’t really blame him.
And if the owners don’t care enough to come round him up, well, that’s their decision and their loss.
Making fairly good progress on the novel today. This thing is VERY psychological, very deep in the protagonist’s head. It isn’t your typical shoot-’em-up high-action SF yet. So I started wondering how many readers will like it. (Critical voice trying to sneak in.)
But I’m having an absolute blast writing it, and that’s what matters first and foremost. (grin) So I guess we’ll find out who else likes it when I publish it. And I’m ahead of the curve on this one with days in the bank. This is officially my February novel.
I got enough done today to feel good, though I didn’t make my daily goal. And I’m mindful I have another short story due in a few days. The double goal is kind of neat, in that it keeps me on edge about my writing. Not worried about it, but mindful of it.
Talk with you again soon.
See “New Videos Up” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/new-videos-up/.
See “Our Michael Moment” at https://stevenpressfield.com/2020/01/our-michael-moment/.
See “Writing Wretched Dialogue” at https://mystorydoctor.com/writing-wretched-dialogue/.
See “What Authors Can Learn from the Greatest Long Takes in Movie History” at https://crimereads.com/what-authors-can-learn-from-the-greatest-long-takes-in-movie-history/.
See “Women Writers Are Bringing New Mystery to the Old West” at https://crimereads.com/women-writers-westerns/. Maybe westerns are coming back?
See “New Arc Books is Open for Submissions!” at https://www.leelofland.com/new-arc-books-is-open-for-submissions/.
See “Jane’s Guide to Getting the Most Out of a Writers Conference” at https://www.janefriedman.com/guide-to-writers-conferences/.
See “The World War II Bomb Down the Street” at https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/ww2-bombs-berlin. Possibly a story idea for you.
For more possible story ideas, see “Opulent Mansion” at https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/vaile-mansion and “Secret Morse Code” at https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/capitol-records-building-morse-code.
See “Book Piracy sponsored by Linked In” at https://prowriterswriting.com/book-piracy/.
Fiction words today…………………… 2243
Nonfiction words today…………… 1850 (Journal)
Writing of Algae Prime (SF novel?)
Day 1…… 2421 words. Total words to date…… 2421
Day 2…… 3312 words. Total words to date…… 5733
Day 3…… 2205 words. Total words to date…… 7938
Day 4…… 0578 words. Total words to date…… 8508
Day 5…… 1440 words. Total words to date…… 9948
Day 6…… 2243 words. Total words to date…… 12191
Total fiction words for the month……… 63712
Total fiction words for the year………… 63712
Total nonfiction words for the month… 29360
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 29360
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 93072
Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 2
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 47
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 199
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31