The Journal: Snippets and Priorities

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Snippets and Priorities
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“What they call you is one thing. What you answer to is something else.” Lucille Clifton (via The Passive Voice)

Snippets and Priorities

The following are snippets of what might have become topics or essays had I followed them through. I thought it might be fun to give you a glimpse at how my brain is working at the moment. Where a new mini-topic begins I use bold and italics.

A few days ago I received an article via email titled “How I Hosted a Socially Distanced Book Event” from It’s linked in “Of Interest” below just in case it’s your cuppa (and because I mentioned it here), but I didn’t read it.

As I read the title, an epiphany settled over me: I honestly don’t care. And why should I?

One, I’m sick of hearing about CovID-19 and the new “social distancing,” which apparently is cooler-sounding and more chique than “wash your hands, moron.”

But second, and more important, I’m not a book promoter or a marketing guru. I’m a storyteller, and I believe (fingers crossed) I’m finally about to emerge from the cocoon I dropped into around 6 weeks ago. Based on what I perceive as my progress, I figure maybe another week or two.

When I do emerge, I’ll be different. In fact, I’m different now, even more deeply invested in my creative subconscious than before. I jus’ wanna tell stories. I really, literally don’t care whether anyone else reads them.

For a long time, I’ve been passing along DWS’ admonition that the best marketing you can do for a book is write the next book, but I think now I really understand it. Or maybe I’ve even transcended it.

I’m fortunate to be a storyteller. I’m also extremely glad that I learned early-on to trust my creative subconscious. I proved that trust up front by giving over control of the story to the characters who are actually living it. And I proved it on the back end by not second-guessing my creative subconscious (and thereby slowly stifling it) by rewriting or inviting criticism from my own or other critical minds. To me, self-sabotage is just stupid.

My creative subconscious is my partner in this storytelling endeavor. It provides the stories and I provide the fingers and the keyboard. We are dependent on each other. Mistrust is the quickest, surest way to kill a partnership.

Part of the sheer joy of storytelling, for me, is spending time with the characters as whatever’s going to happen next unfolds. But I can do that in my own head without ever sitting down at a keyboard. The other part of the joy is the feel and muffled sound of the actual typing. I love that sensation, the feel of my fingers pressing the keys and bringing the stories to life on the screen one little black mark at a time. That’s like magic to me.

Around 6 years ago, I decided to commit myself completely to becoming a professional fiction writer. To me it was no less important than any other passion, or any other profession. I found a mentor I trusted, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I went all-in with whatever money and time was necessary to learn the craft.

In my opinion, if you want to change your life, that’s what you have to do: commit. So I did.

In the early days of my journey (the first month or so), I slashed away the safety net of outlining/signposting, character sketches, world/scene building, critique groups, and rewriting.

I wrote a short story every week from mid-April through mid-October and then I started my first novel. And since that first short story, everything I’ve written was written into the dark. By the third week or so, I didn’t miss the safety net at all and the fear had transformed. Instead of being frightened that some faceless person somewhere might not like what I wrote, I was frightened of how I’d feel if I didn’t write the next story. And I was invigorated at the excitement of discovering a story as it unfolded. That’s when I realized it wasn’t my story at all. It was my characters’ story. They, not I, were living it, so they, not I, should tell it.

The safety net I slashed away enabled me to feel safe, but that same safety net also mired me in a web. Because I had to hit all the safety-net buttons (plan, write word for word, sentence by sentence, then rewrite, then seek critique, then polish, etc.) I was unable to Just Write.

Now, after a few million words of practice, my storytelling road has smoothed out. It’s no longer a washboard from stuttering over words and phrases and sentence constructions. It’s no longer potholed or pockmarked with self-doubt and concern with what others might think. And it’s no longer rutted and cross-hatched with a safety net of grooves that keep me to the straight and narrow but also keep me from the excitement of observing and even experiencing a story as it unfolds.

That’s not to say I’m not still learning—I am, hungrily—but now I learn mostly from reading the fiction of select masters (King, Block, Higgins, Allende, a few others) and applying the techniques I pick up from them to my own fiction.

I have mixed emotions about my writing and storytelling having smoothed out. A big part of me wishes I’d just found Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark and was just beginning to practice. It was so exciting, learning so many new things so quickly and watching them gel in my short stories and novels. As I said, I’m still learning, but now it isn’t huge, earth-shaking things. Now it’s more nuances.

I feel like I might emerge from this fog in another week or two. When I do it will be time to revisit and reset my priorities. From there, I have no idea what might happen. Part of me would like very much to write 100 or 150 novels before I’m finished. Another part of me says, “Hey, you’ve written 50 already, plus over 200 short stories. Maybe you ought’a go fishing.” (grin)

If I continue writing, the Journal will continue, though probably in a different form. For one thing, I’ll probably stop trying to teach others how to write into the dark. Frankly I’m tired of my own voice, especially shouting into a void. Suffice to say, the technique can be learned by those who possess the prerequisites—self-confidence and the ability to trust themselves more than they trust others—but it isn’t something that can be taught.

If I continue writing and the Journal continues, probably I’ll also continue talking about my own experiences and discoveries while writing. Most of what I learned from others over the years I learned from witnessing their experieces and takeaways, not from direct classes.

And if I decide to go fishing, well, I’ll drop back by and let you know that too.

Talk with you again when I can.

Of Interest

See “Pulp Diction. What We Can Learn From The Noir Czars” at

See “The Sounds of Silence” at

See “How I Hosted a Socially Distanced Book Event” at

See “Building a Bookstore in Your Mind” at A different perspective.

See “Hong Kong Publishers” at

The Numbers

Fiction words yesterday…………………… XXXX
Nonfiction words today…………… 1250 (Journal)

Writing of (novel)

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… XXXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 309655
Total nonfiction words for the month… 4780
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 120900
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 430555

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)………………… 208
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

4 thoughts on “The Journal: Snippets and Priorities”

  1. Glad to hear things are looking better on the horizon, Harvey. I think all of us fans knew it would happen sooner rather than later–the pull of storytelling is just too strong in you. 🙂

  2. Thanks Harvey! I love the quote of the day. I really appreciate your shared experiences. I’ve learned so much from you, both actively and by you opening a window into your process.

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