The Journal, Sunday, September 29

In today’s Journal

* I was certain
* Topic: Preparation (Learning) Breeds Confidence
* Thanks for your concerns
* On the personal writing front
* Of Interest
* The numbers

I was certain earlier this month that I’d be finished with the novel before the month was out. Looks like it’ll be October. Unless I can write another 30,000 words or so today and tomorrow. (grin)

Still, it’s just not a big deal. It comes as it comes and I have a lot of other stuff I’m doing. (See the update in “On the personal writing front” below.)

Here’s the continuation of yesterday’s topic.

Topic: Preparation (Learning) Breeds Confidence

Anyone who’s ever taken an exam in school understands that studying and learning, not cramming, constitutes true, valuable preparation.

When a successful fictionist is between stories, he will continue to improve (prepare) in the craft by focusing on learning a new (to him) writing technique. Then he will practice that new technique in the next story he writes. Practice helps set the technique in the writer’s creative subconscious.

If you’re skeptical, consider—when you’re writing, do you have to think consciously of what constitutes a sentence? Do you have to think consciously of where to place a period or question mark? If you’re writing longhand, do you have to think consciously of whether to dot a lower-case I?

Of course not. Because you learned those things and they became part of your subconscious. Just as writing techniques do when you learn them.

So the successful fictionist learns a new technique, then applies it in practice. And before the next story, he learns another new technique, then practices that one. And so his knowledge of craft builds. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Writers who don’t want to explore and learn new techniques (including those who believe they’ve “got it,” that they’ve learned all they need to know) may be successful too, for awhile. But chances are, they won’t last for the long haul.

Nor will their new stories maintain even their former levels of craft. Their previously learned skills—and their writer’s mind—atrophies. Flexibility of thought goes first (“that new technique can’t possibly be right”). Then bit by bit, knowledge once gained hardens, falls away and goes to dust.

And their confidence in their work, if they ever had it, will falter.

Writes who do not regularly feed their creative subconscious with learning and practice can’t be confident of their stories. Some of them say they are, but actions speak louder than words.

To do a take-off of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be a Redneck” bit,

* If you continue to outline (safety net), you might not be confident in your subconscious storyteller.

* If you continue to workshop your stories to critique groups (share the blame by implication if something goes wrong, though in all fairness, nobody will admit that’s what they’re doing), you might not be confident in your own abilities.

* If you continue to rewrite (second-guessing yourself—as we were were all taught by non-writers, that we can’t possibly write something well the first time through), you might not be confident in your own abilities.

The amount of preparation (learning) and practice directly informs the confidence of the writer, or it should. Writers are living creatures. They should continue to grow.

If you learned something new after your previous story, and if you practice it in your current story, then you can be confident that you’ve written the story to the best of your current ability.

And that’s all that’s required. After that, you send your toddling little story out into the world and it’s out of your hands.

Judgement now lies in the reader’s perception of the story, where it belongs.

I can hear writers saying “What? If I know the story is bad, why would I possibly be insane enough to send it out?”

And that’s my topic for next time.

Thanks for your concerns about the procedure I’ll undergo on October 3. Really, seriously, it’s probably nothing at all to be anxious about. Anyway, since I blathered on here about it, I’ll give you the thumbs up that everything’s fine afterwards.

And thanks to Bob Beckley for saying he’d rather listen to my nonsense than to a lot of other people’s nonsense. (grin) If you’re on Facebook, check out Bob’s posts. Guy’s a great joke writer. One of the few who can make you groan and laugh out loud at the same time.

I heard a great joke while watching Seinfeld’s Netflix series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee last night.

Two famous guys (I can’t remember who) were talking about the intelligence level of folks who listen to country music.

One said, “I never denigrate people who listen to country music. And for those who listen to country music, ‘denigrate’ means ‘put down.'” (grin)


On the personal writing front, what follows will be a second topic of sorts for some of you.

I’m beginning to think maybe I’m “trying” to write a novel with Blackwell Ops 7. By which I mean I went into my WIP assuming it would be a novel, but maybe it’s actually a novella. I write into the dark, remember? So there shouldn’t be any “trying” involved.

Just so you know, I do follow my own advice. When things slow, I “just write the next sentence.” And when there is no next sentence, I back up a few lines and consciously look to see whether I’ve written past the end of a scene. (Rare for me, but it happens.)

As I’ve reported here before, the story is flowing. The problem is, it flows for a brief period, then stalls. So I back up, go at it again. And again the story flows, then stalls. I’ve done that several times on this one. Sigh.

So I’ll be reading the whole thing from the get-go today (or tomorrow, since this is Sunday) as a reader to see whether maybe the whole story wrapped at some point while I wasn’t paying attention. (grin)

If it did, I’ll drop “Blackwell Ops 7” from the title, retitle the story, and publish it as “a novella in the Blackwell Ops world”. (Not part of the novel series but in the same world.)

Again, it’s the character’s story, not mine. I’m only the recorder. This is me guarding against forcing myself on the story.

I’ll find one of two things: either the story wrapped or it went off in a horribly wrong direction. Of course, I’ll let you know what happens.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

Get your favorite sitting-awhile beverage and settle in to browse “Self-Publishing: The Carnival of the Indies Issue #108” at There’s a lot there. I did not read every post. Some are probably useful, some not. I recommend if a title grabs you, read a little and see where it goes.

The Numbers

Total fiction words for the month……… 5578
Total fiction words for the year………… 380231
Total nonfiction words for the month… 15660
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 262370
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 642601

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 7
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 2
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 195
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31