The Journal: Synopses and Writer’s Block

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: Synopses
* Topic: Writer’s Block
* Yesterday
* Today, etc.
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

On writing synopses

“I hate even the idea of a synopsis. When stories are really working, when you’re providing subtextual exploration and things that are deeply layered, you’re obligated to not say things out loud.” Shane Carruth

“A synopsis is a cold thing. You do it with the front of your mind. If you’re going to stay with it, you never get quite the same magic as when you’re going all out.” J. B. Priestley

and on writer’s block

“I deal with writer’s block by lowering my expectations. I think the trouble starts when you sit down to write and imagine that you will achieve something magical and magnificent — and when you don’t, panic sets in.” Malcolm Gladwell

“[I]f your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.” David Foster Wallace

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.” Terry Pratchett

Topic: Synopses

Note the first two quotes above, and especially the second one. The synopsis is thought-out, written from the conscious-critical mind. That’s why so many writers, as noted in “The Dreaded Synopsis” (see “Of Interest”) would rather have their fingernails pried off with pliers than write one.

But ironically, most of them don’t know their unease with writing synopses is a direct result of the synopsis having to be written from the conscious mind. Most of them don’t even realize that they have a conscious-critical mind and a creative subconscious, much less know the differences between them

And this writing-a-synopsis thing is a critical double whammy. First, like an outline, the synopsis is a direct product of the conscious-critical mind. You can not write an outline or a synopsis from the creative subconscious.

And second, the difficulty itself of writing the synopsis is one more way for the conscious-critical mind to interrupt the writer’s march toward submission or publication.

As a quick aside, if you have trouble recognizing the difference between the creative subconscious and the conscious-critical mind, try this: Write an outline with your creative subconscious, meaning without thinking about it, just trusting your inner voice. You won’t be able to do it. Almost immediately, you’ll “feel” your brain click over from the creative subconscious to the conscious, critical mind.

Those writers who do recognize that they have both an imaginative, creative subconscious and a stilted, overly cautious conscious-critical mind will develop and hone the ability to know when the latter is at work. The most recognizable trait?

The creative subconscious is always positive and always moving forward in the story. If you hear a little voice inside that’s negative, that’s your conscious-critical mind sneaking in.

The conscious, critical mind is always negative, sometimes plodding forward, and very often looking back (checking the outline, revising, rewriting, etc.). Often, it stops the writer cold, which leads us to…

Topic: Writer’s Block

Like those in the last few Quotes of the Day, I too believe writer’s block does not exist. Here’s the latest entry from Harvey’s Dictionary:

writer’s block, n. imaginary 1. just another excuse, a trick of the conscious-critical mind to keep the writer from writing, and in that way to keep him or her safe from the ridicule and embarrassment that might result should s/he actually finish a story and submit or publish it. 2. an imaginary affliction, the evocative name of which was created by someone who wanted to offer, for money, his or her method of getting past it.

During a presentation at Eastern NM University in Portales, Science Fiction Grand Master CJ Cherryh once said she also doesn’t believe in writer’s block, but that it probably does exist for those who believe in it. In other words, in order to exist at all, writer’s block requires belief.

What? If you put your faith in a strongly negative thing, it will stop you from doing something positive (writing)? Yeah, that sounds about right.

A bit later she added (I’m paraphrasing), “To avoid the chance of getting writer’s block, you can always end the day’s writing by putting the character in the shower. When you come back to the novel, you’ll have to write the character out of the shower, and by the time you do that, the story will be flowing again.”

Ending a day’s writing in the midst of an action that will have to be completed upon your return is a great technique. I’ve used it myself several times. After awhile it becomes second nature. I recommend it.


I actually spaced yesterday. I was busy with other things, and I didn’t even check Dean’s site or the others I usually look at. That’s rare. The number of quotes of the day and the number of links in “Of Interest” are a direct result of that. Playing catch-up, so to speak.

And speaking of the Journal, I’ll resume posting some craft topics soon. Of course, I’ve talked about most of them at one time or another (some more than once). If there are any particular aspects of craft you’d like me to address, please email me at

Today, etc.

Despite my lengthy lack of action on Blackwell Ops 8, I suspect it might be finished by the end of this month. I guess we’ll see.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “Chess robot breaks its seven-year-old opponent’s finger” at Seemed to me the robot was reaching for a chess piece and got the finger by mistake. But this is great for SF.

See “The Past Crimes Bundle” at In case any of you are interested, either as readers or as crime writers who want to read and study others’ works.

See “Diagnosing Writer’s Block” at Read this post to actually witness the critical mind at work.

See “How I Use Scrivener For Fiction And Non-Fiction” at In case you’ve wondered.

See “The Dreaded Synopsis” at

See “More Workshop Curriculum” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1000 words

Writing of Blackwell Ops 8 (tentative title, novel)

Day 19… 2117 words. Total words to date…… 41729

Total fiction words for July……… 0
Total fiction words for the year………… 45405
Total nonfiction words for July… 9710
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 103840
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 149245

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. I’ve never said WITD is “the only way” to write, nor will I ever. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among other topics.