The Journal: The Value of Challenges (and the Attendant Deadlines)

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day: A Masters Course
* Topic: The Value of Challenges (and the Attendant Deadlines)
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day: A Masters Course

These quotes are gleaned from Dean Wesley Smith’s inteview (in “Of Interest” below) with 6 Figure Authors.

“At a certain level in this business, you quit listening to other people about your work. You become an artist. I wish writers would get to that spot sooner rather than later. You keep learning…, but don’t let other people mess with it.” Dean Wesley Smith

“I’m always facing forward. I’m always doing the next thing.” Dean Wesley Smith

Questioner: “[If you’re writing into the dark] how do you avoid running into a dead end?”

“Oh, you run into them all the time. Just get into your character’s head. How would your character solve it? It truly is that simple. … When you think you’ve written yourself into a horrid corner, write the next sentence. Don’t try to figure it out, don’t try to go out ahead. That’s your critical voice trying to figure it out. The critical voice is what’s got you stopped. Your creative voice knows where it’s going. Just write the next sentence. It’s such a piece of simple advice, and it works every time.”
There’s a great deal more in the interview. I suggest you listen closely and take notes. (Writing it down will help it sink in.)

Topic: The Value of Challenges (and the Attendant Deadlines)


1. Drive you to the computer when you might not otherwise go.

2. Provide you with a sense of accomplishment.

3. Necessarily include set, hard deadlines. By “hard deadlines,” I mean deadlines that cannot be put off without consequences.

The consequences of deadlines were bigger in the old days of traditional publishing. If you didn’t meet your deadline, you didn’t get paid, period.

In this new world of indie publishing, deadlines are just as important, but the consequences aren’t so concrete. After all, what will happen if you miss a deadline? Nothing. You simply pick back up tomorrow and go at it again.

Because of that, your critical mind is more active. It literally plays mind games with you. None of us are immune. So the real value (or another value) of deadlines to the indie writer and publisher is to beat back the critical voice. Every time you meet a deadline in indie publishing, you weaken the critical mind and embolden the subconscious creative mind.

If you can delay a deadline without suffering consequences, there’s no reason to set one in the first place. That being said, the deadlines you set in conjunction with your personal challenges are all hard deadlines. If you don’t reach them, you suffer (or should suffer) a sense of failure.

Then you get up, dust yourself off, and climb back on your challenge.

That impending sense of failure is what drives you to the computer, drives you to strive to reach your deadlines, and powers streaks and challenges.

I’m going through a time like this right now, right out here in public for all to see.

You’ll remember I have a “lofty” goal to complete a new short story before every Saturday at midnight and to complete a new novel by midnight of the last day every month. Either one, by itself, would be a piece of cake for me. But together, not so much.

I had a head start of on the February novel, with 7 writing days in the bank as of February 3. And then the novel stalled and I set it aside on February 4th.

Yesterday, I mentioned in this blog that Algae Prime (the novel start I set aside) was speaking to me again. That was my conscious, critical mind “sweating” my monthly goal.

It would be easier, I reasoned, to “go back” (critical mind) to Algae Prime, “figure it out” (critical mind) and finish it than it would be to begin a new novel and still finish it on time: by my self-imposed deadline of midnight, 29 February. After all, starting and finishing a new novel by Feb 29 would be almost impossible (critical mind).

But listening to Dean’s interview this morning and thinking back about what I’ve already done helped me screw my head back on straight.

I can easily write at least a 30,000 word novel before the end of this month. From scratch. Most of my novels, even the longer ones, come in at around 20 writing days of less. (Only one took longer than 28 days, and that one came in at 32 days.) Including today, there are 22 potential writing days left in February.

And the thing is, I’ve written probably two-thirds to four-fifths of my almost 50 novels in that length of time or less.

And this isn’t sloppy writing. Because I write into the dark and cycle as I go, I turn out quality work the first time through. One and done. And I’ve done that almost 50 times in the past almost 6 years.

So today I’ll write a few openings. Chances are, one or more of them will be short story starts. But chances are, at least one will be a novel start. And when that one hits, I’ll begin my 48th novel. At the moment I don’t know whether it will be action-adventure, western, SF, mystery or something else entirely. But I know it will be finished on or before February 29. (grin)

With such an over-reaching set of goals, it would be easy for me to set aside February and simply tack another month onto the end of my current challenge period (Jan 2020 – June 2021).

But if I do that once, it will only make it easier to do it again down the road. And what’s worse, it will make it easier to become dissuaded and set aside the challenge altogether. And I don’t want to do that, period. Just look at the bragging rights I’ll have if I finish the challenge(s) successfully. (grin)

So setting aside Algae Prime put a stumbling block in the way of achieving my goals, but it didn’t stop me. And friends, that is an important distiction.

Today I wrote an opening that immediately ran to a short story, “The Drubbing of Joseph McGee.” It wrapped at 12:30 with a little over 2600 words. Probably off for the rest of today. Tomorrow I’ll write another opening or two.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Got a Couple Letters” at Worth the read. He talks about fear and deadlines.

See “Reader Friday: What’s Your Very First Story About?” at Join in the conversation! And can you boil your story down to one sentence?

See “CreateSpace is DEAD. Here’s what you need to know.” at Umm, D2D offers paperback production now too.

Listen to “Why Revising Can Be Detrimental, Pantsing Like a Pro…” at An excellent explanation of cycling begins at about 34 minutes in. A good discussion of Heinlein’s Rules begins at about 39 minutes. And there’s a great deal more.

See “Free Expression vs Proscribed Expression” at

Browse the podcast episodes at to see what interests you and set up a time each day or week to listen.

The Numbers

Fiction words today…………………… 2676
Nonfiction words today…………… 1200 (Journal)

Writing of “The Drubbing of Joseph McGee” (short story)

Day 1…… 2676 words. Total words to date…… 2676 (done)

Total fiction words for the month……… 9589
Total fiction words for the year………… 75133
Total nonfiction words for the month… 3950
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 35210
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 110343

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 5
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 47
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 201
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31