The Journal, Thursday, July 19

Hey Folks,

Another long post, but I think a good one.

I’m going to try an experiment.

I started this Journal almost 4 years ago to keep track of my own writing, both fiction and nonfiction.

I also did that in part to let others see what is possible if they can only get themselves to the keyboard.

But sometimes (even often, at times) it backfired. Instead of motivating others, sometimes seeing my numbers actually depressed them. They looked at my numbers as if I was daring them to do the same, or to surpass me.

That was never the case, and in fact some readers of this journal often DID surpass my own numbers. I didn’t feel bad about that at all.

In this business as in no other, the only valid, useful comparison is wwhether you, as a writer, are better today than you were yesterday.

And that’s true whether your measuring stick is words per day or week or stories finished or writing ability. It has nothing to do with me or anyone else.

In fact, nothing would make me happier than to see every one of the people I’ve ever taught surpassing my numbers in words, publications, sales and so on.

Why? Because others’ success costs me nothing. And it certainly isn’t going to depress me and make me stop writing. That would just be silly.

I write because I love to write. I love to tell stories, and I thrill in learning new, deeper ways to engage those who read my work.

Only one thing would please me more (ahem, being born in a brothel with a weary frown on my face, a tuned-up blues guitar in my hands, and an intimate knowledge of the scales). But that ship sailed almost 66 years ago. (grin)

So writing’s pretty much it.

This Journal has morphed into a place where I can speak freely on topics concerning writing and publishing, and where I can pass along exciting little tidbits in the “Of Interest” section. It’s become that much more than it’s remained the other thing.

Most of all, it’s a place where I can sit down most mornings and chat with my friends. You guys are the regulars who meet with me at the corner table in my local café. And in my life, that’s pretty much invaluable.

So the experiment. From today onward, I’m going to leave off the running totals below.

Of course, I’ll still keep my numbers on my spreadsheet for my own use. Then maybe at the end of the year or whatever, I’ll look back and recap what I accomplished during that stretch.

I’ll talk about my fiction writing only vaguely and only in passing, unless if I’ve learned or discovered some new technique I want to share with you.

Topic: Story vs. Presentation

A few days ago, I commented on one of Dean’s posts that I do sometimes wonder how some bestsellers got to be bestsellers. I mentioned that at least one I know is a masterful marketer, and having tried to read several of his book, I believe his skill in marketing is the only reason he’s a bestseller.

Dean responded that Nope, if I don’t like a bestselling author’s work, it’s always because the work simply isn’t to my “taste.”

Today, Kris Rusch talks about that same topic in her Business Musings blog. And of course, she generally draws the same conclusion Dean drew.

I have to disagree.

When I read for pleasure I actually hope I’ll like a novel. That’s why I buy it in the first place. All I ask is a good story, well-told and well-presented.

Now I’m talking about reading in a genre I like, and I’m talking about reading the work of a writer who understands the techniques to pull the reader into the story and keep him there: primarily, those techniques are grounding the reader in the setting using the five senses of the POV character, and writing good hooks and cliffhangers.

If the writer doesn’t use those techniques, is the reader’s inability to get into the story a matter of the reader’s personal taste?

But given that the writer knows the craft and those requirements are met, only two things will cause me to stop reading and put the book aside:

The first is the repeated use of erroneous “facts” that the writer of a particular genre should know. For example, a writer who writes a lot about pistols should know the thing that holds the spare cartridges in the handle of the gun is called a “magazine,” not a “clip.”

Not that one such problem will shove me out of the storyline or that the repeated use of one erroneous fact through a book will do so. But when it happens three or four times with different “facts,” yeah, I pretty much stop caring.

The second is a lot of repeated typos and wrong-word usages. When, in a quiet moment, the hero sits on the edge of a bed in a quiet room with his beloved and coyly slips his arm around her “waste,” it tends to jerk me out of the story.

As I commented on Kris’s post (if my comment gets through), it is the writer’s responsibility to pull the reader into the story and to hold him there.

Story and Presentation are two separate things. It is possible to have a great story poorly presented.

Whether a reader likes a story is strictly a matter of taste. If you only read Romance genre, you probably will never read one of my crime/detective/mystary stories or westerns or SF. That’s a matter of taste. If you read in those genres but don’t care for mine, that too is a matter of taste. That’s fine.

But how the story is presented is up to the writer.

And if the writer, in that presentation, constantly shoves the reader out of the story with inaccurate facts, inconsistencies, etc., that is the fault of the writer, not the reader.

As I also mentioned in my comment, Otherwise why do we advocate using a first reader and/or a copyeditor fo spot erroneous facts, inconsistencies, etc.?

There is only one answer: To keep us from running off the reader.

As I’ve always advocated, beyond simply telling a good story, it is the writer’s responsiblity to continually hone his or her craft. And it’s the writer’s responsiblity to present that story to the best of his/her ability.


I’m posting this hyper early. I’ll spend the morning dealing with a household issue (swamp cooler’s about a thousand years old and on the blink again) and then maybe get to my writing.

Of Interest

See “Business Musings: Taste (or Blaming The Writer)” at

See you soon. ​