The Journal, Thursday, September 19

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Topic: Why I’m Here, Doing What I Do
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

I just saw this in a comment (by someone other than me) on one of Dean’s posts. It was too good not to pass along in light of comments I’ve received here recently:

“It’s not rocket science. Why don’t people listen to you? What possible nefarious agenda could you have?” Cora


Topic: Why I’m Here, Doing What I Do

How other writers write doesn’t matter to Dean Wesley Smith and it doesn’t matter to me.

We both pass along what we know, which are often different things, but there is no nefarious intent.

I won’t get rich if everyone who reads this begins writing into the dark. I won’t lose money if nobody does.

With my warped sense of humor, I find it funny when people “disagree” with what I write here, especially about writing into the dark. I most often shake my head and laugh.

Because if you think about it, I’M the one who’s disagreeing — I disagree with almost everything that passes for “common wisdom” among writers. Because that common wisdom is only a few decades old and was started by non-writers.

To me, it simply doesn’t make sense to take direction on writing from a non-writer or from amateur or beginning or novice writers who are at your same level or on a level behind you.

I don’t ask legal advice from my plumber or plumbing advice from my attorney. I don’t ask carpentry advice from an automobile mechanic or vice versa. And I don’t ask an English teacher (and I’ve BEEN an English teacher) how to write fiction, though I might well turn to her for advice on how to write a sentence or where to place a period or a question mark if I didn’t already know those things.

But frankly, for advice on fiction writing, I wish (wish WISH) I’d stumbled across a blog exactly like this one 20 or 30 or 40 years ago.

I wish I’d found Heinlein’s Rules back in the day. I wish I’d realized my creative subconscious has been taking in Story since before I could walk. I wish I’d understood that same creative subconscious has been TELLING stories since before I knew there even was an alphabet. I wish I’d found someone who would continue to repeat those concepts until I got them.

But I didn’t.

However, I DID find those things a very short 5 years ago. Fortunately, when I found them, I was smart enough to grab them, hold on tight, and not look back.

All I’m trying to do in this Journal is pass along to you what I didn’t finally realize until 5 years ago. I get zero personal benefit from it, other than a good feeling from paying it forward.

But please understand, what you do with what you learn here and whether you do anything at all with it is completely up to you.

The Numbers

Total fiction words for the month……… 3753
Total fiction words for the year………… 378406
Total nonfiction words for the month… 10980
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 257690
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 636096

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

4 thoughts on “The Journal, Thursday, September 19”

  1. At the risk of getting scorched in the recent battle of authorial minds who are several levels above my current station (you both have published way more work than I have), I’d like to offer my take…

    I initially gave WitD a try back in 2015. It sounded so fun. Extremely freeing. And it was all of that. I was having a blast…until I got to the sagging middle. Whether true or not, I believed that I was doing a terrible job of telling a good story. There was so much of the storytelling craft that I didn’t understand at the time (and am still learning) and I didn’t have the courage or experience to dig myself out of the hole.

    So, you’re right, Harvey. I stopped and it was due to fear.

    If only my poor decisions stopped there…but nope.

    I went and blamed the method.

    That was the obvious culprit, right? I’d decided that this whole WitD thing only made sense for authors who’d gone through the outlining process before and had story structure down pat, so I went back in that direction. I told myself that I just had to suck it up, roll up my sleeves, and learn this in a way that wasn’t going to be easy for me.

    But the whole reason I even went down the WitD path was because outlining didn’t do it for me either. I’d always stop outlining at some point (which always took a long time because I feared getting THAT wrong too) and finally start writing, and then be bored out of my mind after the first few scenes. Then I’d start prepping the outline for the next shiny idea.

    Can you say “stuck in a loop?” 🙂

    What to do?

    Well–and I’m only recently discovering this–maybe the problem all along was not the problem I thought it was. I DEFINITELY enjoyed WitD much more than outlining. It really is a thrill to experience the story for the first time as you write it and it’s what keeps me coming back to the keyboard.

    But the culprit was not the method. The culprit was my fear.

    I should have been asking myself, “How can I get over this FEAR that pops up when I’m engaged in something that I started out really enjoying?”

    And the answer is so simple that I’d love to go back five years ago and beat myself to a pulp until my old self said, “Okay! I get it! I get it!”

    We usually fear things because we don’t understand them. I feared not being able to plot a good arc, properly describe a scene, and a hundred other craft skills, because I didn’t understand how to do it. I never took the time to read, read, read, and dig into the work of others and really, really study them. To pull them apart, ask hard questions, and brand what I’d learn into my subconscious. And so this is what I’m doing with Dean and Kris’ workshops. On Joe Lansdale’s advice, I’m trying to read a couple of novels a week just so that I’m CONSTANTLY soaking up story.

    An eye-opener for me was what Dean said in his “How to Study” workshop. Long story short, he spent lots of money and time on law school studies and never got his JD. If he wanted to write professionally, why wouldn’t he put just as much, if not more, effort into studying the craft.

    Outlining your own stuff when you KNOW it’s going to bore you to tears, seems to me the WORST possible way to learn.

    All this being said, I always try to keep some perspective. When it comes to writing or any other craft, I try to avoid partisan politics–my opinion is “what’s right is what works.” Apparently, there are pros who outline successfully. Kevin J. Anderson is one of them. So are Jeffery Deaver and Ken Follett.

    But I’ve learned, at least for the person I am today, I’m not writing unless I’m doing it in the dark (hmmm, no double entendre intended). You couldn’t get me to outline again unless you were giving me six figures (and even then, don’t expect the story to stick to the script).

    Anyway, sorry to hog up your comment space, Harvey. I feel like this is something that’s been on my mind for awhile and probably should have been its own blog post. 🙂


    • Thanks, Phillip. That’s exactly it. The culprit is ALWAYS fear. And I’m sorry to report, it never goes away. It may be a little more or a little less strong depending on the story, but it never goes away. Fortunately, if you get in the habit of trusting your subconscious, the fear DOES get easier to recognize and push down. And the subconscious storyteller gains confidence when he knows you aren’t going to screw with what he gave you.

      I too have heard Dean’s law school story, and again it makes perfect sense. Invest the time and money in something you’re passionate about and you will be successful. (Then it comes down to how you measure success.)

      As for who outlines and who doesn’t, I believe nothing unless I see it with my own eyes. After all, fiction writers make stuff up for a living. (I might well begin telling beginning writers I “labor” over each book, that I outline and write at least seven drafts. As is often the case in real life, the more we lie, the more we are believed.)

      As Dean also says, readers want to think we sweat blood when we write. Unfortunately, far too many writers buy into that nonsense as well. But back to my own future. I can see it now….

      Me: “Um, yes, I outline, feverishly. And I always write a minimum of seven drafts.”

      Other writer or reader: “So then, Mr. Stanbrough, how do you turn out so many novels so quickly?”

      Me, a little flustered: “Oh, well, I DO outline and I DO write seven drafts. Really. I promise. It’s a terrible travail, terrible drudgery. But, um—Oh, I work on several novels simultaneously. Yeah, that’s the ticket.” (grin)

      • Great insights Phillip. It really is all about fear and how to conquer it. Every. Day. And how to keep learning consciously while writing from the subconscious. I think the outliners do as well as they do because their readers don’t mind the same recipe over and over (I realize that’s a raging blanket statement…)

        • It would be interesting to know what percentage of outlined books are published every year vs. what percentage of WITD books, including those that writers say are outlined but really aren’t.

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