The Journal: Truly Stupid Advice and “Deep POV”

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Altered Brain Chemistry
* Truly Stupid Advice
* Topic: Deep POV
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“[J]ournalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity.” Stanford journalism professor Ted Glasser (As a writer, I personally see censorship as a bad thing. Your opinion might vary.)

Altered Brain Chemistry

From a dear friend whom I believe would not mind me sharing:

“By now, you’re probably aware that the one change in your life—giving up nicotine in all forms—dramatically changed your brain chemistry. It takes time and great effort to re-establish the same patterns. No one ever warns patients about that. There have been studies done (Lancet, other British medical journals) about these abrupt changes in creativity in artists, writers, and musicians. As you might imagine, our country does not consider such research important.”

Palm to forehead: Of course that’s what happened! As I told my friend, I think I knew, but if so I had forgotten. I might have stopped my cigars anyway. The point is, it’s better to have all the information up front so you can make a more informed decision.

Now don’t worry. I won’t venture into the politics of any of this—pretty much all of our so-called “public servants” are far too pretentious and hypocritical for my taste anyway—but no, our country generally does not consider such research important. And it deems the dissemination of that research almost heretical if not harmful.

Our country increasingly cares only about the “narrative,” meaning how information is framed (in turn, meaning how they can use it manipulate you), not the actual information itself. Today the narrative is “Nicotine Bad,” even as another narrative is “Cannabis Good.”

And let’s not get into a back and forth about the medicinal benefits of cannabis. I’m sure it probably has those benefits, just as I can attest personally that nicotine does. But both have their downsides too.

Anyway, with any luck, if I keep at it, I’ll be able to re-establish the brain chemistry patterns that enabled me to write so prolifically and with such unbridled joy. And if not, well, then we’ll see what happens next.

Truly Stupid Advice

In other news, I recently saw a truly stupid bit of advice repeated yet again by a professional fiction writer. He wrote, “Write for free.” By which he meant “write without expecting monetary compensation.”

Here’s the response I left, although I’ve expanded it a bit:

Let me ask you a question: Would you expect your plumber or lawyer or doctor or carpenter or cleaning person to provide their services free of charge? And those of you who have a day job, do you get paid for that? We even tip the waiter or waitress or roller-blade-poised carhop who brings our food, don’t we?

On the one hand, writers being willing in the first place to provide a service without being compensated (or compesated only with “copies”) is exactly why so many readers believe writing has no value, and therefore they shouldn’t have to pay for it.

Tell you what: If you’re a writer who honestly believes any writers should not be paid for their work, please send me a list of URLs where I can download or order (if paper) your work free. I’d really rather not pay shipping either.

Then again, if you believe that little in yourself, I probably don’t want to read your stories anyway. That’s the other, even uglier side of writing without compensation. It reinforces the common and collective inferiority complex that drives beginning writers to not believe in themselves.

Writing is no different than any other art or trade—it has value—and writers deserve to be paid.

To paraphrase what the late Harlan Ellison famously told someone who’d called him from a studio asking that he contribute (free) some writing to a production, “No. Cross my palm with silver. Would you expect the director or the other writers or your cameraman or your stage hands to work for free?”

But listen for yourself. If anyone out there hasn’t seen the video, you can find it at There’s some profanity. Enjoy.

Topic: Deep POV (sigh)

In another post I saw online, Lori Brown, a professional editor and book doctor (who has never written any fiction that I could find) talked about so-called “deep POV.” And she actually started by saying when she was asked in her capacity as a writing instructor, “What’s Deep POV?” she would respond “I can’t tell you, but I know it when I see it.”


Okay, first, ANY writing instructor who says about ANYwriting technique, “I can’t explain it but I know it when I see it” should be fired immediately. Meaning you should demand your money back and walk out of the class, lecture, or seminar.

Second, “deep POV” really isn’t that difficult. If you want to write “deep POV” and directly engage your readers, then be sure you filter every word of your story through the POV character’s physical and emotional senses (and oh-my-god NOT the author’s!).

“Deep POV” is a fairly new term, but the technique itself is as old as storytelling. This is one more instance of someone creating a “new” name for a technique in order to teach it and make money.

The best way to practice “deep POV” by any name is to include all five of the POV character’s physical senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing) and at least one of his/her emotional senses (joy, fear, etc.) in every major scene. That really is all there is to it.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Meth, Murder, and a Good Day To Pick Cotton” at

See “Contracts: Traditional Publishing” at Especially if you’re still pursuing a traditional publishing contract. And see PG’s take.

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

8 thoughts on “The Journal: Truly Stupid Advice and “Deep POV””

  1. The dirty secret about writing for free that no one wants to believe is that you’re subconsciously telling yourself you’re not good enough to be paid for your writing and that you’ll never be good enough.

  2. “The best way to practice “deep POV” by any name is to include all five of the POV character’s physical senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing) and at least one of his/her emotional senses (joy, fear, etc.)”

    Harvey, I love it when you wade through the bullshit. Thank you.

  3. And I thought part of the definition of journalism included objectivity…
    The world is being turned upside down.

    • It used to. Today it’s all about “advocacy journalism,” the “journalist” presenting his/her opinion to listeners/readers as if it were fact. But really only the name is new. Many journalists and news organizations have intentionally blurred the line between fact and opinion since the late ’60s. I’m ashamed to say I believe my generation started thr downslide.

  4. I agree one hundred percent with you on writing for free Harvey! Its sad but many advise beginning screenwriters to give away their scripts for free or option them for free for ‘experience.’
    I’ve never fallen for that and never will. Its either you pay me upfront for the screenplay or pay me to option it.
    I value myself and my work too much to just hand things over for free.

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