The Journal, Tuesday, October 29

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Topic: Learning Revisited
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“Everything that happens is destined for the past tense, and the way we render it into human comprehensibility is storytelling.” John M. Williams

I’ve never read a better or more concise definition.

Topic: Learning Revisited

Everyone learns in different ways and at a different pace. Remember the stages of a fiction writer? If not, check out my take in the topic at I recommend you read it before continuing to read this topic.

(You can also buy Dean’s book on the stages at

Basically, Stage 1 and Stage 2 writers are limited as to what they can learn. Even if they read Stage 4 and 5 writers, they won’t get as much from it as they would if they studied them later. Stage 1 writers are still focused on individual words and sentences and fully mired in the myths of writing. Stage 2 writers have begun — but just begun — to move past that.

I roughly equate Stage 1 to infancy and toddler-hood, when everything about writing is wondrous and new. Stage 2 is more like the pre-teen and teenage years, a time of exploration and discovery.

Advanced Stage 2 is a critical time, as it is for humans in their early 20s: they either decide they know enough or they realize they know practically nothing and hunger for more knowledge. Those who are convinced they’ve learned enough never make it to Stage 3.

(When I hear a writer say he “isn’t ready yet” to learn something — licensing, for a recent example — I cringe. But to each his own. I’m speaking here only for myself. If you glean something useful from it, so much the better.)

We all go through these stages, again at our own pace. Often, the speed of our progress depends on whatever natural abilities accompanied us when we were born.

I’ve always had a penchant-for and an innate sense-of the nuances of the English language. I’m forever grateful for that gift. For example, I never had to study sentence structure, the rhythm of the language, etc. It came to me naturally. I’m one of those oddballs who can both diagram a sentence and trust my own creative subconscious voice enough to let it tell the stories.

Still, as an advanced Stage 3 writer, I love to learn. The only thing more exciting to me than learning is subconsciously applying what I learn in my writing.

But there are fewer people from whom I can learn anything of value about writing. For awhile, I thought they were all advanced Stage 4 writers, as described by Dean.

But that thought and a few comparisons led me to realize Dean’s book doesn’t go quite far enough. There are also Stage 5 writers, those who are absolutely at the top of the game. And frankly, that’s a pretty short list.

I wrote awhile back that I felt I was approaching a cusp in my writing career. (Or as a friend wrote, I’ve been in a chrysalis for the past few months. Thanks, Nan!) That event horizon, that emergence, is coming up fast.

My advanced Stage 4 mentors are Dean Wesley Smith, Gabriel Gárcia Márquez, Joe Konrath and John Gilstrap. Also Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who for me is on the verge of becoming a Stage 5 writer. (I even have two notebooks she wrote about her process as she was writing her huge novel The Renegat!)

Unfortunately, with the exception of Dean and Kris, those writers don’t share a lot. Still, I’ve already learned a ton from all of them in various ways. They got me to where I am today. Without Dean, I’d still be flailing at words and tilting at sentences.

So for now I’m focusing more on Stage 5 writers. Writers whose work I literally can’t put down. Writers who never commit a writing sin so atrocious that it forces me out of the story.

Jack Higgins is one. And there’s Hemingway, of course, and Lawrence Block and JRR Tolkein. Also Stephen King, Isabel Allende, Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, and — if I was interested in writing pure romance, which I’m not — Nora Roberts. (If you write romance and you aren’t reading and studying Roberts, you’re missing a sure bet.)

So taken as a whole, that’s five Stage 4 writers (just on my personal list) and ten Stage 5 writers.

So only fifteen writers out of millions of writers whose work is available. Still, fifteen writers are a lot. So then it boils down to genre.

For thriller/suspense and psychological suspense, I read and study Higgins, King and Gilstrap. For SF I read and study Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Rusch, and Smith.

For magic realism and fantasy, I read and study Allende, Tolkein and Márquez. For action-adventure and war, I read and study Hemingway.

How do I learn from the Stage 5 writers? I read their work for pleasure first, then go back and study the passages that blew me away. From those passages I learn advanced scene structure, description and depth, pacing, etc.

I’m in that process today and for the next few days with Jack Higgins. That alone will radically improve my game in both productivity and storytelling.

So whom/what do you study? Whom that I omitted would you add to your own list of writers from whom you learn (Stages 3 – 5 only, and aside from me if you’re reading this)?

As I wrote above, today and for the next few days I’ll be immersed in Higgins’ work and continuing to fine-tune my schedule and decide on some of the things I wrote yesterday.

At the end of that few days, I hope to emerge finally from my chrysalis and soar on into my career.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “19 Themed Calls for Submissions” at Some of these pay pro rates. A few look really good to me. Just sayin’.

See “Sneak Peek into Audiobook Narration” at Invaluable if you’re thinking of having your books narrated into audio.

Via Linda Mae Adams, see “Crime Scene Tape: The Back Story” at

The Numbers

Fiction words today…………………… 0
Nonfiction words today…………… 1000

Total fiction words for the month……… 3237
Total fiction words for the year………… 383468
Total nonfiction words for the month… 17020
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 279710
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 664296

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, Tuesday, October 29”

  1. As usual, that spoke to me. I would add to that list Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and Orson Scott Card.

  2. Some of this authors are ild, some new, but all of them are are translated to English.

    Magical realism: Alexander Pushkin (his The Queen of Spades resembles best Efgar Poe stories), Nikolai Gogol (!!!), Vsevolod Garshin (he wrote just about 40 short storirs, but all are perfect), Leonid Andreev (The Red Laught is availible for free), Mishima Yukio (the last author of Japanese decadence) and Jean Ray.

    Sci Fi… Robert Silverberg, Samuel Dilaney (sadly he cancelled his carreer).

    For fantasy – Alexander Dumas, and… Hard to say, still studying

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