In today’s Journal
* Quote of the Day
* I didn’t plan
* The numbers
Quote of the Day
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman
I didn’t plan to be back today with a Journal entry, but a comment on yesterday’s post… well, it’s as if I wrote “blue” and the commenter read “xvhbzrr.”
It doesn’t really matter except that it also vividly illustrates exactly the attitude I was talking about in yesterday’s post.
You can read the comment that prompted my response at https://hestanbrough.com/the-journal-tuesday-september-17/#comments.
Here’s my response:
First, every post I’ve ever written is aimed at writers who at least believe they want to be professional fiction writers. Hobbyists and those who write memoir only for their family are fine, but those aren’t the writers I’m advising.
Second, OF COURSE writing into the dark “terrified” your outliner. Of course it did. It terrifies thousands of outliners, maybe millions. Because like everyone else alive today, your outliner was taught to second-guess every single stinking thing he writes. He was taught to not trust his subconscious storyteller. He was taught that a writer can’t possibly turn out a good story without input from critique groups and without rewrites. Just like all the rest of us were taught. By non-writers. Duh.
As for “…when the process goes awry and the story stops working. There is no advice for a pantser about how to troubleshoot this, other than ‘you have to outline.’”
You’re kidding, right? If you truly TRUST your subconscious mind, the “process” CAN’T “go awry.” That’s the whole point of WITD. And if a story “stops working” or grinds to a halt, here’s the advice (I’ve been saying this for five years, and DWS and others have been saying it much longer):
1. Trust your subconscious and write the next sentence.
2. If no next sentence comes, read back a bit and you’ll find where the scene ended.
3. Write the first sentence of the next scene and keep going. But TRUST in yourself is at the core.
All of that being said, it doesn’t bother me professionally if a writer chooses to spend a few months outlining and then a few years writing a novel, all because he can’t bring himself to trust in his own abilities. It does bother me personally. For example, I could never be friends with that writer because I can’t handle being around people who are scared of their own shadow.
But the point of my epiphany was how self-sabotaging so many writers are. They continually, literally take advice from non-writers on how to write fiction, and they IGNORE advice from actual long-term fiction writers who are successful in the field: writers like Heinlein and Asimov and King and Higgins and Child and DWS and Kris Rusch. It’s exactly like choosing to take legal advice from your plumber because the plumber says what you want to hear instead of getting advice from your brother who’s been a successful attorney for 20+ years. And that (and your comment) tells me I’m basically beating my head against the wall.
But I can even shake off my desire to care about and try to help those folks. If someone else’s decision doesn’t affect my income or my production, what do I care? (On a side note, DWS was SO right five years ago when he advised me against trying to teach WITD.)
I do get frustrated at second-stage (and even first-stage) writers who perpetuate the myths and hand out advice like candy. I get much more upset with them than with those writers who unwittingly accept that crappy advice.
BUT… I’ve got mine. I took a chance and was richly rewarded with the freedom that comes with writing into the dark. If others are too timid to try it, that’s their problem. I’ll still help the few who ask, but that’s the extent of my commitment.
To play with a Titanic analogy, I’m tired of trying to pull people into the lifeboat even as they fight me off. Those who are willing to scramble aboard are welcome. The others? Well, they’ll continue to toss excuses back and forth while the ship sinks in the background and the flotsam they’re clinging to becomes waterlogged. There’s nothing I can do for them.
Back to that bit about “having” to rely on outlining if things go awry and the story stalls: Uh, No.
If the story stalls and you decide to outline, you’re no longer “pantsing” (God I hate that term) and you aren’t a practitioner of WITD. You’re succumbing to the same old critical voice fear. And if that’s what you need to do, that’s fine. As I wrote here recently, some writers “get” WITD and some just don’t. But I would rather not hear the excuses.
Also, the notion that “…no one really teaches anyone at the beginner level any techniques whatsoever how to pants a[n] entire book.” Duh. I’m right here. DWS is right where he’s been for the past several years. We both teach writers how to WITD fiction stories of any length. All any writer has to do is listen and then try it.
And finally, “Outlining makes most writing skills at certain levels easier to teach, like structure.” Again, No. The conscious mind makes learning those skills easier. That’s its role. Learn with the conscious mind, but apply what you’ve learned with the subconscious mind.
You can easily learn Lester Dent’s Master Plot Formula (Google it) or any number of other structural methods WITH YOUR CONSCIOUS MIND. The secret of WITD is to then let those structures pour through your fingertips as you Just Write from your creative subconscious. Again, it requires trusting in yourself and what you know (like the structures you just learned). You don’t have to “think” about them as you write. Do you have to “think” about where to put every period or how to construct a sentence?
WITD is not difficult once you learn to trust in yourself and your own abilities. It doesn’t require striving or trying or any conscious thought whatsoever. It only requires trusting in yourself and letting go of a bunch of nonsense propagated by non-writers.
Folks, I’m more than happy to help anyone who wants to learn the freedom of quieting the critical voice and writing into the dark.
You can sign up for mentoring OR you can just send me questions via email. No problem.
Talk with you again when I have something useful to say. I’m headed back to my WIP. (grin)
Oh, in the meantime, if you aren’t following DWS’ blog, I recommend checking out “The Math” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/the-math/. Apparently some traditionally published author is whining that he or she “didn’t know” what would happen if s/he published traditionally. Sigh.
Fiction words today…………………… XXXX (too early to report)
Nonfiction words today…………… 800
Total fiction words for the month……… 2245
Total fiction words for the year………… 376898
Total nonfiction words for the month… 10480
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 257190
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 634088
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