The Journal: Whom Should I Trust?

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* My conscious, critical, teacher mind
* Topic: Whom Should I Trust? (and on “getting” concepts)
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

Via The Passive Guy, “Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” Robert A. Heinlein

“In the creative mind, the story and the characters are controlling the writer. In the critical mind, the writer is controlling the characters and the story.” Harvey Stanbrough

My conscious, critical, teacher mind is almost swimming. I had an interesting email from a writer this morning.

He pointed out that some points about WITD, specifically the critical voice vs. the creative voice, “seem to contradict each other.” He wanted to know, Was it maybe my critical mind that caused me to toss out that 3000 words I mentioned yesterday (almost in passing)?

The answer is no, it didn’t. That jumble of words just wasn’t working, so I tossed it. That’s the best way I can explain it.

How do I know it wasn’t a critical-mind decision? Because it didn’t stop me from writing.

After I threw out those 3010 words, I wrote a new story opening based on the same idea (a quote from Harlan Ellison). The opening ran to almost 4,000 words (with none of the words I threw out, just in case you wondered) and it’s still running.

Topic: Whom Should I Trust? (and on “getting” concepts)

I admit, learning to write into the dark was fairly easy for me. But that’s only because I just “decided” one day to stop questioning it and try it.

The “steps” or “rules” for WITD were (and are) easy:

1. Stop consciously thinking about writing.

Outlining, revising, rewriting, trying to figure out what’s going to happen in the story next, trying to figure out what the charactera “should” say or do next etc. are all “thinking” about writing. They are all different versions of you trying to control the story. Every hour you spend thinking about writing or talking about writing is a wasted hour. It’s another hour you could have spent actually writing. Duh.

2. Write the story.

It really is just that easy.

But frankly, for me, following those steps required blind faith. It required me to trust that Dean Wesley Smith was telling me the truth.

And trusting him made sense to me. I asked myself one question: Whom should I trust for writing advice?

Should I trust the nonwriters and beginning and wannabe writers out there who keep saying I should outline and revise and run my work past critique groups and then rewrite it X number of times? (And how successful are those folks? I don’t judge people on what they say; I judge people on what they DO.)

Or should I trust the mega-successful, best-selling professional writer who has over 200 published novels and a few thousand published short stories? One who was honest enough to tell me bluntly, “Frankly, I don’t give a shit whether you write into the dark. (Shrug.) I’m just paying it forward.”

For me personally, whom to trust wasn’t a difficult decision. But you ask the question yourself and come up with your own conclusions.

Whom should you trust for writing advice? The nonwriters and novices and wannabes or an actual professional writer?

Really, all of this boils down to basic math. It all boils down to time and how you have to/want to spend it.

Here are a few hard, absolute facts:

I can write a 60,000 word novel in 60 hours. I believe anyone can. That isn’t writing “fast.” It’s only 17 words per minute. So given that…

There are 1800 hours in an average 30-day month. If you automatically subtract 240 hours for sleeping 8 hours per night, there are still 1560 hours left. (I personally sleep only about 6 hours per night. Your life might vary.)

If you have a day job and subtract another 9 hours per day for 22 weekdays (rounded up, 200 hours), that still leaves you with 1360 hours. (I don’t have a day job other than writing.)

Now, go ahead and subtract another 8 hours per day for spending time with the family, chores, etc. Remember, this is in addition to your day job and your 1 hour round-trip commute. That’s another 240 hours.

That STILL leaves you with 1120 hours per month for writing. So you can write a 60,000 word novel and STILL have 1060 waking hours left in the month. In fact, you could write TWO 60,000 word novels per month and still have 1000 hours left in the month.

But I’ve recommended you question everything, remember?

So whip out your calculator and do the math for yourself. How many hours do you sleep? How many hours do you spend total on your day job? Include lunch and your round-trip commute. Your figures will vary from what I presented above, but not much.

So why isn’t every writer writing one or two novels per month?

Because they’re spending their precious time THINKING about writing instead of writing.

They’re outlining and revising and rewriting. They’re trying to figure out where the story’s going or what the character “should” do or say next instead of just letting the characters live their story and writing it down.

So what are you doing with your time?

Note: I follow Heinlein’s Rules. As part of that (rule 3), I don’t rewrite, so the story remains in my original, unique voice. Now, that voice is boring to me because it’s with me 24/7, but apparently it’s exciting to a lot of readers. And look at the volume And Quality of stories and novels I produce.

And as you know, all you have to do to check the quality of my fiction for yourself is to read some of it. And you know I share freely. You only have to let me know which story collection or novel you want, and I’ll send it to you free. You can email me at

I’m not sure how I can be more open than that.

Now, all of that being said, it took me awhile to “get” certain concepts.

For example, when I was learning how to ground the reader in the setting, I had to hear or read several times that adding the POV character’s “opinion” of the setting would enrich my writing.

His opinion? What the hell does that mean? That one took months before I finally understood. I nearly drove Dean nuts asking him about that one concept.

But I TRUST Dean, so I kept going over it in my mind and one day I understood. Each POV character would have a DIFFERENT opinion of the same setting based on that character’s personal baggage. Ding! Epiphany.

So if you don’t “get” something automatically, don’t be dissuaded. Keep trying. Eventually it’ll sink in and you’ll get it.

I sincerely hope something above helps you personally. But please don’t misunderstand. Feel free to try writing into the dark for yourself, or not. I learned long ago, what doesn’t affect my paycheck or my time off isn’t worth worrying about. (grin)

Today I wrote more on the story, but we also took a trip to Sierra Vista. That cut into my writing time. Tomorrow should be a lot bigger day.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Some Shared World Fun!” at

See PG’s take on “The Other American Dirt Issue: Is Fear of Appropriation Fomenting a Culture of Censorship?” at

See “Pardon My Rant” at

FWIW, see “Tips & Pitfalls to Writing in First Person – First Page Critique: Organization K” at

See “Business Musings: Disruption” at

The Numbers

Fiction words today…………………… 2408
Nonfiction words today…………… 1270 (Journal)

Writing of The Visitors (tentative title, novel)

Day 1…… 3863 words. Total words to date…… 3863
Day 2…… 2408 words. Total words to date…… 6261

Total fiction words for the month……… 9281
Total fiction words for the year………… 145976
Total nonfiction words for the month… 7050
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 61530
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 207506

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 3
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 6
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 48
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 202
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

2 thoughts on “The Journal: Whom Should I Trust?”

  1. While I fully agree with your point (choosing what you do with the time you have every day or month), I think your math is off.

    In a 30 days month there are only 720 hours, not 1800 (unless your days happen to have 60 hours, in which case you have to tell us your secret!).

    And on a regular workday, if you spend 8 hours sleeping, 9 hours working and 8 hours doing chores and spending time with your family, it still means that your day needs to last 25 hours. That doesn’t leave much time to writing…

    But yes, if you want to write, you need to figure out the math for your own life and find moments when you can actually write.

    • Wow, did I ever screw that up. (grin) Thanks for the correction, Céline. Obviously I had “60” in my head because of the 60,000 word novel example.

      And PS: Prioritizing your writing will help too. Instead of only finding “moments when you can actually write,” also look for time you’re currently using for other activities that are not as important to you as writing. In time management, priorities are everything.

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