The Journal: Why Most Fiction Writers … Part 2

In today’s Journal

* Topic: Why Most Fiction Writers Will Never Get Here, Part 2
* Of Interest

Topic: Why Most Fiction Writers Will Never Get Here, Part 2

If you missed part 1 of this post, you can find it here.

Please understand, folks, how you write doesn’t affect my own practice or income at all.

You’re perfectly within your rights to clump something together from your conscious, critical, thinking mind that conforms precisely to the outline you also methodically and meticulously constructed. You can strive to make it perfect, then revise and rewrite it multiple times to make it more perfect if that somehow makes sense to you. Seriousy, it doesn’t matter to me.

I only do what I do (both writing and this blog) because I stumbled across something that literally changed my life in a very good way. Evidently, a flaw in my personality causes me to want to share it.

When another writer emails to let me know s/he was able finally to leave all the writing-myth BS behind for the freedom and honesty of writing into the dark, that’s more than payment enough.

I don’t get a kickback from Heinlein’s family for preaching Heinlein’s Rules or from Dean Wesley Smith (or hundreds of other prolific professionals) when I advocate for Writing Into the Dark and tell other writers they’re welcome to join our club.

I’m sometimes amazed. It’s part of human nature that we’re always looking for the “secret” to things. The secret handshake to gain admittance to an elite group, or the secret recipe to create a special drink or meal. Or the secret formula to write fiction of any length quickly and easily and actualy have fun doing it.

Yet when some of us find it, we turn away while muttering an odd, self-defeating mantra: “That can’t possibly be it. It’s too easy.”

Yeah? Well keep reading, and then read tomorrow’s post. If that isn’t enough search the Journal for Writing Into the Dark, and Cycling, and Heinlein’s Rules, and Grounding the Reader and whatever else strikes your interest.

What I Do — I show writers a different way to approach writing, and then I urge them not to believe me, but to try it for themselves (as I did), even if only to prove it doesn’t work (as I did). If they try it for themselves, and if they can come to really trust themselves more than they trust others, they will be changed forever (as I was).

Yet somehow, the more skeptical of them believe, irrationally, that I’m trying to scam them or put one over on them. All that despite the fact that I get nothing out of the deal. Humans, eh? Go figure.

Here’s a freebie for you: No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. Why? Because anything the writer can conjure with the conscious mind, the reader can conjure also. And nothing is more boring than knowing in advance what will happen in a story.

The only way to surprise the reader is to write from the creative subconscious and let the characters surprise you as they tell the story that they, not you, are living. If you trust them, they will surprise you, and it will be wonderful.

If you’re among the majority of fiction writers — if you don’t trust your characters to tell the story that they, not you, are actually living — maybe you can at least check in with yourself and figure out what you’re afraid of.

And don’t say it’s a fear of change or the unknown. Those are superficial aspects of a deeper fear. Probably it’s a fear of failure or rejection or some other version of the same thing.

The fear of failure as it pertains to writing fiction has absolutely no basis in reality, so it’s an unreasoning fear. Because (trust me on this), literally nobody cares. If you “fail” as a fiction writer, there literally are no consequences. Really, the only way to fail as a fiction writer is to stop writing fiction. And again, if you do that, nobody will care.

(Oh, those closest to you might pretend to care whether you write fiction, but they don’t. Not really. They have their own issues to work out.)

In real life if you fail, there are often dire consequences. If you fail in combat, you or your friends die or are grievously wounded. If you fail in sports, you maybe get a broken bone or a strained muscle or benched. If you fail to pay your mortgage, you can lose your home.

But this is FICTION. You’re sitting alone in a room making stuff up. How “important” can that be? Why do some writers go over a story umptyfratz times in an effort to keep making it “better” when all they’re actually doing is making it different, and usually worse?

Here’s the truth: If some reader somewhere doesn’t like a short story or novel you wrote, so what? Again, there are zero real-world consequences. Nobody’s going to drive up to your house and punch you in the face or shoot you. The world won’t end.

The simple fact is, some readers will think your stories stink. Others will love your stories. Most will think they’re okay, and they’ll look for more of your work. Good for you, but again, so what?

You’re the W-R-I-T-E-R, not the reader.

You get to write the stories, but what you think of them doesn’t matter in the slightest. Only the reader — each individual reader — gets to decide whether a story stinks, is great, or is just okay.

So what do you do with someone else’s (readers’, critics’, critiquers’) opinion of your work?

You don’t worry about it. You just tend to your own business. You write the next story, and the next, and the next. Because that’s what you do.

Tomorrow, How to Get Here (If You’re Sure You Want to Get Here).

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “7 Questions to Reboot a Nonfiction Book You’ve Been Writing Forever” at Just in case this suits you.

See “Fun New Book I’m Going To Do” at Ideas for challenges abound. You really can do whatever you want.

See “30-year-old retiree earned $97,000 in passive income from Amazon last year: Here’s how she got started” at

See “The newsletter boom is over. Whats next” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1070 words

Writing of Blackwell Ops 8 (tentative title, novel)

Day 19… 2117 words. Total words to date…… 41729
Day 20… 2025 words. Total words to date…… 43754
Day 21… 1770 words. Total words to date…… 45524
Day 22… 3296 words. Total words to date…… 48820
Day 23… 3259 words. Total words to date…… 52079
Day 24… 2712 words. Total words to date…… 54791

Total fiction words for August……… 5971
Total fiction words for the year………… 58467
Total nonfiction words for August… 5440
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 111680
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 170147

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. I’ve never said WITD is “the only way” to write, nor will I ever. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among other topics.

3 thoughts on “The Journal: Why Most Fiction Writers … Part 2”

  1. The driving up to your house and punching you in the face part had me laughing. Some writers do act like that that is what will happen if a book ‘flops.’
    I used to think a bad book or screenplay would ruin my career and that I wouldn’t be taken as a ‘serious’ writer (I now despise that term).
    Its true what you said. We can’t control how our work is taken. All we can do is our best and release it into the world and move on to the next piece.

    • Exactly right, Matt. And most of those who fret over a bad story ruining their career are early stage writers. So my question would be, “What career?”

      • Yup, but somehow they’ve convinced themselves they have a career to worry about even when they haven’t published anything yet. And even if a story flops or isn’t accepted for publication, most people won’t even remember anyway, so they worry for nothing.

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