The Journal: Wilhelm’s Law and Other Misunderstandings

In today’s Journal

* WMG Publishing Offer
* Topic: Wilhelm’s Law and Other Misunderstandings
* Yesterday
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

WMG Publishing Offer

WMG Publishing has decided to repeat their 50% off sale on everything they have on Teachable for 48 hours beginning last night at midnight. Everything. Lectures, workshops, pop-ups, lifetime subscriptions… everything.

I can’t urge you strongly enough to take advantage of this offer. To do so, visit, click “See All Courses,” and use the code SpringTraining2020 at checkout. You can buy more than one, but you have to get them one at a time because Teachable has no shopping cart.

Topic: Wilhelm’s Law and Other Misunderstandings

Part I

A couple of days ago (April 6), I wrote a post in which I mentioned Kate Wilhelm’s Law. You can find that post at

Some took that to mean I was advocating applying Wilhelm’s Law to writing into the dark. I wasn’t. No writer who’s writing into the dark should apply Wilhelm’s Law. In fact, if you’re WITD, you CAN’T apply Wilhelm’s Law.

But here’s what I wrote in that post (see the link above):

“With all that’s going on, it’s too easy to involve the critical mind right now. If you’re determined to go ahead anyway [implying going ahead with writing from the critical mind], at least consider applying Kate Wilhelm’s Law.”

A writer who’s writing into the dark doesn’t make choices about what his characters do or don’t do. Part of the fun of WITD is that the character, not the writer, decides what to do and say and when. Thus the writer is surprised. And when the writer is surprised, the reader will be surprised also. That negates the need to apply Wilhelm’s law.


So how does jotting down ideas and keeping or discarding them (Wilhelm’s Law) differ from cycling back and deleting or replacing words if a writer thinks of a better word or phrase?

This question reveals a misunderstanding of “cycling.”

When a writer cycles back, he stays in the creative mind by Just Reading for Pleasure (not reading critically). As he reads, he allows the characters, not the critical mind, to “touch” the story as he goes. He doesn’t “think of” better words or phrases. As he cycles, he just allows his fingers to move at the behest of the characters.

So my advice remains to write into the dark and to stay in the creative mind and cycle back periodically.

If that doesn’t work for you as a writer—and if you WANT it to work for you, that’s key—the reason is probably one of these:

1. You aren’t yet able to differentiate between your always-negative critical mind (“this needs to be fixed”) and your just-want-to-play-and-have-fun creative mind. If you think you have a handle on that and cycling still doesn’t work for you,

2. You either haven’t come to the place yet where you trust your creative mind (that’s natural when you’re first starting out) or you simply don’t understand yet what cycling is (see the fourth paragraph above), or

3. You really don’t WANT to write into the dark. Which is perfectly fine. Every writer is different.

Not everyone can bring themselves to trust what they know and just write off into the dark. In fact, the vast majority of would-be writers and beginning writers either can’t or won’t WITD and never will. And again, that’s fine.

I wrote a whole topic about Trust or faith when I wrote about my own initial experience with WITD. You can find that post at Scroll down to “Topic: How to Write Into the Dark.”

Here’s the thing: When I talk about WITD and cycling, I’m only paying forward a writing process that is incredibly simple and freeing. But I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. Whether and how you write is strictly up to you.

Part II

Several days ago (April 1), I wrote another post in which I openly shared an embarrassment: that the novel I’d just finished on March 31 wasn’t ready to publish. You can find that post at In retrospect, I should have just said the novel was finished, I’d met my monthly goal, and moved on.

Some folks misunderstood that post. To some, it seemed hypocritical, like I was caving to my critical-mind fears that maybe readers wouldn’t like what I’d written. After all, I’ve said many times the writer’s job is to write; The Reader’s job is to judge what’s written.

I’ve also made some derogatory comments about those who read their own work and then decide it isn’t “good enough” to publish, so they stick it in a drawer somewhere. Often, they make that decision about their very first novel, and the assumption often is, “It’s my first novel, so it’s CAN’T be any good.” Myth, anyone? I also wondered aloud how many readers might have enjoyed the story if they’d had the chance to read it. I stand by that comment.

The embarrassment I shared with you was different. It was my 49th novel, not my first, and I didn’t read read it and arbitrarily decide it was “bad” or “not good enough.” My choosing not to publish it was based strictly on input from my characters, my creative mind.

Here’s the gist of that post, quoted directly:

“I opened The Othgygnrkthers simply to run a spell check so I could send it to my first readers.

“And my creative subconscious ambushed me. A thought popped into my head directly from my characters: The aliens moved in, but they only killed and then sat near their ship, providing an easy target. They didn’t go out and actually occupy the planet.

“Crap. It was a slap-my-forehead moment. And the slap hurt.

“This is a fatal flaw, which I define as a flaw so large and so important to the story that the credibility of the story itself can’t survive it.”

Do you see the difference between this and the first-time author who finishes a novel, then consciously decides not to publish it because literally EVERYONE has told him or her over the years that a first novel can’t possibly be any good?

I hope so.

Yesterday, I was planning to get back to the novel, but the topic above came up and I decided it was more important than writing fiction. So I wrote (and rewrote and rewrote—it’s nonfiction) all of the above yesterday. That took me up to noon), and then I took the rest of the day off.

Today I rewrote and drastically trimmed the topic above again just to be sure it says exactly what I want it to say. Now I’ll post this early, then head to the house for breakfast, and then get back to the novel.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Spring Training Half Price Workshop Special” at

See “Myth Buster” at

See “Movie Deals” at

See “Honestly, Writing a Recurring Character is a Lot Like Having an Imaginary Friend” at

See “Ambrose Bierce” at

The Numbers

Fiction words yesterday…………………… XXXX
Nonfiction words today…………… 1180 (Journal)

Writing of For the Good of the Galaxy (novel)

Day 1…… 2645 words. Total words to date…… 2645
Day 2…… 2573 words. Total words to date…… 5218
Day 3…… 3604 words. Total words to date…… 8822
Day 4…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 8822
Total fiction words for the year………… 216804
Total nonfiction words for the month… 7840
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 88990
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 305794

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 3
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 12
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 48
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 208
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31