The Journal: WITD and Writing Again

In today’s Journal

* Holiday Sale
* Writing Into the Dark
* Writing Again
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Holiday Sale

With the holidays coming up quickly, I thought I’d remind you of the half-price sale over at WMG Publishing’s Teachable account ( Workshops and lectures and classes make excellent gifts for writers, even if the writer is yourself.

For details, see “3 Days Left in the Holiday Sale” at Of the lectures, the knowledge you’ll glean from Heinlein’s Rules (Lecture 1 if I remember right) is absolutely priceless. That lecture is literally what started me on this journey. Just sayin’.

Writing Into the Dark

For many years, I’ve looked for other writers who strive to follow Heinlein’s Rules, who don’t obey the nonsensical myths about writing, and who aren’t Dean Wesley Smith or Stephen King. And who aren’t someone to whom I taught the technique or for whom I validated it.

So I was more than a little surprised and excited to stumble across two such authors in short order. Both are highly successful but relatively unknown. And at least one—Peter Brandvold—talks at least occasionally about WITD.

Shortly after Patrick D introduced me to Pete, the latter asked whether I knew prolific writer Stephen Mertz. Apparently Pete knows or belives that Stephen lives near where I live. Yet everything I could find during my exhaustive, 10-second internet search said Stephen lives in “the American southwest.” That’s a pretty large area.

Anyway, I have to admit I hadn’t heard of Stephen Mertz, though I suspect many of you have. So Pete offered to put me in touch with him so we might get together and talk shop. Should Stephen reach out, I’ll report any relevant details here.

Writing Again

As I was telling a friend earlier this morning, it’s been a rough road back to writing. Giving up cigars (not nicotine, the actual cigars) was such a massive physiological hit that I’ve been mentally paralyzed, unable to concentrate on anything other than remembering to walk more and eat less and control my mood for the past 4 months. Now I’m back.

That’s the general overview. The less curious may skip straight from here to “Of Interest.”

Some of you, unfortunately, know what I mean about physiological addiction. Even now, 4 months later, if I was faced with the decision again, I wouldn’t quit cigars. I won’t go back to them now, but only because there’s no guarantee things would be the same as before I quit them. But for me, the payoff has not been worth the complete disruption of my life.

Yes, I thought of my characters now and then during the past 4 months, but I haven’t been able to care enough about them or about storytelling to write a story. Remember, for a writer, what you write is not important at all, but THAT you write is the most important thing in the world.

That’s what a big deal quitting cigars was for me: I was no longer a fiction writer. I had the desire to write, but not the ability.

The importance of telling a story paled in comparison to the things I mentioned above: remembering to walk more and eat less and control my mood. Doing those things, and chiming in here on the Journal now and then—primarily to retain that sense of the keys moving beneath my fingertips—was all I could manage.

But now I’m ready. A week or so ago, I was finally able to sit down and re-read the last novel in the gap series. Since then, I’ve been messing about with openings, getting a feel for the characters, their voices, etc. So today my new writing year begins. I’ll write at least a million words of new, published fiction this year, which will end on November 29, 2022.

If you’re wondering, I’m starting today mostly because I wrote recently in this Journal that I would start this month. Otherwise I’d start on December 1. But as some of you know, the fact that I can choose when to start is a clear signal that I’m back.

Thanks for hanging in there. Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “Waitin’ on a Woman” at Not about writing, but one of the sweetest and smartest songs I’ve ever heard.

See “First Page Critique: Time to Stop
Thinking And Start Screaming” at I didn’t read this at all but offer it up in case it speaks to some of you. The sisters who are PJ Parrish usually offer valid advice.

See “Why Writing Second Person POV Appeals To Marginalized Writers” at Okay, I didn’t read this one either, but here’s a mini-topic: Writing second person POV is a valid, advanced technique that is often—but sparingly—used by advanced Stage 3, 4 and 5 writers, primarily to indicate something about the character who’s using the technique, even if that character is also the narrator. It’s more often used in dialogue by one or more particular characters in a story. This is a very special skill that takes a lot of practice and a lot of reading aloud to be sure you haven’t overdone it.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 830 words

Writing of WCGN 5: Carmelita Ramos (tentative title, novel)

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for November……… XXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 623282
Total nonfiction words for November… 12920
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 191410
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 814692

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 13
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

8 thoughts on “The Journal: WITD and Writing Again”

  1. This is such great news to hear, Harvey! I’ve been waiting to hear about your return to writing fiction, and I’m very grateful that you continued to write about writing here during this hiatus.

    I’m also so glad you said what you said above: “I had the desire to write but not the ability.” Because then I want to ask you how do we tell the difference between the two? How do we know if it’s fear or inability that is stopping us?

    (I’ll probably send you a longer email on this in the coming days but I wanted to post this comment because right now I’m juggling caring for my partner (who’s undergoing a surgery today) and our 5-year-old by myself, and still somehow I find ways to mentally beat myself up for not being able to get fiction words down. It’s making me fall out of love with writing itself!)

    • Hi Anitha,

      Thanks for the comment. When I wrote that I had the desire to write but not the ability, I meant just that. I was physically and mentally unable to care either way about writing. More than once, I considered writing a final Journal entry to say that I was retiring. Intellectually I knew the pleasure I derive from “hearing” and recording my characters’ stories, but most of the time I wasn’t able to bring myself to care enough to even try. I was like the lost hiker who seriously considers sitting down to await death rather than taking another step. Somehow, I was able to keep saying “Maybe tomorrow.”

      How did I know whether it was fear or inability? I’ve come to recognize the critical mind and the unreasoning fear it creates almost instantaneously. Critical mind input is always negative. Nothing about this was negative. It wasn’t a matter of shaken confidence (“I can no longer do this” via critical mind) but a prioritization issue: I had to prioritize and focus-on walking more, eating less and especially on regulating my moods. And I had to sleep, a lot. The experience itself was neither negative nor positive, but neutral. It was simply there. I had neither the energy, time or desire to write, or even to engage in any in-depth visits with my characters. Most of the time I didn’t care to look in on them. Of course, all of this varied with different days, and over the whole four months I was working toward and easing myself toward getting back.

      Your situation is much more serious than mine was or is. Sometimes life hands us life rolls that are not self-inflicted. Be glad that you are not emotionless enough to prioritize writing over your concern for your partner’s surgery or the care of your small child. Just breathe. Your partner will come through fine. Soon even the post-surgery healing process will be behind you and you’ll be writing again—between checking on and tending to your partner and the little one.

      • Harvey, thank you, thank you for being the voice of reason and sanity I so needed to hear this morning!

        To hear someone as prolific as you say that there was a period in which you couldn’t care about writing, gives me too permission to acknowledge and allow my own lack of care in my present scenario.

        I’ve long given myself grief for placing family over career, while continuing to do so nevertheless, and it’s only in the past few years that I’ve even been able to accept that these are what my priorities are, whether or not the people around me share them.

        Thank you for sharing your experience and for guiding me too! Much respect and gratitude to you! 🙂


  2. Glad you’re back in action Harvey. I know from experience what a miniaturized hell it can be to shake a stimulant you’ve gotten comfy with. The upside is that your nervous system does, eventually, work its way back to normal. It’s just that the trip is no damn fun at all.

Comments are closed.