The Journal: Write Sloppy?

In today’s Journal

* Yesterday
* Topic: Write Sloppy? Umm, No.
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Yesterday, I wrote a few hundred words, then took a break. I meant to come back and write more, but I didn’t.

I also read Dan Baldwin’s bloggette, “Advice Worth Ignoring, in which he related a tale about a successful author who advised beginning writers to “Just write a bad book. Start with something that’s subpar, and learn. It’s extremely fulfilling….”

Honestly, that infuriated me. And it quickly gave rise to today’s topic.

Topic: Write Sloppy? Umm, No.

As a successful professional fiction writer, and especially as a writing instructor, hearing some “successful author” telling beginning writers to “start with something subpar” is truly annoying.

For years, Dean Wesley Smith has been trying to lay to rest the pervasive “myths” about writing. You can find most of them in his Killing the Sacred Cows posts on his website or in the books by the same name. Yet oddly, many writers read his posts, dismiss his over 4 decades as a successful long-term fiction writer, and fall back on “learning” from other novices.

The myths are inane bits of writing advice we were all taught BY NON-WRITERS. We heard these ridiculous things first in school and later as they were repeated as “gospel” by other writers. But bad advice is bad advice no matter how often it’s repeated.

Even before I refreshed my acquaintance with Dean almost six years ago, I too was railing against bad advice. It costs new writers SO much time (and often, money), and that’s infuriating.

One of my least favorite bits of advice is something I hear repeated all through the year, though it flares up each year with the advent of NaNoWriMo.

The advice? Write sloppy on purpose.

This age-old (and dead-wrong) “wisdom” comes to us in various forms. Some self-styled writing instructors advise, “Just write the story; you can fix it later.” Others say, “Just get the words down; you can’t edit a blank page.” Or the advice Dan found in a blog by a writer he chose not to name: “Start with something subpar.”

This advice is so stinking bad that I sometimes suspect those who advocate it are intentionally trying to knock out the competition. They can’t possibly be serious. Yet, laughably, they are.

Consider this carefully: When you follow that advice, you’re intentionally setting out to write less than your best, believing you can make it better during an edit. And honestly, nothing could be further from the truth.

Editing is a process of the conscious, critical mind. Every editing pass weakens the work by taking it farther from your unique, natural, authorial voice. The voice that is You. The voice that comes from your creative subconscious.

Ironically and incredibly, even all the traditional publishers say they’re looking for a “unique” voice. Then they do their best to quash it with round after round of edits.

If, on the other hand, you go into the story knowing you WON’T edit it later, you will write to the BEST of your ability. Maybe you cycle back every thousand words or so as you go (in creative mind, as a reader) to repair typos, patch plot holes, etc., but that’s it.

And when you reach the end, voila! That story will represent the very best you could do at that point in time. And what’s wrong with that?

We learn with our conscious, critical mind. We create with our creative subconscious.

Think about that for a moment.

When you sit down to write with the preconceived intent that you will edit later, you’re telling your creative subconscious — your storyteller self — that you don’t trust it. You’re saying, “Yes, I want you to write the story. But really, you aren’t all that, so I’ll go back and fix it later. I might invite a few friends over to critize it too.”

Still, I can halfway understand especially a beginning writer being so unsure of himself that he’s tempted to double-check with his critical mind what his creative mind has created. (Professional writers should be striving always to get past that.)

But for those of you who avail yourselves of input from peer critique groups, think about it: Any Critiquer Can Know Your Story Only From a Critical-Mind Standpoint. Why in the world would you trust someone else’s critical mind over your own creative subconscious?

Why? Because you lack self-confidence. You trust your critical mind, and even others’ critical minds, more than you trust your own unique, creative subconscious and your own authorial voice. That wonderful, one of a kind thing that comes naturally from inside you.

And that is just a shame.

Intentionally writing sloppy is not a matter of “doing what works” (another cliché); it’s a matter of doing what wastes time.

Today, a trip to Tucson for a followup with a surgeon. I wrote a little more in the early morning. Those numbers (from yesterday and today) are reported below.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Spoilers” at

See “e-Book Cover Design Awards, October 2019” at Especially if you design your own covers, check these out and the judge’s comments. Some good stuff here.

Note: I regularly follow a distinctly small number of blogs. If you know of any that I haven’t mentioned here in the past, please share those with me. Thanks.

The Numbers

Writing of Blackwell Ops 7: Philip Dunstan
(Brought forward…… 25849)

Day 16…… 1700 words. Total words to date…… 27549
Day 17…… 1018 words. Total words to date…… 28567
Day 18…… 1687 words. Total words to date…… 30254

Fiction words today…………………… 1687
Nonfiction words today…………… 900 (Journal)

Total fiction words for the month……… 10886
Total fiction words for the year………… 395979
Total nonfiction words for the month… 18280
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 299360
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 695339

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 7
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 197
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

5 thoughts on “The Journal: Write Sloppy?”

  1. If I may, I believe I read the same brief article that Dan refers to and there are a couple of interpretations that can be made. Personally, I didn’t take the author’s advice as recommending sloppy writing, so much as another take on Dean’s “Dare to Be Bad” attitude. He appeared to be advocating to write and publish the story, no matter how bad of a job you think it is. Stop being afraid. Then write and publish the next, and so on. That’s how we improve.

    Now if only I could remember where I read the interview, I’d love to share the link with you and get your take. 🙂

    • Thanks, Phillip. Honestly, I kind’a sort’a thought it might be something like that, but in the moment it led to a point of instruction, so I took it and ran with it. Also, thanks for the link. I’ll look it over and reply privately.

  2. I’ll raise my hand here and admit I’ve written many a subpar first draft. ‘But I’ll fix it later’ becomes a misery for me of trying to force myself back through the book. I’ve even paid others to fix it, but in the end I have to go through and fix it anyway. I’m trying to change my ways. No, I am changing my ways! The last book I wrote was a breeze. But I’m now stuck back in editing hell, fixing two books that I wrote and walked away from. Sigh. Never again. Thanks for the post.

    • Thanks, Diane. Been there. It isn’t easy. One other solution is to take the same idea from one of those “other” books and redraft it. Just write it again, but this time with your new knowledge. The trick would be to use only the premise and characters, and let the story take whatever direction it takes. Chances are even the ending will be different. Might be an interesting experiment.

      On the other hand, if the ideas have already worn you out, you might not want to do that.

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