In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* The Purpose of the Journal
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“In fiction writing, the only time you fail is if you stop writing fiction. … There is no other marker. You stop writing, you fail. It really is that simple.” Dean Wesley Smith
“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.” Helen Keller
“Don’t be afraid of perfection. You will never attain it!” Salvador Dalí
The Purpose of the Journal
Hey, sorry I’m a little late. Thanks for hanging around. I’m still considering a thought another writer expressed a few days ago in an email, that the Journal is “almost a crusade for … posts on Heinlein’s Rules, WITD and related matters.” I like that.
My offerings in the Journal haven’t always been so limited. I’ve talked a lot about characters, scene, setting, point of view, pacing, using the five senses, and so on. I even address those topics in my nonfiction books, and some of ,y books are dedicated to those topics.
Of course, you can also find roughly a b’jillion other craft books on character, scene, setting, etc. And most of them, including mine, are very similar to, if not exactly like, the others.
But even if I haven’t addressed specific craft topics in books, I’ve written about them in one iteration of the Journal or another. To test that, visit the Search block at https://hestanbrough.com or use the little search icon in the upper right corner at https://harveystanbrough.com and type in your search term: setting, for example, or character, or scene, or five senses. Most of the time, a lot of posts will pop up on either site.
Everybody who’s been writing for a serious length of time or who has put more than a million or so new words of fiction on the page know the same things about craft. If you write fiction long enough, these are understandings or realizations that would come to you eventually whether or not you ever read a nonfiction book about them.
That said, one nonfiction book on characters is pretty much like another. (You don’t have to do “character sketches” just because an author says you have to. It’s enough to learn that all major characters should be a stereotype at first, and that layers of personality should emerge as we get to know the character. So just like real life.)
Nor do you have to memorize or consciously apply your selections from the list of traits and quirks included in Creating Realistic Characters. It’s more than enough to be aware of them, and to be aware than even the most noble hero has a few dark aspects to his or her personality and even the worst human ever to live has at least something good about him or her. (Yes, the horrible things s/he does probably will overshadow any good facet, but it’s still there.)
So the point is, you can look up craft items, read about them, learn them with your conscious, critical mind. That’s fine. Learning is the only valid function of the critical mind in fiction. Learn with the conscious, critical mind, then shut it off and apply what you’ve learned (create) with the creative subconscious.
Be your characters’ fingers on the keyboard. Come down out of the authorial ivory tower, drop the robes and slip into sneakers, a t-shirt and jeans, and roll off the parapet into the trenches of the story. After all, your characters have invited you.
Then, as you race through the story alongside your characters, try to keep up and record what happens and what the characters say and do in reaction. When they stop at the end of a scene to let you catch up, you can cycle back over what you’ve written and allow them to add anything you missed.
That is your job as a writer: to write your characters’ story. And the most authentic way to do that is to experience it as it unfolds around you.
You know, just like real life.
So why do I talk so much about WITD and Heinlein’s Rules? Because if you want to learn about the myths, you can go literally anywhere else and hear that you must outline, revise, seek critical input, rewrite, polish, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam.
We’re inundated with that crap 24/7/365 both formally in writing classes and blogs and informally via ANY depiction of a novelist in ANY television show ever. Yet we literally never hear the alternative view, that it’s all right NOT to do all that. We never hear that it’s perfectly acceptable, even better, to Just Write the Next Sentence and the next and the next until the characters lead us through to the end of the story.
You never hear anyplace else that it’s all right to trust yourself and your creative subconscious.
You never hear anyplace else that you are capable, that yes, YOU can write a story, from a double-digit flash fiction to a novel to a novel series, without anyone else advising you on content.
You never hear anywhere else that in fact, your unaided, uncrutched, uncritiqued story will actually be better, more entertaining and more authentic specifically because you DIDN’T bend it to anyone else’s taste or will. And if you say that on pretty much any “writers’ boards” or how-to-write websites, you’ll be shouted down. (That by people who say publicly “whatever works for you” is fine.)
So the purpose of this Journal is to tell you it’s all right to trust yourself. That it’s all right to trust your characters and your creative subconscious. That it’s all right not to be a control freak and to have fun enjoying what you do.
Talk with you again soon.
See “I Feel Bad For New Writers… Part 4” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/i-feel-bad-for-new-writers-part-4/. Again, Dean knocks it out of the park.
See “Toward a better media system” at https://on.substack.com/p/reliable. This post contains a couple of links that are potentially valuable.
The Journal…………………………………… 1010
Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)
Day 11… 0323 words. Total words to date…… 19819
Day 12… 2445 words. Total words to date…… 22264
Day 13… 3184 words. Total words to date…… 25448
Day 14… 3509 words. Total words to date…… 28957
Day 15… 1595 words. Total words to date…… 30552
Day 16… 1875 words. Total words to date…… 32427
Day 17… 2016 words. Total words to date…… 34443
Total fiction words for May……… 8995
Total fiction words for 2023………… 92459
Total nonfiction words for May… 10390
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 92080
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 184539
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.