In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* The Secret to Being Prolific, Part 1
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“‘Can’t’ never did anything.” My stepmom, about 65 years ago when I complained that I couldn’t do something. As usual, she was right.
“When I sat down at my writing computer before this, I never saw the words I was typing. I was living in the story, with the characters, enjoying my romp through their world. Just like I was reading a book, that’s how I typed.” Dean Wesley Smith
“Content Warning: This article discusses weight loss, disordered eating, and the lie that being smaller makes you more worthy. Use caution and don’t forget you are already good.” from some editor at Book Riot (see “Of Interest”)
Note: Not one time, ever, in my 70 years have I heard, read, or inferred from anything I read or heard that “being smaller makes you more worthy.” Not once. And as for the chance that everyone who reads the “content warning” above is “already good,” the editor probably should boil or bake them for a set period of time and then season them to taste before dropping that little bit of judgement. Or maybe s/he/it should resign as General Manager of the ******* Universe and stop making blanket, participation trophy declarations in the first place. Okay, rant over.
The Secret to Being Prolific, Part 1
I brought this post forward from September of last year. The timing felt right. I’ve substantially updated it and cut it into two parts.
First, the secret to being a prolific fiction writer has nothing to do with typing speed. Let’s put that myth to rest right up front. Most fiction writers who are focused on Story instead of being focused on words or sentences write about 1000 to 1500 words per hour.
That sounds fast, but it isn’t. It’s only 17 words per minute at the low end and 25 words per minute at the high end. If you passed your high school typing class, you typed considerably faster than that.
In my own class, some hit 120 wpm. My own rate was about 60 wpm. That equates to 3600 words per hour, yet my own fiction-writing speed ranges from 1100 to 1300 words per hour.
I know one fiction writer who, on average, generates 3000 words per hour. Even that is only 50 words per minute, so there’s no fear you’ll start a wildfire at 1000 words per hour.
But to do that, as I alluded to above, you have to be focused on Story, not individual words or sentences. Just learning to focus on Story will move you from Stage 2 to Stage 3 as a fiction writer.
To do so, you only have to believe in yourself. Trust yourself and trust your characters. Just tell the story as it unfolds as you run through it with the characters. It really is that easy.
If you’re writing much slower than 1000 words per hour, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re writing from the critical mind. You’re focused so tightly on individual words and sentences that you are unable to see the story that’s unfolding all around you.
No wonder you feel you “need” an outline. When you surface from making sure every word and sentence is perfect in itself, the outline is there as a safety net to remind you of where you want the story to go next.
Did you get that? Where YOU want the story to go next. Not where the authentic story would actually go if you allowed the characters to live it unimpeded.
But if you’re mired in the myths, the authentic story the characters are living doesn’t matter to you. All that truly matters is doing what someone else said you “have” to do: carefully filling in the blanks in the story you consciously constructed in your outline. Let’s talk about that for a moment.
The Trap of the Critical Mind
The first thing to know is this: The conscious, critical mind can create nothing original. It can connive and plan. It can scheme. It can construct block by block. But it cannot create.
Those who are unable to trust themselves call upon the conscious mind to construct safety nets that don’t need to be constructed (character sketches, outlines, signposts, etc.) and to correct the creative subconscious, which doesn’t need to be corrected.
The urge to “improve” what you’ve written with the creative subconscious or “correct” your characters’ perception of the story that they, not you, are living is a function of the conscious, critical mind’s primary purpose: to protect you.
But if you second-guess and correct your characters often enough, they’ll stop bringing you story ideas, and soon they’ll stop telling you stories too.
Writers who have trouble coming up with story ideas are writers who are steeped in the myths.
They actually trust Other Writers more than they trust themselves or the characters who are actually living the story. Think about that. And please, someone (anyone) explain to me how that makes any kind of rational sense.
Every time writers invoke the conscious, critical mind to correct what they wrote with the creative subconscious, it moves them farther from the authentic story and farther from their own unique, original voice. You won’t find that in any how-to books on writing (except maybe mine or Dean Wesley Smith’s) but it’s the unpopular truth.
Invoking the conscious, critical mind is the worst kind of creative self-sabotage, and the writers’ fear of failure wins. For a great deal more, see Quiet the Critical Mind (and Write Fiction).
I’ll post Part 2 tomorrow. Talk with you again then.
See “Forgot One Thing… Writing” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/forgot-one-thing-writing/.
See “Keep On Writing?” at https://killzoneblog.com/2023/01/reader-friday-keep-on-writing.html.
See “Lies Diet Books Tell” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/lies-diet-books-tell/. The content warning triggered me. (grin)
The Journal…………………………………… 960 words
Writing of Santa Fe: A New Office (novel, WCG8, Santa Fe 3)
Day 1…… 2815 words. Total words to date…… 2815
Day 2…… 2034 words. Total words to date…… 4849
Day 3…… 2650 words. Total words to date…… 7499
Day 4…… 2209 words. Total words to date…… 9708
Day 5…… 4214 words. Total words to date…… 13922
Day 6…… 2299 words. Total words to date…… 16221
Day 7…… 2136 words. Total words to date…… 18357
Day 8…… 1688 words. Total words to date…… 20045
Day 9…… 2712 words. Total words to date…… 22757
Total fiction words for January……… 13049
Total fiction words for 2023………… 13049
Total nonfiction words for January… 4230
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 4230
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 17279
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 71
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer because of my zen-like non-process. If you want to learn it too, either hang around or download my Journal Archives at https://hestanbrough.com/the-daily-journal-archives/, read them, and try WITD for yourself. The archives are free.
6 thoughts on “The Secret to Being Prolific, Part 1”
I was wondering about writing in the second language. As English is not my native language, I always felt I should listen more how I write and what I write. And it still bugs me, when I write I listen to the words I write.
Yes, when I get into the story and listen to my characters, they find the words for me to use. I can’t use words I didn’t learn before, and I have to know enough words to tell a story, but if I just looking at misspelling words and how to say something, it slows me down, and I get out of story.
The characters already know what to say and how to say it. With the novel I started at the end of the last year I can feel the characters, I can finally let out the need of perfection. Yes, maybe I need someone to proofread my story, but when I tell a story I mustn’t listen my inner, critical voice “you can’t do that”.
“Can’t never did anything”, it’s a saying I will remember.
Thanks again the topic. It makes me feel I’m on the right way.
Thanks, Balázs. Absolutely. As long as you’re paying attention to individual words, you can’t become immersed in story. It’s the difference between stopping to consider each tree as you move slowly along a path through the woods or racing through the woods with a sense of adventure for no reason other than to get to the other side.
Another “can’t” quote from Tennessee: “Can’t died in the house of trying.” – Yvonne C.
Excellent, Bob. Try is an impossibility, like knowing where you are when you leap from a bridge. You’re on the bridge before you leap, and you’re in the air after you leap.
The timing of reading this post is funny.
I was just on reddit (I know, I know, I should stay off writing forums and for the most part I do, but sometimes I slip up) and I stumbled upon an old writing post.
The topic was about what one needed to be a professional writer and, predictably, the old myths came up.
One man said to be a professional you need to revise consistently, always looking to ‘attain perfection’ (while acknowledging such a thing is impossible).
Another told the OP that, if they wrote a story and felt confident about it, they shouldn’t trust themselves. They suck and they’re just too arrogant to see it (Gods forbid we trust ourselves). They need to work hard to learn how to pick their work apart they said, to take criticism and apply it to make their work better.
It really was just a long list of critical mind and myth promoting. I couldn’t stomach it and came up for air and saw this, reminding me of how good it feels to have left all that insanity behind.
Thanks, Matt. Yep, writers are the worst judge of their own work if they believe it’s good. But if they believe it sucks, then of course they forget about being the worst judge of their own work. I never teach anything that isn’t rational. And every myth is based on irrational thought and fear.
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