The WIBBOW Rule and Rules of Writing

In today’s Journal

* Applying the WIBBOW Rule
* Keep Working the Problem
* Other Stuff
* Of Interest

Applying the WIBBOW Rule

Wow. Yesterday I received stats on my first “newsletter” sent from Revue to my readers:

Of 351 emails delivered, only 39 were opened (11% of the recipients).

Of those 39 subscribers who actually opened the email, only 5 (12%) clicked through to the site at

Nobody unsubscribed, so I guess that’s something. Still, with only 39 subscribers bothering to even open the email, and with only 5 clicking through to visit the site, I have to apply Scott Carter’s WIBBOW Rule: Would I Be Better Off Writing?

In other words, is it worth my time even to post a free short story every week (about an hour to prep and post a story) or would I be better off applying that hour to whatever novel I’m working on?

I already have enough short stories written to post a different one every week for over four years. Maybe I should just post them to Medium or someplace similar and grow develop an audience that way.

And each article on a character or a setting will take from an hour to a few hours to write and post, then prep and send. So I’ve already decided it won’t be worthwhile at all to post articles like that unless a subscriber expresses interest.

So I reckon is destined to be a flop. And that’s fine. If Revue will pick up the URL from an RSS feed and send it automatically (I haven’t investigated that far yet) I’ll continue to post a free story each week. If not, I’ll probably just redirect the site and be done with it.

Keep Working the Problem

There are very few rules if you want to actually BE a fiction writer and storyteller. I’m not talking about the myths—that you “must” revise, seek critical input, edit, rewrite, and polish. In fact, generally they are non-rules. They are what you do when you choose not to follow anyone else’s rules:

1. Trust your characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living.

Duh. We all do this every day with flesh-and-blood people we know, despite the fact that we don’t know them half as well as we know our characters. We would never dream of interrupting even complete strangers who strike up a conversation and are telling us what happened to them at a particular time in their life. We MIGHT interrupt to excuse ourselves from listening to the rest of the story, but we would never interrupt to correct the details of the story or the sequence of events. They lived through it, so we let them tell it. The same thing goes for our characters. They, not we, are living the story, so let them tell it.

2. Just write the next sentence.

Because we trust our characters, when we feel the story has bogged down, we scroll back a few paragraphs and read to see whether maybe we’ve written past the end of a scene or chapter. And if we don’t “find” the end of a scene or chapter, when we get back to the white space, we simply write the next sentence that occurse to us, then the next, then the next.

Remember, it’s all right that we don’t know where the story is going. Neither do the characters, because they’re living it moment by moment. What you haven’t written yet is in the characters’ future. It hasn’t revealed itself yet. Neither you nor the characters can know what awaits around the next corner until the character walks around that corner and you record what happens and/or what he says.

So it’s all right. Just go with it. Trust your characters. Just keep writing the next thing that happens, the next reaction, the next line of dialogue until the characters lead you to the end of the story. And they will.

3. Keep Working the Problem.

This wisdom applies to any kind of situation you might have. If you keep working the problem—sometimes that means just going over your reverse outline one more time and noticing something you hadn’t noticed before—you will discover the source of the problem and at least the beginning of a solution. The key: Don’t abandon your story.

Sometimes the story bogs down for a reason. As I mentioned above, sometimes the writing slows (usually dramatically) when you write past the end of a scene or chapter. At other times, as happened recently with my current novel The Stirchians, it bogs down in general. Not in a specific place, but overall, as if I was losing interest in writing the story.

Only I wasn’t losing interest. As I discovered after I read my reverse outline for the fifth or sixth time, I was being overwhelmed. There were so many important characters and scenarios that I wasn’t sure which to write each time I sat down. And there was an underlying fear that I might not remember to follow each major character/situation through to its resolution.

I’ve said dozens of times, every novel writes differently. This one proved the rule. In this novel, there was something wrong with the structure. I set out to follow my characters straight through their story, beginning to end, but I’ve come to realize this story is larger than that. The Stirchians is more a series of novellas or short novels (or both) than it is one big story.

I mentioned that I went over and over my reverse outline. Laborious as that sounds, it was a lot easier and quicker and less confusing than reading and rereading what I’ve written thus far. (Another benefit of reverse outlines.) And I was able to break down what I’ve written (and what I haven’t yet written) into several shorter parts of the overall story:

Bold Information Services (BIS) — Current chanpter 1-10 and 21-22.

Rose’s Story — Current chapters 11-20 plus chapters that have not yet been written.

The Search on Luna — As yet unwritten

The Search on Earth (AKA Rose, Part 2) — As yet unwritten

The End Game (including various schemes and gambits by world leaders ousted from their offices by the aliens, especially the president and defense secretary of the former United North America who made a brief but significant appearance earlier) — As yet unwritten

And that’s only so far. I don’t expect any more big segments to unfold, but they might as the story itself opens up.

Don’t be confused. The list above isn’t any sort of outline or structure. And it certainly isn’t something I have to “follow.” Look again. There are no “plot points” or even any sort of sequence. It’s only a list I can glance at to remind me of what’s gone before, what the characters have established thus far.

So as you can see, The Stirchians has some distance to go, which is fine. Depending on how things unfold from here, I might publish this in different volumes, but at the moment I expect it will be a single, large volume. We’ll see. I’m just glad writing it is fun again. I started this story on October 10, so 28 days ago. Yet it has stuttered along so that I’ve written on only 14 of those days. I seriously doubt I’ll log anymore zeroes before it’s finished.

Other Stuff

I should have written a couple thousand more words yesterday, but during my one break I decided to try out my recriprocating saw (my latest toy) on a fallen century plant (agave plant) pole. It was about a 10″ diameter near the base. (Not heavy. It’s basically a gigantic stalk of grass.)

The saw made short work of it, but then the cleanup began. That’s what really took the time.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Paper or No Paper” at A blast from the past.

See “The Old Ways Part 2” at Another related blast from the past.

See “The Deadliest Marksman’s Cold, Brave Stand” at Some gems in this if you’re ever writing a sniper in cold weather.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1320 words

Writing of The Stirchians (novel, tentative title)

Day 10… 1330 words. Total words to date…… 28459
Day 11… 2337 words. Total words to date…… 30836
Day 12… 2115 words. Total words to date…… 32951
Day 13… 2242 words. Total words to date…… 35193
Day 14… 1325 words. Total words to date…… 36518
Day 15… 1006 words. Total words to date…… 37524

Total fiction words for November……… 4573
Total fiction words for the year………… 166098
Total nonfiction words for November… 4680
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 180310
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 346408

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2022 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2022 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 68
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: I promote Writing Into the Dark, a Zen-like non-process of letting go and trusting your characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living. Duh. WITD greatly increases your productivity and provides a rapid ascension along the learning curve of Craft because you get a great deal more practice at actually writing. This is not opinion. It is all numbers and facts.

10 thoughts on “The WIBBOW Rule and Rules of Writing”

  1. I’m one of the 39 who opened (and read) your first Revue-generated e-mail but did not click through to Why? Because 1) I already knew about the site and had become a regular visitor to it, having learned about it by already being a regular visitor to your daily journal site,, and 2) because I was already in the habit of getting to the daily journal by clicking through from the site, after first checking to see if you’d posted any new content on or other changes to it. Perhaps the other 33 who opened the e-mail but didn’t click through did not click through for the same reason. Still, it’s disappointing that so few of your subscribers didn’t bother even to open the e-mail, at least not right away, and it would be revealing to know how many of the 312 subscribers who didn’t even open the e-mail simply deleted it as opposed to how many of them just hadn’t yet done so when the statistics were generated. It would be even more revealing if one could learn if those who didn’t open yet didn’t delete the e-mail did so simply because they were too busy with other matters at the time as opposed to being not really all that interested. All-in-all, though, it does appear as if the answer to “WIBBOW?” is “yes, YBBOW.” In a way, that’s a bit of a disappointment to me personally, because I was looking forward to reading all of the content you had planned to post on the new site, but given the choice between that and reading another new novel, novelette, or short story from you, I’ll always opt for the latter.

  2. Hah! I actually knew who the sniper article was about *before* I clicked through! Hayha’s story is fascinating.

    More on point, thanks again for all you discuss about WITD. I’m getting back on that horse after too many years of too many people talking about outlining as though it were necessary…and then finally figuring out that by the time I finished writing the outline, my Creative Voice said, “Welp, that story’s told. Next!”

    It was a blessing to find DWS, and now you. Now I just need to work on trusting the Story that wants to come through me. I’ll get there eventually!

    • Absolutely, Peggy. And you can even skip the step of trusting the story if you just discipline yourself to trust the characters. I know most people believe characters exist in the writer’s mind, but they have no way of proving that. I see them as existing in another dimension, one I can access through my creative subconscious. That makes it easier for me to simply trust them to live their stories. Then all I have to do is write what happens and what they say and do.

  3. Quoting you earlier:
    ‘’Alternative 1 is that I continue to post regularly at OR even to move the Journal back over to my “big” author website at….with this option, you would no longer receive the Journal in your email inbox…. Then (fingers crossed) those who enjoy or need my silly little blog will bookmark it and stop by to read it. ‘’

    I discovered your blog only recently, and have read much of your archive. I both enjoy it, and need it. Definitely need it. I visit everyday as part of a routine after writing.
    I did not see a email sign-up.
    Thanks for writing, and sharing unique writing themed reading.
    Heather H

    • Thanks, Heather. Glad to have you aboard and glad it’s helping to some degree. At the moment there is no email signup. The site I was whining about in the post is a website for readers, Currently all that’s there is the welcome page and a short story I posted a few days ago.

  4. I’m in the category of ‘didn’t get the email’. I went back and looked in regular inbox and promotions. Didn’t check spam.
    But you already know that I always read your posts, sometimes not for a day or two if I was traveling.
    But I’m trained to check your website now…

    • There is no email subscription to this website. It was for At this site, I post almost every day so if you only check erratically you would be better off to scan whatever posts you missed.

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