In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Bradbury Challenge Reminder
* On Writing Rich Settings, and WITD
* A Story Idea
* Of Interest
* The Numbers
Quotes of the Day
“Spontaneity is true to life. Anything else is fake and a manipulation.” Me
“[T]rust your own writing and voice. Act like an artist instead of a doormat for heaven’s sake.” Dean Wesley Smith
to Nadini and the several other folks who have recently subscribed to the (almost) daily Journal. I hope you will find what you need, and I hope you will come to realize sooner rather than later to trust yourself and your characters and Just Write the Story.
You might check out the Archives and all the other free downloads at https://hestanbrough.com/the-daily-journal-archives-gifts-dvds/.
Bradbury Challenge Reminder
Those of you taking part in the Bradbury Challenge, remember to email me your story title(s), word count(s) and genre(s) before this Journal goes out tomorrow morning.
Anyone else who’d care to jump in, feel free. If necessary, email me for details.
On Writing Rich Settings, and WITD
A friend emailed me about my story “Someone You Will Never Have to Be.”
He wrote in part, “You know, that story is exceptionally well-written. Your description of the natural surroundings puts us looking over the characters’ shoulders without coming off as showy prose. Was it pre-WITD?”
I was glad he enjoyed the story, and even more thrilled he asked that question. Here’s my response to him, greatly expanded:
No, the story wasn’t pre-WITD. In fact, it was so well-written and authentic specifically because I wrote it into the dark, without planning and without conscious-mind editing.
(I wrote a similar story several years ago, also WITD, titled “Keep Calm & Carry On.” That’s the Amazon link, or you can email me to let me know which format you’d like and I’ll send it to you free.)
But back to the present. According to my Journal entry (see “Fiction Doesn’t Matter, and the Fun-to-Work Ratio” at https://hestanbrough.com/fiction-doesnt-matter-and-the-fun-to-work-ratio/), I actually wrote “Someone You Will Never Have to Be” on April 5, 2023.
I always report my writing in the Journal the following day. But I also always provide vivid descriptions of the setting. My readers most often comment that they felt as if they were in the story with the characters.
Here’s the key: In any story or novel I write, if my POV character sees, hears, smells, tastes or feels something (physically or emotionally), it is therefore important and it goes into the story.
Only writers who do NOT WITD spend time fretting over whether they included “too much” or “not enough” description and other nonsense like that. I never even think about that stuff. As I keep saying, I simply race through the story with my characters, and as we go I write down what happens and what they say and do in response.
Micromanaging your characters and THEIR story is a complete waste of time, and only writers who are scared the story won’t be good enough do it. Their fear forces them to try to “think” their way through a story, and that ruins it.
Life happens. Stories happen. Spontaneity is true to life. Anything else is fake and a manipulation.
As I wrote here a couple of days ago, “Nobody can consciously ‘think up’ anything spontaneous. Spontaneity is a characteristic of real, unscripted life and, in fiction, of the creative subconscious mind.”
Before each writing session, I cycle back over what I wrote during the previous writing session. I don’t “look for” anything. Not my job. That time is to allow THE CHARACTERS (not myself, the writer) to touch the story. THEIR story. In this way, if I overlooked something, the characters get a second chance to add it. Nothing more, nothing less.
For the record, I started WITD in mid-April 2014. Before that, I’d written only a few short stories, a ton of poems, and one long-ass outline for a novel I still haven’t written (and won’t).
I’m tellin’ you, folks, WITD works. I’m living proof.
But I do understand your reticence. You can’t believe my experience because my experience isn’t yours. At most, a few of you can bring yourselves to trust me enough to try WITD.
Many of you can’t even go that far. The myths have been drilled into you so thoroughly that you think what I’m spouting is pure mushroom fertilizer. I regularly comment out of frustration and exasperation when the characters in otherwise good movies claim how very hard it is to write a novel.
Consider this: Even the writers who wrote the script for the movie don’t know. That’s how widely and thickly the manure has been spread.
Or maybe you have some weird notion that I’m trying to con you somehow, or maybe that if you give WITD an honest try, it won’t work and I’ll jerk back the curtain and laugh at you.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
I was mired in the myths for decades, which is to say I was where many of you are. And as I reported, in all that time, I produced only a smattering of short stories and a long, very thorough outline.
When I finally tried WITD, all-out and honestly, I did so in an attempt to disprove it once and for all.
Instead, it actually worked, and now I wouldn’t go back for any reason. Because I’m free of all the time-consuming BS. As a result, I’m writing pure, authentic stories with rich settings and real characters.
But again, none of that matters.
All I can do for you—and frankly, the BEST thing I can do for you—is urge you to try WITD for yourself, to take a chance to free yourself of the myths and simultaneously free yourself of the paralyzing and unreasoning fear.
Still, only you can actually try WITD and prove it for yourself. Or not. Completely up to you.
A Story Idea
Your spouse mentions an estate sale in a nearby town. S/he says, “Weird, but the listing shows a lot of the same exact stuff we have, brand names and all.”
Intriguing, right? But will you go? Might as well. If the decedent’s taste in furnishings, art, etc. match your own that closely, there might be something there that you can’t live without. So sure, you go.
What if you arrive only to find yourself at your own home, albeit now in control of a group of strangers who are selling off your belongings to dozens of other strangers who are looking over and pawing through everything you own? And it soon becomes apparent that somehow they can’t see or hear you.
This happened to me a few days ago. As it turned out, it was pretty eerie. I’m not gonna write the story, but even if I did yours would be different. Write. Have fun.
Talk with you again soon.
See “The Merch-ification of Book Publishing” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-merch-ification-of-book-publishing/. I linked to this mostly for PG’s take on the article.
See “3 Reasons Refrain in Poetry is Relevant to Freelance Writers” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/3-reasons-refrain-in-poetry-is-relevant-to-freelance-writers/. I’ve long held that many techniques used in writing poetry are valuable to the fiction writer. I even have books and audio lectures on the topic.
See “Character Type and Trope Thesaurus: Grotesque” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/character-type-and-trope-thesaurus-grotesque/. Take what feels right, leave the rest, and don’t think while you’re actually writing.
The Journal…………………………………… 1230
Writing of “Marvin McTavish Decides”
Day 1…… 326 words. Total words to date…… 326
Day 2…… 346 words. Total words to date…… 672
Writing of “A Midnight Sketch”
Day 1…… 1341 words. Total words to date…… 1341
Writing of Rose Padilla (WCG10SF5)
Day 1…… 4283 words. Total words to date…… 4283
Day 2…… 3963 words. Total words to date…… 8246
Day 3…… 1463 words. Total words to date…… 9709
Day 4…… 2445 words. Total words to date……12154
Total fiction words for July……… 2013
Total fiction words for 2023………… 112035
Total nonfiction words for July… 10410
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 141960
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 253995
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date………… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 73
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.