In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Yet More Comments
* Why I Talk About This Stuff
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“Self-esteem is the prison of the pampered. Self-confidence is the realm of the practiced.” Harvey Stanbrough
Yet More Comments
There are yet more comments in an exchange between me and another commenter (Felix Torres) on “How to Make Backstory Work for You” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/how-to-make-backstory-work-for-you/. A lot of food for thought. I recommend reading it.
Understand, I don’t bring this up for purposes of argument, but only as a springboard to pass along something that I think might be useful.
Frankly, I’ve never understood why so many people see writing into the dark and Heinlein’s Rules as such a threat. I’m only offering a different way. Writers can try it (as I did), or not. Doesn’t matter to me. It isn’t like I get a kickback from some secret society for every new member I enlist. (grin)
Although people who sell books touting the myths suppress what I teach so hard and so fast that those who WITD might as well comprise a secret society. Hey, there’s you a story idea. Those who WITD and follow Heinlein’s Rules are rounded up and locked away in camps to await programming. (grin)
Anyway, WITD is no threat. If writers do try it and it doesn’t work, they can fall straight back on the safety net of outline-revise-critical input-rewrite-polish that they’ve always used before. They will have lost absolutely nothing.
But if they try it and it DOES work (and it will if they don’t succumb to fear), it opens up an exciting, whole new world for them. Please, somebody explain to me how that is anything but a win-win situation?
Anyway, in response to my previous two long replies, this time Felix wrote (in part), “Not that I object to anything you said–whatever works for you–but out of curiosity, what is your main genre? Things change depending on the type of story. … My main area of interest is SF. And in SF&F backstory matters.”
So many words put in my mouth, so much innuendo, so many references to things I never said. But that’s how deeply mired many are in the myths. That’s how willing they are to read-into or alter my replies to suit their own agenda.
Anyway, if you read the thread, you’ll see that I never once said or implied that backstory doesn’t matter. I only wrote that “if you record the story as it unfolds around you, any necessary backstory will come out naturally, and any that doesn’t isn’t necessary.”
I thought about printing my full response here, but you have the link above. I advise you to go read all the comments, then make up your own mind. In the meantime…
Why I Talk About This Stuff
The popular phrase “whatever works for you (or me)” is tossed about a lot these days. But the phrase actually means “whatever you want to do is fine, whether or not it actually works.”
For many, I suspect it means, “whatever makes me feel like a fiction writer.” And that’s fine, if your goal isn’t to put new words on the page.
So despite the fact that I’m rapidly growing tired of my own voice here, let me ‘splain:
When I (personally, myself) say “whatever works” for whomever, “works” means “results in success,” and “success” means “writing and publishing fiction regularly and without interruption.”
Now, if you are outlining, revising, seeking critical input, then rewriting and polishing as a result of that input, you are no doubt doing what you want to do.
Maybe you honestly believe that system is the best path to (your definition of) success. Or maybe you don’t believe that, but you’re driven by unreasoning fear, and maybe the mistaken notion that it’s easier to keep doing what you’re doing than to actually write fiction prolifically.
Either way, chances are you are not working to your full creative potential as a writer. If that’s true, and if it’s all right with you, rest assured, it’s perfectly fine with me.
Okay, so if that’s true, then why do I keep talking about this stuff? Why do I teach an expanded version of WITD and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules?
To pay it forward. As I wrote in my (final) comment over there on the article at The Passive Voice today, back in early 2014—
“I stumbled upon a blog post about something called ‘writing into the dark’ and following Heinlein’s Rules. It was all about the value of believing in yourself….” Like pretty much everybody who hears about WITD, “I didn’t buy in at first. But [unlike most writers who hear about it] I didn’t dismiss it out of hand either.
“Fortunately for me, I was able to set my ego aside, see that what I was doing wasn’t working for me. That’s with ‘working’ defined as ‘resulting in success’ and ‘success’ defined as ‘being a prolific professional fiction writer.’
“I chose to try [WITD and following Heinlein’s Rules], if only to disprove it for myself. … to my never-ending surprise, [it] actually worked. …
“Finally, it dawned on me that yup, a guy who had written and published much, much more than I [Dean Wesley Smith] probably knew more than I did about writing and publishing fiction. Who knew?”
There you go. That’s the whole thing, folks: It’s perfectly all right to believe in yourself and in your own abilities. You really CAN write a novel or a whole series of novels with ZERO critical input from your own critical mind or from anyone else.
Remember, it’s only a story. You’re only telling a story, not curing cancer or eradicating hunger. Have fun with it.
Talk with you again soon.
See “A Special Class [on Licensing] For the Sale” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/a-special-class-for-the-sale/.
See “Google accused of ripping off OpenAI’s ChatGPT” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/google-accused-of-ripping-off-openais-chatgpt/. PG wrote “Copyright irony abounds.” (grin)
See “GPT-5 expected this year, could make ChatGPT indistinguishable from a human” at https://interestingengineering.com/innovation/gpt-5-chatgpt-indistinguishable-human.
The Journal…………………………………… 1000
Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)
Day 1…… 3231 words. Total words to date…… 3231
Day 2…… 2990 words. Total words to date…… 6221
Day 3…… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 8026
Day 4…… 2025 words. Total words to date…… 10051
Day 5…… 1451 words. Total words to date…… 11502
Day 6…… 1886 words. Total words to date…… 13388
Day 7…… 2002 words. Total words to date…… 15390
Day 8…… 1060 words. Total words to date…… 16450
Total fiction words for March……… 13364
Total fiction words for 2023………… 66188
Total nonfiction words for March… 20930
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 62260
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 128448
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 2
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 219
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: Because It Makes Sense, I preach trusting your characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living. See https://hestanbrough.com/the-daily-journal-archives-gifts-dvds/ for free stuff on writing.