WITD Is Not the Only Way

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* The Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting
* WITD Is Not the Only Way
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“The really great writers are people like Emily Brontë who sit in a room and write out of their limited experience and unlimited imagination.” James A. Michener

Just a reminder—

I’ll run this reminder from now through April 30 to be sure everyone has the opportunity to read it.

Writing Better Fiction is still on sale for only $9 for all eformats, including printable PDF. On May 1, the price will increase to $14.

You can also still order a binder-ready paper copy from me for $25 (includes shipping). Simply email memailto:harveystanbrough@gmail.com with your request. Frankly, if I were you, I’d order the $9 ebook and print it out myself. (grin)

The Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting

To take part, write at least one short story per week (or add to your novel), then submit the story title, word count, and genre to me each week for publication in the Journal on Monday.

The whole point is to have fun and grow as a writer. You can join or rejoin the challenge at any time. There’s no cost. You can even do it on your own, without reporting numbers to me or anyone else.

During the past week, in addition to whatever other fiction they’re writing, the following writers reported their progress:

Short Fiction

  • Balázs Jámbor “Fan of the series” 5500 superhero, crime, fantasy
  • Adam Kozak “A Day Off” 3072 Humor
  • Alexander Nakul “A nude photo session” 7607 Erotica
  • Alexander Nakul “Girls are peeping” 2499 Erotica
  • Alexander Nakul “Amateurs” 3098 Erotica
  • Christopher Ridge “Roll the Dice” 2500 horror

Personal to George K—Hope everything’s all right in your camp, George.

WITD Is Not the Only Way

I brought this post forward (excerpted) from May 6, 2022:

Some folks prefer the safety of the known quantity. If that’s you, that’s perfectly fine, and there are plenty of places where you can find that.

Just please know that which source you choose doesn’t really matter, so spend as little as you can. Because it’s all the same old regurgitated writing advice you’ve heard at various levels in school and ever since.

And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I’m only stating a fact.

Pretty much every book and piece of writing advice in the world at large mimics every other book and piece of writing advice.

There are a few notable exceptions. Nonfiction books by Stephen King or Lawrence Block or Dean Wesley Smith or me or a few others do not mimic the same old myths about fiction writing that are contained in all the others.

But if you don’t mind seeing the same (bad) advice over and over again, you’ll be fine. On any given day you can find literally thousands of sources that will teach you what they call the “right” way to write. And in this case, “right” means “popular” and “fashionable.”

The “right” way apparently consists primarily of mistrusting yourself and depending on your conscious, critical mind instead instead of your creative subconscious. Oh, and suffering for your art as you “endure” the “sheer drudgery” of writing. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

If I wrote the way those folks say a fiction writer should write, writing would be sheer drudgery. And therefore not fun. And therefore, I wouldn’t do it. But I digress.

Those sources teach that you must know where the story is going and how it will end before you ever write a word of it. They teach that you should know every major plot twist and turn in each part of a 3- or 5- or 7-point structure before you begin writing. To that end, you are encouraged to develop an outline.

Note: Some will say you should “create” an outline, but that’s impossible. You cannot “create” something that you have to move through consciously, methodically, critically, point by point and step by step. To create, you must unleash the creative subconscious and let it flow.

Those sources also teach that you should know your characters (through “character sketches”) and the world they live in (through “world building”). The latter may include maps, time frames, diagrams and floor plans if necessary.

And they teach that you shouldn’t (negative) trust your creative subconscious. That even if you write “organically” or engage in “discovery” writing or only use “sign-posts” rather than an outline, you should go back and “correct” the story during revision and rewriting. And you should certainly make an “editing pass” or two or three or a dozen. Sigh.

These sources aren’t only books. They’re also online and in-person classes and writing groups and writing “boards” (whatever those are) and writers themselves (mostly beginners) and plenty of nonwriters too.

They will tell you that if you want to be a writer you must focus on Words and Sentences and Paragraphs and Scenes and Acts and Plot and so on ad nauseam.

They will tell you to focus on everything but Story. How very odd.

On the other hand, you have a guy like Stephen King, who in my opinion is the only Stage 5 storyteller writing today, who calls himself his characters’ stenographer. Of as I call it, their recorder.

Or you have a guy like Lee Child, who over a genial lunch agreed with his New York editor that yes, a particular scene in a Reacher book probably would work better if he moved it to a different place. Then he dabbed at his lips with his napkin and said, “But it didn’t happen that way.” The scene remained where it was.

In other words, Child checked-in on his characters and wrote the story the way it happened. Period. He would never think of allowing his conscious, critical mind to correct his creative subconscious.

Both Child and King simply wrote into the dark, as do untold numbers of other professional fiction writers. Neither of them allowed his ego to get in the way. Neither of them decided he knew better than the characters what happened in the story. After all, the characters, not the writers, were actually living the story.

So over to you, young writer. Whom do you believe? Do you choose to believe all the young writers (and non-writers) out there who know almost nothing about writing fiction but are more than happy to share their inexperience and regurgitated knowledge? (Or the older writers with same-old, same-old books and courses to sell who want your money?)

Or would you rather trust the knowledge and experience of long-term successful professional writers like Stephen King and Lee Child?

Of course, it’s completely up to you. Nobody else will even know until they read your work. If you actively think your way through writing a novel and consciously “figure out” what happens next, you will bore the reader.

Not because the reader knows what you did, but because if you can think your way through the story, so can the reader.

So I advise you to control nothing. Just check-in on your characters and write what happens as they live their story.

Believe in yourself. Trust yourself, trust your creative subconscious, and trust your characters. As Robert Frost wrote, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

If You Really Want to Write Fiction

My Best Advice for Fiction Writers (PDF download)

The Essential Elements of a Story (PDF download)

Not Tag Line Verbs (PDF download)

AuthorsZen Check this out and get in on the ground floor. This is at least part of the future of marketing books.

The Numbers

The Journal………………………………1270

Writing of Blackwell Ops 24: Buck Jackson Returns (tentative title)

Day 9…… 4375 words. To date…… 26876
Day 10…. 3243 words. To date…… 30119
Day 11…. 3394 words. To date…… 33513
Day 12…. 3225 words. To date…… 36738
Day 13…. 3096 words. To date…… 39834

Fiction for April…………………….….… 76095
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 301887
Fiction since October 1………………… 604943
Nonfiction for April……………………… 25020
Nonfiction for 2024……………………… 153740
2024 consumable words……………… 455627

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 7
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)……………… 89
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……… 239
Short story collections…………………… 29

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing are lies, and they will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

To be sure you continue receiving the Journal after May 31, subscribe free, then click the Donate link at the end of this post and make a recurring donation of $3 per month. In doing that, you’re effectively paying me 5 cents per hour to provide you with the Journal every day. Donate Here.

8 thoughts on “WITD Is Not the Only Way”

  1. But does WITD ensure you to write ‘good’ fiction? No. But if you practice more, you become better. I like the ‘Dare to be bad’ term. After all, what is good and what isn’t is just an opinion of a reader. Or a writer. Just one opinion. And meanwhile you write more with the best effort you can make, you become better at telling a story. You might make mistakes. But without them there is no writing. The fear of making mistakes shouldn’t hold you back…

    And yes, there are many wannabe writer and editor out there who think they can avoid mistakes. Where are their novels?

    • Sure. But if you WITD and follow Heinlein’s Rules, yes, you will write better fiction. As you say, practice is everything, and with WITD and HR you can’t help practicing a lot. 🙂

  2. I’d rather listen to people who have a lot of books and stories under their belts (Stephen King, you, Dean, Terry Brooks etc) than any who only has two or three books out but somehow thinks that makes them ‘experts’ on the craft.
    I don’t consider myself a master at all, let alone capable of teaching others, but by following Heinlein’s rules and trusting myself, even when its hard and I wanna just hit that delete key and run for the hills, I have written over a hundred and fifty five stories over the last few years, which is far more than I ever thought I could write, so it always makes me laugh when I hear ‘gurus’ say ‘I’ll teach you how to write a book in a year.’
    I can write a short novel in a month, and several short stories to boot if I want to, I don’t need a year. And frankly, as much as I do believe that every writer is different and has their own process, if more would try writing into the dark I think more would find they don’t need the outlines or the rewriting to get work done. But at this point trying to convince younger (and even older) writers to try this is like trying to teach my cats to speech French. It don’t take.
    By the way, love that Robert Frost quote. Its very, very true.

    • Thanks, Matt. I have a hard time even convincing others it’s okay to actually believe in themselves. Sigh.

      • Self doubt can be a powerful thing, especially when it is reinforced by the school system and by those who, while pretending to care (and to be fair, some do in a misguided way), use these doubts to make a profit. All you can do is put the information out there and let those who have ‘ears to hear’ so to speak, get it. Those who don’t won’t know what they’re missing out on anyway.

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