In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* The Novel
* Topic: Yes, Whatever Works For You Is Fine
* Of Interest
As you can see from the numbers below, yesterday was not a good writing day. It was barely a writing day at all. We had a great visit with our son, though, so no biggie. I’m also notorious for slowing my writing toward the end of a novel because I hate to see it end.
But last night I realized I’ve been pressuring myself too, and that’s just stupid. Because I felt I was closing in on the end of the novel, for the past few issues of the Journal I’ve been saying the story would wrap on this day or that day or another day.
See how easily the critical mind can creep in? Adding unnecessary pressure can lead you to rush or even “construct” an endng, which in turn would insult your creative voice. And insulting or alienating your creative subconscious is never a good idea.
Besides, I’d much rather miss a false deadline (or even a real one) than concoct an ending just to keep myself on some imaginary schedule. Or worse yet, abandon a novel, stick it into a metaphorical drawer, and hope to get back to it “someday.” And if I succumbed to the pressure, how much easier would it be for my critical mind to shut down the next project?
Fortunately, I took a deep breath and recognized what was happening. When the novel wraps doesn’t matter, does it? So I won’t create false expectations by predicting the ending again.
I’ve always said a story should be as long as it naturally is, and that if you trust your characters, they’ll lead you through to the end. That’s what I’ll be doing again starting this morning.
Topic: Yes, Whatever Works For You Is Fine
I was going to write an article on celebrating beginnings and mourning endings today, but it’s more important that I affirm that whatever works for each individual writer is fine. Seriously. I don’t care. I just provide information, backed up by statistics. Whether other writer take advantage of that is up to them.
Mark Twain’s (paraphrased) “It’s easier to fool people than it is to convince them they’ve been fooled” has to be the understatement of the 20th century.
What’s more, I believe it has a better-than-even chance to rank as the number one understatement of the 21st century too. Why? Because I have abiding faith in two peculiar characteristics of humanity:
The first is the uniquely human propensity to overcomplicate even the simplest of tasks. Doing so makes the task seem “important” and, by extension, elevates the importance of the person performing the task.
Trust me on this: If writing a story is labor to you, you’re either doing a bunch of unnecessary stuff out of fear or you’re making writing laborious intentionally, probably to elevate your status in your own mind. Or both. But that’s fine.
The second is that most humans will go to absolutely any lengths to avoid even considering that they might have been fooled. Very, very few have the confidence to laugh and say, “Ha! Got me!” It’s embarrassing to admit that the flowing robes in which they’ve been parading around in public don’t actually exist. ‘Cause that ain’t funny, man.
But as I’ve written in this space many times, I don’t really care how anyone else writes. If other writers spend months constructing an outline, then write, revise, seek critical input, then rewrite, edit, polish, etc. ad nauseam, it’s absolutely no skin off my teeth.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m not validating anyone’s choice here. I can never agree that following all those silly fear-driven myths is the right way for even one person to go about writing fiction.
But for me, that isn’t a difficult position to take. It’s like saying, “Hey, putting on a blindfold and then trying to cross a 7-lane freeway at rush hour is probably not a good idea.”
But that’s where my involvement ends. I’m not judging. I’m only saying if that’s what they want to do, that’s fine with me. I don’t care.
In fact, that some writers perform all those unnecessary and time-consuming mental gymnastics with every book actually helps people like me. It keeps them from being effective competition out there in the reading pool. The longer they hover over one work, the more new stories and novels I and others like me can cast into the water.
And it’s fine with me that they tell themselves they’re writing *quality* fiction, implying that the rest of us are lowly hacks who are putting out crap. Because in the year it takes one of them to write two 60,000 word novels (and be termed by some “prolific”), we “hacks” will have written and published several hundred thousand words of new fiction.
Or as we like to call it, Practice.
And as everyone knows, Practice—not hovering in place or moving backward, revising, rewriting, etc.—makes perfect.
But here, let me put some actual numbers on it: Last year, in only 7 months, I felt woefully unproductive. Yet I produced 13 novels, 1 novella and 3 short stories in 636,749 words of fiction. (That doesn’t include the 203,560 words of nonfiction I wrote in the Journal.)
I’m not bragging. I’m saying that’s 636,749 words of PRACTICE in fiction writing, folks. To get the same amount of practice, the two-novels-per-year, 120000-words writer would have to write for 5.3 years. Just sayin’.
But seriously, how anyone else chooses to write is their business. I don’t care. If it’s pouring down rain, whether I offer someone an umbrella is up to me. But whether they accept it is up to them.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Updates On Workshops and Things” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/updates-on-workshops-and-things/.
See “What Writers Can Learn from Bad TV Adaptations” at https://killzoneblog.com/2022/10/what-writers-can-learn-from-bad-tv-adaptations.html.
See “The 5 Most Common Mistakes in Book Cover Design and How to Avoid Them” at https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/the-5-most-common-mistakes-in-book-cover-design-and-how-to-avoid-them/.
The Journal…………………………………… 950 words
Writing of Carmen Morales (novel, tentative title)
Day 10… 3375 words. Total words to date…… 31839
Day 11… 3350 words. Total words to date…… 35189
Day 12… 3640 words. Total words to date…… 38829
Day 13… 3673 words. Total words to date…… 42502
Day 14… 3604 words. Total words to date…… 46106
Day 15… 4568 words. Total words to date…… 50674
Day 16… 2149 words. Total words to date…… 52823
Day 17… 1421 words. Total words to date…… XXXXX
Total fiction words for October……… 3570
Total fiction words for the year………… 123952
Total nonfiction words for October… 2580
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 155800
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 279752
Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 67
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: In this Journal, I discuss various aspects of the writing craft. I advocate trusting the characters to tell the story that they, not the writer, are living. This is by far the easiest, most liberating, and most fun way to tell a story.