Dean’s post today is excellent and again timely for me since I’m currently endeavoring to write a novel in 9 days (8 left, counting today).
Actually it’ll be 10 days if it goes to the 31st. I did write the opening several days ago. Anyway, a great post about the old pulp writers.
In today’s post, Dean even talks about one guy who wrote 7,000 words per day, every day, for ten years. Do the math. Woof! See why I feel like a slacker?
He also talks about something far more important, and it keyed this very important topic: the essence of Story.
Topic: Just Tell A Story
So many of us have forgotten that our primary purpose is to entertain, first ourselves and then other readers. Entertainent really is the sole purpose of writing fiction.
We get wrapped around words. Yet in and of themselves, they just don’t matter. Words really are only tools, like nails to a carpenter. (If the carpenter drops a nail, does he stop the project? Uh, no.)
We get wrapped around sentence structure, or about whether a group of words constitutes a complete sentence. (Never mind that most of the world, in either narration or dialogue, doesn’t speak in complete sentences.)
We get wrapped around characterization and scene and setting. We get wrapped around “plot” and “theme” and all manner of other things.
Those things DO matter, but the story will provide all of them if we just trust it.
Should we learn those things? Absolutely.
But once we learn about words, sentence structure, characterization, plot and all the rest, it becomes part of our subconscious.
Learning is conscious-mind stuff. It’s what we do in classrooms, physical or virtual. Learning is why I visit Dean Wesley Smith’s site every day. Learning is why I read fiction by other writers, and if it blows me away, I read it again and study it.
And learning is why I practice, practice, practice. And by practice, I mean I write.
Writing is an endeavor of the subconscious. It isn’t learning. It’s practicing what we’ve learned. It’s playtime. Fun time.
And as we write (as we practice), what we’ve learned about words, sentences, plot etc. dribbles forth without effort or thought through our fingers onto the page or screen.
Consider, do you stop and think about whether to put a period at the end of a sentence? No. If you’re writing by hand, do you stop and think about whether to dot an i or cross a t? Of course not.
Because you learned all of that long ago. It’s natural to you, and you trust it.
At your current level of skill, the words, plot, characterization etc. are natural to you as well. You just have to learn to trust it.
I don’t hover over one story in an attempt to make it “perfect.” Like artists in all other art forms, I practice. I write a story, publish it, and move on to the next one.
Some will say when I cycle back over the last 500 to 1000 words and allow myself to touch it, that’s hovering. It isn’t. Cycling is all done with the subconscious mind. The conscious, “thinking” mind has no place in the practice of writing.
When we sit down to write, maybe we decide we’ll practice a particular technique in the current story. Maybe we’ll decide to practice setting.
But once we start writing, we should no longer be thinking (conscious mind stuff) about any of that.
When we sit down to write, we should Just Tell A Story.
If we trust ourselves to just tell a story, everything else comes along of its own accord.
Now, twenty-some novels and over 160 short stories later, I’m finally fully understanding the purpose: Entertainment. I’m writing solely to entertain, first myself and then others.
And that understanding is incredibly freeing. That’s what it’s all about.
Back in the day, writers “had no training that stories had to be perfect. [The stories] had to be nothing more than good stories readers would enjoy.” (from DWS’ post)
There you go.
Just. Tell. A. Story.
Tell it as if you’re chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee. Or as if you’re leaning to one side on a bar stool, an old-fashioned glass of Who Hit John in your grasp. Just tell a story.
If you don’t already fully realize this, when you do “get” it you’ll be amazed at how much fun writing will be.
Today, and Writing
Rolled out way late at 4:30. Checked email, Dean’s stuff, etc.
By 5 I was outside, awaiting the sunrise and following my son’s journey back to Indiana on Facebook.
I wrote everything above this, and finally got to the Hovel around 8:30. Today I’m trying to track more closely my time actually spent writing.
Messed around for awhile with a game, then read over the last chapter. I started a new chapter around 9 a.m. But about 500 words in I stopped writing and checked email, etc. for about a half-hour. Ugh.
10 back to the novel. Finally on track. A thousand words this session, and a break at 10:45.
12, back to the novel. Another thousand words by 12:50. Another brief break.
1 p.m., back to the novel. Only another 600 words or so by 1:40, but I need a break.
2:30, back to the novel.
3:30, I’m calling it for the day. Have to head for the PO before they close.
At Dean’s place, see “Some Pulp Writers” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/some-pulp-writers/. (I even shared this one to Facebook.)
Fiction Words: 3764
Nonfiction Words: 950 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 4714
Writing of The Pyramid Killer
Day 1…… 0978 words. Total words to date…… 978
Day 2…… 3630 words. Total words to date…… 4608
Day 3…… 3764 words. Total words to date…… 8372
Total fiction words for the month……… 40833
Total fiction words for the year………… 192699
Total nonfiction words for the month… 16280
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 52870
Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 245569