The Journal: Separating the Writer from the Reader

In today’s Journal

* Topic: Separating the Writer from the Reader
* Fear Thesaurus
* Of Interest

Topic: Separating the Writer from the Reader

Of all the myths, the most prevalent, most harmful, and most difficult to root out is the myth that what we write — our stories — matter. That they’re important.

To the successful writer, they don’t matter at all. To the successful writer, one story is no more important than any other s/he’s written. Each story is just one more product in a long line of products offered up to readers for their leisurely perusal.

The fact is, no matter how short or long a time it takes you to write a novel, for example, a few readers will love it. It will actually be “important” to them, maybe even life-changing. Most readers will enjoy your story or at least abide it well enough to finish it, and a few will think it sucks canal water from all 50 states. This is true no matter how long it takes you to write it, and no matter what you do or how many times you go over it.

Whether a story is “excellent” or “good” or “horrible” are calls for the reader, not the writer, to make. And Rule 1 is that the writer can do absolutely NOTHING to influence the reader’s opinion. (If you just thought But…, see Rule 1 again.)

If a reader feels a story is important, great. If a writer feels a story is important (so s/he has to “perfect” it), that feeling will freeze the writer solid.

Don’t go down that path. You are a writer, a storyteller, so what matters is THAT you write. WHAT you write doesn’t matter in the slightest. All that should matter to any writer is that another story is out there.

All of that said, there are two of you: You the writer are not you the reader.

You the reader will almost certainly enjoy some of your own stories more than others. AS A READER, you will even find some of them “important,” maybe from an entertainment perspective or maybe because of a lesson or moral you picked up from them. (I learn things from my characters often.)

The thing is, chances are very slim you’ll like all of your own stories equally. You might even actively dislike some of them. Yes, even if you write a novel in a month or even if it you churn one out every three years.

But that’s all right. Even if you don’t like something you yourself have written, that doesn’t mean other readers won’t like it. In fact, the old rule applies: a few will love it, most will like or abide it, and a few will hate it, just as before.

The time you spend writing a story has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the quality of that story.

Now, TELLING readers you labored over writing a novel for a year or two implies perceived value to them. It’s a little sleight of hand writers employ to lend value to their work. At conventions, signings, etc. I used to tell readers I write three drafts of every manuscript. What I DON’T tell them is that the second draft is  a spell check that takes all of maybe 10 minutes. And I don’t tell them the third draft takes maybe a half-hour, during which I apply whatever changes I agree with that my first reader recommends. Then I publish the thing and move on.

So if you want to lie to readers, that’s fine. There’s nothing immoral about it. After all, you’re a storyteller. They’re paying you to lie to them. (Of course, if you want to actually spend a year or two writing a novel, that’s fine with me. Won’t affect my bottom line. But your stories will be stiffer, more stodgy and plodding. Your call.)

And that, my friends, is the truth. The more you trust in your creative subconscious and your characters, and the more you let them tell the stories that they, not you, are living, the more fun you’ll have, the more you’ll write (practice), and the better you’ll get at being a storyteller.

Stories exist as they’re being told or read or viewed by the consumer, and then they disappear. They are a few minutes’ or hours’ entertainment. Nothing more important than that.

Fear Thesaurus

The Writers Helping Writers website offers a Fear Thesaurus. It’s a work in progress, so it isn’t available as a book, but you can find it online at You can also find a “Descriptive Thesaurus Collection” at

I didn’t see a subscription option, but you can find their blog at the BLOG tab on their main page. I assume you can probably follow thet URL in an RSS reader. Or if you’re interested and find their content useful, you can simply bookmark the site and check in each day to see what’s there.

Note: You CAN subscribe to their newsletter (this might not be their blog) by visiting and filling out the form.

Either way, remember that Writers Helping Writers is a business. They offer workshops and other products that by and large support the myths. Still, it’s an interesting site to browse. As always, take what makes sense to you and forget the rest.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “Brood Over Your Endings” at Some good thoughts, some bowing to myths. I do not always agree with everything I pass along in this section.

See “The ‘Great Publishing Resignation’…” at

See “How Did I Get Here?” at Hints on another writer’s process and attitude about writing.

See “Robert “Willy” Pickton – The Pig-Farming Serial Killer” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 940 words

Writing of Blackwell Ops 8 (tentative title, novel)

Day 19… 2117 words. Total words to date…… 41729

Total fiction words for July……… 0
Total fiction words for the year………… 45405
Total nonfiction words for July… 7130
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 101260
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 146665

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. I’ve never said WITD is “the only way” to write, nor will I ever. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among other topics.