Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing,  Topic of the Night

Automatic Confidence

Topic of the Night: Automatic Confidence

Lots and lots of writers get lost in the process of publishing between the moment they finish their story or novel and the moment it gets into print in one fashion or another.

Getting lost in this area often comes from a lack of confidence.

And fear. Massive fear.

Not sure what writers are afraid of, but sometimes releasing a work for a writer is like walking into nests of spiders. Or worse.

This lack of confidence and fear leads to either not publishing or rewriting, which is a form of not publishing.

So here tonight is an idea for you, something I call Automatic Confidence.

A Personal Note

Now, I know a vast amount about craft and storytelling and have the hundreds of published novels and even more hundreds of published short stories to prove it. Not even counting the teaching and editing I do year after year.

And yet, as I have always said, writers are the worst judges of their own work. And I am no exception to that rule, one of the only real rules in writing.

Since I started following Heinlein’s Rules in 1982 I have been convinced at a deep level that everything I write is crap. I never say that and I never act on that feeling because I learned through seven lost years of rewriting how bad that path is.

But I flat don’t trust myself to make any judgement on anything I have written. Ever.

So I don’t. It really is that simple and that hard.

And to make sure I never get a chance to make a crippling and wrong judgement on my own work, I have set up what I call Automatic Confidence.

What is Automatic Confidence?

Basically, it is a system that you follow to get yourself past all the points of critical voice taking back a story and trying to “fix” it. Or toss it away.

For example, for me, I have a three step process. It used to be a step or two longer in traditional and the early days of indie publishing, but it is down to three now.

Remember, I do not rewrite. When I get to the end of a book, it is done for me.

So my Automatic Confidence is this:

Step One: I print up the novel or story and give it to Kris, my first reader.

Step Two: I look at any correction she has made on my manuscript and decide if I want to fix it or not. I fix typos and unclear antecedents. If she has a story suggestion, I sometimes give that some thought. But I never reread the book, I just fix the mistakes.

Step Three: I give the book to Allyson at WMG Publishing to get to a copyeditor. I never see it again until it hits print. I have trained Allyson and the copyeditor who works on my stuff to go very light and about ever three books I have to answer a query or two.

You might have to have a step four in looking at the copyedits until you get a copyeditor trained completely to your voice and style. And you might need to fix the mistakes the copyeditor finds in typos, but Allyson does that for me at WMG.

So I have three steps in my Automatic Confidence.

By the time the book or story hits that third step, I am on to the next story. It is automatic.

I never have to fight the battle of believing something I write sucks and killing it. Or worse, rewriting it. I never face that.

I let readers decide.

Most long-term pros have variations of Automatic Confidence systems they have built into their process. But I almost never see beginning and young professionals with such systems. So I hear from them a great deal about how they agonize about the release process.

Stop the judgement on your own work. Make the release process automatic in some fashion or another and never give it another thought.

Just a suggestion to save you some grief and also to maybe save some of your work from self-destruction.

Hope it helps.

(If you want to hear a little more about this, take the Speed Online Workshop.)


October Online Workshops Start In One Week

Click the workshop tab above for description and sign-up or go to

Questions about any of the workshops, feel free to write me.

All are limited to 5 writers. All still have room at the moment.

Class #31… Oct 4th … The Business of Writing
Class #32… Oct 4th … Character Voice/Setting
Class #33… Oct 4th … Writing Mysteries
Class #34… Oct 4th … Speed
Class #35… Oct 4th … Teams in Fiction
Class #36… Oct 5th … Depth in Writing
Class #37… Oct 5th … Point of View
Class #38… Oct 5th … Writing Fiction Sales Copy
Class #39… Oct 5th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #40… Oct 5th … Advanced Depth

Classic Workshops and Lectures are also available at any time.

If you are wondering what order would be best to take some of these workshops, we have done a curriculum for the workshops. You can see that at


Star Fall is Out in a Bundle

Repeating this again since I really hope a bunch of you get this bundle to see what I produced in those ten days in August. Some of you might remember the book I wrote in ten days while aiming at seven days in late August. Star Fall: A Seeders Universe Novel. That book is now available as I promised it would be. The official publication date isn’t until November, but at the moment it is available in a fantastic bundle called The Extreme Science Fiction Bundle. 

Also notice that in this bundle there is a fantastic Retrieval Artist novel called Extremes by Kris. It also has a great novel by Kevin J. Anderson, another by Mike Resnick, and another by M.L. Buchman. Plus two books by J. Daniel Sawyer.

And also an amazing volume of Fiction River: Risk Takers. I edited that and it is a fantastic example of a Fiction River volume.




Totals For Year 4, Month 2, Day 27

Writing in Public blog streak… Day 1,104

Total Miles This Month… 143 miles

— Daily Fiction: 00 original words. Fiction month-to-date: 4,700 words  

— Nonfiction: 00 new words. Nonfiction month-to-date total: 1,500 words 

— Blog Posts: 800 new words. Blog month-to-date word count: 9,800 words

— E-mail: 29 e-mails. Approx. 2,100 original words.  E-mails month-to date:418 e-mails. Approx. 26,600 words

— Covers Designed and Finished: 0. Covers finished month-to-date: 0 Covers


— Year of Short Fiction Goal: 120 stories (July 1st to June 30th). Stories finished to date: 8 stories.

— Yearly Novel Goal: 12 Novels. Novels finished to date: 2 novels.


You can support this ongoing blog at Patreon on a monthly basis. Not per post. Just click on the Patreon image. Thanks for your support.


  • J.M. Ney-Grimm

    But I flat don’t trust myself to make any judgement on anything I have written. Ever.

    So I don’t.

    I did a lot of writing over the years, but I never attempted a writing career until I encountered your blog in the summer of 2011 and learned that the indie world had arrived. Which meant I simply adopted as many of your systems as you cared to share.

    So when I was ready to attempt my first indie publication (released December 2011), I sent the manuscript to a perceptive and trusted friend, I made corrections based on her feedback, I prepared the file for uploading (and created a cover, wrote a blurb), and uploaded.

    I see that I saved myself a world of trouble by simply skipping any attempt to judge the work myself. Since then, I have released titles 2 through 19, and I will soon release number 20. I won’t say I’ve never had qualms. Of course I have. But the qualms were never part of my process, and thus hindered me minimally. Thank you, Dean!

  • JM6

    What would you say to those people who would say the reason you can do that is because, for several years, you *did* revise and rewrite stories a lot? They would say that the revising and rewriting is what helped get you to the point of good first-draft storywriting so that writing once and releasing it into the wild was an option.

    Part of me wants to succumb to that urge, and a lot of writers talking to a lot of aspiring writers around here focus on revision as where the true craft of writing is done.

    I’ve read your blog for a long time, so I understand why you do it that way (not losing the author’s voice and creative spark, etc.) but I’m surrounded by people who revise.

    • dwsmith

      And those people will be gone in a few years, sadly. I almost didn’t survive my rewriting days and everything it cost me. Trust me, I learned nothing from those years at all except to not do it.

      So if people find they must rewrite, just turn and walk away because it’s easier than watch them self-destruct in a few years.

  • Maree

    I like posts like this where you crack the door open a bit. You don’t share much of the emotional side and it’s very reassuring to see it. Serious professional writers either act like crippling self doubt is normal, or they have giant egos. I don’t know where to place myself in that game.
    I have watched you do a couple of challenges, and while it’s inspiring to see it play out I feel like you retreat to a log of activities. I worked out, I had a meeting, I cooked and ate dinner, I sat down and wrote etc
    And this is complicated. Because on the very real side of being a writer it’s that mundane.
    But inside that mundane is the actual writing. And you don’t talk about that much. You talk about it in a general teaching sense, but, I want to see a bit more. You give little hints sometimes but you’re still in the shadows.

    • dwsmith

      Maree, that’s because all of the craft stuff is in the workshops. And trust me, there’s a ton of tricks and methods in those workshops on different topics. (grin)

  • Harvey


    I hope you keep doing what you’re doing with this blog and everything else. I’ve learned a great deal from your workshops and lectures, but I dare say I’ve learned almost as much just reading your blog. Most often there’s a gem or two tucked away that you might not even realilze is there. Just keep talking, chatting with us. Many, many of us are listening and grateful.

  • Sheila

    Every time I hit the publish button, or submit something to an anthology or open submission call, I immediately start yelling at myself about how stupid can I be, to think anyone would want to read the crap I write. Gut churning doubt, you betcha.

    Why it hasn’t stopped me, I have no idea. I have about the lowest self-esteem of anyone I’ve ever heard of, but somehow, I just throw the words out there anyway. Apparently, I’m not quite as bad a writer as I try to tell myself, because the stuff sells and there aren’t any bad reviews on the writing itself.

    Now, if I could do better at promoting, and keep the butt in chair and actually write more. But, I’ll get there.

    Thanks for another great post, Dean!