On Writing,  publishing

Logic: The Lost Art in Being a Fiction Writer

Don’t Try Logic… Dangerous to Your Myths

I have been going on now in numbers of posts about how we fiction writers sabotage ourselves. Fear without real cause is the normal reason.

But I have another deeper reason tonight.

Lack of logic.

In a few posts I used math to try to make sense of the silliness of a few myths. Math tends to be very logical.

Simply put, fiction writers, when it comes to the very basis of being a fiction writer, toss all logic out the window and listen to people who have never written or published a book.

This goes on from the very beginning of every writer’s career.  The one uniform trait in becoming a full-time fiction writer is that you must have the ability to unlearn all the crap. Unlearn all the illogical aspects of both the craft and the business.

Now I talked about much of this in the posts called Killing a Sacred Cow of Publishing or of Indie Publishing. You can read all those under the tab above or buy the books.

But let me give you a few examples here applying logic to some of the more illogical aspects of publishing.

— Agents. If you wouldn’t give your gardner 15% ownership of your home for mowing your lawn every wee, so why give an agent 15% of your property for doing even less work? Yet writers spend years and years chasing the opportunity to do just that.

— Copyright. Fiction writers license nothing but copyright to make money, but ask a writer who claims they want to make a living with their fiction a basic copyright question and you will get the blank look and a quick change of subject.

— Rewriting. A writer with a certain level of talent thinks, no believes, that the talent that created the story, and thus the story itself, will get magically better just because it is a second or third draft. (And heaven help you if you try to tell a writer to try to learn how the creative process really works.)

— Wanting to Be Taken Care Of. Writers think that some major corporation only thinking of the bottom line and buying all of the writer’s rights in their work will take care of them. Yeah, P.T. Barnum had a saying for those kinds of folks.

— Book Doctor/Story Editor. Writers think that someone who has never published a novel (and wouldn’t know how to construct a novel if their life depended on it) are worth paying thousands of dollars to get advice from. These book doctors or story editors took private lessons from P.T. Barnum.

— If You Don’t Write Much You Will Get Better. This one is so stupid I have trouble even trying to talk about it without laughing. And I really enjoy the fact that writers think if they don’t write much and do it REALLY SLOWLY they will get even better. (English teachers rejoice at even less homework to read.)

You get the idea. (I hope.)

Logic does not apply in being a fiction writer. Frighteningly, when a writer starts applying logic to some of the myths of publishing, it’s like turning on a light in a room full of cockroaches. Everything scatters into hiding.

Remember How This Discussion Started a Few Weeks Back?

I came back from writing a book in five days while traveling, and wrote a book about doing that as well. And I found myself thinking that was something special.

No, put it this way, I caught myself thinking it was special.

“Caught” being the important word there.

An example of the lack of logic flitting into my world once again because none of us are immune to the stupidity of this writing business when it comes to forgetting logic.

Writing (as the math post about writing fast showed) is simply a matter of spending time writing.

What was special for me on that trip is that I carved out about 35 hours or so over five days to write the novel instead of watching mindless television in the hotel room as I often do while traveling.

Nothing more. Nothing special. Anyone could do it and many have.

And yet I was worried about it being a stupid idea going into it. Worried I wouldn’t be able to do it. I never once stopped and applied logic to the situation. Not until I was finished and discovered it was actually very easy. And fun. Then my logical mind kicked in.

So over some of these posts I’ve been asking basic logic questions.

— Who is going to come and kill you if you put out a story that doesn’t work?

— Who is going to read a story that doesn’t work besides your family who mercy buy it and then not read it?

— Why are you writing sloppy and then having to spend valuable writing time going back and cleaning up what you could have done right the first time through?

— How can you claim you want to be a professional fiction writer and haven’t tried to learn anything, bought a writing book, taken a writing class, in years?

— How can you claim you want to be a fiction writer and you make no time to read for pleasure?

— Why are you calling the fun of sitting and telling a story “work” when it is play?

— Why are you letting myths and fear stop you from your dream?

— Why are you afraid to learn business to help you have more time to sit and play?

I really don’t want any excuses for those questions above. In fact, if you find yourself instantly coming up with an excuse, you might want to check in with yourself and not tell the rest of us. Just saying…

So tonight, I wanted to use the word “logic” on this topic.

For beginning fiction writers, logic is a lost art.

For those of us down the road a ways in this career, the loss of logic can still cause problems if we don’t catch it soon enough.

But if you want to be a long-term fiction writer, start looking at fiction writing and the business around it logically.

You might be stunned at what you actually see when you flip on the logic light and the cockroaches scamper to hide.

Have fun.



  • Bob Tinsley

    In the early 2000s while working full time as a consulting engineer I wrote about 20 short stories, from the dark, over an 18 month period and placed 15 of them (some for “exposure,” most for candy money). The ones I didn’t place were, looking back on it, from lack of trying (fear!). Then I took a course on TV writing. The first, unbreakable, rule of TV writing is that you must first write an outline. From that point on my writing faltered into nothing. I did, circa 2007, write six audio drama scripts, from the dark, that were produced. No money, and at that time less prospect for money than short stories. The point being that even though I didn’t get paid other people were willing to invest their time, talent, and resources to produce an actual, professional sounding product which indicated that I was doing something right. Unfortunately I was still trying to outline short fiction and dying of boredom. Looking at it logically at the time should have told me that writing from the dark was the right thing to do. Even as an engineer logic can be trumped by “experts” from another field.

  • Marion

    “How can you claim you want to be a fiction writer and you make no time to read for pleasure?” This question from your post hits home for me. Dean, I have never understood why many, many writers say they don’t have time to read for pleasure. Most writers came to writing from being avid readers. And why does have to stop when you are writing and publishing novels? I have never understood and yes I have published 2 novels and currently working on a third. Reading for pleasure has not gotten in the way of writing for me. Thanks for this post.

    • Mary McKenna

      I don’t get this one either. And ask people who believe it and they will give you the most tortured answers.

      “Reading would take away my writing time.”
      “I don’t want to copy what I read.”
      “I want my work to be original.”
      “You don’t really have to read now, you just have to have read in the past.”

      I think they really don’t like reading, but I can’t figure why they want to be writers.

    • Felicia

      I have the opposite problem. I read too much (*gasp* is that even possible??)

      Some days I get zero writing done because I’m so absorbed in my current book that I don’t want to put it down. (I’m looking at you Way of Kings).

      It’s a balance.

  • Grace Bridges

    Thank you for being perpetually encouraging, Dean. I really appreciate the way you share your discoveries with us. Logic is indeed a great motivator. I’ve been working on finding my speed (right around 1k/hour) and now I can use all of the calculations and kick all the excuses to the door. It’s just a matter of time, as you say. So simple. Thanks again. I needed this today – heck, when don’t we?