Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Novel Four: Finished. Challenge Made!


Burn Card: A Cold Poker Gang Novel is printed and sitting on Kris’s spot for her to read when she gets time.

I wrote four novels in one month while working a day job, getting rest, having a life, and so on.

The only reason I could do this was because I have all the myths of writing that were jammed down my throat by non-writers out of my mind.

I have always admired the old pulp writers, so over the years I have studied what they did, how they did it, and slowly incorporated what I learned into my own writing. I try to teach that in workshops and show that right here.

I hope that being out in the open about this helped some. I sure had fun.

The Day Went Like This…

Got up at 2:30 p.m., did just a slight bit of e-mail and made it to WMG offices around 4 p.m. I worked there on stuff until about 6 p.m., then headed to the grocery store and then home to get started early on the workshop assignments.

I did that, cooked dinner, took a nap, and got back to the workshop stuff by 10 p.m. and had it done tonight by 11:30 and to my writing computer fifteen minutes later.

The Writing Today Went Like This…

I did 1,400 words before 1 a.m..

Took a break, another 1,300 words before 2 a.m.

I got another 1,200 words done before 3:15 a.m. because I watched fifteen minutes of television to stretch out my back once again. I twisted my back at WMG about five days ago and it has been painful. But it’s getting better now.

Took a quick break and did another 1,200 words before 4:15 a.m.

At this point I was working on the validation, so I knew I needed to go back and run at the entire thing again. So I cycled back about fifteen thousand words and worked through the climax of the book again. That added in about 500 words and took an hour.

Break and got another 1,300 words by 6 a.m and finished it. Printed the book while starting to write this blog.

6,900 words in 6 sessions. 

I wrote 41,500 words for this novel, but in that last pass and yesterday’s run-through, I cut out two small silly cycles. So the book is shorter.



166,800 words of fiction. (over Pulp 5 Speed)

236,700 words of writing, not counting answering blog questions.

I worked 168.5 hours of my “day job” at WMG Publishing. That is basically working 40 hours per week on average for the month.

For the first three weeks I also did a lot of exercise. That dropped away for the last week, but will start back tomorrow on August 1st. 

I wrote every day for all 31 days. My lowest word count total in a day was 3,100 words which I did three different days. My highest word count for a day was 8,300 words. I tended to average just over 6,000 words a day. About five hours of writing for me a day.

Three of the four novels were written with the cover as a writing prompt. I did no planning ahead, didn’t even know which novel I was going to write next the day before I started it. No outlining at all. Everything into the dark.



I am 66 years of age, worked a full-time job, and had a blast writing for the month. I wrote into the dark without any ideas ahead of time.

If I can do it, anyone can, if you get the myths of writing out of your head and enjoy telling stories.

And if you hear yourself saying… “But…” might want to check in where that is coming from. You are only limiting yourself.

Just saying. 


Novel #1…The Writing of TOMBSTONE CANYON: A Thunder Mountain Novel

 Challenge Day 1… Words written… 6,600.  Total so far… 6,600 words.
Challenge Day 2… Words written… 6,700.  Total so far… 13,300 words.
Challenge Day 3… Words written… 6,100.  Total so far… 19,400 words.
Challenge Day 4… Words written… 6,200.  Total so far… 25,600 words.
Challenge Day 5… Words written… 6,200.  Total so far…, 31,800 words.
Challenge Day 6… Words written… 6,100.  Total so far…, 37,900 words.
Challenge Day 7… Words written… 3,200.  Final Total…, 41,100 words. (Novel count is 38,000)


Challenge Novel #2


Novel #2…The Writing of DEATH TAKES A DIAMOND: A Mary Jo Assassin Novel

 Challenge Day 8… Words written… 6,400.  Total so far… 6,400 words.
 Challenge Day 9… Words written… 6,100.  Total so far… 12,500 words.
 Challenge Day 10… Words written… 3,200.  Total so far… 15,700 words.
 Challenge Day 11… Words written… 2,900.  Total written so far… 18,600 words.
 Challenge Day 12… Words written… 3,100.  Total written so far… 21,700 words.
 Challenge Day 13… Words written… 6,100.  Total written so far… 27,800 words.
 Challenge Day 14… Words written… 3,300.  Total written so far… 31,100 words.
 Challenge Day 15… Words written… 6,200.  Total written so far… 37,300 words.
 Challenge Day 16… Words written… 6,500.  Final total written… 43,800 words. (Novel is no where near that long and might get shorter still after Kris reads it.)


Challenge Novel #3


Novel #3…The Writing of DRY CREEK CROSSING: A Thunder Mountain Novel

 Challenge Day 17… Words written… 3,100.  Total so far… 3,100 words.
 Challenge Day 18… Words written… 3,400.  Total so far… 6,500 words.
 Challenge Day 19… Words written… 2,900.  Total so far… 9,400 words.
 Challenge Day 20… Words written… 6,200.  Total so far… 15,600 words.
 Challenge Day 21… Words written… 6,300.  Total so far… 21,900 words.
 Challenge Day 22… Words written… 6,100.  Total so far… 28,000 words.
 Challenge Day 23… Words written… 6,000.  Total so far… 34,000 words.
 Challenge Day 24… Words written… 3,100.  Total so far… 37,100 words.
 Challenge Day 25… Words written… 3,300.  Final total writer… 40,400 words. (Novel is not that long.)


Challenge Novel #4


Novel #4…The Writing of BURN CARD: A Cold Poker Gang Mystery

 Challenge Day 26 … Words written… 7,300  Total so far… 7,300 words.
 Challenge Day 27 … Words written… 6,200  Total so far… 13,500 words.
 Challenge Day 28 … Words written… 6,400  Total so far… 19,900 words.
 Challenge Day 29 … Words written… 8,300  Total so far… 28,200 words.
 Challenge Day 30 … Words written… 6,400  Total so far… 34,600 words.
 Challenge Day 31 … Words written… 6,900  Final Total written for book… 41,500 words. (Novel got cut back slightly.)


The Day Breakdown

6.5 hours writing… 6,900 words
0 hours exercise plus normal movement… 3,600 steps
5.5 hours of work for workshops and e-mails and meetings and such.

The rest is television and cooking and so on. Plus 8 hours of sleep. Two 10 minute naps.


Days over 6,000 words… 21 of 31
Days over 11,000 steps… 11 of 31

16 hours of regular job work this week. Today is week day three.


Tracking Word Counts… July 31st, 2017
Writing in Public blog streak… Day 1,412

— Daily Fiction: 6,900 original words. Fiction month-to-date: 166,800 words  
— Nonfiction: 00 new words. Nonfiction month-to-date total: 700 words
— Blog Posts:800 new words. Blog month-to-date word count: 15,500 words
— E-mail: 41 e-mails.  Approx. 2,800 original words.  E-mails month-to date: 922 e-mails. Approx. 53,700 words



All have openings at the moment. Information at

Any questions at all, feel free to write me. And if you are confused as to which workshop to take first, we have a full curriculum posted on its own page.

Class #13… Aug 8th … Depth #3: Research
Class #14… Aug 8th … Endings
Class #15… Aug 8th … Point of View
Class #16… Aug 8th … Writing Mysteries
Class #17… Aug 8th … Speed
Class #18… Aug 8th … Teams in Fiction
Class #19… Aug 9th … Depth in Writing
Class #20… Aug 9th … How to Edit Your Own Work
Class #21… Aug 9th … Character Development
Class #22… Aug 9th … Writing Secondary Plot Lines
Class #23… Aug 9th … Advanced Depth
Class #24… Aug 9th … Writing Fantasy


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.


  • Isabo Kelly

    Well done, Dean! I have really loved watching you do this challenge. Looked like a lot of fun and was very motivating! Thanks for doing these put in public.

  • Lassal

    I had a blast following this challenge!
    Cannot wait to read the books!

    Congratulations, Dean!

    I never doubted that you could do this, but leaving the writing for last was risky (= open invitation for Mr. Murphy.)
    I guess I would not have had the nerves. 🙂

    • dwsmith

      I couldn’t fight the world if I left it for when the world was awake. Amazing how much calmer it is between midnight and 6 a.m. A couple times things intruded, but if I had tried to write during the day, the entire world would have intruded. (grin) Thanks, Lassal.

  • Lee Dennis

    Mega congrats! I figured that was the reason you posted late this morning.
    Now go get in some steps — consider race-walking, might be easier on the knees.
    I had fun looking up “validation” on the Goog. Thanks for that.

  • Shawna

    That’s certainly impressive, and it’s cool to see that you succeeded at this rather audacious goal.

    “If I can do it, anyone can, if you get the myths of writing out of your head and enjoy telling stories.”

    I think it’s good to note, though, that not everyone *wants* to write this way, and it’s not the way that will work best for everyone. I think it would be easy for people to see what you can do, and see comments like that, and then get frustrated when they actually *can’t* replicate your results. Not everyone writes in the same way. Someone might try to do it your way and get frustrated that they can’t get any writing done, then try to go the opposite and outline everything and get frustrated when they can’t do that either, then think there must be something wrong with them or they’re not really a writer.

    I think one of the most challenging things a writer has to do in their career is figure out what *their* process needs to be. What will make *them* most productive–while producing work they’re proud of and satisfied with. The debate that a lot of writers have, “plotting or pantsing” can, I think, be quite damaging to beginner writers because if they find it hard to succeed with one or the other, they may doubt themselves a lot, where the truth is that their ideal process is some combination of the two.

    I found myself stalled out for a long time on this book I’m working on, and I think the reason was that I was expecting myself to plot it all out ahead of time, and I couldn’t manage to do that. But I know from plenty of experience that if I sit down to write with no idea where I’m going, I quickly run into a ditch, if I’m even able to get any words out at all. But recently I think I’ve been figuring out exactly what combination of plotting and pantsing works best for me and my style (at least for this type of book). And on a day off recently, I was able to get 5,000 words written by just forcing myself to focus and do it, with this particular process/approach that I’ve been figuring out. That was huge for me, and something I’m trying to figure out how to do more regularly.

    Sorry if I’m rambling. I just wanted to say, for anyone who’s been watching your progress, that not all writers are able to replicate this–and it’s not necessarily because they have “myths” in their head. It’s just not the way their brain/creativity works. Not everyone is a pulp writer or wants to be. But it’s useful to read about what works for many other writers, because that really helps in finding your own individual process. It always amazes me how different writers are in the way we write. You say that you don’t get ideas ahead of time, whereas I can’t imagine not having a constant backlog of ideas I want to write when I can get around to it. Not everyone’s the same, and not all processes will work for everyone. And that’s okay. The important thing is each writer finding what works for them.

    But no matter what your process is, Butt In Chair is critical. There’s really no getting around that.

    • dwsmith

      Well, thanks, Shawna. Interesting that you said that not all could replicate this and not necessarily because they have myths in their heads, and you just gave us a list of myths and excuses. Interesting. See folks, how impossible the myths are to break? Right there in one simple comment.

      • Scott Gordon

        I was thinking the same thing.

        Why not try the Writing in the Dark process for a few months, leaving all preconceived notions behind, and see what you produce?

      • George

        I’ve stopped listening to the “Shawnas” out there a long time ago. I don’t know her and yet I do. In every writer’s group, in every writer’s class, in every comment section one or two such people always pop up. Seemingly filled with ‘well meaning advice” , they back hand complement the original writer who has in some way shown us an easier way, a better way and complain: well not EVERYONE can do what you do.

        Dean has written well over a hundred novels in his time, has taught and created countless hours of teaching writers all the indie and outs of the writer’s life, edited, read and analyzed the writing of hundreds of writers.

        I’ll take his word over others anyway. Besides his way works. But here’s the rub: you actually have yo do what he says. I bought Deans Heinleins Rules book recently. I decided to empty my mind of all the crap and started doing what the book said and it works. For the first time in my life I’m actually having fun writing and as Ray Bradbury says “writing is playing in the fields of the Lord”.

        I know your not a religious man Dean– but I am. Though I only follow a Grace filled faith. And you sir preach Grace in the writer’s life like Bradbury did. Fun not Heavy Industry. Love and Joy not drudgery and fear! To me your teaching is a Godsend. There I said it.

        • dwsmith

          Wow, George, thank you. That is amazingly kind and I really appreciate it.

          I call Heinlein’s Rules (not mine) magic for the writer. They clear out myths and if you go at them with fun in mind, the results are stunning.

          And yes, Bradbury often talked of the fun of telling a story, the joy of getting up in the morning to tell a story. I had numbers of great conversations with him in hotel bars about things like that. Julius Swartz, Ray, Kris, and me. I liked talking with him about the stuff he did starting out, the writing a story a day, keeping the joy and fun in the writing. His eyes always lit up, even toward the end of his life, when he talked about writing stories.

          So thanks, George. Very, very much appreciated.

          • George

            My pleasure Dean. You and your wife spent time chatting with Bradbury! If you ever write a book about that I’ll buy it for my collection. I collect bios and interviews of Bradbury (as well as his fiction and poetry books). //. Heinlein’s rules are magic but until I read your book and posts they didn’t click with me, they didn’t register. (And I hadn’t realized there is an subtext of connection between Bradbury writing with Joy and Heinlein’s writing rules). You actually unpacked the rules and elaborate them in such a way that a light switches on. Thanks to you I ‘get it’ now as they say.

    • J.M. Ney-Grimm

      But recently I think I’ve been figuring out exactly what combination of plotting and pantsing works best for me… And on a day off recently, I was able to get 5,000 words written…

      Shawna, I just wanted to say CONGRATS on figuring out what works for you and for that 5,000-word day. Keep at it! 😀

  • Anthony

    Congratulations Dean for successfully completing this challenge

    Thank you for the inspiration. Thank you for the destruction of the myths. Thank you for showing what can be done in the field of writing.

    I write more, more regularly thanks to you. I still have difficulty writing in complete darkness, but I have progressed thanks to you : now I can write in a poorly lit place (a beginning of story in my head, with a slight outline and a vague idea of ending).

    From Anthony : A Frenchman who reads your blog every day (and who regrets by following this one not being good enough in English to understand the workshops. It is a translation of Google that allows me to follow you. Thanks to Google (grin)).

  • DS Butler

    Awesome work , Dean. This challenge has been fun to follow. I just saw a new update on Patreon and downloaded my copy of Smith’s Monthly. I checked the inside of the pdf to make sure it downloaded right and ended up reading the Mable Grant story. I wasn’t supposed to read until later but got sucked in. Great story.

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, DS. And another Smith’s with another Marble Grant story will be right behind that one on Wednesday. And another next Monday. In fact, for the next ten Smith’s Monthly issues, I will lead off with a Marble Grant story. So thanks, glad you liked it. Patreon folks are the first to see Marble Grant. Subscribers should get their copies today.

  • allynh

    Well done, Dean. Another great July.

    When people graduate from The NaNoWriMo Challenge, they should then try your JustDoItInJuly Challenge. HA!

    • dwsmith

      Ahh, don’t start that.(grin) The NaNoWriMo people all write sloppy, for the most part, because that is the myth. I wrote four finished, final draft novels. Let those folks work on learning how to write one final draft novel the first time through.(grin)

      • Lynn

        I can’t knock on NaNoWriMo. I used my first NaNoWriMo in 2010 to finish my very first completely written into the dark novel (that was a couple of years before I found your blog) and since I didn’t choose to write sloppy, when I finished the month, I had 50k of finished book. I don’t know how much longer it would have taken me to get that far in my writing if I hadn’t found NaNoWriMo. I mean, the last novel I’d written before that took me 10+ years to finish! NaNoWriMo showed me I could write faster and better and do it without a plan and keep it neat and tidy as I went. Because of that, I love NaNoWriMo!

        • dwsmith

          I knock it only because it hurts many people with the write sloppy, fix later thinking, and 95% of all the people who write those sloppy drafts never get around to fixing and sending out. If they changed the focus to write clean and get a clean 50 thousand words done, I would be their biggest supporter. But right now it is just pushing a really bad myth.

          • Annemarie Nikolaus

            That’s indeed the problem mit NaNoWriMo.
            But it so helps people to be brave enough to write on, no matter what. As Lynn said. At least people learn nt notmeditae every single word to death.

  • Robert J. McCarter

    Well done, Dean!

    Thanks for doing this in public again. Every one of these challenges where you “walk the talk” really helps the lessons you teach sink in.

    The more I think about it and try some of this craziness, it is so clear that fun is really the key. If writing is “play,” if it’s what you would do anyway if you had the chance, it doesn’t have to be this angst filled difficult thing.

    Can’t wait to see what your next challenge will be.


    • dwsmith

      The fun is everything. Why would anyone do this art form if it was work? That’s when someone really wants to know what I do for a living I tell them I sit alone in a room and make stuff up. Keeps the idea of fun even in the description.

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, Leah. Sometimes the only way to knock down a myth is to show that it is a myth by just doing what the myth says can’t be done. If that made any sense. (grin)

  • Russ

    Wow. Congratulations. I have enjoyed watching your progress through the month and 4 stories. Impressive. What’s the next challenge?

  • Gnondpom

    Congratulations Dean! After following you for quite a while, I knew you were able to do it, but seeing it done for real, day after day, that’s still amazing, not to mention very inspirational.

    Thanks for taking us on this ride!

  • Vera Soroka

    Awesome job! I wanted to listen to a podcast today so I clicked onto Joanne Penn and there you were! Great interview and giggled when she asked about Select.

  • Richard

    Fantastic job, Dean! Much gratitude and respect. Your posts are often like a friendly hand, helping me up to attain my best work. And my best work always happens –just as you say–when writing is fun. Tip of the ten gallon to you, pard!!

  • Stefon Mears

    Well done, Dean. That’s a lot of play time for one month. Bet it felt like you were getting away with something.

    Sorry to hear about your back. Hope it feels better soon.

  • Martin

    Congrats from Germany, Dean. I have worked in the industry for 20 years, writing mostly pulps (which are called “Groschenroman” in Germany), and the editors always wanted an outline before I was “allowed” to write the novel – grrrr. Now I am doing more and more stuff self-published, and I love to write completely into the dark. Thanks to your advice, I got the fun back in my writing again and look forward to do more and more novels this way. Thank you very much – and your challenge was very inspiring, to say the least.

  • Karen Fonville

    Yay, Dean! It’s been great following along on this crazy ride and I thank you for taking us with you. I can’t wait until the next crazy challenge, because that’s always one that I think maybe I can do. He Hehehehe. !!!!! (Doesn’t matter WHAT your challenge is, your excitement has us considering …. can I do that? Makes us stretch in our minds which is the first step in stretching our selves!

    Well done!!!!


  • Lynn

    Congratulations on finishing the challenge! I knew you could do it. Figured the only thing that’d stop you was what you call a life roll. Now, on to the next, right? 😀

  • Mary Jo Rabe

    Congratulations! I never doubted that you would finsh all the novels. Now I can’t wait to read them.