Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Only You Can Kill Your Writing

Seriously, You Can’t Fail At Writing Unless You Quit Writing…

That’s why I called those twenty items in yesterday’s blog tombstones. They mark the moment a writer stops writing. The reason for the death of the dream.

And it is always the writer who makes the decision to quit. The failure is always self-inflicted.

But today I got some wonderful comments and private letters about how many of you have made it through some of these death markers. And that is fantastic and each letter and comment made me smile. Because few do make it through.

How to you get through all the traps that can kill your writing?

First, realize you are stuck in a bad place. Figure out how to get out and what went wrong.

Second, clear out the problem and start writing again. Focus on having fun with the writing.

Third, make the writing a process, not a project focused event. In other words, all that matters is the writing, not the end product. The end product will take care of itself. Make the process of telling a story fun and exciting and challenging.

Fourth, keep learning both business and craft.

And then when you find yourself down in another death trap and the writing is grinding to a halt, look at the steps you took to escape an earlier problem and repeat.

As I said, all long-term writers fought through many of these, had complete career crashes along the way, and thought many times about quitting. But we all found a way to just keep going.

That’s why the stories of those of you who see where you got stuck and are fighting to keep going makes me smile. It means chances are you will make the writing fun again and survive.

And that is just darned cool!


  • Harvey

    “…all that matters is the writing, not the end product.” Another absolute keeper, Dean. Once the writer recognizes the difference between “the writing” and “the story/novel,” there are no boundaries.

  • Philip

    I was stuck in the trap of all this indie “write to market” nonsense. It paralyzed me. I simply didn’t know what type of story was “worth” writing. I took your depth workshop and said screw it. I want to write what’s fun to write for me and that’s modern noir crime. I don’t care if it’s not a James Patterson or Girl on the Train ripoff, it’s what I enjoy reading. Old school pulp. Fuck it. 50k words of non PC masculine crime tales. Thanks, Dean.

    • Janine

      I have to say this “write to market” myth is still floating around. Every other how-to write/publish guide specifically or heavily implies that an important step is to “figure out your market” and/or “know what your audience wants”. This implies that anything the writer wants to write isn’t good enough (and plays into the whole book doctor/workshop myths down the road) and those that are into tracking trends (and likely have no idea how to write a novel) know more than writers. This actually stumped me for a bit, but I realized that if I wrote trendy stories that I had little interest in writing except for an easy sell, my readers would see through it and would come off as fairly stale. Instead, I write what I want and love writing it, even though it might lead to little sales.

      By the way, this “write to market” nonsense, much bigger problem for those wanting to traditional publish, since it’s almost all about chasing trends.

  • Kenny

    Dean, I’ve quit, come back, quit, come back (maybe a couple more times too) to my writing.

    I almost quit again recently until I re-found your teachings. Now I’m working on getting back to having fun with my writing and focusing upon writing as a process: as you teach.

    • Janine

      Kenny, I’m in the same boat. It’s taken me a while to get back in the groove, but I find cleansing yourself of the myths to be a process as well, it doesn’t just happen overnight, since we didn’t learn the myths overnight. But I’m having fun with it, and increasing by the day on most days. Don’t give up, and re read Dean and Kris and their advice as much as needed to truly understand it.

  • Alexandra

    I very recently found your things and read Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing and watched all the stuff on your youtube + the Heinlein Rules workshop. I only recently finished my first long story since I was 16 (I’m 27 now), and that plus your insights that just completely shifted my view on writing gave me something of a boost that I’ve never experienced before. I’m currently writing 2k words a day, for a month now, and I’m going to try and keep this up. I know it’s not much from a career point of view, but I do hope that it is a start.

    I also just saw what a “line editor” is and holy fucking shit _why_ (fittingly enough, it was in the context of a freelance agent on twitter telling people their stories would benefit from that… just like… how?)

    • dwsmith

      2,000 words a day is in the area most long-term pros do. So it is just fine. Well done! And yup, stay away from the scam editors. They are scary.