Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing,  workshops

Trust the Reader

Trust the Reader

I have a hunch that the phrase “trust the reader” is going to come out of my mouth a lot this week. Just guessing.

What exactly does that mean in general? Basically, it means to let the readers decide if something you wrote works or not. How do they decide? They spend money on it. If it doesn’t work, they won’t buy it.

Trust the reader.

Sounds so simple, but for most writers, almost impossible, if not flat impossible. Writers have this ego thing that makes them think they are the best judges of their own work. And, of course, no story is ever perfect, so writers come up with the strangest and silliest things to sooth their own egos.

Things like rewriting a bunch of times. Or things like story editors. Or a workshop full of beginning writers. Or a flock of beta readers, whatever those things are.

It all comes from fear, of course. And it comes from a fantastic lack of understanding how the creative process actually works.

About the only rule in all of publishing is this: Writers are the worst judges of their own work. Never seen an exception to this, especially when someone claims they know. They never do.

And writers seldom know what they wrote. This never mattered back in traditional publishing days, but now a writer must figure out a way to find out what they wrote, what genre, what sub-genre.

Yet writers believe they know when a story is perfect, when it is ready to release.

Think of a really good steak, high quality, cut perfectly, ready to cook. But if that steak was a newer writer’s manuscript, they would take a wooden mallet to it and pound it down over and over until it barely held together.

I mentioned once before about automatic release to take this process out of your critical voice control. Write the story, get to the end, and release to one first reader, then fix the mistakes the first reader found and send to a copyeditor, then publish.

Set it up as automatic. No decisions, no value judgements from you, the writer. Don’t pound your poor story into nothingness.

Let the reader decide if it works or not while you are writing the next story.

A lot more fun that way.

This is a bundle you don’t want to miss. And in the process of reading all the wonderful novels in the bundle, I hope you enjoy both the wonderful stories in Fiction River: Pulse Pounders and my very strange but fun golf thriller I wrote called An Easy Shot.



November Online Workshops

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

Questions about any of the workshops, feel free to write me. Almost no one is signed up yet. I will be writing all the Kickstarter people who got the workshops that way later this week. At that point, some of these might fill up.

Class #41… Nov 1st … Author Voice
Class #42… Nov 1st … Point of View
Class #43… Nov 1st … Adding Suspense to Your Writing
Class #44… Nov 1st … Ideas
Class #45… Nov 1st … Character Development
Class #46… Nov 2nd … Depth in Writing
Class #47… Nov 2nd … Advanced Character and Dialog
Class #48… Nov 2nd … Cliffhangers
Class #49… Nov 2nd … Pacing Your Novel
Class #50… Nov 2nd …Expectations (Writing on the Rails)

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


Totals For Year 4, Month 3, Day 16

Writing in Public blog streak… Day 1,123

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

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

— Blog Posts: 200 new words. Blog month-to-date word count: 4,500 words

— E-mail: 12 e-mails.  Approx. 300 original words.  E-mails month-to date: 259 e-mails. Approx. 16,100 words

— Covers Designed and Finished: 0. Covers finished month-to-date: 1 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.


  • Chong Go

    Hi Dean,
    Just finishing up the last week of the Mystery Workshop, where you mentioned that you’d never written a Caper/Crime novel before. Is this still the case? Sounds like this might make a good challenge… 🙂
    Just a great workshop!

    • dwsmith

      Oh, I have the start of a series there. One of the stories in Stories from July was a caper start to a mystery series. Just haven’t got to it yet. (grin) The story with the two comedy writers meeting.

  • Kristi N.

    \”Writers are the worst judges of their own work.\”

    That right there is my biggest stopping point. I don\’t know what is going to resonate with readers, and different readers love different things, often about the same story. What stops me time and again is when I look at a finished story and start wondering if my judgment is in error when I think that it is technically competent and put together story-wise well enough for my skill level. But…am I able to judge that well or am I being deluded by ego? I\’m sure that once I get into the automatic release groove it won\’t matter any more because I\’ll have the reader feedback to go on, but since I\’m just entering the starting gate (after taking 2 years to build up a backlist for publication), it still is occasionally stops me in my tracks.

    • dwsmith

      Critical voice, Kristi. The job of the critical voice is to stop you, the job of the creative voice is to create stories. Critical voice has found a way to stop you. Start trusting your own work and keep learning and it will be fine.

    • Sheila

      Kristi, I usually get that the worse right after I’ve hit the Save and Publish button. Immediate self-doubt, and total conviction that I’ve just uploaded the absolute worse swill anyone could imagine.

      It happens when I try to think too much about what I’m writing, also. It’s hard, but we have to ignore that voice that says we’re bad writers. Slap it down like a mad dog!

      I’m not the most confident person. I have fought low self esteem for years, always fighting it. Having a good support team around you helps.

      Learn your craft, practice it, and hit that publish button, then move on to the next story.

  • Kevin Johnson

    Hey Dean,

    I’m proud to say I have the critical voice under control after the writing. It’s during that really screws with me. My usual paralysis point is a little past the halfway point of the story. Sometimes it’s right when I see the ending. It’s a strange point to start questioning myself, but once I push through, my creative voice surprises the hell out of me, laying out details that make perfect sense out of nowhere.

    Gotta say, though, you described me perfectly when you talked about knowing our genres. My friends used to describe my stuff as horror. Then I saw something similar in a TV show, and it was described as a “dark fantasy.” I scratched my head at that one. I’m guessing horror is going to the wayside to be replaced by fantasy…or dark fantasy as it were? Oddly enough, I’m okay with that label. It helps me figure out reader expectations better than horror, which seems really broad.

    And of course, since then, I’ve written in different genres just cuz my imagination dragged me there. Genre hopping doesn’t really help me nail down what I write, I think. I write stories and entertainment, I don’t think much about genres per se. My worry is this: if I can’t figure it out easily, how can the readers? Especially when I write outside of my usual genres. My favorite books tend to cross genres pretty hard. Is it best to define a book by its storyline structure or it’s qualities? For example, if it has futuristic technology, but is structured like a thriller, is it a thriller or sci-fi?

    • dwsmith

      Kevin, that’s what you need to learn and also listen to a first reader who you trust so that you can get the blurb and cover branded correctly and the book selling on the right shelf.

      You are writing correctly, to entertain yourself. This process of discovering genre is after something is done. You have learn genre structure and then also get help. Part of the new world of publishing.

  • Prasenjeet

    Hi Dean. I find this creative voice vs critical voice debate fascinating. I know you’ve said a million times that you shouldn’t rewrite the books you wrote years ago. And you made it a point by not re-writing your novel Music laid to rest which you wrote in the early 1980s (even before I was born). 🙂 Will you say that the creative voice of young Dean (as a beginner writer) is still more powerful than the critical voice of experienced Dean with over 40 years of fiction writing experience? 🙂

    • dwsmith

      Oh, heavens, yes. If I had tried to rewrite that book, it would have been “critical voice” writing, trying to fix a book that really didn’t need to be fixed, and I would have screwed it up something awful. My creative voice thirty years ago was better than my critical voice now by a long ways.

  • Jodi

    Your method would definitely help eliminate a major enemy of writers everywhere: perfectionism. It has gotten so bad with me at times, that I stop a story before it properly begins. No story is perfect. Ever. I need to scribble that across my monitor with a Sharpie.