Response to DWS: Dangers of not trusting the creative voice

A few days ago, Dean Wesley Smith, a career writer who has written hundreds of books, wrote a blog post about how to be creative while writing. Namely, how it works and how to destroy it.

Outlining… Absolutely the quickest way to make sure the creative voice won’t even show up. Why should it bother? Your critical voice has already figured out what the book will be, so the creative voice just goes off and pouts, leaving you the hard work of writing from critical voice. And having no fun.

Knowing Your Ending… This, to the creative voice, is exactly like you picking up a book, flipping to the last pages, reading the ending, then thinking the book will be interesting to read. This comes from fear, brought on by the critical voice being afraid of “wasting” your time and so on. You know, stuff parents said to you in the real world. If you need to figure out the ending because of fear, you will lose your creative voice almost instantly and the project will lose excitement and mostly just die.

Writing is Hard Work… No creative voice wants to show up with that belief system. That is all a myth and remember, the creative voice is like a two-year-old in nature. It doesn’t want to do anything it is forced to do. So when you keep repeating over and over to make your ego feel better that writing is hard work to be suffered over, your creative voice says screw that and leaves. And then writing from critical voice does become hard work and your books are dull.



1… Stop caring so much about the final product, just do the best you can.

2… Write one draft, clean with cycling in creative voice, and release with a promise to yourself you won’t touch it again.

3… Have fun. Make writing fun again. Make it play.



I know a lot of writers dislike Dean Wesley Smith because he comes off as so opinionated. But you know what? He’s 67 and he’s been at this writer thing for longer than I’ve been alive. For longer than most of my friends, even. Not to mention that he and his wife self publish all their own books and have for years. He’s done things that none of my newbie author friends have ever thought of (like selling signed paperbacks to the voracious book market on eBay.)

There are basically two kinds of writers. Those who outline everything, and those who “write by the seat of their pants”, that is, those who rely exclusively on the “creative voice” DWS mentions above.

What happens when an artist has fun. Big Bad Wolf by Ninjatic

When I started writing, I always found that outlining killed my inspiration. I’ve since found methods of outlining that kind of work, but they still give rise to stories that are … well, only passable. I mean, they were okay, but they weren’t my best work. I had the idea that the stories could have risen to amazing heights, but … that takes a genius place in my brain, and I can’t hit that genius place while coldly outlining.

This has always quietly baffled me. When I was writing fanfiction, at most, the only outlining I would do was to write a list of “cool stuff I wanted to happen” so I didn’t forget to put it in. And I cranked out some storylines that were pure genius. Even now, years later, people still track me down to tell me how much they loved my old fanfics.

Then I started writing books for publication, which I dutifully outlined. And they just … weren’t as good. The sparkle wasn’t there, somehow. So I went back to fanfics, just writing with no outline, only a brief list of things I wanted to happen. And the genius returned.

So … I don’t know if DWS’s advice up there applies to everyone. But for me, writing with very little outline, just following the conflicts and the characters’ reactions to them, is where the sparkle and the genius lies. I’m going to toss out the outline for my next book and just write into the dark. I know my characters and their arcs, and I know my bad guys and what they’re trying to do. Beyond that, I think I’m capable of setting them loose and watching the feathers fly. If I can do it with fanfics, I can do it with original characters, too.

6 thoughts on “Response to DWS: Dangers of not trusting the creative voice

  1. I think outlining can kill the creative voice…for *pantsers.” For those who need to outline, it does not. JK Rowling was an incredibly detailed outliner when she wrote the HP novels, and I don’t see anyone complaining about her creative voice being killed. Maybe DWS is just a panster, and that’s fine. My beef with him is that he puts a one-size-fits-all label on his advice, and it doesn’t work for everyone. And I just have to comment–the point about knowing the ending of your book ruining it? Obv he doesn’t write mysteries. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dean does write mysteries. So do I…I just finished a novel, and didn’t know who did it until at least the last 10,000 words. It’s a lot of fun.


  2. This is great advice! I’m not familiar with DWS, but this advice actually explains a problem I’ve had recently.


  3. I have followed DWS for a number of years. Even he outlines his mysteries. And he says the main point is to listen to your creative voice, and ignore your critical voice. Do know we are all different. Just make it fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I noticed I had to pants it to get my current WIP started, but after a point I had no idea where I was or where I was going and I needed to sit down and outline (and then practically re-write everything I had already written). It wasn’t a super detailed outline, but I needed to know the direction the story was headed.
    I don’t feel like my creative voice is smothered this way. I feel like I have a lot of surprises for my readers and I’m having fun misleading them, and dropping subtle clues. It’s okay that I know the ending. It’s like having a gift that you are very excited to give someone. You know what’s inside, but THEY don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, everybody has their own process. I find that the more you write, the more you internalize plot structure, etc., and you can tear into a story with no outline because it’s baked into your head. Until you reach that point, though, outlines with structure are extremely helpful.


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