The Journal, Saturday, 3/25

Hey Folks,

Not a lot in this post today, so you get a brief reprieve. (grin)

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 3:30 after waking at 1, 2, 2:30 and 3. I mostly did nothing for the first hour, then kind of put myself on hold, hovering, waiting for DWS’ new post.

Finally to the Hovel around 6:40. Around 7:15 I started reading over the story again. It’s only around 8000 words, and I like it. Of course, I allowed my subconscious to touch it here and there. Added only around 250 words.

8:10, a break.

8:30, back to the novel.

9:30, another few hundred words and a break.

9:50, back to the novel. Another few hundred words and a necessary break for a trip to the PO, then to stomp out a couple family forest fires.

12, back to the novel. I had hoped for 4000 words today, but I’ll be happy if I can just pull down 3000 given that it’s Saturday.

Hmm. Time got away from me. Around 1 I went up to the house to move the sprinkler. Then back to the novel.

At 2:30, with around 3500 words on the day, a break to walk around a bit.

3:15, I hit a good stopping place with a jagged edge. So I’m calling it for today. A great day for a Saturday.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

Check out J.R. Murdock’s site. He’s a prolific writer who literally carves out an hour or so a day to write: https://jrmurdock.com/. And he recently had a novel in the Extreme SF Bundle from BundleRabbit with DWS and Kris Rusch.

“Reporting Words and Steps” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/reporting-words-and-steps/.

Fiction Words: 3826
Nonfiction Words: 280 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 4106

Writing of The Pyramid Killer

Day 1…… 0978 words. Total words to date…… 978
Day 2…… 3630 words. Total words to date…… 4608
Day 3…… 3764 words. Total words to date…… 8372
Day 4…… 3826 words. Total words to date…… 12198

Total fiction words for the month……… 44659
Total fiction words for the year………… 196525
Total nonfiction words for the month… 16560
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 53150

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 249675

The Journal, Friday, 3/24

Hey Folks,

Dean’s post today is excellent and again timely for me since I’m currently endeavoring to write a novel in 9 days (8 left, counting today).

Actually it’ll be 10 days if it goes to the 31st. I did write the opening several days ago. Anyway, a great post about the old pulp writers.

In today’s post, Dean even talks about one guy who wrote 7,000 words per day, every day, for ten years. Do the math. Woof! See why I feel like a slacker?

He also talks about something far more important, and it keyed this very important topic: the essence of Story.

Topic: Just Tell A Story

So many of us have forgotten that our primary purpose is to entertain, first ourselves and then other readers. Entertainent really is the sole purpose of writing fiction.

We get wrapped around words. Yet in and of themselves, they just don’t matter. Words really are only tools, like nails to a carpenter. (If the carpenter drops a nail, does he stop the project? Uh, no.)

We get wrapped around sentence structure, or about whether a group of words constitutes a complete sentence. (Never mind that most of the world, in either narration or dialogue, doesn’t speak in complete sentences.)

We get wrapped around characterization and scene and setting. We get wrapped around “plot” and “theme” and all manner of other things.

Those things DO matter, but the story will provide all of them if we just trust it.

Should we learn those things? Absolutely.
But once we learn about words, sentence structure, characterization, plot and all the rest, it becomes part of our subconscious.

Learning is conscious-mind stuff. It’s what we do in classrooms, physical or virtual. Learning is why I visit Dean Wesley Smith’s site every day. Learning is why I read fiction by other writers, and if it blows me away, I read it again and study it.

And learning is why I practice, practice, practice. And by practice, I mean I write.

Writing is an endeavor of the subconscious. It isn’t learning. It’s practicing what we’ve learned. It’s playtime. Fun time.

And as we write (as we practice), what we’ve learned about words, sentences, plot etc. dribbles forth without effort or thought through our fingers onto the page or screen.

Consider, do you stop and think about whether to put a period at the end of a sentence? No. If you’re writing by hand, do you stop and think about whether to dot an i or cross a t? Of course not.

Because you learned all of that long ago. It’s natural to you, and you trust it.

At your current level of skill, the words, plot, characterization etc. are natural to you as well. You just have to learn to trust it.

I don’t hover over one story in an attempt to make it “perfect.” Like artists in all other art forms, I practice. I write a story, publish it, and move on to the next one.

Some will say when I cycle back over the last 500 to 1000 words and allow myself to touch it, that’s hovering. It isn’t. Cycling is all done with the subconscious mind. The conscious, “thinking” mind has no place in the practice of writing.

When we sit down to write, maybe we decide we’ll practice a particular technique in the current story. Maybe we’ll decide to practice setting.

But once we start writing, we should no longer be thinking (conscious mind stuff) about any of that.

When we sit down to write, we should Just Tell A Story.

If we trust ourselves to just tell a story, everything else comes along of its own accord.

Now, twenty-some novels and over 160 short stories later, I’m finally fully understanding the purpose: Entertainment. I’m writing solely to entertain, first myself and then others.

And that understanding is incredibly freeing. That’s what it’s all about.

Back in the day, writers “had no training that stories had to be perfect. [The stories] had to be nothing more than good stories readers would enjoy.” (from DWS’ post)

There you go.

Just. Tell. A. Story.

Tell it as if you’re chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee. Or as if you’re leaning to one side on a bar stool, an old-fashioned glass of Who Hit John in your grasp. Just tell a story.

If you don’t already fully realize this, when you do “get” it you’ll be amazed at how much fun writing will be.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out way late at 4:30. Checked email, Dean’s stuff, etc.

By 5 I was outside, awaiting the sunrise and following my son’s journey back to Indiana on Facebook.

I wrote everything above this, and finally got to the Hovel around 8:30. Today I’m trying to track more closely my time actually spent writing.

Messed around for awhile with a game, then read over the last chapter. I started a new chapter around 9 a.m. But about 500 words in I stopped writing and checked email, etc. for about a half-hour. Ugh.

10 back to the novel. Finally on track. A thousand words this session, and a break at 10:45.

12, back to the novel. Another thousand words by 12:50. Another brief break.

1 p.m., back to the novel. Only another 600 words or so by 1:40, but I need a break.

2:30, back to the novel.

3:30, I’m calling it for the day. Have to head for the PO before they close.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

At Dean’s place, see “Some Pulp Writers” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/some-pulp-writers/. (I even shared this one to Facebook.)

Fiction Words: 3764
Nonfiction Words: 950 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 4714

Writing of The Pyramid Killer

Day 1…… 0978 words. Total words to date…… 978
Day 2…… 3630 words. Total words to date…… 4608
Day 3…… 3764 words. Total words to date…… 8372

Total fiction words for the month……… 40833
Total fiction words for the year………… 192699
Total nonfiction words for the month… 16280
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 52870

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 245569

The Journal, Thursday, 3/23

Hey Folks,

Gonna take a day off as far as writing a topic today. You deserve a rest from these huge posts. (grin)

But down in the “Of Interest” section is a link to an article about the American public and reading. Good article.

Of course, I’d be happy to answer any questions or entertain any comments you might have regarding any of the recent topics or the article.

Put them in a comment on the site or just email me. Either way is fine.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 4. Routine stuff until around 8:30, when I moved out to the Hovel.

I messed around in the Hovel for another half-hour or so, then cast around for another idea for a story.

Then I revisited the extended opening I wrote a few days ago. Heinlein’s Rule 2 was bugging me. (You must finish what you write.)

So I cycled through it and when I came out the other side, I decided to continue with it.

10:30, with another 1400 words on The Pyramid Killer (formerly Novel 2), taking a break. Cold wet storm clouds moving in. Well, that turned into a whole thing. My son left some clothing here in the dryer, so I folded clothes, then let him know.

11:20, back to the novel.

12:30, a break. My breaks keep turning into other stuff. This time I ate lunch and put on a load of laundry.

1:30, back to the novel.

3 p.m., calling it a day. Laundry to tend. Good day though, and I’m SO glad this little novel is gonna work out.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “Why It’s A Problem That Reading Is At 30-Year Lows, And How ‘Digital Temperance’ Can Help” at http://thefederalist.com/2017/03/23/problem-reading-30-year-lows-digital-temperance-can-help/

And at Dean’s place, timely as usual, he talks about reading. Go figure.

Fiction Words: 3630
Nonfiction Words: 300 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 3930

Writing of The Pyramid Killer (Not DOA after all!)

Day 1…… 978 words. Total words to date…… 978
Day 2…… 3630 words. Total words to date…… 4608

Total fiction words for the month……… 37069
Total fiction words for the year………… 188935
Total nonfiction words for the month… 15330
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 51920

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 240855

The Journal, Wednesday, 3/22

Hey Folks,

First, thanks to all my long-time subscribers for hanging in there through the sparse posts as well as the longer ones. I appreciate you and your interest in these silly goings-on. Very much.

Most often, when a post is longer (like today) it contains a topic that I hope you will find useful at least a friendly reminder. That’s kind’a my way of giving back. So thank you.

Also, I’ve recently added a new feature in the right sidebar of the website. Just below the clock you’ll see the Tag Cloud. If you click the Topic tag, all of the posts that contain a topic will pop up.

Should you decide to unsubscribe, you can still visit the site occasionally and use this feature. I hope it will be helpful.

* * *

My son left this morning, headed for Indiana via a visit with his siblings in New Mexico. I sort of hoped to write later in the day, but I didn’t.

Before he left, I uploaded six 10-story collections and a novel to BundleRabbit.com. Curators can’t find them and include them in bundles if they aren’t there. Duh.

If you weren’t aware of this excellent marketing tool, check it out at BundleRabbit.com.

Later in the day, I decided to take an admin day. I was in an admin kind of mood, and I don’t like being behind on getting my stuff out there.

So I created yet another cover, this one for the novel The 13-Month Turn (formerly Will Perkins). Then I published it to Amazon and D2D.

Following that, I added four new novels to HarveyStanbrough.com/novels-novellas/. I hope you’ll swing by and take a look.

Then I moved over to StoneThread Publishing and did the same thing. Only over there I also created a book page for each novel. Each book page includes a larger photo of the cover, the blurb and search terms for the book, plus the universal buy link provided by D2D.

All of that took awhile. (grin) As I write this (almost 3 p.m.) I still have to upload The 13-Month Turn to BundleRabbit, but that takes only about 10 minutes.

Then I’m done for the day. Just in time to make supper for a hungry wife and a voracious grandson. (grin)

So at the moment I’m taking a break by updating and posting this Journal.

Topic: On Pacing and Paragraphing

If you tend naturally to write in paragraphs that are longer than about 4 or 5 lines (lines, not sentences), this topic might interest you a lot.

A few days ago I was reading one of my magic realism stories to my grandson. “The Storyteller” by Gervasio Arrancado.

I wrote this thing several years ago, and it was painfully obvious that I knew n-o-t-h-i-n-g about pacing. Or paragraphing, for that matter.

As I read it aloud to him, I got bored. Massively bored. I know it’s a good story, yet I found myself wondering what reader could possibly enjoy wading through this thing.

My pacing sucked. My paragraphing sucked worse. The two go hand in hand.

Now, I thought I knew paragraphing. And I did know what I’d learned in every English, English Comp and English Lit class I’d ever taken.

But no, I didn’t know paragraphing. And I had not the slightest clue about pacing.

The bare bones of pacing is this:

Especially when action is occurring, hit the Return (Enter) key more often.

Shorter paragraphs (smaller blocks of text) are easier and quicker to read and understand. So are shorter sentences and sentence fragments.

And all of those move the action along.

Shorter sentences and sentence fragments also convey a sense of drama and emphasis. If they aren’t overused, that’s a powerful tool.

Especially if they’re used in their own paragraph.

In an action scene, those shorter paragraphs force the reader’s eyeballs to catapult across the white space from one paragraph to the next in an attempt to keep up.

So even as the action is racing, the reader is racing right along with it.

But maybe the character moves into a new setting, one where he’s going to be for awhile and where action is not immediate.

For example, maybe he’s lying in wait for a victim or a perpetrator. Maybe he’s sitting with a colleague in a coffee shop discussing an interesting turn of events. Maybe he’s visiting family in Hoboken (or wherever).

That goes to pacing too.

In those circumstances, while he’s “resting” from the action, you can intentionally slow the reader with more detailed description and longer paragraphs.

So what about description? How much description of the setting is necessary?

Ask your character. He’s the one who’s actually in the story.

Consider, what does the character notice if he’s panicked and busting through a door to escape a fire?

What does he see, hear, smell, taste, touch when he’s immediately involved in a fist fight or a shootout as he enters a room (saloon, library, grocery store, airport, etc.)?

Maybe it’s all a blur. Or maybe one aspect or two of the setting stands out for him. Ask him. And then listen.

Now, what does he notice (again, see, hear, smell, taste, touch) when he is admitted to the home of a victim’s relatives to inform them he’s found the body of their son?

What does he notice in the hospital waiting room as he awaits word about his colleague?

What does he notice when he joins the rest of his extended family for Thanksgiving dinner?

I ask “what does the character notice” because if you want to ground the reader in the scene (and you do) ALL description of setting MUST come through the character’s senses of the setting as expressed in the character’s opinions of that setting.

Think about it. He probably won’t notice a lot about the setting (but maybe some) as he’s busting through a door to escape a fire or suddenly being involved in a firefight.

He might notice a great deal more about a setting in which he’s relaxed or in which he’s spending some time as he awaits the next action scene.

If he’s lying in wait to spring an ambush, he might notice a lot more AND notice it more specifically, or more clearly. All his senses will be heightened.

When we’re bored or otherwise unoccupied, we tend to pay more attention to sights, sounds, smells, etc. When we’re filled with adrenaline but not in the midst (yet) of action, our senses are hyper-sensitive.

It’s the same for your characters. Describe the setting accordingly.

Pace the scene accordingly.

Today, and (Still Not) Writing

I hope none of you are annoyed that I’ve missed a few days’ writing. I’m not, really. And how much I write doesn’t affect your bottom line, so…. However, tomorrow, I will write. Probably all day.

Rolled out at 2:20. Spent a very brief time with email and Facebook, then started uploading things to BundleRabbit.com.

Then I moved over here to write this, then checked Dean’s site.

Around 8:30 my son headed east, my wife went to her job and my grandson went for a walk. I’m basically gonna screw around for a little while. Fill the hummer feeders, cross post the topic to the big blog, etc.

I did a tiny bit of cycling in The 13-Month Turn (remember Will Perkins?), then formatted it, created a cover and published it. Then I did all the stuff up in the intro to today’s Journal

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

“A Few More Strength Workshop Questions Answered” at Dean’s place. http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/a-few-more-strength-workshop-questions-answered/

Also (and this is really weird in a timing kind of way) Dean talks about BundleRabbit with “Some Bundle Fun” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/some-bundle-fun/.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1150 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1150

Writing of Novel Two (probably DOA)

Day 1…… 978 words. Total words to date…… 978
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 33439
Total fiction words for the year………… 185305
Total nonfiction words for the month… 15030
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 51620

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 236925

The Journal, Tuesday, 3/21

Hey Folks,

Long post today. Get a beverage and gird your loins and stuff.

Several major gems in Dean’s post today (see “Of Interest” below).

For me, chief among them was the reminder that you can’t change the past and you can’t foresee what might happen in the future.

So right there: don’t worry about it, and don’t worry about it. Don’t look back, move forward.

Also some excellent advice on structuring a goal and on structuring your goal-setting.

And a big reminder for me that revisiting earlier topics in light of new circumstances and with new eyes sometimes adds value for writers who follow his posts. And maybe my posts.

* * *

Update on Covers to Upload

Because I create my own ebook covers and because I like the print covers to mimic them, I sent Kat, the lady who runs Covers to Upload, a list of requrements yesterday.

Those requirements were fairly stringent as I want the interiors of my paper books to look a certain way and be uniform. So margins, gutters, font face and size, etc.

I also sent along the first book I’d like her to put into paper for me. I’ll report back here with a detailed accounting of how that goes.

As I wrote in an email to a writer friend this morning, I like to support folks who 1) Do Excellent Work 2) At A Great Price. They’re few and far between.

Consider, I’d already decided (about 13 novels, 4 short story collections, and 2 nonfiction books ago) to publish only to ebooks.

Covers to Upload’s beautiful covers and apparent attention to detail combined with her very reasonable prices changed my mind.

Don’t get me wrong. A hundred bucks is a lot of money to me. But not when I think of it as an investment in my business (writing) against a lifetime plus seventy-five years of sales.

By the way, of those 13 novels, two are as yet unpublished even as ebooks. One is still untitled. (grin) Guess I need to catch up.

But first, back to more writing on the current novel and my challenge. Barring unforeseen circumstances, that will happen for at least a few hours today.

Topic: Characters

In a correspondence, a friend recently gave me the idea for this topic.

Some writers (and probably all of them/us at first) believe they have to “build” or “create” characters. Some folks even go so far as to create a “character sketch” to one degree or another.

The character sketch might be so detailed as to include the character’s educational background, childhood experiences, and anything else. It’s the story of the characters.

Most often, writers who do this begin with a stick figure and then flesh it out. Those writers “assign” various physical, mental and emotional traits and “knows” the character(s) thoroughly before they begin writing the story.

Most often, these are the same writers who plot every step of a novel before they ever begin writing.

Of course, there are “hybrid” writers who create and use character sketches but also write without an outline when the time comes.

If either of these is how you write, that’s perfectly fine. Seriously, whatever works for you.

What follows is only one take — in particular, my take — on the character-creation part of the writing process.

The way I see it, regardless of all the various ways there are to create a story, all writers fall into one of two overall categories:

The Almighty Writer On High — This writer is the god of his fictional world. He dictates (again, to one degree or another) who the characters Are (education, life experiences, etc.), what the characters say and do. In short, this writer is in complete control of his characters.

(This writer also most often dictates plot points, twists and turns, and most often knows what will happen “next” in the story, often all the way to the end, but this topic is about characters.)

The Recorder — This writer has ceded control of the story to the characters.

So yes, he is also in charge at first. After all, how can you “cede” control if it isn’t yours to cede?

But this writer’s control ends where the characters’ control begins. Basically, when the writer puts his fingers on the keyboard.

This writer realizes this is not “his” story but the characters’ story. So he chooses to let the characters tell it.

As a result, the characters go where they want, say and do what they want, and pretty much dare the recorder (the writer) to keep up.

After all, he isn’t part of the characters’ world or their story. He simply happened upon some interesting people, thought Their story would be interesting, and asked permission to come along for awhile so he could record it.

Fortunately, the characters thought that would be fine.

What ensues from that moment forward is the characters’ story without so much as a single heavy fingerprint of the human “writer” on it.

Again, whether you choose to be the Almighty Writer on High or The Recorder is strictly up to you. Either way is fine with me. Whatever works.

But just in case you’ve been the former and are interested in trying on a new role as the latter, here’s one way (my way) to get there.

Back when I first decided to become the interested but non-controlling Recorder, I envisioned myself on a battlefield of sorts, one with trenches.

The trenches are the story, and that’s where the characters are: down in the story.

When I first started writing, I set myself up in a tower, far distant from the battlefield, and observed the action through a powerful telescope.

I watched what happened, could see what was coming, and anticipated what would happen if this character moved here and that character moved there, and they did and said this or that or the other.

And I directed them.

Now get this — because I’m only human, I was unable to think any thoughts that were different than the thoughts any reader might think if he were standing in the tower with me. So the stories “I” told were not only distant, but boring and predictable.

Later, I thought if I got closer to the battlefield I could see the action in greater detail. But I was still directing the characters and events. The stories improved — they weren’t as distant and were more detailed — but yeah, they were still ridiculously predictable.

Finally, a couple years ago, for some reason I thought what great fun it might be to get closer still.

I sat down on the edge of a trench and dangled my legs over. Only now I was too close.

I could no longer see an overview. Oh oh.

I could no longer tell what might happen next. And next. And next.

I began to hyperventilate.

The only way to enjoy the tight proximity to the characters AND find out what happened next and next and next was to be in the story itself.

So when a character raced by I yelled, “Hey!”

He stopped and looked back. His brow wrinkled. “Say, you’re not from around here, are you?”

I shook my head. “Nope. But you guys are really interesting to me. I wanna come along.”

He frowned. “But you’re not part of our group.”

“Yeah, I know. But I wanna be.”

He looked at me for a moment. “Hey, aren’t you that guy used to sit up in the tower over there and tell us what to do?”

“Uh, yeah. But see, I—”

He turned away. “Sorry. You can’t. We don’t care for control freaks.”

“But I don’t wanna control anything anymore! I just wanna be in the story!”

He turned around again, eyed me. Finally he said, “Well, you can’t be in the story. It’s out story, got it? You’re living your own story out there.

“Tell you what, though, you can come along if you want. You can be our recorder. Just keep up. Take notes on what we say and do. That’s as close as we can let you get.

“You’ll be in the thick of it, only you can’t participate. A’right?”

“Deal!” I said. Then I released my grip on all things Writerly and dropped off into the story.

From then on, I’ve only been out of the trenches between stories.

Now I learn who my characters are as they reveal themselves through their actions and words while running through the story. I describe events as they happen. Sometimes I see things coming, but most of the time I’m as surprised as the characters are.

And that tells me the readers will be surprised too.

Oh, and the plot? For that I harken back to Mr. Bradbury: “Plot is only the footprints the characters leave behind as they run through the story.”

Today, and (Not, Again) Writing

Rolled out at 3:30, outside by 4. To the Hovel around 6.

As I was reading over what I’d already written on Novel Two, another topic occurred to me, so I diverted my attention to write that. You’ll see it in a day or two.

I continued reading over what I’d already written on the novel, allowing myself to touch it along the way.

When I got to the blank space, nothing came. Maybe this one’s dead for the time being.

I feel all right either way. Even if I don’t achieve my most recent goal of writing two novels this month, I’m still current with my older challenge of writing at least one novel per calendar month.

7:30, to the house for a break.

Back to the Hovel around 8:30, but nothing coming today. While at the house I found out my son’s leaving today so I’ll take one more day to visit.

I did some admin stuff, formatting and designing a cover for Without A Clue. Then I published it to Amazon and D2D.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

Dean put up a truly great post. See “Being Behind And Setting Goals” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/being-behind-and-setting-goals/.

Regardless of your political leanings, there’s a pretty good article on writing myths at http://thefederalist.com/2017/03/21/5-writing-myths-neil-gorsuchs-lively-court-opinions-bust-bits/.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1680 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1680

Writing of Novel Two (probably DOA)

Day 1…… 978 words. Total words to date…… 978
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 33439
Total fiction words for the year………… 185305
Total nonfiction words for the month… 13740
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 503300

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 235635

How Does Cycling Fit with Writing Off Into the Dark?

Hey Folks,

I encourage you to read this post. It revisits Cycling in the same way the previous post revisted Writing Off Into the Dark and continues it.

Some have confused “cycling” with “rewriting.”

One very good student of several of my own writing seminars recently wrote that she was about to perfom “cycling or rewriting or revising or redrafting or whatever other name you want to call it.” (Again, I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist.)

As I’ve written here before, the difference is that cycling is done with the subconscious, creative mind.

Rewriting and revising (and editing) are done with the consicous, critical mind. And redrafting — well, that means tossing out the whole thing but retaining the original idea and writing it from scratch again.

I mentioned in last week’s post (http://HarveyStanbrough.com/pro-writers/writing-off-into-the-dark-revisited/) that when I write off into the dark, I’m down in the trenches with the characters.

I’m running through the story with them, struggling to keep up, and writing down what they say and do and the settings they allow me to see.

After I’ve written a segment, usually after a break, when I return to the WIP I go back and read over what I’ve written on the characters’ behalf.

I’m reading it just as any other reader will read it: For the story. In other words, I’m not reading critically. I’m not critiquing it. I’m enjoying the story. I’m reading strictly for entertainment.

But as I read, my fingers are on the keyboard.

Sometimes, a character says something a little differently than I thought I heard him say it the first time.

Sometimes a character notices something in the setting that I didn’t see him notice before.

Sometime some action occurs that I missed while my attention was on some other part of the action.

And when any of that happens — again, as revealed to my subconscious mind by the characters in the story — I allow it to flow through my fingers and into the keyboard.

Ever watch a really good guitarist (think Clapton or Bonamassa or Walsh) fly through a great lead riff? Do you really believe he’s consciously fingering each note and plucking each string?

Uh, no.

He’s down in the song with the notes, recording on his guitar what the song gives him as he goes.

I can’t do that on my guitar. But man, I can do it on my keyboard.

And so can you.

‘Til next time, happy writing.

Harvey

The Journal, Monday, 3/20

Hey Folks,

In keeping with my usual bent toward recommending excellent resources, I’ve found a new interior layout and cover design print source.

Both the price and quality are excellent. That’s a hard combo to beat.

A couple days ago, someone on DWS’s site recommended Cover to Upload as a good place to have covers designed. Dean agreed.

This morning I checked out the site personally and have already emailed them with a few questions about my own work. As I learn more, I’ll keep you posted.

I had settled with the thought that I would publish my work only as ebooks from now on. This discovery turns that decision on its head.

I encourage you to check out Cover to Upload. The URL is http://covertoupload.com. Or you can always find it on my site in the left sidebar under Writers’ Resources.

* * *

Probably another nonwriting day today. Weshul see.

Actually, I had some free time to write this afternoon, but I decided to devote the time to reading instead. Well, and to writing this, as it turns out.

I have a sneaking suspicion that partly this extended delay is my way to sabotage or disrupt my own challenge, thereby making it more difficult.

Seems like in my life I’ve always performed better when I had an adversary. And enjoyed it more.

Or maybe I’m trying to set it aside completely and set myself up for another challenge. I honestly don’t know. After all, in the second novel, I’ve written only a long opening. And I can keep Heinlein’s Rule 2 (You must finish what you write) later. (grin)

Anyway, it’ll be what it’s gonna be. No worries.

Topic: A Rumination on Writing, Myself, and Other Writers

I recently bought The Bachman Books by Stephen King (part of what I’m reading both for pleasure and to Learn).

It arrived today, and I was a little disappointed.

When I bought The Bachman Books I was expecting all of them. I’m intrigued by Early Stephen King. But I’ll find all of them eventually.

Along with two other novels, The Bachman Books include The Running Man. Something he wrote in his introduction to The Bachman Books spurred this topic.

According to King’s overall introduction, he wrote The Running Man in 72 hours “and it was published with very few changes.”

And “[a]ccording to King’s 2002 memoir On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he wrote The Running Man within a single week” (Wikipedia).

Either way, helluva job.

So I did the math.

With The Running Man coming home at just over 69,700 words, he would have to write 968 words per hour straight through for 72 hours. That’s 23,234 words per day. Or roughly 2000 words per hour for 12 hours for three days.

To write it in a 7-day week, he would still have to write just under 10,000 (9957) words per day. That sounds more realistic to me.

But it doesn’t matter. The point is, when he was in the chair, he was W-R-I-T-I-N-G.

My silly little challenge of writing two novels in a month kind’a pales in comparison, doesn’t it? (grin) And people call me prolific. Tsk tsk.

Of course, Bachman (King) was young. He was a freshman in college and, according to him, The Running Man was “a book written by a young man who was angry, energetic, and infatuated with the art and the craft of writing.”

Well, two out of three aren’t bad. I’m not young, but I’m infatuated with the art and craft of writing.

And I’m angry, in a way. Mostly at myself.

I want desperately to increase my productivity. By which I mean my time in the chair. And my production while in the chair (actually writing).

And of course, that’s entirely up to me, even with life rolls, etc. Factors external to ourselves influence us only as much as we allow them to. Priorities, folks. Priorities.

I’m also a little frustrated at, if not angry with, writers who Don’t want that for themselves. How can any writer not want to be more prolific?

For the record, I’m not including those for whom the primary purpose of writing is to put on public display how much they “suffer for their art” or some such nonsense.

I don’t do suffering. There’s enough of that around without looking for it. If writing were some kind of laborious agony, I’d drop it and find something fun to do.

I literally would give anything to have hit upon Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark when I was 20, or 30, or 40, or 50. Yes, anything.

But of course, as we are reminded every day, It Is What It Is. So only one question remains:

Do I want it badly enough to actually do it?

Gawd I hope so.

Stay tuned.

Today, and (Not) Writing

Rolled out at 3:30 again, and did next to nothing all day but relax, chat with my son and grandson, etc. Nothing bad. It was fun. And fun is the key.

Back (writing) tomorrow.

Of Interest

If you want to learn to format your own book interiors for CreateSpace, check https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FzvtxK686c. (I haven’t checked this out yet, and after what I passed along at the beginning of this Journal entry, I probably won’t.)

At Dean’s, he announces the Strength Regular Sales Workshop at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/strength-regular-sales-workshop-now-available/.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 850 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 850

Writing of Novel Two

Day 1…… 978 words. Total words to date…… 978
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 33439
Total fiction words for the year………… 185305
Total nonfiction words for the month… 12060
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 48650

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 233955

The Journal, Sunday, 3/19

Hey Folks,

Probably this will be another non-writing day. We’ll see.

Yep, nonwriting day.

Topic: Dean’s Lectures

Okay, first, you can see all of Dean’s lectures (with complete descriptions) at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/lecture-series/.

On the surface, lectures are more attractive because they cost less. Of course, you get a great deal more bang for your buck (in most cases) from the online workshops.

So bearing that in mind, here are the lectures I recommend. If I don’t list a price beside them, they’re $50. Those with (KKR) are presented by Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

*****Heinlein’s Rules — 15 vids, $75 — Yes, even if you’ve downloaded my free annotated take on Heinlein’s Rules, I still recommend this. Worth every penny. For my money, actually, it’s worth as much as his classic workshops.

*****Master Plot Formula: How and Why It Works Today — This isn’t so you’ll plot a work before you write. This is to imbed the plot points in your subconscious so you “plot” while you’re writing. Excellent.

*****How to Think Like a Science Fiction Writer (KKR) — This is absolutely excellent. A lot about focus, on or off Earth. If I remember correctly, this is where she first mentions her “five senses exercise.”

*****How to Write a Page Turning Novel or Story: Basics and Tricks — Some great tips in this one.

****Endings: How to Write Them and Understand What Makes a Good Ending — This greatly enhanced my understanding.

*****Paying the Price: A Working Writer’s Mindset — Again, invaluable. And he isn’t talking about the price you pay in money. A lot here about setting priorities.

*****Short Stories to Novels — Not to sound like a broken record, but another excellent lecture. A lot of “how-to” and a lot of “should or should not.”

****Your Writing as an Investment — Almost every writer I know desperately needs this. I know I did.

Buy Dean’s Book Instead

The Stages of a Fiction Writer: How to Know Where You Are In Learning and How To Move Upward

Writing into the Dark: The Tricks and Methods of Writing Without an Outline

What Might Be Good

How to Research for Fiction Writers (KKR) — 14 vids, $75 — I haven’t taken this one, but I’m betting it’s well worth the money. Kris speaks quietly, so turn up the volume.

How to Write a Short Story: The Basics (KKR) — If you don’t write shorts but want to, I can’t think of a better place to learn. Seriously.

If you design or want to design your own book covers, the publisher Allyson Longueira also offers lectures on basic cover design.

And thus ends my recommendations re Dean’s stuff.

Any questions or if you want elaboration on anything above, email me.

Today, and (Not) Writing

Rolled out at 3:30. Nothing to report today, except a trip to retrieve my boys (son and grandson) from about an hour away. Blowout on my Tacoma, which they used to go over Middlemarch Pass, and the spare was low. Spare inflated, installed, back home. A minor adventure, and all is well.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

Some great comments and resources at Dean’s “Freedom in This New Publishing World.” See http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/freedom-in-this-new-publishing-world/.

Then see his “Back to Writing” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/back-to-writing-2/.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 530 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 530

Writing of Novel Two

Day 1…… 978 words. Total words to date…… 978
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 33439
Total fiction words for the year………… 185305
Total nonfiction words for the month… 11210
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 47800

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 233105

The Journal, Saturday, 3/18

Hey Folks,

My youngest son came in last night about 6 p.m. to stay for a few days. Writing takes a back seat. I’ll get to it when I do.

* * *

Well, I’m putting off the Dean’s Lectures topic for one more day. I’ll post it here tomorrow.

For today, a continuation of yesterday’s topic, in which I did a comparison of the three major distributors of ebooks. In that one, mostly I was just saying the easier route to distribute to the major booksellers was the route I was taking (D2D).

I also said getting my books to the several smaller booksellers in Smashwords’ distribution wasn’t as important to me as avoiding Smashwords’ annoying, clunky interface.

Today I’ll explain the terms “distributor” and “vendor” and give you some additional (and maybe surprising) information.

Topic: Distributors vs. Vendors (Booksellers) and Royalty Rates

First this morning, a correction. (Thanks, Mary Ann.) ALL distributors, including D2D, charge a fee for distributing your book. If you read the sentence on their site that says they take 10%, keep reading into the next sentence. It’s actually 15% where it matters.

Also some additional information on yesterday’s topic.

How much each vendor pays in royalties varies not only from vendor to vendor but from country to country.

For just one example, if you receive a 70% royalty from Amazon for sales in the US and Canada, you will receive 41% of your book’s list price if it’s sold by Amazon in the UK, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand. And so on with the other vendors.

I strongly recommend you visit http://support.pronoun.com/knowledge_base/topics/what-are-pronouns-royalty-rates for information. Even if you don’t use Pronoun for distribution. (I don’t.)

While I’m on the topic of URLs, I also recommend you visit your Smashwords dashboard, then click the Channel Manager and read the text there regarding royalties.

ALSO don’t get too confused over this stuff.

A Distributor and a Vendor (bookseller or store) are two different things. So you can’t compare Pronoun or D2D (both distributors) with Amazon or Apple (both vendors).

Smashwords is unique in that it is both a distributor and a vendor.

So you can compare Smashwords as a distributor with D2D and Pronoun (what % it takes for distributing your book to other vendors). You can also compare it as a store with Amazon, Apple, B&N et al (what % it takes for selling your book directly to the reader).

Every time you sell a book, the vendor (store) takes a cut. Then the distributor takes a cut.

If you distribute direct to Amazon yourself, obviously there is no distributor cut and you get the full net royalty. Just as is the case if you distribute your book directly to any other vendor.

This is also true with print books. The primary distributor of print books is Ingram.

CreateSpace is essentially a printer, but they’re also a distributor (even to Ingram, who further distributes) and a direct-sales vendor, meaning they have their own on-line store from which readers may purchase your books directly.

One more note on CreateSpace: If you aren’t checking the box for Extended Distribution (and pricing your book so you earn at least $2 on each sale — I know, low, isn’t it? Something slightly north of 10%) your print book will be distributed in a LOT fewer places.

FYI, the hyper-low royalty rate on print books is the main reason I’ve gone back to distributing my books as ebooks only. I only create print books so readers can compare the exorbitant price of a print book with the much more attractive ebook price. Same exact content for a lot less money.

But for me personally, the learning curve to format interiors and covers for my books for print distribution isn’t worth earning around $2 per book. I’d rather push readers to buy ebooks.

Distributors exist in part because we (writers) don’t want the additional hassle of distributing our own books to all the different vendors. In part they also exist because some vendors won’t accept books directly from the writer.

Okay, now I’m done. (grin) You guys can visit those sites that are applicable to you and check the FAQs and other resources there yourselves. I just wanted to get you started.

Today, and (Not) Writing

Rolled out at 3:30, coffee, email, etc. and writing all of the above. If I get time today I’ll write.

Well, visited away the morning with my son, and I have to pick up my granson soon from work, so probably won’t get any writing done today.

It’s weird. I’m jonesing to just sit down and write, yet it’s also all right (within myself) that I’m taking the time and not writing.

Another lesson, I suppose.

When I do get back to the novel, I’ll read over the opening and the little more I wrote, then see what happens. It’ll either run or it won’t.

As for the challenge, there’s always next month. (grin)

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

Not a lot at Dean’s place today, but you can find “Information Overload” with several small topics beneath it at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/information-overload-2/.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 860 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 860

Writing of Novel Two

Day 1…… 978 words. Total words to date…… 978
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 33439
Total fiction words for the year………… 185305
Total nonfiction words for the month… 10680
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 47270

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 232575

 

The Journal, Friday, 3/17

Hey Folks,

This morning, after spending about ten minutes with email and Facebook, I dived right into Smashwords. Time for some admin work and hard choices.

That led to the topic below. I’ll be back tomorrow with another set of recommendations re DWS’ lectures (as opposed to his workshops).

Topic: Why I’m No Longer Using Smashwords for My Novels and Short Stories

This is kind of a personal author earnings report. I’ll still use Smashwords for my nonfiction. Some. But only in the Smashwords store.

Oddly enough, my nonfiction sells far better than my fiction.

I find that truly weird. Think about it. People are willing to buy advice on writing from me without verifying for themselves whether I know the first thing about actually doing it. No wonder there are so many scammers out there. Check your sources, folks.

Anyway, there’s an old saying that goes something like this: Change occurs when fear of the status quo becomes greater than the fear of change.

Here’s the rundown on the three main distributors:

First, Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/). Not recommended.

Smashwords distributes to a boatload of venues. Fifteen venues, to be exact. Sixteen if you include the Smashwords store itself. That’s what always attracted me to it.

Those venues include Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Inktera (formerly Page Foundry), Baker & Taylor Blio, Txtr, Library Direct, Baker-Taylor Axis360, OverDrive, Scribd, cloudLibrary, Gardners Extended Retail, Yuzu, Tolino, Odilo, and Gardners Library.

All those venues is one wonderful feature of Smashwords.

But I’m an old sales guy. There’s a difference between a feature and a benefit.

That feature doesn’t become a benefit unless people are actually buying my books through those venues.

Also, the clunky interface at Smashwords takes a lot of time (comparatively, to me) and that’s always been annoying.

So I decided to do a kind of “return on investment” study this morning (with the investment being the time it takes to use the Smashwords interface) for 2011 – 2017. (Because it’s early in 2017, this is almost exactly six years.)

To date, all of my sales — that’s ALL of my sales — through Smashwords have come either through the Smashwords store or via Apple, B&N, Kobo and Scribd, with the exception of Oyster, whom Smashwords dropped in late 2014.

So most of my non-Amazon sales have come through the major players (Apple, B&N, Kobo and Scribd). Keep that in mind. And we’ll move on to

Pronoun (https://pronoun.com). Not recommended.

Pronoun distributes to Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo, plus GooglePlay. So all of the major players except Scribd.

I still haven’t dealt directly with Pronoun. I have tried. What appeals to me about them is that they distribute to Amazon.

But frankly, for me, the benefit of allowing them to distribute my work to Amazon (so I won’t have to) and the “appeal” of GooglePlay hasn’t yet outweighed the PITA of dealing with Amazon on my own.

Nor does it outweigh the annoyance of putting up with Pronoun’s condescending interface and the effort I would have to expend to learn that interface thoroughly. I mean, even Smashwords doesn’t get condescending except around NaNoWriMo, and I kind’a understand that.

And that leads us to

Draft2Digital (http://draft2digital.com). Very highly recommended.

D2D distributes to Apple, B&N, and Kobo, plus PageFoundry (Inkterra), Tolino, Scribd and 24Symbols. So all the major players except Amazon. (Again, I distribute to Amazon myself.)

With their easy-to-use interface, I can publish any work there in two or three minutes.

This vs. ten to fifteen minutes per book at Smashwords, including time to add an ISBN (required for inclusion in the premium catalogue, which means distribution) and make selections on the Channel Manager.

D2D even generates an interactive TOC (table of contents), no matter how the chapters or sections are titled and with minimal formatting on my part.

Unless all your chapters are in Arabic numerals only (1, 2, 3, etc., no “Chapter” no “One, Two, etc., no prologue or epilogue), Smashwords requires you to send them a Word file with an interactive TOC already formatted. Another hour or two of the day gone.

D2D also takes ZERO fees from the net royalty. Whatever the venue pays goes directly into my bank account. (Smashwords takes a percentage.)

And at D2D, my books are distributed to all the same major players.

Yeah, that’s a really difficult decision to make.

If I continue to use Smashwords at all, it will be only for my major works (novels, collections, nonfiction) and I’ll offer them only through the Smashwords store.

That means I won’t have to jump through several hoops (and spend more time) to get them listed in the “premium” catalogue so they’ll be distributed to outside retailers. Nor will I have to mess with the hyper-clunky Channel Manager.

Ahh, I feel better already. Any questions about this topic, feel free to email me.

Just in case Mark Coker (founder and CEO of Smashwords) sees this, seriously, upgrade your site, Mark. Players gotta compete, and extra venues that don’t sell my books just don’t matter to me.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 3. Got right to work on the admin stuff above, and then wrote everything above this.

Now, a little after 7, a break for breakfast.

7:40, to the Hovel, did a little more admin.

Ah some family stuff came up. I have to visit with my grandson for awhile this morning. I’ll write today if I can.

No fiction on the day. Hey, days happen. Maybe tomorrow. See you then.

Of Interest

See “Freedom in This New Publishing World” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/freedom-in-this-new-publishing-world/.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 850 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 850

Writing of Novel Two

Day 1…… 978 words. Total words to date…… 978
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 33439
Total fiction words for the year………… 185305
Total nonfiction words for the month… 9820
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 46410

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 231715