To Be or Not To Be

by Harvey on March 25, 2015

Howdy folks,

This is yet another in the “out of the series” series of mid-term posts that might answer a few questions for some of you.

Recently a friend and fellow writer asked me for a recommendation of someone who could read his work. He explained that he wasn’t looking for an edit or even a proofread, but simply wanted someone to read it with an eye toward whether he should continue writing or shuck the whole thing as a horrible experiment gone wrong.

Okay, he wasn’t nearly that melodramatic, but you get the point. And you’ve probably asked a similar question at one time or another yourself. I know I did, many many many years ago.

We all want validation of our work, but you know that old saw about writing being a solitary endeavor? It’s true. And it should be true. If you’re submitting your work for critique to people who are no more experienced than you are, and if you’re listening to their recommendations, you’re writing by committee. And nothing—absolutely nothing EVER—good has come out of writing by committee. Just to get that out of the way early.

We used to get validation from a publisher. Many of you are still chasing traditional publishers and/or agents despite the fact that traditional publishing is currently issuing the worst contracts in the history of publishing. (Note: Don’t take my word for it. Ask your chosen agent or traditional publisher how soon, per their contract, all rights revert to the author after initial print publication of the book. The answer is simple: Never (or long enough that it might as well be never).

But even back in the bad old days when traditional publishers treated writers somewhat fairly and ruled the roost, what one publisher absolutely hated, another publisher loved. So your “validation” didn’t come necessarily as a result of your skill as a writer. It came as a result of having submitted your work to the right publisher.

Today is no different. Today we get our validation straight from the reader. If you write stuff that’s good, readers will like it, buy it, and tell other readers. If you don’t, well, leave it out there. Eventually the readers who like what you’ve written will surface for air.

Yeah, I know. That isn’t really what my friend was asking. He was asking whether I or someone I would recommend could read his work and then tell him, honestly and point blank, whether to keep his day job. Okay, first, if you have a day job and you’re writing around it, keep your day job. You might sell ten thousand copies of your novel this month and only six copies next month. Yes, it works like that.

Okay, this is “yeah I know,” part deaux. What my friend REALLY wanted to know is whether his work was worthwhile. And you know what? Nobody else can tell you that.

This isn’t a copout. Seriously, only YOU can prevent forest fires and only YOU can decide whether you should continue writing (and learning) and writing some more. Only you. Nobody else.

The Truth is, the only lasting worth that can ever be attached to writing (both the act and the product) is up to the writer himself or herself.

Basically, ask yourself this:

  1. Do you enjoy writing?
  2. Is writing a joyful thing for you?
  3. Is the pure unadulterated (or maybe adulterated, I don’t know) joy you derive from writing and stretching the truth and telling stories worth the time it takes to continue?

Only YOU know the answer. Just like you know that’s actually only one question. If the answer is yes, then write.

If the answer is no or nope or huhuh or nuhuh or hell no or areyoukiddin’me or anything else like that, then ohdeargawd by all means please find something to do that you actually enjoy doing and, you know, go do that.

There’s one other thing you can ask yourself, and for me personally this is a biggie. Is your goal to write, or is your goal to be published and make money?

If your goal is to write, then it’s all right to have those other goals too (publication and money). But if you think you’re gonna slap together a few short stories or even a few novels and find yourself rolling in it… well, you might be rolling in it, but it won’t be money.

I write what I want to read. As I write my short stories and novels, I’m constantly amazed at some of the things the characters say and some of the places they take me and some of the situations they get into. Not to mention how they get out of those situations. It’s an incredible experience, and I am awed by it.

Fortunately, I also find it a massive amount of fun. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be a writer. I’d do something I enjoy.

‘Til next time,

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

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Hi Folks,

There are several items available for use in the Word menu (also called the Ribbon), and most of us use the Ribbon as-is out of the box. However, just in case you want to customize it, here are some brief instructions.

In this screenshot, the Ribbon is the horizontal white area that includes the menu tabs: File, Home, Insert, Page Layout, Review, and View. Other tabs are available (see Figure 5), but these are the only ones I use. The horizontal gray area just below the Ribbon is the Quick Access Toolbar.

1_800Figure 1

To set up the menu, place your cursor to the right side of the small down arrow on the Quick Access Toolbar and right click. This small drop-down menu will appear:

2Figure 2

When you click Customize the Ribbon, this dialogue box will open:

3_750Figure 3

You can see that Popular Commands are listed in the left pane and Main Tabs are listed in the right pane. To familiarize yourself with the Customize the Ribbon dialogue box, click the arrow to the right of Popular Commands. You’ll see another drop-down menu that looks like this:

4Figure 4

I recommend choosing from All Commands, but it’s less important in setting up the Ribbon (menu) than a bit later in setting up the Quick Access Toolbar. You’ll see a similar but much more extensive menu in that section a bit later. More important right now is the Main Tabs pane on the right. You can see my settings.

5Figure 5

Furthermore, you can click the little plus symbol in front of each checked item to add or remove menu items from that tab. For example, if you click the plus symbol before Home, you’ll probably see Clipboard, Font, Paragraph, Styles and Editing. In mine, I removed Styles because I don’t want the menu cluttered with them.

When I click my Home tab, it looks like this:

6Figure 6

If you intend to use Styles though, certainly you should leave them in place. You can easily customize the other tabs in the same way. Whatever you select during this process is what will appear in your Ribbon when you click a tabbed menu item. I encourage you to explore, but I also caution you not to delete a submenu item unless you’re certain you aren’t going to use it.

To add or remove tabs from the menu, simply check or uncheck the box that appears before each tabbed menu item (see Figure 5).

To remove a submenu item, click the plus symbol in front of the tabbed menu item. When the submenu items appear below it, click the submenu item you would like to remove. If Word will allow you to remove the item, the Remove button in the center of the Customize the Ribbon dialogue box will be illuminated. If not, it will be grayed-out (see Figure 3).

To add a submenu item, select the item from the left pane of the Customize the Ribbon dialogue box and click the Add button in the center. (There might be some further requirements. If so, Word will provide pop-up instructions.)

Until later, happy writing!

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

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Defining “A Huge Amount of Time”

by Harvey on March 17, 2015

Hi Folks,

Well, here we are with another post that isn’t part of the usual series. Still, even with these that are not part of the normal series, I try to pass along what I’ve learned as a writer.

This post is the result of an email I received in response to a recent short story of the week. The respondent (also a writer) writes,

[H]ow do you manage to get all these  stories edited?  Congratulations on your many stories…wow, one a week- sort of takes a huge amount of time.

I didn’t respond to him as thoroughly as I wanted to or probably should have, but I’ve grown a bit gun shy recently.

What I did tell him is that I send the stories to a first reader and then publish them. I told him I follow Heinlein’s Rules and that I follow a process called Writing Into the Dark. I said like Bradbury, I believe “plot” is what the characters leave behind as they run through the story. And finally I said I write about 1000 words per hour so writing a short story per week really doesn’t take up all that much time.

Then I got to thinking, I kind of enjoy writing these little interim posts, the ones that appear between the posts in the normal ten-day rotation, so why not write one about this and expand on my answer to him? After all, if even one writer out there gets an aha moment from it, that will be great for that one writer.

For the majority, who will think this is all hooey or that Heinlein’s Rules can’t possibly work for anyone but SF writers or whatever, well, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything to help them anyway. They’ll have to just keep doing what they’re doing, and that’s fine with me.

But for that one guy, that one woman, for whom the little light might come on, here’s what I should have written in response to the gentleman’s email:

I don’t have the stories edited, per se. I do have a first reader (and copy editor) read over them and look for inconsistencies, wrong words (e.g. waist vs. waste), etc. but nothing else. The cost of the copy edit, like the cost of the cover and the time involved in writing the story, is an investment. Whatever that total cost is, that’s all I’m ever going to put into it. Yet the story will earn income for me and my heirs from the time I publish it until 70 years after I die.

If it costs you $150 (time writing plus cover plus edit) to publish a story, and you make only $15 per year on that story from all sales venues, that’s a ten percent Return On Investment. Not too shabby. And if you’re smart you publish every short story on its own plus in a five-story collection plus in a ten-story collection. So for every story I write, I have three streams of revenue.

So here’s what I do. Per Heinlein’s Rules,

  1. You must write. (I write.)
  2. You must finish what you write. (I finish what I write.)
  3. You must not rewrite except to editorial order, and then only if you agree. (I don’t rewrite.)
  4. You must put your work on the market. (I publish what I write so readers can buy it.)
  5. You must keep your work on the market. (I keep it published so more writers can buy it.)

Writing a short story per week isn’t a problem for me because I’m a writer. It’s what I do. Does it take some time? Yes. About one hour per 1000 words plus an hour to design a cover and publish it. But what else am I gonna do? I’m a writer. Writers write.

Would you say to a mechanic, “Man, you put in one carburetor per week? That must sort of take a huge amount of time.” If he’s a mechanic, what else is he gonna do?

As I also told my respondent, writing a story per week isn’t a problem. The problem is having to stop working on the current novel to write the story. Over the first 15 days of March 2015, I wrote 30,852 new words of fiction. That’s only a little over 2000 words per day, so right at 2 hours per day.

From January 1, 2015 through March 15, 2015 (so 74 days), I’ve written 172,354 words of new fiction. Still, that’s only 2329 words per day. That’s less than 3 hours per day. I’m currently working on two novels. For those of you who have read the Wes Crowley series (Leaving Amarillo, Longing for Mexico, and South to Mexico), I’m currently writing a prequel to Leaving Amarillo and a sequel to South to Mexico. It’s absolutely the greatest fun I’ve ever had.

I mentioned earlier I write about 1000 words per hour. If that seems like a lot, divide it by 60. You’ll find that 1000 words per hour is only 17 words per minute. Can you write 17 words in a minute?

Now, my respondent was impressed that I write a short story per week. He said it “sort of takes a huge amount of time.” But I’m a writer. Why do folks—and especially other writers—find it unusual that I want to (or can) Just Do My Job (write) three or four or five hours per day? Is that really “a huge amount of time”? Not if you’re a writer.

Life is all about priorities, and we each set our own. I mean, if you have other things in your life that are more important to you than writing, then spending three hours per day writing probably would seem like a lot of time to you. But to me, walking along the beach for three hours would seem a horrible waste of time. Watching TV for more than about an hour per day would be excruciating.

I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else than writing, because I’m a writer and writing is my priority.

Ray Bradbury once wrote, “I love to write. It’s all I do.” I can relate. At one point during his career, Bradbury was writing a short story every day.

More than one time during his long career, Harlan Ellison set up a small desk and a chair and typewriter in the display window of a department store and wrote stories “live.” As he rolled a completed sheet of paper out of the typewriter, he’d tape it to the window so people outside could read the story as he was writing it.

Writers write. That’s all. Writers write.

If you want to be a prolific writer (if you want to make your living as a writer) you don’t have to write  garbage, and you don’t have to be a “hack” writer. You just have to put the hours in the chair.

What you do have to do is stop rewriting and polishing your original voice off everything you write. Follow Heinlein’s Rules. And instead of being the great Writer God On High directing the little characters, step down off your pedestal and run through the story WITH them. Enjoy.

I promise, it will be the most fun you’ve ever had.

Harvey

PS: If you’d like to learn some of these techniques and you live in or near Tucson, I’m teaching what will probably be the final presentation of Writing the Character Driven Story in Tucson on Saturday, March 28. We’ll begin at 9 a.m. and go all day. If you want in, email me pronto and I’ll send the rest of the info. I have only a couple of slots left.

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

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Microsoft Word for Writers: Introduction

by Harvey on March 11, 2015

Hi Folks,

This post and the next seven are excerpted and expanded from a seminar I put together awhile back titled “Microsoft Word for Writers.” I also posted this series before, a couple years ago, on this blog. However, I have updated the information where necessary.

I encourage you to comment and share new information, but please question, comment or expand only on the topic of the current post. Today’s post briefly introduces Microsoft Word and offers other valuable resources, including alternatives to Microsoft Word and where to purchase it if you don’t already have it.

The remaining posts in this series, which will appear every ten days, are nuts and bolts stuff, and they will include screenshots for your convenience. If you have two computer screens, you will be able to read the blog post on one screen while practicing in Microsoft Word on the other. Of course you can also simply print out or otherwise save the blog post and practice later. The screenshots are sequentially numbered throughout the series:

  • Setting Up the Menu
  • Setting Up the Quick Access Toolbar
  • Setting Word Options
  • Find & Replace (The Most Valuable Tool in Word)
  • The Paragraph Formatting Tool (includes an overall example of the Find & Replace function used in conjunction with the font- and paragraph-formatting tools)
  • Odds & Ends
  • Styles

Introduction

Microsoft Word comes as part of the Microsoft Office package. Different versions of Word have different features, or the same features in different places. This series is based on Microsoft Word 2010. If you’re using an earlier version, your dialogue boxes might look slightly different from the screenshots in these blog posts. Any techniques I mention here will be essentially the same, although you might have to think a bit and alter the instruction to suit your version of Word.

To see which version you have, click Help and then About Microsoft Word. (In some versions, Help is a separate tab in the menu. In others, it’s located under the File tab in the menu or in the upper right corner of the Word screen as a white question mark in a blue circle.)

I work with a PC, but from what my Apple-oriented friends tell me, Microsoft Word for Mac is comparable. Thanks to Alison Holt, a dear friend and excellent author, for providing me with the location of this PC to Mac and Mac to PC Converter. It’s an excellent resource.

Where Can I Get MS Word Without Breaking the Bank?

Of course, it’s always better if you can go to Staples or your store of choice and purchase the full version of Microsoft Office outright, and that’s what I recommend if you can afford it. You can also purchase the military and student version on military bases at the base or post exchange if you have privileges (saves sales tax). However, in the real world, you can also visit eBay or Amazon. Key in “Microsoft Word 2010” or “Microsoft Office 2010” and see what pops up. Even if it’s used, if you receive the OEM (original) program on CD and the Product Key, you’ll be fine. Of course, I do not endorse piracy or purchasing or using products illegally.

If you want to purchase the newer Microsoft Office or Word, it’s available either as a subscription (Office 365) or as a dedicated program (Office 2013). I personally prefer Office (and Word) 2010 because it does everything I need it to do and it’s a dedicated program, meaning once I buy it, it’s installed on my computer (the license I bought is for up to 3 computers) and it doesn’t keep costing me in the future. With the subscription version (it’s called Office 365) the subscription is for one year (about $99) and for up to five computers.

Alternatives to Microsoft Word (Microsoft Office)

LibreOffice—This is a good alternative for Microsoft Word. Not quite as many bells and whistles, not quite as customizable as Word, but it’s free and it’s very intuitive. I used this one for a long time on the small laptop that is dedicated only to my writing. Like Microsoft Office, this is a suite of tools. Get it at http://www.libreoffice.org/download/libreoffice-fresh/.

WPS Office— This is another good alternative for Microsoft Word, and again it’s free. Between this one and LibreOffice, I liked Libre more, but your results might vary. (grin) Again, like Microsoft Office, this is a suite of tools. You can get WPS Office at http://www.wps.com/windows/.

Apache OpenOffice—This suite reportedly does everything Word can do, and it supposedly does it even more easily or more intuitively. You can get Apache OpenOffice 4.0 at http://www.openoffice.org/. According to the OpenOffice site, it’s easy to use, and best of all it’s both free and fully compatible with all versions of Microsoft Office. Similar to Microsoft Office, OpenOffice contains a word processor (called Writer instead of Word), a spreadsheet (Calc instead of Excel), a multimedia presentation program (Impress instead of PowerPoint), a drawing program (Draw—here it seems to me they’re taking a page from Corel), plus a database program (Base) and an equation editor (Math). I have not personally used OpenOffice, but I’ve heard nothing bad about it.

Jarte—This is basically a souped-up version of Microsoft’s WordPad. It has all the basic editing and formatting (both font and paragraph) functions, but it does not have the more advance features like Track Changes. Jarte is available at http://www.jarte.com/. I do have this program and I use it when I want to “just write” without being distracted with all the bells and whistles. Jarte is a free word processor, although you can pay a small fee to get the few extra bells and whistles of Jarte Plus. If you try and enjoy Jarte, I do recommend you upgrade to Jarte Plus just to help support the developers.

Writing Software

I do not recommend or endorse any so-called writing software, but some people swear by it. In case it’s something you would like to try, here are a couple:

yWriter5, for Windows PCs—This is billed at SpaceJock.com/yWriter5.html?yWriter5 as “novel writing software.” It’s a word processor that “breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. yWriter was designed by an author…. yWriter5 is free to download and use, but you’re encouraged to register your copy if you find it useful.”

Scrivener—This program used to be available only for Mac, but it’s now available for Windows PCs as well as Mac OSX. Visit the website at LiteratureAndLatte.com/scrivener.php. You can get a free trial (I don’t know what’s included in the free trial), and the cost for the full version is $40. The site includes video tutorials. Among other features, Scrivener enables you to edit multiple documents, store virtual index cards on a “corkboard,” outline your project, and create collections to help you keep track of notes, etc. If this is something that appeals to you, I encourage you to visit the site to see what Scrivener has to offer.

You can find these and many more helpful links—including dictionaries and translators, various conversion engines, and a lot more—on my website at HarveyStanbrough.com/resources.

Next time, Setting Up the Menu. Until then happy writing!
Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

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On Being Selfish

by Harvey on March 5, 2015

Hey Folks,

This is another “extra” post, not part of the regular 10-day cycle.

If I could assume the attitude of any other writer, it would be that of Ray Bradbury. There are a lot of quotations about him and from him, but the one biggie I always associate with him is, “I love to write. It’s all I do.”

It’s very easy for me to allow myself to slip into living in the past. Had I found Heinlein’s Rules and WITD (Writing Into the Dark, such a simple, freeing technique) when I was in high school, I probably would never have done anything else in my life. What a wonderful life that would have been.

But as Charlie Task keeps reminding me, all I can do is make the most of the present. It is what it is.

Still, there are some things for which I’m grateful. Chief among them is that I’m very glad I don’t still carry around the illusion of immortality that comes with youth.

A friend recently reminded me that fifteen years ago last month (February), I was recuperating from The Ross Procedure, an operation during which my aortic and pulmonic valves were replaced. If you like medical stuff and science, look it up. It’s interesting.

Of course, me being who I am, the surgery, which should have taken 4.5 hours, took 7.5 instead. And afterward I coded. I laugh and tell people I died three times that day. Twice my heart was stopped and my body temp lowered to facilitate the operation. The third time probably my spirit stepped out for a look around. Or maybe a sip of Jameson’s.

That is when I learned I wasn’t immortal, and it brought with it a lesson on the value of time. And that lesson is why I’m glad I don’t still carry around the illusion of immortality. I know how important priorities are, and there is zero ambiguity in my life regarding my priorities.

Well, for whatever reason, I didn’t find Heinlein’s Rules and WITD in my early youth. But you would think Fate would have allowed me to stumble across them in February 2000, right? That would have been perfect, finding those gems at the same time I learned the true value of time.

Just think. That would have been fifteen more years that I would have been turning out my own work rather than trying to teach others how to write. Let’s see. At six novels per year (minimum) and one short story per week, that would have been 90 novels and 780 short stories. Not a bad body of work.

But it is what it is.

I didn’t find Heinlein’s Business Rules for Writers or the WITD technique until February 2014, a year ago as I write this. I didn’t start using them until mid-April 2014, and even then I was still glued to the notion that I could help other writers.

I started sawing on the umbilical cord in August, and finally, finally, I cut them adrift in October. Between late October and the end of December, I wrote three novels. That’s in addition to writing at least one short story per week since April 15. As you read this, that challege will end in six weeks. Maybe. I might keep the streak alive.

If I keep my one-story-per-week streak going at least until then, I will have written 59 short stories in that 52 weeks. Plus the three novels. Plus a novella. And I published all of those stories individually and in 13 collections.

I’m not bragging here. I’m just saying, like everybody else who has to put up with living in a mortal shell, I don’t get a redo. But that’s all right, because now I know the value of time and that life is a matter of priorities. And of course, like everyone else, I set my own priorities.

Is that selfish of me? Sure. Absolutely. But it is what it is.

Now, at long last, I can say, “I love to write. It’s all I do.” If you’re a writer, I wish the same for you.

Harvey

If you’d care to learn about Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark yourself, visit the Audio Lectures tab on my website and look at Lecture 12.

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

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Read an Ebook Week Special Offer

by Harvey on March 2, 2015

Hi Folks,

Over at Smashwords, any of my fiction—short stories, novellas or novels—that’s regularly priced at $2.99 or higher is 50% off this week only, now through March 7.

To take full advantage of this offer, simply select the books you want and then apply coupon code RAE50 when you check out. Be sure to check for short stories, collections, novels and novellas on my page and on Eric Stringer’s page. Also, you’ll find short stories and collections on Gervasio Arrancado’s page and on Nicolas Z Porter’s page. Here are the specific URLs:

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/HEStanbrough

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/EStringer

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NZPorter

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/GArrancado

Be sure to tell all your friends!

Thanks, and happy reading!

Harvey

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A Few Guidelines for Writers

by Harvey on March 1, 2015

Hi Folks,

The guidelines below are truisms, facts, not opinions. They will work for hobby writers, part-time writers and professional writers. If you are not a writer or if you believe you have to “suffer” for your art or any of that, they won’t work for you. Note: I’m all about intentions and facts, not perceptions. If you disagree with any or all of this post, please don’t email me. I’ll just smile, shrug and say, “Okay.”

To the Important Stuff

A writer is a person who writes, who puts new words on the page. It’s a person who loves to tell stories in written communication. There’s nothing elevated about it, nothing special except that you get to spend your life making up stuff for a living. If that definition fits you, or if you WANT that definition to fit you, here are a few guidelines that might help.

  • Your conscious critical mind exists to protect you. Like the benevolent android in Jack Williamson’s “With Folded Hands,” it’s sole function is to keep you from being harmed… even by rejection. That’s why it’s so much easier to spend all your time rewriting and polishing instead of moving forward and writing the next story. No risk of rejection as long as you’re rewriting.
  • Your subconscious creative mind is the source of all your inspiration, all your story ideas, and all your stories. If you get out of your own way and trust your subconscious, you will write in your own original voice. Then your only challenge is to NOT go back and rewrite and polish until you’ve erased your voice and made your story sound like everything else in the slush pile.
  • Everything in life is a matter of priorities. My critical mind often will use that to attempt to “save me” from writing. When I’m about to write, suddenly doing something else (anything else) becomes a priority. And I shake my index finger at my critical mind. No! BAD critical mind! Get back in your corner and leave me alone! My creative mind has stories to write! I wanna run and play with my fictional friends now. You get the idea.
  • Productivity is what I’m all about as a writer. The more work I put out there, the more I practice my writing, the better it becomes. Also the more books and stories I have to feed off of each other and the more income I receive from my writing. Period. This is the same reason every time I get five new stories I slap them into a collection in both ebook and paper. When I get ten, I put them in another collection. That gives me three streams of passive revenue from every story I write. Can you say Ka-ching?
  • Productivity can be reduced to mathematics, and math is a concrete, finite thing. Here’s the equation: P = PW/h(H). Or Productivity equals publishable words you can write per hour times the number of hours you spend in the chair putting new words on the page. If you want to increase your productivity, you have to increase one of those two factors.
  • Words per hour… Truly, this is a biggie. I write about 1000 publishable words per hour. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But if you’re writing 1000 words per hour, that’s only 17 words per minute. Think about that. Writing 1000 words per hour gives you a LOT of time for staring off into space. If you’re getting less than 700 or 800 words per hour, you might want to check in with yourself and figure out what you’re doing during that hour. You can safely bet it’s linked to your critical mind. Seriously. Don’t tell me or anyone else about it if you don’t want to (it’s nobody’s business but your own anyway), but if you’re serious about being a professional writer, Fix It. If you aren’t, of course, no biggie.

A little more on that… a lot of us took typing in high school. My best rate was 60 mostly error-free words per minute. Extrapolated out, that’s 3600 words per hour. Do I expect to be able to write 3600 words per hour? Of course not. But it kind’a makes that 1000 words per hour seem really do-able. You can look back and punch in your own figures.

Oh, as an addendum, N-E-V-E-R write “crap” intentionally. That you “should” write crap the first time through is just the dumbest advice ever. Do the best you can on the first time through, spell check it, then have a first reader check it for consistency and errors (no writing advice!). Then publish it. Then write the next story. (Again, if you disagree, please don’t email me. Just go ahead and do what you want.)

If you’re wondering about how to price print books, here’s the gist:

Don’t devalue your work. Just don’t. I did that for years. No more.

Set your list price so you make at least $2 on Extended Distribution, the royalty you receive after everybody (Baker & Taylor, Ingram, the other smaller distributors, bookstores) takes their cut. No matter which printer you use (I use CreateSpace) there’s a nifty free royalty calculator at https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/#content6:royaltyCalculator. I strongly recommend you bookmark it or whatever you call it.

On all vendors (Amazon, B&N, et al) the print price and the ebook price are linked. At the worst, you won’t sell many print books but the price of your print book will drive readers to buy your ebooks.

Okay, there y’go. Writing is fun. You just have to get out of your own way.

‘Til next time, happy writing, or whatever you do for fun.

Okay, starting on March 11 I’m going to put up my Microsoft Word for Writers series of posts. If you are mystified by all the bells and whistles on Microsoft Word, stay tuned. If you know someone who is, ask them to subscribe. After all, it’s free unless you decide to drop a little something in the tip jar. :-)

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

 

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On “Way” and “Process” and Other Stuff

by Harvey on February 26, 2015

Hi Folks,

This is a personal aside. It isn’t part of the regular series, which comes out every ten days. There’s some humor here, so I hope you’ll enjoy it. If you take it seriously… well, that’s a function of your perception of yourself, not my intent.

Here’s the thing: People keep talking about me having found “my way” to be a writer. Then most often they congratulate me, as if I’d been out in the Superstitions digging test holes for the past 40 years and finally, just last week, found my “way.”

For reasons I’ll discuss a little later in this post, the congratulations are neither warranted nor necessary. The first couple of times this happened, I even told the person something like, “Thanks, but congratulations are not necessary.” But it didn’t matter, see, ’cause the congrats weren’t sincere anyway. They were merely the prelude to the dressing down I was about to receive.

So right after the congrats, that’s when the insanity starts. My assailants usually begin by saying that although they’re happy for me (a lie), my “way” won’t necessarily work for anyone else (a lie) and pretty much everybody has to find their own “way” (a lie) so “Please stop giving me advice!”

What? Really? You want that someone who is successful at doing what you’re not successful at doing but allegedly want to be successful at doing should stop passing along time-honored lessons learned that he received from other highly successful people in the same field in which you currently attempting an ongoing endeavor?

Shrug. Okay. No problem.

Seriously, I don’t care. I’m not saying that because you hurt my feelings (you can’t) or offended me (again, you can’t unless you use a firearm or a knife or a really large stick). I’m saying I don’t care because I obviously wasted my time (and I don’t want to waste anymore) passing along those lessons to someone whom I thought wanted to learn about her chosen craft.

Totally my fault. I was wrong. I should have known better. Most wannabe writers are far too steeped in myths about writing to extricate themselves. You go on back to your twenty-third draft. I have a story to write and publish.

Sigh. I really do want to help, so sometimes I do say more. That’s an unfortunate side effect of “I have the knowledge to help” multiplied by “I’m stupid enough to try one more time.” And if I do say absolutely anything else about it at all, well, everything goes downhill from there.

I have to say folks, I am constantly incredulated (a victim, perhaps, of a medical condition called persistent incredulositis that I just made up) that this sort of thing happens so often. I honestly don’t understand why so many people take offense when I offer them writing advice. I mean, if you don’t want to accept it, don’t. After all, it’s worth precisely what you paid for it. If you don’t agree with it or if you don’t even want to try it for yourself, ignore it.

Oops. There I go giving you advice again. I can just hear it. “You can’t tell me what to do! I don’t have to ignore your advice unless I want to! You’re not the boss of me!” Perhaps I should have written, “Ignore it, or not, whatever you want to do.” Seriously, I couldn’t begin to care less. Here’s why.

In the first place, the advice I pass along is fact, not opinion. It isn’t something I made up. It’s what I’ve learned from other, very successful sources. Yet upon receiving such advice (after they asked) the pretentious avant-garde set leaps to their feet, points at me, and begins jumping up and down screaming,

“That’s YOUR way! You can’t force that on me! I have a right to my OWN way! I have to spend time contemplating my CREATIVE PROCESS and mulling over my CHOICES as a PERSON and I have the right to call myself a writer even if I don’t do it YOUR way which is, you know, to actually write stuff, and you have absolutely NO right to define “writer” for me because my definition is up to me and I’m never gonna do what you tell me to do no matter what you say, Hater!”

Then they slap their hands over their ears and jump up and down and run around in circles while screaming “La la la la la!” to shut out my voice. Wow. And we’re not even married.

Okay. Thing is, I didn’t find “my” way, okay? So please stop saying that. Now, people are different. If you personally feel you have to contemplate your “creative process” or find your particular “way” or any of that, great. Knock yourself out. But don’t include me in all that. Again, I didn’t find “my” way. What I found was Bradbury’s way and Heinlein’s way and the way of every long-term, highly productive professional fiction writer who ever lived: I write.

I don’t spend so much as a second contemplating my creative process, and I absolutely do not “give myself permission” to do anything, ever. I hasten to add, if you feel you have to go through all those machinations, that’s fine with me. I just write.

Oh, and I don’t accept advice on writing fiction from folks who are less productive than I. If you’re a priest and you want to describe what it’s like to be on your side of a confessional, that’s wonderful. If you’re a surgeon and you can fill me in on what it’s like to slice through those layers from the skin to the heart, that’s great. But if you’re a writer and you are less successful and productive than I, well, that would just be silly. It would be kind’a sort’a like accepting advice on driving a sixteen-wheeler across the country from a person who has only driven her Prius around the block once a day for the last thirty years.

Finally, I don’t offer advice on what I don’t know to be true. I just don’t. I also don’t claim to be what I’m not, although certainly what anyone else chooses to do in that regard is strictly up to them. I mean, if I called myself a mechanic or plumber or firefighter or lawyer or doctor or grocery store clerk, I would feel compelled to actually fix engines or plumb pipes or fight fires or practice law or practice medicine or spray water on vegetables. But I’m not any of those things.

I’m a writer. I write.

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

A Tip and Resources for Writers of Short Fiction

by Harvey on February 21, 2015

Hi Folks,

Dean Wesley Smith is the professional long-term fiction writer whom I consider my mentor. He’s made his living with his fiction for over 3o years and has well over 100 novels published through traditional publishers. This is back before traditional publishers lost their minds and made their contracts completely one-sided.

I emailed Dean about my most recent (at the time, back in November, 2014) short story, “Saving the Grenlow”:

“Seriously doubt I’m up to Asimovs or any of that yet, but I did just post (yesterday) my latest short story of the week, an SF piece a little under 3,000 words based on one of our assignments in the SF workshop. I think you might like it if you get time to drop by.”

His reponse?

“Wow, Sheila [Williams, editor] would be angry if she read that. How dare you pre-edit her magazine for her? And it clearly hasn’t sunk in yet for you that writers are the worst judges of their own work. You are going to need to learn that and stop devaluing your work with false judgements.”

So there you go. As some of you know, I don’t usually “devalue” my own work. That particular time, the groveling just snuck up on me, probably because I was talking with my mentor. But his “How dare you pre-edit her magazine for her?” really hit me. Duh. Don’t devalue your own work with false judgments. Seriously.

Topic of the Day: Traditional Publishing for Short Fiction

Don’t misread this. I would NEVER advocate going the traditional publishing route with novels, not the way traditional publishers’ contracts read right now. Don’t take my word for it. Check ‘em out for yourself. And when you read the part that says your book belongs to the publishing company until it goes “out of print,” remember that “print” now includes ebooks, which literally NEVER go out of print. Be careful out there.

On the other hand, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making a quick few hundred dollars on a short story BEFORE self-publishing it to Amazon and Smashwords, right?

If any of you would like to find traditional short story markets that pay professional rates, DWS and another person in a workshop with me suggested checking these sites:

Duotrope at http://duotrope.com

The Grinder at http://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/

Also, look for some of the big annual short story anthologies, like the ‘Best Short stories of XYZ year” and some of the major genre annual anthologies. They’ll list the markets the stories came from, as well as a list of markets that were considered for inclusion.

The Pushcart Prize anthology also has great lists of nominated magazines, with addresses.

With short fiction, of course, you should always follow their guidelines. To not do so is an insult.

So there you have it. Believe in yourself. You believed in your story enough to write it, so submit it and see what happens. There’ll be plenty of time to self-publish to Smashwords and Amazon when rights revert to you after traditional publication. After you’ve pocketed that three hundre dollar check.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

Announcement — WooHoo!

by Harvey on February 16, 2015

Hi Folks,

Just an announcement today.

I’m ever cognizant that there are writers too far away to attend my on-site seminars and writing intensives. And frankly, I’m not doing many of them anymore anyway.

To that end, I put together some audio lectures. There are several on various aspects of the craft itself, and today I decided to put the best technique I’ve ever learned back in the lineup.

It’s called Writing Off Into the Dark. If you know any writers who might be interested, please let them know. They can get all the information on all the lectures at http://harveystanbrough.com/lecture-series. For Writing Off Into the Dark, scroll down to Lecture 12.

Pssst. I first discovered Writing Off Into the Dark not quite a year ago. I began applying it and Heinlein’s Business Rules in mid-April of 2014. Since then, I’ve written 52 short stories, 3 novels and a novella in just over 313,000 words. I’ve written another 29,000 words on my current novel. What’s really cool is that 275,740 of those words came since 1 October 2014. And what’s even cooler than that is that from January 1 to February 16, I’ve written just under 110,000 words (109,763).

All because of Writing Off Into the Dark and Heinlein’s Rules.

Now granted, this is not the way your English teacher or your critique group says you should write. Then again, my English teacher never wrote and published a novel. And as for critique groups, if the members are more widely published than I am and have a larger readership, I’ll listen.

Thing is, this is how Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein and all the pulp writers and every long-term professional writer out there writes. That’s good enough a recommendation for me. (grin)

Anyway, all the audio lectures are good. I suggest you swing by and look at them, especially if you haven’t taken my seminars or if you missed a few. Once you sign up for one, you can listen to it as often as you like and come back to it whenever you like.

Back on the 21st with the next regular post.

‘Til then, happy writing!
Harvey

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