Spending Time in the Chair

Hi Folks,

There is a pervasive myth that writing “fast” is writing bad. The myth is based on the notion that if you write a novel in a period of days instead of at least several months, it must be badly written. That’s just not true.

Productivity in writing boils down to two things: discipline (which is to say, a work ethic) and Heinlein’s Rules, especially Rule 3 in this case.

Not too long ago one woman told me she could spend all day on one sentence.

Seriously? How boring must that be?

If you’re going over and over and over your writing, counting the number of times you use “that” or “which” and making sure you alternate them (they’re not interchangeable) or checking sentence structure (yaaawn, stretch), then yeah, it’s gonna take you a year or two or ten to write your novel.

And you know what? When you finally finish, it’s going to be horrible. You will have polished all the good off of your work.

Write the thing. Just write it.

Write it as well as you can per your current skill level, finish it, ship it off to a first reader and maybe a proofreader to look for mixups between things like “waist” and “waste” or “rode” and “road.”

Then publish it.

Then start the next one.

All of that comprises step one to being a professional writer.

Step two is spending time in the chair.

I was saying in a presentation a few days ago (as I write this), would you call yourself a mechanic if you only spent a few hours a month under the hood of a car?

Now learning is good. In fact, it’s essential. But no matter how much you learn about being a mechanic, you aren’t a mechanic if you don’t spend some time fixing cars.

Endlessly attending seminars and conferences about being a mechanic is not being a mechanic.

Talking about being a mechanic is not being a mechanic.

Thinking about being a mechanic is not being a mechanic.

Being a mechanic means getting under the hood and doing your job.

Same thing goes for writing.

If you call yourself a writer, shouldn’t you actually write? Okay, it’s a free country. You certainly may call yourself anything you want, but you can’t actually BE a writer if you don’t write.

I write 1,000 words per hour. If that sounds like a lot, do the math. It’s 17 words per minute. That leaves me a lot of time for staring off into space, researching the name of that particular type of pastry the character wants to buy, etc.

Then I spend three or four or five hours in the chair. Every day.

Yep, I have a job that I only have to work three or four or five hours per day.

If you spend only three hours per day doing your job, Mr. or Ms. Writer Person, and if you hit around 17 words per minute, and if you do that only five days per week, taking weekends off, you will write 15,000 words per week. That’s a 60,000 word novel in 4 weeks.

Now why again do you think it should take a year or two to write a novel?

Decide to write the best story you can the first time through, then spend the time in the chair, and you’ll be amazed at how much good writing you turn out.

Happy writing!

Harvey

 

The Journal, Tuesday, 3/28

Hey Folks,

Well, this probably is going to be a nonwriting day. I’m going to treat it that way, just in case.

Ever notice how much that guy Justin Case has to do with life in general? (grin)

I have a doc appointment (routine) on the far side of Tucson at 8:45 this morning. Justin Case of traffice, etc. we’ll leave here around 7.

I would think we should be back by 1 or so, but you just never know. So I’m gonna post this edition of the Journal early. You know, Justin Case.

If I happen to get back early enough to get some writing done, I’ll revise this Journal before it goes out via email at 7.

So those of you who get it via RSS, just be aware it might change.

I haven’t really been trying for a “streak” with this blog. Just chatting with my friends for an hour or so per day.

But it seems to have developed into a streak, in that it’s difficult to think of missing a day posting. (Streaks have power; they don’t want you to break them.)

So I guess it’s a streak. I’ll figure out how long later.

Nah, I have time. Lemme look.

Okay, November 25, 2015 through today, I posted something to this Journal every day. (A few of those days I was camping and without Internet, but for those I pre-posted things.)

So today is Day 490. You know, Justin Case you were wondering.

* * *

Stayed up and watched Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in Anchor’s Aweigh last night. Such a great film.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 4.

My proof was ready from CreateSpace for Body Language, a book I originally published as an ebook way back in January, 2016.

Body Language was my 12th novel (of 25). So I still have a bunch to get into paper.

I could just say 13, but by the time The Pyramid Killer (my current WIP) is in paper, I’ll have probably another 25 written and waiting in the wings. (grin)

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

Not a lot at Dean’s or elsewhere today that I could find.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 370 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 370

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
Day 5…… 2521 words. Total words to date…… 14719
Day 6…… 4109 words. Total words to date…… 18828
Day 7…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 51289
Total fiction words for the year………… 203155
Total nonfiction words for the month… 19370
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 55960

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 259115

The Journal, Monday, 3/27

Hey Folks,

Dean has begun a series of posts on copyright. I’m not personally wild about the analogy he uses, but there should be a ton of good information there over the next several days.

* * *

I said I would update you regarding my experience with Cover to Upload.

Kathy did an excellent job, put up with my requirements and changes, was very quick to respond, and even uploaded the thing to CreateSpace for me.

Oh, she also sent files (two choices of a cover and the interior) for me to proof and then made a few changes for me before she uploaded it.

I can’t recommend her strongly enough. Please let her know I sent you if you go.

She even said she could do a book a week for me if I wanted her to. Seriously, you can’t beat this with a stick. https://covertoupload.com/

* * *

For those of you keeping up with the sparse saga of my grandson, first, thanks for your kind comments. Bryan’s going for an interview with Job Corps in mid-April. Together, he and I have explored a lot of options. We believe this is his best chance at a good life.

Topic: Different Characters, Different Worlds

The family unit is the first social group to which we are subjected. For that reason, the opening of this topic might seem a bit personal. But bear with it.

When I was a child of around 10, I suddenly became aware that I didn’t know my parents.

I knew of them, of course, in their role as my parents, and from my unique perspective.

But I didn’t know them as individual human beings. The same goes in the other direction.

They knew me as their child and in the context of the family dynamic, but again, from their different perspectives (stepmother’s and father’s).

Later I realized that my perspective and opinion of my parents was substantially different even from the perspectives and opinions of my siblings. Even though my siblings’ “level” in the family was comparable to my own.

I also realized that my opinions of different settings and events and even my memories of those settings and events differed significantly from the opinions and memories of my siblings and my parents.

Have you ever noticed that when you “remember” a specific setting or event and mention it to family or friends, often their rememberance differs from yours?

Have you ever noticed that you have a distinct opinion of a given setting? And that perhaps the opinions of others of that same setting differs from yours?

Those opinions are tainted not only with the immediate perception and personal preference of the character, but also with the character’s “baggage.” By which I mean, memories of earlier experiences, traumas and elations.

For example, say you walk into a library. Maybe to you, the atmosphere is “stuffy,” filled as it is with the smell of dust-covered volumes and the sound of people moving quietly among the stacks.

Maybe to the person accomanying you, the atmosphere is “pleasant.” Maybe to another it’s “loud” or “disquieting” or some other descriptor.

This is the main reason, when I’m talking with a memoir writer, that I say memoir is much more closely related to fiction than to nonfiction.

Memoir is a set of memories, from a unique perspective, of settings and events that have already happened.

Fiction is a set of memories, again from a unique perspective, of settings and events that have not yet happened.

But more to the point, those early realizations were also my early training to be a writer.

Those early realizations are why it was easy for me to accept the notion (from DWS) that if I wanted to ground the reader in my story, all setting description had to be sifted through the POV character’s physical senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell) and through his or her opinion of that setting.

We all (characters in life) have our own opinion of every setting we enter.

Being alone in an elevator provides a sense of claustrophobia or a chance for calm reflection. Being with a group in an elevator provides a feeling of unease or a fear of germs or a sense of unity and companionship.

When the elevator arrives and the doors sluice open, any given sight is pleasant or troubling or exciting or something in between. A body on the floor in the hallway horrifies one, awes another.

The lighting in any setting is bright or dim or absent, the sounds loud or quiet, the underlying psychic sense eerie or comforting.

One character is disgusted by all the dust illuminated in a beam of light coming through a window. Another is pleased at the warmth and hominess of it. Yet another is excited at all the worlds floating before him.

A room in which the ambient temperature is 55° is cold to one, chilly to another, and comfortable to a third.

The smell of tobacco smoke is an aroma or a stench. The smoke floating in the air is grey to one, silver to another, ugly to one, wispy and beautiful to another.

Every flavor is sweet or bitter, sharp or bland, acidic or alkiline. Every texture is smooth or rough, rippled or bumpy or wavy.

When an automobile backfires on the street it’s annoying to one, comforting to another, and a rifle shot to a third.

The sound of a jake brake in use on a big rig coming into town is annoying to one, comforting to another, and an act of defiance to a third.

Think back about your own life, your own opinions of settings. Consider your friends’ or partner’s opinions of the same settings and how they differ.

Now the trick — in your writing, realize that your opinion of a given setting doesn’t matter. But do insist that the POV character’s opinion makes it into the story.

And the story will come alive.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 4:15 this morning after a good night’s rest.

Finally to the Hovel around 7 or a little later. I wrote the stuff above this.

9, a brief break up to the house. Well, the brief break turned longer. My cover and interior-layout person at Cover to Upload did an excellent job and sent me proofs. I looked them over, got a few requirements back to her, and now back to the novel.

9:50, finally to the novel. Wow! That was interesting. I opened the novel to find all of yesterday’s words missing.

Back to the house to retrieve my “conflicted copy” from the recycle bin on the other computer. That was the correct one. Transferred it to my flash drive, then back to the Hovel, downloaded it. Whew!

I feel just a little bit like the universe is screwing with me today. (grin)

I’ve rattled on far too long here. The rest of the day I’ll write with breaks about every hour. Then I’ll report the total here at the end. Thanks for staying tuned.

10, NOW finally to the novel.

Well, shutting down with a pretty good day at just over 4,000 words. Not as good as it sounds though. Not sure what kind of time I’ll have to write tomorrow. I have a doc appointment in Tucson, so I hope I’ll get some time to write.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

At Dean’s, “The Magic Bakery: Copyright in the Modern World of Fiction Publishing” http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/the-magic-bakery-copyright-in-the-modern-world-of-fiction-publishing/.

An excellent service provider: Cover to Upload. See http://covertoupload.com

Fiction Words: 4109
Nonfiction Words: 1240 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 5349

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
Day 5…… 2521 words. Total words to date…… 14719
Day 6…… 4109 words. Total words to date…… 18828

Total fiction words for the month……… 51289
Total fiction words for the year………… 203155
Total nonfiction words for the month… 19000
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 55590

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 258745

The Journal, Sunday, 3/26

Hey Folks,

Good ol’ Verizon woke me up at 1:03 a.m. with a text message. When the tone went off, naturally I thought there was some sort of family emergency.

Uh, no.

Verizon wanted to inform me that I had “only” 25% of my data left with 2 days remaining in a 30-day cycle.

Seriously. How do they not know 25% data should last 7.5 days in a 30 day cycle?

Yeah, I know it was just some stupid glitch in their automated system. But things like that tend to annoy me.

I’m one of those who, once I’m awake, can’t go back to sleep. And I don’t do naps. At least it ought’a be a good writing day. Then again, I’m groggy at best and it’s Sunday, so I guess we’ll see.

* * *

I’m actually gonna go to the novel on my business computer at one of the outside desks up at the house this morning. Even I am not stupid enough to put off writing just because I don’t want to trudge out to the Hovel yet. (grin)

Topic: Why I Set Goals

Everybody’s heard me say before that I let a piece of writing be however long it’s going to be. That it’s all up to the characters. That I trust them to lead me through to the end.

All of that’s true. Regardless of particular goals.

So then how can I set a goal of finishing a novel by a particular date?

Well, attaining a goal is not all a function of the consicous mind. It takes teamwork.

And goal attainment is yet another way to illustrate the roles of the conscious mind (The Learning and Acquisitions Department) and the subconscious mind (The Creative Department).

I consciously set the goal. I consciously decided early in the month that I wanted to write two novels this month.

Then The Creative Department (subconscious) kicked in and finished the first on the 14th in ten writing days. Was it coincidence that it was finished before half the month was gone?

That’s up to you to decide. Personally, I don’t believe in coincidence.

Then I took a day off, then started the second novel on the 16th. Then I took another six days off. Days when I could have been writing. The days off were necessary and not completely within my control, but the numbers are the same.

I resumed writing (after thinking the thing was dead) on the 23rd with nine writing days left, from the 23rd to the 31st, inclusive.

In other words, when I resumed on the 23rd, I set another goal, consciously, to finish this novel in nine days. Ten days total, including the dangling day back on the 16th when I wrote little more than the opening.

Again, coincidence? The first novel took ten days. Was I forcing myself to write this one in ten days too? Shrug. Beats me.

Maybe my subconscious is setting me up to write three of these in a month, up to ten days each. I don’t know.

Regardless, it is what it is.

My goal is to be finished with this novel no later than close of business (so around 5 p.m.) on March 31st.

Now, does that mean I’ll consciously limit the novel to that amount of time? Will I “cut off” a novel that wants to keep running?

Nope, on both counts.

I won’t consciously limit it. I believe in allowing a story to be whatever length it’s going to be. And a finished novel is a finished novel, whether or not it’s finished “on time.”

But neither will I have to make a conscious decision to cut it off and rush an ending. As long as I write off into the dark and trust my subconscious, I won’t have the opportunity.

Once I set a goal consciously, The Creative Department kicks in and takes over. It’s as if the characters in the story got a memo that says they have no more than nine days to finish telling the story.

And off they go.

So there. How’s that for putting it all out there? I have not the foggiest clue how this thing will end up or even, at the moment, where it will go next.

I’m literally just writing the next sentence. Then the next. Then the next. Whatever occurs to me.

I don’t slow down to wonder whether or how it fits. I just write what I’m given to write.

And somehow I know when the dust settles, it will all be where it’s supposed to be and the story will be finished. And the date will be March 31st or earlier. (grin)

What a cool feeling!

* * *

Another thought on the topic — if I didn’t have this goal to finish this novel by the end of the month, I’d take the day off today to read and do nothing. But then, that’s why I set goals. (grin) To push me a little when maybe I’d rather be doing something else.

Now, I have every faith in my subconscious to attain this goal. And faith matters, but as my grandma used to say, “Praying isn’t enough. You have to put feet in your prayers.” (grin)

Consciously deciding to take a day off would rob the subconscious (and the characters) of one of the nine days I promised them.

They might turn out 4,000 or 5,000 words today. They might turn out only a few hundred. But I’ll give them every opportunity to do what they do best.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 1 a.m. Did the usual routine screwing around for the first couple of hours.

3 a.m., I moved to the novel. I cycled through the last chapter I wrote yesterday and added around 300 words. That in about 45 minutes. Groggy start. Time for a break.

Well, that break lasted over an hour and a half. Probably not a good idea writing on this computer. Wrong space, wrong keyboard, wrong mentality. And my brain isn’t working right. That loss of an hour or two of sleep made a big difference.

I wrote a little around 6, then looked up some medicine online and did some other things.

Finally around 8:30, I moved out to the Hovel and wrote more of the above.

8:50, to the novel again. Prior to now I’ve added only a little over 600 words total to the novel. I’d like to see this thing grow by another 4000 words or more, but we’ll see. I’ll let the characters add what they want to add.

10, over the past hour and ten minutes, I’ve been on and off the novel probably four times. I’ve added only another 400 words or so in that time.

So this is one of those bits-and-pieces days. I’ll stop the play-by-play now and just give you the total when the smoke clears.

Well, just over 2500 words today, but my brain’s fried. So I’ll fall back on that old, “Well, at least it’s 2500 more than yesterday.”

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

At Dean’s place, a second post from yesterday that I missed. See “Chet Cunningham” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/chet-cunningham/.

Today’s post is only a placeholder post on the Strengths Workshop.

Fiction Words: 2521
Nonfiction Words: 1200 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 3721

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
Day 5…… 2521 words. Total words to date…… 14719

Total fiction words for the month……… 47180
Total fiction words for the year………… 199046
Total nonfiction words for the month… 17760
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 54350

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 253396

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