Let’s Go Streaking

Hi Folks,

First, Happy New Year! I hope it’s perfect for you. If you’re a writer, there’s no better time than right now to go streaking. (grin)

No wait… I mean, you know, there’s no better time to begin a new streak.

Nah, I’m not talking about taking off all your clothes and racing around in public. Seriously, nobody wants to see that. I’m talking about eating an elephant.

Remember the old (very wise) joke? Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time.

When you set a goal and that goal is huge (say you want to write a novel in the next six months), it can seem overwhelming, like eating an elephant. So you have to break it down into manageable bites. That would be smaller goals.

First, I recommend figuring out how many publishable words of fiction you write per hour. (Most pro writers seem to write around 700 to 1000 words per hours.)

Now, how many words do you think your novel will be? Let’s say 60,000.

How many weekdays are there in six months? (To make it easy, let’s give each month 4 weeks. So that would be 24 weeks in six months, and 120 weekdays. Okay, now divide your elephant into bite-size pieces. If your novel will be 60,000 words, you’ll want to write at least 500 words per day. That’s it. Weekends off, and you’re working at your “job” (can you really call sitting at a computer making stuff up work?) only about a half-hour per day. Hmmm…. okay, so maybe you could write TWO novels in that six months. 🙂 But I digress. This is supposed to be about streaks.

Okay, you know now what you have to do if you want to write that 60,000 word novel in six months. So now you make those bites a goal. And it’s not only a goal, but a goal that re-sets itself:

Goal: I will write at least 2500 words of fiction per week. There you go. Now you have a goal that resets every week. See how many weeks you an go without breaking your streak, writing 2500 words per day of new, publisable fiction. Want to break it down further?

Goal: I will write at least 500 words of fiction per day, five days per week. Bam! Just like that, you have a goal that resets every time you get out of bed. In other words, you have the potential for a streak! See how many weekdays you can go without breaking your streak.

I’m telling you, Streaks Have Power. Once you start a streak, the longer it lasts, the harder it is to break.

But if you do miss a day, then what? Do you have to make it up by writing an extra 500 words the next day? No. I mean, that would keep you on track for the larger weekly goal, but no, you don’t have to. Because the goal re-sets every day. If you miss a day, you can just skip it and start over on the next day.

Likewise for the next level up: If one week you write only 2350 words instead of 2500, do you have to make up the missing words the following week? Well, I’m anal, so I would, but no, you don’t have to. You gave it your best shot, so forget it. This goal, too, resets at the beginning of each week.

The point is, follow Heinlein’s Rules and Just Write. Keep moving your fiction forward. Write the scene, write the next sentence and keep moving your fiction forward.

It’s all up to you. If you’re a writer, you have to write.

‘Til next time, happy writing.


Upcoming Writing Intensive

Hey Folks,

If you’re in southern Arizona and you’re serious about being a writer, here’s a chance to start your new year off right.

I’m offering a one-day intensive on How to Write the Character-Driven Story. This information will be valid for any length of fiction from a short story to a novel.

Subtopics will include

  • Getting the Idea
  • Selecting a Main (POV) Character
  • Selecting a Genre
  • The Seven-Point Plot Outline
  • The Five-Senses Exercise
  • Writing Setting
  • Writing Scene
  • Plotting
  • Beginning, Middle and End
  • and more….

This is a WRITING intensive. I recommend you bring your laptops. If you prefer, bring a (paper) tablet and pen. When you pre-register, I’ll send you a pre-seminar assignment. It won’t be difficult, but it will save us some time during the seminar.

The seminar will take place in Benson on Saturday, January 24, from 9 a.m. until 4 or 5 p.m. The cost is $80, payable in advance via PayPal or on the day of the event. Cash is preferred, but a check will do. When you sign up, I’ll send directions to the venue.

It’s a small venue. There are maybe 14 seats. If you want to attend, you must pre-register to reserve your spot by emailing me at harveystanbrough@gmail.com.

If the intensive sells out, I’ll teach it again. If it doesn’t, I won’t.

Hope to see you then,



An Essential Tip: Just Write the Scene

A long while back, I posted that if you’re writing and you get bogged down, you should just write the next sentence, then write the next sentence, and so on. Soon you’ll be back in the flow of your story and you can forge ahead. There’s one proviso—that “next sentence” should come directly from your subconscious (creative) mind. In other words, you shouldn’t force it and think about it and make it read just so. You should literally JUST write the next logical sentence.

Well, sometimes when I get stuck, my fingers are poised on the keyboard, all ready to write the next sentence and— the next sentence doesn’t come. Oh crap! What now?

Sometimes you aren’t stuck. Sometimes you’re in the wrong place. Sometimes you’re trying to make something happen (conscious, critical mind) that isn’t part of the story. Remember, the real story is coming out of your subconscious mind, your creative mind.

A few days ago I found myself in exactly that situation. I had written a long (over 1800 words) but very terse opening scene. At the end of that scene, I tried to write a transition and then another scene. (“Tried” is the operative word here. When you “try,” that’s your critical mind. Ugh.) Nothing doing. There was no next sentence.

So I sat back for a moment, released all the conscious, critical mind “try” stuff that I was trying to force on the story. Then I leaned forward, put my fingers on the keyboard, and wrote the first thing that came to mind. A new scene sprang onto the page. When I felt I might bog down again, I just wrote the next sentence, wrote the next sentence. This time it worked fine. I was back in sync, allowing my subconscious creative mind to tell the story it wanted to tell. My fingers barely stopped moving for another 1892 words. Then they slammed to a stop.

Can’t fool me twice, at least not in the same story. I got up, moved around, got a glass of water and came back to the story. I put my fingers on the keyboard, wrote the first thing that came to mind, and again a new scene flew across the page. Yep, just like that. This scene was only 581 words. This time I already knew what the next scene would be, so I added a section divider (for me that’s a series of three centered, spaced asterisks) and started the next scene: that one isn’t finished yet, and it’s just under 1,000 words.

I probably will finish this story a little later today (as I write this post, October 23, 2014). First historical western I’ve written since I was a kid. These days my primary interest is in writing psychological suspense (like horror, but no slash and gash). My secondary is science fiction. My third is magic realism. Historical westerns aren’t anywhere on my list of priorities, but this is the story that wanted to be written, so this is the story I’m writing. Cool, eh?

UPDATE: If you’re signed up for my story-a-week blog over on Harvey Stanbrough & Friends you probably read it back on October 23. It was titled Adobe Walls. If you enjoy westerns, I’ve since written a second western short story based on my novels: Last Raid on Amarillo. For a few more days you can read it free at the blog.

When you get stuck in your writing, Let Go and just write the next sentence. If it won’t come, write the next scene:

  1. To begin a scene, write whatever comes.
  2. To get through the scene, write the next sentence, then write the next sentence, then write the next sentence. Don’t think about where it’s all going or even about the second or third sentence: Just write the next sentence.
  3. When you’re writing a scene, don’t worry about how it connects to other scenes. Just focus on that scene.
  4. When the scene ends, write whatever comes for the next scene (or for another scene), then write the next sentence, etc.
  5. Your character(s) will lead you to where you need to be.

‘Til next time, happy writing.