A Note on the Creative Process

Hey Folks,

Back in mid-December 2014 a friend wrote in a private blog post that a non-writing creative project she was working on “would go faster if I didn’t keep redesigning it.”

For me, that sounded like her subconscious popping up to slap her around a little.

Like me, she’s a proponent and practitioner of just writing off into the dark. That is, we Just Write, allowing the characters to lead us into and out of situations as they race through the story.

But sometimes we get stuck. Sometimes our critical conscious mind creeps in and tries to “save” us from making a mistake. It tells us to figure out what’s going to happen next and what direction the story is going to take and on and on and on.

Just yesterday  (as I write this) I was ready to throw in the towel on the third novel in the Wes Crowley series. I was tempted to either slap an end on it and call it a novella or just stop writing it until I Figured Out Where It Was Going. And therein lay the battle: if I’m trusting my subconscious, I don’t even WANT to know where it’s going. The great Ray Bradbury himself once said (I’m paraphrasing) that nothing literary was ever created as the result of thought. But sometimes I slip. Remember, I’ve only been at this Writing Into the Dark stuff a little less than a year.

So anyway, I don’t WANT to know where my story’s going when I’m writing. When I have no clue where the story’s going, it and I are 8 or 10 years old, fresh and alive and laughing and racing through the woods naked and it’s FUN.

But when I have the story all planned out or when I otherwise keep forcing it, the the story is trudging through the woods before me at the point of my Almighty Writer’s sword, its hands cuffed behind its back, a prisoner of my conscious, critical mind. And oh yes, it WILL damned sure do what I tell it to do or else.

Sigh… folks, despite all the crap you hear pouring out of the mouths of teachers and critiquers and agents and other non-writers, the truth is, Writing is supposed to be fun, not drudgery. But when it’s all planned out as in the paragraph above, I might just as well stop, force the story to dig its own grave, and then run it through with that Almighty Writer’s sword to bring the misery to an end for both of us, because THAT is when writing is drudgery.

Now I’m gonna get back to writing my novel. 🙂 And my story of the week. 🙂 And a bunch of other stuff.

Update: As this posts, I finished the novel (and the series) and an unrelated novella and a few more short stories. 🙂 My streak continues of writing at least one new short story per week.

‘Til next time, happy, drudgery-free 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!

A Public Service Announcement… sort of

Yeah, sort of. If you’re a writer, you need resources, and the fact is, I’m a good one. I’ve recently revamped the Writers’ Resources listing in the right sidebar of my page.

That sidebar contains a list of copyeditors as well as various useful tools: several dictionaries for everything from slang to sex; language translators and conversion resources for measurements, mileage, money and more; invaluable information for would-be independent publishers; character naming conventions; free apps; free or inexpensive alternatives to Microsoft Word; and a great deal more.

Among the great deal more there are also miscellaneous resources, such as the newly added Historical Maps site where you can get free digital maps, two resources concerning gardening, two or three quotation sites, notes on police procedures, and links to various writers’ groups. Seriously, take a look.

I also point directly to the websites of Dean Wesley Smith and Steven Pressfield. If you haven’t visited Dean’s website, you are missing out on a TON of great information for writers and indie publishers (and you are an indie publisher if you’re a writer and you’re smart). If you haven’t yet read Pressfield’s Do the Work and The War of Art, well, just stop complaining about not finding time to write ’cause really, seriously, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

Of course, there are also my very own instructional blog posts, which come out every ten days and which of course I hope you find useful. I don’t care for false modesty, so I’ll just say, without bragging, if you read my regular posts, you will learn a great deal about writing, and it will be good information, not the inane bullcookies you hear from people who hold themselves up as experts although they’ve never published anything. I mean, puh-lease.

One thing… Beginning with my next post, you’ll receive those on the 1st, 11th and 21st day of the month. Up until now they were going out on the 10th, 20th and 30th, but despite protracted, endlessly frustrating negotiations, my team thus far has been unable to get February to go along with the program re the posting on the 30th. So I’m making the switch.

Just in case you’re scratching your head and saying something like “Huh?” the problem is that February has only 28 days, except every four years when it begrudgingly adds a 29th day, apparently to tease us and show us it could get to 30 if only it wanted to, which of course it does not because, frankly, that’s just the way February is.

Okay, finally, I’ve also decided to take the plunge into donation land. I mean, I’m a professional writer. I make my living with my words, except the words in my instructional blog posts, which I give you because it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Okay, but warm, fuzzy feelings don’t put bacon on the table, and the fact is, I like bacon, despite the fact that (or maybe because) liking bacon isn’t politically correct because it isn’t made from soy.

So if you’re one of those folks who tells me now and then how much you learn from these posts or how valuable they are or how reading them doesn’t actually give you a migraine, hey, I hope you’ll consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar. You can click the preceding link or you’ll find a button in the upper right corner. And if you’re one of those folks who like to remain silent because, after all, that’s your right, but you also enjoy the posts, learn from them and so on, I hope you’ll consider tossing a tip my way as well.

I’m a full-time fiction writer now, which means I’m making my living with my words. In the past 9 months, since April 15, 2014, I’ve written over a quarter-million words of fiction (263,441 to be exact). That doesn’t include blog posts and other nonfiction. In those 263,441 words are 46 short stories and 3 novels. During that time also, I collected the stories in 12 short fiction collections and the novels into a trilogy. Finally, during that time I created 62 book covers and published those 62 works to over 100 nations around the world through various ebook and print venues. Not bad for an old man, eh? (grin)

I’m just sayin’, writing blogs posts and seminars and other nonfiction is no longer my main focus. When I write a blog post to help you out, it costs me time that I could otherwise use to tell a story. And frankly, telling stories—sitting at my keyboard making stuff up—is a great deal more fun. (grin)

Oh speaking of which, I also added a tip jar to my fiction showcase website over at HEStanbrough.com. If you sign up over there, you get a free, brand new, freshly minted short story every week. Anyway, that’s the same tip jar so don’t feel like you have to hit both of them, okay? But yeah, one would be nice. (grin) You know, if you can see your way clear.

Those tips will help me keep these blog posts going. Oh, and if you do decide to toss something into the kitty, as they say down in Texas, Bless yer hort.

Coming up, in addition to new blog posts, I’ll also be reposting a series on Microsoft Word for Writers and a revised series on Being a Professional Writer as well as a lot of other good stuff.

Until then, happy writing!

Harvey

 

Length of Various Fiction Forms

Hey Folks,

Recently I’ve been asked more than once the length of the various forms of fiction. Yawwwn. Stretch. Sigh. Okay, this is one of those “wrapped around the wheel” things that’s great for personal use if you don’t obsess over it. The answer is, it depends on whom you ask.

For example, although some major magazines (Asimov’s springs to mind) publish both novelettes and novellas, most definitions online consider those two terms interchangeable. But you asked me, so here’s my take in a handy-dandy put-it-on-your-metal-filing-cabinet-under-a-magnet list.

Pssst! Seriously, if you still have a filing cabinet, especially one of the old metal ones, there’s a new thing out: computers. Check into it. ‘Course, you can’t stick stuff to it with a magnet (don’t try; you’ll screw up your screen) but still. I’m just sayin’.

Note that every form on this list denotes a complete story, meaning by definition it has a setting, character(s), conflict(s) and resolution:

  • 6 to 99 words — Flash Fiction (“For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.”)
  • 100 to 1,999 — Short Short Story (Short Short)
  • 2,000 to 6,999 — Short Story
  • 7,000 to 9,999 — Long Short Story (or Novelette)
  • 10,000 to 19,999 — Novella
  • 20,000 to 39,999 — Short Novel
  • 40,000 to 69,999 — Novel
  • 70,000 + — Long Novel

Just in case you have it in mind to ask something like,

“Wull, what about the vignette there, moron? You left out the vignette. Whaddayou, stoopid or somethin’?”

“No, I ain’t stoopid. Maybe you’re stoopid an’ yer projectin’ all your stoopid on me. J’ever thinka that?”

Sorry, got carried away there. Actually, my omission of the vignette from the list was intentional. Also called a “slice of life,” the vignette typically is fiction told from a single POV, but it has no predetermined word range. It is defined by its lack of a resolution (and in some cases, its lack of a conflict that needs to be resolved). So there.

Again, these are just my definitions for my own use, submitted for your amusement. If I were publishing a magazine, probably these are the lengths I would use to determine which label to slap on which accepted submission. But I’m not.

Trust me, I’ll never go back into THAT particular brand of insanity. I have plenty to do just publishing my own stuff plus the works of Eric Stringer, Nick Porter, and Gervasio Arrancado.

Anyway, if your definitions are different, that’s fine. No need to correspond for the sake of argument. I really don’t care. 🙂 These are not things any writer should worry about before writing or during the process or even after the writing process for that matter. Just Write.

Harvey