The Journal, Monday, 7/27

Hey folks, just a note to update everyone and hope you’re hangin’ in there.

Arrived at our destination today. I was thinking (wrongly, not at all unusual for me) that we’d be on the road three days, then here three days, then on the road again three days. Kind of a weird symmetry in that.

But no.

Actually, not counting today, we’ll be here four full days. The current intention is to head back early on Saturday morning. So there’s that.

Not sure how much writing I’ll get done while I’m on the road at all. I truly am jonesing to 1) finish The Battle of Tres Caballos and 2) get started on either another novel in a different world or Book 9 of the Crowley saga. And I’ve also been jonesing lately to write more short fiction.

I have a feeling if I am able to carve out some writing time while I’m on the road it will be for short stories.

This is all very weird for me. I spent years traveling around the country speaking at writers’ conferences and conventions. But at those places, I was alone and not visiting relatives or friends. All of that translates that whenever I wasn’t entertaining new friends in the local bar, I was up in my room WRITING.

Whole different deal here. So we’ll see.

Not sure even when I’ll post again, so until then, please keep writing and enjoying yourself. Just have fun!

Harvey

Oh! Over at Dean’s website, he’s putting up some good stuff recently. So go look already.

 

The Journal, Friday, 7/24

The Day

Rolled out about 3. Checked email and did some other waking-up stuff.

Good rain last night so no walk today. Not sure I can even get out of my driveway. (grin)

No matter how the writing turns out today, more than likely I’ll be going on hiatus from this blog for a few days. I might post and I might not. I’ll be driving about 11 hours per day, so I don’t need the unnecessary added pressure of hoping I can get this out before 5 p.m. each day, especially when I won’t be able to write while I’m driving.

Now I understand I could just pre-post a “placeholder” post or something like that, but that just seems kind’a silly. I DO have a streak going with this, but using an occasional placeholder post seems like cheating to me. Plus I wasn’t really trying to get a streak going with this. It just kind’a worked out that way.

I started this back in mid-October to give other writers and would-be writers a glimpse at my life since I’ve started writing fiction full time as a profession. I guess taking an occasional hiatus is part of the writing life too, right? (grin)

I have posts pre-published and ready to go on my other two blogs, the Pro Writers series and the Free Short Story of the Week, so those will continue. But this is a daily post of what I did that day, and probably all I’m gonna be doing is driving and sleeping.

If I see anything interesting that has to do with writing or the writing life along the way I’ll certainly report it. In fact, I might well take a few notes at the end of each day and then report those when I have time.

Topic of the Night: Starting and Restarting

First, if you’re an aspiring writer and you haven’t started that novel or short story, it’s time. And by “started” I don’t mean you thought about it or researched it or told all your friends you were gonna do it. By “started” I mean you sat down at the keyboard and actually put words on the page.

If you haven’t started yet, and if you’re having trouble with that, chances are you’re the victim of an unreasonable fear.

If you write something and it’s great, absolutely nothing will happen. And if you write something and it sucks canal water from all 50 states, well, nothing will happen then either. So sit down and Just Write.

To get better, you have to practice. And to practice, you have to start.

So you’re ready and willing, and the question now is, What do I do next?

Sit down at the keyboard, put your fingers on the keys, and type whatever comes. Just type whatever comes.

You’re not writing a story or a novel. You’re just writing a sentence.

Then write the next sentence. Then write the next sentence. Keep doing that, and before you know it, you will have written a scene.

Once you write that first sentence, DON’T stop and critique it. DON’T stop and edit it. DON’T wonder how it’s gonna fit with whatever’s coming in the future.

Just write the next sentence.

If you want to start, that’s how you start.

And if you need to restart, that’s pretty much how you restart too.

More than likely I won’t be writing for awhile. Probably at least three days, and maybe the whole ten days.

And of course, I’m nearing the end of a WIP, unless I finish it today, which is doubtful.
So I’ll be restarting when I get back.

For restarting, the best method I’ve found is to cycle back and read some of what I’ve written. With some stories I might start at the beginning and read all the way through, allowing myself to touch the manuscript here and there.

Caution: if you do this, DON’T look for “too many” instances of a particular word or “too many” uses of a particular sentence structure. Your subconscious knew what it wanted when it wrote that segment the first time. But if you happen on “moss” and know “lichen” is closer to what you were wanting to convey, by all means change it. So when I say I’ll allow myself to touch the manuscript as I read through it, that’s what I mean.

With this story I’ll probably cycle back about five pages, maybe ten, and read from there. Then when I get to the end of what I’ve written, I’ll just write the next sentence, then write the next sentence.
In other words I’ll give it all over to the higher power: my subconscious: and let it do what it does best. (grin)

By the way, another good blog post over at http://deanwesleysmith.com today. A weird analogy that didn’t really work for me, but I got his point. I think you will too.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: 2713

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… 1678 words. Total words to date…… 41469
Day 18… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 43274
Day 19… 2713 words. Total words to date…… 45987

Total fiction words for the month…………… 36717
Total fiction words for the year……………… 442400

The Journal, Thursday, 7/23

The Day
Rolled out about 3. Checked email and did some website maintenance and updates.

Turned a quick 3 mile walk.

Went out to the shed and loaded a bunch of my youngest son’s stuff into the pickup for the trip north. Really looking forward to the road trip.

Sam Turner from SSA and RWA sent me a very interesting survey comparing readers’ choices in 2015 vs. 2013. There’s a lot of good information there if you want to improve your marketing efforts.

The main page for the survey results is here: http://blog.marieforce.com/the-results-are-in-2015-reader-survey/.

The results in table format are here: https://marieforce.com/images/docs/2015ReaderSurveyChart.pdf.

You’ll see a couple other links on the main page as well.

Great post again over at http://deanwesleysmith.com. This guy’s hitting on all cylinders right now, and I for one am glad to see it. He and I are the same age. What he’s doing with his writing right now is nothing short of incredible. Today he talks about multiple cash flows in this new world of publishing. Well worth a visit.

Once again I didn’t get any writing done. I’m getting things (the truck, my personal belongings, “trip stuff” etc.) ready for the trip so I’m kind of scatter brained right now.

When I think I might sit and write a bit,  I think of some small something I need for the trip. Thing is, I’m one of those who does everything as it occurs to me. If I didn’t, some of it would fall through the cracks.

So I’m living kind of a stuttering, stammering lifestyle right now filled with starts.

Is this an example of my conscious mind stopping me from writing?

Unequivocally, Nope. I love the story and I want to get it finished so I can do the cover and move on to the next one. No stoppages or slowdowns or confusion. I’m just wired about this trip.

As an aside, I keep thinking I should have just stayed here. The initial plan was to send Mom to Indiana to see her boys while I stay here and hold down the fort. But we eventually decided on Plan Two, which was me going as well, but driving instead of flying. I don’t fly, and I won’t until the nation regains its senses and puts personal safety above politically correct speech and searches.

So we’re driving. The only massive downside is that I have to leave my youngest daughter here and I don’t like it. But being here in familiar surroundings will be better for her, so I’m forcing myself to do it. (grin)

Nervous dad and the whole bit. Here’s a little pic of my baby girl, asking me nicely to put down Mr. Camera before she goes all Siamese on my backside. (grin)

DSC00171a

Not really. She’s the sweetest baby kit I’ve ever known. Actually, I woke her up while she was napping in the late afternoon sun. Probably that look on her face is You’re gonna put some stupid caption with this an’ show it to people aren’t you?

And yes, I am. Did.

Okay, since I started this travesty, here’s how she usually looks. (grin)

DSC00010baTopic of the Night: No topic tonight. I’m pooped.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: XXXX

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… 1678 words. Total words to date…… 41469
Day 18… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 43274
Day 19… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 34004
Total fiction words for the year……………… 439687

The Journal, Wednesday, 7/22

The Day
Rolled out about 2:30. No walk again today and maybe no writing. I have to be in Sierra Vista to visit my mechanic at 9 a.m. We’ll see how the day unfolds from there.

I could have written earlier, but I didn’t. Well, I did write, but nothing good. During my waking up time, a comment on Facebook set me off. I spent the next three hours writing some nonfiction spurred by the comment. Ugh.

Sometimes I’m an idiot. What I have to say would have no effect on the comment writer. It would make no difference whatsoever, and it serves only to further frustrate me. So three completely wasted hours there. I can’t believe some of the choices I make sometimes regarding how I spend my time.

And I won’t start writing on Wes now because I don’t want to get deep into a scene and have to interrupt it for my little side trip to SV this morning. It’s looking more and more like I’ll miss my original goal of having this book done and out before July 25. Might have to finish it on the road. But that’s all right. I allowed too many other things to take priority too many times.

Great post over at http://deanwesleysmith.com. He talks about yet another benefit of writing into the dark. Good read.

Sure enough, the gaskets that my truck needed even frustrated the mechanic. He started at about 9 this morning and had to re-do things until around noon when my wife came to pick me up. I’ll go get her at her work at 5, then back to SV (actually Whetstone, just north of Huachuca City) to get the truck.

Valve cover gaskets now look more like O rings than gaskets, for anyone out there who used to replace your own. We used to buy one set of valve cover gaskets and save the box. Then the next set we cut out of the box the first set came in. 🙂 Cereal boxes worked too.

I decided to call this a day off writing. Too much other going on.

Topic of the Night: Setting Priorities
Very briefly, you set your own priorities. You make choices, conscious or otherwise, in practically every moment.

Become aware of those choices. Own them.

If they aren’t what you want, or if the results aren’t what you want, begin changing how you assign priorities.

Basically,

  • you can be a plumber or cop or housewife who Also Writes when other things and people allow you to, or
  • you can BE a writer who also does other life things.

I am a writer who does other things, either when I choose to or when life happens. Today it was mostly life happens and partly kickin’ back. (grin)

What to take from this: It’s all up to you.

Today’s Writing
No writing today. Zero.
Fiction words: XXXX

This really is kind’a strange. I have only 18 writing days on this novel, so not bad, but that’s over 31 calendar days. For me that’s a long time. I don’t think I’ve taken off that many days before while writing a novel. Anyway, this one is closing down on the end so I think the writing will go pretty fast from here on out.

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… 1678 words. Total words to date…… 41469
Day 18… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 43274
Day 19… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 34004
Total fiction words for the year……………… 439687

The Journal, Tuesday, 7/21

The Day
Rolled out about 2:30 after a rough night babysitting an ulcer. Definitely no walk today.

Books 3 and 7 of the Wes Crowley saga came in from CreateSpace today. I order three or four copies of each major title I put out just to have a few on hand. Here are the covers of those two:

Marshal 150I got some pretty good writing done today, but not fully up to speed. Took a lot more time off to just sit than anything else. Still, advanced the novel. And I’m getting closer to the point where I’ll see the ending.

I did find out today that one of the lesser characters in the previous book is bigger than I first thought. And she’s bigger because she has a personal vendetta against Wes. That was kind’a interesting. Not sure yet why she has a vendetta, but I hope they’ll tell me in the next day or two. (grin)

So I did nothing today other than resting and writing, and all of the writing came in short bits here and there. It’ll be better tomorrow.

Topic of the Night: Writing Off Into the Dark, Part Two To Direct or Not to DirectCrowley 150
In yesterday’s post, I wrote that WOITD is writing without without allowing your conscious mind to “direct” every action of every character and every word that comes out of your characters’ mouths.

True dat.

So that means you have a choice.

Most of us have been taught that we’re supposed to study and plot and do character studies and outlines and Control The Snot out of our characters. Wrong.

How would you like it if someone else were controlling everything you did, everything you said?

Well, your characters feel the same way.

In a good marriage or a good friendship, the parties run through life together. They simply enjoy each other’s company and are there for each other. And as you go through life you get little snapshots and opinions of each other. Later, perhaps in memoir or when talking with another person, you convey your memories of that time.

It’s the same in a story. Exactly the same. Exactly.

The brave writer doesn’t “direct” anything. The brave writer, like the brave friend or lover, runs through life with her characters, exploring and experiencing the same things they do AS THE CHARACTERS experience them. And the writer writes down what the characters say and do.

Notice: The writer doesn’t DIRECT the characters to say and do certain things. The writer merely observes, AS she’s running through the story with the characters, and writes down what they say and do.

If you do this, if you trust your subconscious and write off into the dark, your characters WILL surprise you, I promise.

Practically every day mine do or say things that I had no idea they were going to say or do. Many times, as I’m writing, I stop, sit back from the computer and laugh out loud. And when the characters take me completely by surprise, I know they’ll do the same for the reader.

By the way, there have been some GREAT posts over at http://deanwesleysmith.com over the past few days on the business of writing. I hope you’re following his blog.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: 1805

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… 1678 words. Total words to date…… 41469
Day 18… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 43274

Total fiction words for the month…………… 34004
Total fiction words for the year……………… 439687

Real Dialogue Tips

Hey Folks,

Because dialogue comes directly from the character’s mouth to the reader’s ear, no other part of your story is more intimate with the reader. No other part of the story will do more to engage the reader directly.

Dialogue dialogue consists of three elements: two parts narrative and one part nuance. The narrative parts are tag lines and brief descriptive narrative. Nuance is composed of the subtleties of implication. What your character says is never more important than how she says it, as dictated by your use of punctuation, word choice, and sentence structure.

Tag Lines

The purpose of tag lines—Tag lines exist ONLY to let the reader know which character is speaking. (Some call these narrative beats.) They do not stand alone. They consist of either the character’s name or the appropriate personal pronoun and a simple intransitive verb that indicates utterance. The best verb to use is “said.”

More exciting tag line verbs—If someone tells you to use more exciting tag line verbs they don’t know what they’re talking about. Always using “he said” or “Susan said” is boring, but that’s a good thing. Tag lines should be very brief and boring so the reader can skip quickly over them and get back to what matters. An “interesting” tag line will pull the reader from the story line.

Reverse constructions—There is never a good reason to use a reverse construction (verb first) in a tag line, said Harvey. Again, that calls attention to the tag line. And again, the tag line exists only to let the reader know which character is talking. It doesn’t set mood, tone, or any of those other literary terms.

Punctuation with tag lines—When the tag line occurs before the sentence, or when it occurs after a sentence that would normally end with a period, the tag line is always attached to the sentence with a comma.

Brief Descriptive Narrative Passages

Descriptive narrative passages sometimes are confused with tag lines, but the key word here is descriptive. Also, BDNs stand alone. They are complete sentences, separate of the line of dialogue. The descriptive narrative passage enables the reader to see a bit of the scene.

Use action verbs in descriptive narrative passages. When you use action verbs, you will automatically use fewer adjectives and adverbs. Any unnecessary adjectives and adverbs will fall away of their own accord.

Because it will set the tone or mood or voice of the dialogue to come, the brief descriptive narrative passage should appear before the dialogue:

An impish smile creased her lips. “Almost finished there?” (This way we see the smile and hear her tone as she speaks.)

Most often, if the BDN appears after the dialogue, the reader will back up and re-read the dialogue with the new information in mind. This is an interruption in the flow of the reading, and every interruption is a chance to stop reading your story or book.

Brief interruptive narrative passages are used in the midst of dialogue to enhance the rhythm or to give the reader a brief glimpse of a changing setting. Dialogue is wonderful but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

In this excerpt from “Mama’s Taste in Men,” a short story, you’ll find no tag lines at all and only necessary brief descriptive narratives. Study it to see why the BDNs are where they are:

My fist relaxed and I reached for Joe Ray’s hand. “Mean it or not, you shouldn’t say bad things about my mama.”

He took my hand and I helped him to his feet. “I just said she had bad taste in men,” he said, wiping cow spit off his face with one hand and dusting off his coveralls with his hat. “Besides, it was only a joke.”

“Well, some things you just don’t joke about. Besides, that ain’t exactly what you said. You said if Mama’s taste for men was in her mouth, her breath would smell like dung.”

“That was the joke part.”

“Well, in the future, keep your stupid sense of humor to yourself.” I thumped his chest with my forefinger. “Else you could wind up covered with cow slobber. Besides, Jake’s okay. He just ain’t got no nose holes.”

“Nostrils.”

“What?”

Sam spoke up. “Nostrils. Nose holes are called nostrils.”

“How do you know?’

Lester, who generally knows what everybody knows, put in his two cents. “Everybody knows that, Vernon. Nostrils is short for nose holes.”

I snorted. “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”

“Maybe dumb and maybe not so dumb, but it’s true all the same.”

Lester was tired of arguing, so Sam closed in for the kill. The Broden Brothers Tag Team. “We’ll wait ’til school and ask Miss Durb. She knows all about such things.”

That was my cue to end it. “Fine. We’ll ask Miss Durb. But school ain’t ’til Monday and Mama’s wedding is tomorrow. So we’re on truce ’til Monday.” I stuck out my hand, palm down, offering them the sign of the truce. “Agreed?”

And the nuances of dialogue? That’s just how your character delivers the part within the quotation marks. The voice should be unique from one character to another. It’s whether the character says “Do you want to?” or “Do y’wanna?” or “You wanna?” It’s whether the character speaks tersely or succinctly or vaguely.

The character should always speak the way a REAL person (of the same gender, same race or ethnicity and same education level) from the same area in the same situation would speak. Not complicated at all, is it? (grin)

Use tag lines only when it’s absolutely necessary to let the reader know which character is speaking.

Use brief descriptive narratives (introductory or interruptive) to enhance the scene for the reader.

Follow these brief tips and your dialogue will be miles ahead.

‘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! If you can’t make a monetary donation, please at least consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. Again, thank you.

The Journal, Monday, 7/20

DSC00099bThe Day
Almost 3 when I rolled out this morning. Checked emails and weather. No rain, so I’ll walk this morning.

Had a great walk. Only about 5.5 miles but at a good pace despite shooting a few pics. Got a couple cover pics so it’s all good.

The guy on the left is a baby cotton tail and he was naturally curious. Hopped just off the trail, then stopped and looked while I took pictures. Might be a girl. I see she has a little green bouquet just above her left eye. (grin)

My old Coleman metal cooler is working fine. Just have to slap silicone on one minuscule leak. Woohoo! Older SERIOUSLY is better.

Hmm. Good thing once again I have really flexible hours. (grin)

Had an eye doctor appointment in Willcox (I don’t do SV whenever I can help it), then hung around town for another hour buying some stuff I can’t find within 30 miles of Good Ol’ Benson who’s running everybody out with their Stinkin’ High Taxes.

Anyway, I wrote some this morning, but with the day dwindling (again) and with a massive storm sitting just southwest considering thinking about deciding whether it might possibly move into Saint David, I’m reporting early.

Topic of the Night: Writing Off Into the Dark, Part One
This is writing without an outline, without a plan, without allowing your conscious mind to “direct” every action of every character and every word that comes out of your characters’ mouth.

Look, if someone tells you how a novel ends, do you still want to read it? Most people would say No.

So if you know before you start writing what’s going to happen, why do you want to write it? Isn’t that boring? It is to me.

Bradbury once said (paraphrasing) How can a writer expect to surprise the reader if he doesn’t surprise himself?

And when asked about his process for writing Dandelion Wine, he said he wrote it like he wrote everything else. He got his coffee, he sat down at the typewriter, he put his fingers on the keys, and he wrote whatever came.

So writing off into the dark. Sit down at your writing computer, put your fingers on the keyboard, and write whatever comes.

Trust it. Trust your subconscious to tell the story. It’s been doing that a lot longer than you’ve known the alphabet.

I once wrote that this technique is an offshoot of Heinlein’s Rules. That isn’t really true. You can write off into the dark even if you aren’t following Heinlein’s Rules. But they do go together very nicely.

If there were specific rules for writing off into the dark they would read like this (annotated with an explanation to save space):

  1. Sit down at your writing computer and Just Write. (Just Write: Don’t think about what you want to write. Don’t outline. Don’t strive for a plot; the characters will bring it with them. Don’t plan and force the characters/story to conform to your plan. Don’t do anything else. Let Go and Just Write.)
  2. When you get stuck, Just Write the Next Sentence. Then Write the Next Sentence. Then Write the Next Sentence. (When you get stuck, Just Write the Next Sentence: If there is no next sentence, if nothing comes [Don’t Think!], that scene is probably finished. Just write the next scene. Open it by writing whatever comes into you mind, then write the next sentence. Lather, rinse, repeat.)
  3. Run your spell checker. (Remember, this is done in critical mind. It’s imperative that while you’re doing this, you don’t start reading even small snippets of the story and “fixing” it. Like one little drink for an alcoholic or one cigarette for me, it will lead you to a lifetime of rewriting and polishing instead of submitting and publishing. And you WILL polish the good off your story.)
  4. Send to your first reader, then publish. (If you have a first reader, when it comes back, fix whatever the first reader caught IF YOU AGREE. If you don’t have a first reader, or if you don’t have a good first reader, skip it and just publish.)
  5. Write the next story. Writers Write. (Self-explanatory. Writers Write. Just Write.)

So there you go.  Tomorrow’s topic: Writing Off Into the Dark, Part Two (You do NOT want to miss this. And stop being stingy. Tell your friends!)

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: 1678

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… 1678 words. Total words to date…… 41469

Total fiction words for the month…………… 32199
Total fiction words for the year……………… 437882

The Journal, Sunday, 7/19

The Day
Rolled out at 2:30. Checked emails and weather. No rain, so maybe a walk a bit later.

Messed around waking up, then drove out a little early for a sunrise walk. Got some great perspective pics of the railroad tracks and maybe a couple good cover shots, but the walk was truncated when I kept encountering swarms of flying ants. Even got a video of them, little monsters. (grin)

Back at the house, while it was still cool I mounted the gas struts on the back lift door of the camper shell. So that works now. Yay.

Gave my 30 quart cooler to one of my sons last time he was out here and now I need one so pulled out a really old Coleman metal cooler. We’ll see how long it keeps ice. If it works, I’ll use it. If not, off to Wally World later.

Sat down to chill for a bit, then decided to mow the yard. Normal, everyday stuff. So all of the above plus some other life stuff, and it’s after noon, and now I’m gonna turn to the writing ‘puter.

Life doesn’t stop when you’re a cop or a waiter or a truckdriver, and it doesn’t stop when you’re a writer. Only difference is that I have really flexible hours. (grin) With the day dwindling, I decided to make this a day off. I’ll get back to Wes tomorrow.

Topic of the Night: Heinlein’s Rules, with an addendum, with two addenda
I’ve talked about Heinlien’s Rules before, so this will be brief. This is taken from an article I posted in this journal back in October.

I added a Rule 6 to Heinlein’s Rules. As a refresher, here they are, followed by a bit of discussion:

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must not rewrite.
  4. You must publish (or submit).
  5. You must keep your work published (or keep it in the mail, submitted).
  6. If you try to follow these rules, you WILL fall off them at times.
    • That’s okay, and it’s perfectly normal.
    • To succeed as a writer, once you realize you’ve fallen off the rules, you MUST get right back on them again.

Did you get that Rule 6 with its two addenda? Listen, seriously, if you find you have real trouble following these rules, I strongly recommend you visit http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/lecture-series/ and sign up for his Lecture 1: Heinlein’s Rules.

It costs $75, it’s composed of 15 videos, and it will be the best investment you’ve ever made in your writing. I promise.

One warning: During his lectures, Dean will tell you that Every Writer Is Different. It’s his mantra. I suspect he developed it when he was dodging bullets at writers’ conference all those years. It’s a gentle way of saying, “Not everyone can be a professional writer. You ain’t it.”

But don’t let it fool you. Don’t accept the opportunity to cop out. Elsewhere he also says he doesn’t know a single professional writer who isn’t following Heinlein’s Rules. If you can handle the truth, that’s the truth.

Now, when he says that or something similar to describe the difference (for example) betwee his writing process (sprinting) and Kris’ writing process (slow and steady), he means it.

But when he’s saying something like “Following Heinlein’s Rules works for me but every writer is different,” he’s giving you an easy way out if you aren’t disciplined enough to enjoy having fun making up stuff for a living.

Today’s Writing

Fiction words: XXXX

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 30521
Total fiction words for the year……………… 436204

The Journal, Saturday, 7/18

The Day
Rolled out at 1:30. Checked emails and weather. I don’t mind being up a little earlier this morning since I want to make headway on this novel but I also have to visit Sierra Vista today. If the place there doesn’t have what I need that will turn into a trip to Tucson. Ugh. Hope not.

Started the day (after a waking up period) writing this post. Now, almost two hours after I got up, finally I’m turning to the writing computer.

Well the neighbor’s dog went nuts outside, triggering an hour long series of time-wasting crap. I hate it when a bunch of erratic stuff takes over and is so jerky and staccato that it seems to take only ten minutes and then I look up and an hour of my life is gone. I mean, I started this whole getting up in the early morning thing specifically to give myself a few hours of quiet.

Anyway, all of that led me in a roundabout way to doing updates for the websites I run for other people. I’d scream, but I know it wouldn’t do any good. (grin)

It’s all right. Life happens, eh? I just need to breathe. I anticipated a few hours of writing time early today because I have to go to SV later, but I don’t have to go to SV at a particular time. I’ll just put off the trip a bit.

And if I have to I’ll wait and go Monday.

No walk yesterday and no walk today.

Got to SV, found the parts I needed (the struts to hold up the shell “door” when I raise it) and a new lock. The lock didn’t work so I modified it. Still didn’t work but I can’t return it ’cause I modified it. So I started looking through all my old keys. Turns out I found one that will work fine on the old lock, so I’m all set. (grin)

Hardest item to locate is the weather-stripping-like hard foam rubber to seal the cap to the bed, but I’ve already come up with a solution for that so it’s all good.

Got two more hours done on Book 8 and now I’m gonna take a little break, then finish the writing for the day.

Almost ran out of time. This is supposed to post at 5 p.m. so I have to get it out. Makes my word count a little light.

Topic of the Night: Following Your Passion

I posted something about this awhile back. I might make this a post over in the big blog too. That’s the blog for those who think maybe perhaps they might want to consider pursuing the idea of thinking about becoming a professional fiction writer on the outside chance that eventually they are able to carve out ten minutes or so. To think about it. (grin) I’m kidding. Maybe.

That blog’s also for all levels of writers: hobbyists, aspirants, and professional writers alike.

But no matter the level of your aspiration or achievement, you should follow your passion.

That provides you automatically with two goals.

  • If your passion is writing, then write.
    • Note: If your passion is Something Else, then by all means do Something Else. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head here. And if your passion is drama, drape one arm over your forehead and complain constantly what terrible drudgery writing is, but that you simply must do it because you are compelled by forces greater than yourself. (grin)
  • And if you write, then write what you’re passionate about. It doesn’t have to be a particular genre. It can be a set of characters or a particular story line or an untenable situation or whatever.

The point is, it’s easy to sell out to what you believe the market wants. It’s also easy to stop writing and focus on selling what you’ve already written. And there are any number of other copouts.

What’s difficult in any art form (including writing) is to follow your passion DESPITE what your family and friends and critique group members say, and DESPITE lagging sales, and even DESPITE your own critical voice.

When I started writing full time, if you’d said I was going to write a western ANYthing I’d have laughed in your face. No possible way would I write a western, despite my background.

But I wrote one story that turned out to be a western. Then I listened to the characters, who told me a story nobody else had written. I started writing it. Now it’s in the eighth book and I’m expecting the whole story to fill nine or ten books. And although the story contains strong elements of romance and fantasy (magic realism) and suspense, at its heart it’s a western.

I do not have a passion for writing westerns, but I do have a passion (am driven) to write Wes Crowley’s story. So that’s what I write. DESPITE the fact that the worst selling commercial genre for books is the western. (grin)

I also have a passion for writing Mario Puzo type characters, mobsters and the like. And little inner-city wannabe gangstas. And deep down inside I have an urge to write a detective series, maybe mixed in with the mobster characters.

I guess vampire and werewolf stuff is really big right now and has been for awhile. Yet I know I probably will never write a vampire or werewolf story. It just isn’t my thing. Even my magic realism is closer to reality than that stuff. (grin)

So as a writer, you have a decision to make: Follow your passion or follow the markets?

Today’s Writing
No comment beyond what’s above in the “Day” section. No time. (grin)
Fiction words: 3116

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787

Total fiction words for the month…………… 30521
Total fiction words for the year……………… 436204

The Journal, Friday, 7/17

The Day
Rolled out about 2, so back to normal. Checked emails and other things, including Dean’s blog for the past two days. I recommend reading his topic of the night Here and then Here. Great stuff if you want to see why I say you should NOT get an agent, and why you should publish your work and then leave it published.

I also read a lot of the comments on Dean’s posts. Interesting stuff, both for what people “get” and what they don’t.

Started out the day around 4 a.m. (after all of the above) just writing with Wes. My intention for today is to write all day in a series of starts. Should work out well. We’ll see.

I miss writing short stories. I miss the break that gave me from the Wes Crowley storyline and I miss the excitement of as-yet-unknown characters surprising me. I’m going to continue my hiatus from writing shorts for a while yet, but I’ll be starting a new challenge for myself soon.

Now I could just write a short story as it occurs to me, and if a story idea occurs to me strongly enough, I’ll do that. But I’m better motivated when I’ve attached my writing to a goal.

During one break in writing I designed and printed up BusCard1some new business cards. Very basic, just to get the information out there. Here’s one, in case you’re interested.

Topic of the Night: Be Careful Where You Get Advice
I talk often about learning to quiet your conscious, critical mind when you write.

Some of you accomplish that, at least temporarily, and that’s fine. I don’t think anyone has found a way to permanently silence the critical mind. The trick is to remain on guard and to silence it each time it reappears. And it will reappear. It wants to stop you from writing as a way to protect you, remember? If you don’t write, you can’t publish, and if you don’t publish, you aren’t opening yourself to criticism.

So you learn to silence or squelch the critical voice when you sit down to write.

You are determined, even, not to rewrite because finally you’ve understood that rewriting, more often than not, will destroy a perfectly good piece of writing. So far so good.

Then you finish a short story or a chapter in your novel or a scene in your memoir and, for some completely unfathomable reason, you share it with a critique group.

So let me get this straight. You have learned, finally, to trust your subconscious and quiet your own critical voice… and now you’re going to subject your writing to someone ELSE’S critical voice?

Uh, no. Bad idea. Maybe baddest idea ever. Don’t do that.

And if you DO decide to submit your stuff for critique, AT LEAST submit it to people who have a LOT more publications than you do in the same literary genre (i.e., short fiction, essay, novel, etc.) and/or in the same commercial genre (i.e., SF, western, romance, etc.).

My advice today is the same as it was way back in October. Find yourself a good first reader.

Preferably, this person will NOT be a writer and will therefore not be tempted to bring his or her own voice to the work.

Preferably, this person will be an avid reader of the type of work you write.

Then ask that person to tell you about

  • any typos
  • any inconsistencies (character wearing a grey jacket when he goes into a bank and a brown one when he comes out, and
  • anything else at all that confuses the reader or stops the reading cold.

Then go back and fix those places IF YOU AGREE with your first reader. You don’t have to do everything the first reader recommends.

If your first reader starts giving you writing advice, smile, say Thank You and find a new first reader.

Seriously.

Today’s Writing
Started on Book 8 by cycling back through a scene that was bothering me.

My subconscious was nagging me, saying the scene wasn’t complete, but I wasn’t able to see earlier where it was lacking.

Today as I read back through it, the rest of the scene flowed out through my fingers with no prompting from me. I love it when that happens.

Note that this is NOT rewriting. Rewriting is something you do with your conscious, critical mind, counting the number of times you use a particular word or checking to make sure you alternated sentence structures just so or whatever. None of that will improve your work. I promise.

As I expected (and hoped), the writing ran well today in a series of starts. I’m still trying to train myself to write for about an hour (about a thousand words) and then take a break.

Getting pretty good at it. Now if I can just keep doing it that way. (grin) Still, with my overall goal of wanting this novel finished and out before July 25, I think it’s not going to be a problem.

Fiction words: 4018

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671

Total fiction words for the month…………… 27405
Total fiction words for the year……………… 433088