The Journal, Thursday, 8/20

The Day
Rolled out at 2:30 this morning. I started this journal entry over a cup of French vanilla cappucino. Yeah, it’s a weakness. Nice to have every now and then.

Okay, now it’s 4 a.m. (after I wrote the Topic of the Night below) so time to release the babies (a hyper nervous chihuahua and two lady cats who relish the savory flavor of rare chihuahua meat, he thinks) so they can run and play. Let the day begin. (grin)

I already know I’m going for a walk this morning, so I’ll piddle around until then. I’ll leave about 5 a.m. When I get back I’ll shower and change clothes, then write. Sure feels good to be back in the saddle alongside Wes.

Got back from a good 4 mile walk in a sandy bottomed arroyo (good workout). After a shower and changing clothes, I realized I had to run (well, drive) to the grocery store. So I got that done, then came back here, put on the first of two loads of laundry I want to get done today.

Then finally I turned to the writing ‘puter. Trudging today, but it’s still great to be back. To steal a line from a bumper sticker about fishing, even the worst day of writing is better than the best day at work. (grin)

Topic of the Night: Productivity as a Writer

I’ve received several comments recently from writers who feel disappointed in themselves when they can’t “keep up” with me in their own writing. I do understand because I’d like very much to write at what Dean Smith calls “Pulp Speed.”

Pulp Speed is at least one million words of publishable fiction in a year. Chances are I’ll never pull that off. But if I don’t, that’s all right.

The point behind me posting my numbers is NOT to challenge you to keep up with me. Believe me, compared to some writers out there (and to ALL the old pulp writers) I’m slow.

But I post my numbers here only to show you that even though I set goals, I sometimes fail to reach them. And That’s All Right.

I want you to understand that failing to reach a goal is not necessarilly a bad thing. I want you to know it’s entirely possible to “fail to success.”

My own long-term goal on January 1 of this year was to reach 1,095,000 words by December 31. I won’t make it. In fact I won’t get anywhere near it.

But if I hit 600,000 or 700,000 words by then, I’ll take it. I will have failed, but I will have failed to success.

Here are the numbers:

My daily writing goal is 3,000 words of publishable fiction per day.

If I hit that goal exactly, and if I do that for 365 days in a row, I will have written 1,095,000 words in a year. Over a million words.

But I don’t. My average (arithmetic mean) before this horrible month of August was around 2500 words per day. And even if I hit 2500 words per day every day for 365 days in a row, I’d still fall short of my million words at 912,500 words.

Amazing the difference 500 words a day (a half hour per day) can make, isn’t it?

But I also realize a lot of you have jobs or careers or other interests, so let’s talk about your own personal reality.

If you want to increase your productivity as a writer, do this:

  • Step One. Figure out how much writing time you have per day. The best way to do that is keep a journal. Break your waking-hours day into quarter-hour or half-hour increments, then write down what you were doing during each increment. (If you were watching a football game for example, that knocks out several increments in a row.)
    • Keep your journal for at least three days. A week is better. Don’t cheat. Nobody’s gonna see it but you. This should show you when you can carve out time to write.
  • Step Two. Figure out how many publishable words you can write in an hour. Hint: Don’t “think” your way through every phrase and sentence. That isn’t how good writing happens. Bradbury himself once said nothing good in literature ever came from conscious thought. Instead, sit down at the keyboard, put your fingers on the keys, and Just Write What Comes. Then write the next sentence. Then write the next sentence. Don’t worry about where it’s all going or how it’s connected in the future. Just Write.

Note: I write about 1000 words per hour. That probably sounds like a lot, but it’s only 17 words per minute. That leaves a lot of time for staring off into space, don’t you think? (grin) Seriously, if you aren’t writing 700+ words per hour, check in with yourself. What are you doing during that hour?

  • Step Three. When you know how often you can write and how many words per hour you can get on the page, don’t let your conscious mind (fear) make excuses for you. Sit down and write. I’ll do a topic on fear another time.
  • Step Four. (I recently re-learned this one the hard way.) Set Goals. And be dogged in your determination to achieve them. I’ll write more about goal setting in another topic soon, but for now, here are a few tips:
    • Be specific. Don’t say you’ll write a novel. That’s like saying you’ll eat an elephant. It’s an overwhelming thought. Instead, say you’ll write 1,000 words (about one hour) per day. Every day. (Or 500 words per day, or 2,000 words per day, or whatever suits you.)
    • Set goals that automatically re-set. If you say you’ll write 1000 words every day, that goal re-sets every morning when you get out of bed. If you miss a day or fall short one day, the next day you still have to write only 1000 words to hit your goal.
    • Tell people about your goals. This will help you hold yourself accountable. Tell your writing group or friends. Don’t tell people who will downplay what you’re doing or who will not support you unless you’re wearing your criticism-proof underwear.
    • Set up a streak. How many days in a row can you write 1000 words per day? The longer you go, the more power the streak has and the less likely you are to break it. Streaks feed goals and goals feed streaks. Try it. You’ll like it. I promise.

If you decide to write two days per week or five days per week, you can still set up a streak. How many weeks can you go without missing your assigned days?

Share your results with me in the comments section if you want. I’ll always be supportive. Yes, even if you write 4000 words per day and shoot past me like I’m stapled to a tree. (grin) I’ll applaud you and work like crazy to catch up. (grin)

Nah, I’ll just keep doing what I do.

Now let’s look at numbers.

If you write 1,000 (one hour) words per day, and you write only five days per week, that’s still 5,000 words per week.

That’s also 20,000 words per month, 60,000 words per quarter, and 260,000 words per year.

Even if you choose to take off two weeks for vacation every year, that’s still 250,000 words per year.

But what if you “can” only write a half-hour per day, five days per week? (I’ll talk about setting priorities, the “can” factor, in another topic sometime too.)

Run the numbers. That’s 500 words per day, 2500 words per week, 10,000 words per month. It’s 30,000 words per quarter, and 130,000 words per year unless you take that two week vacation. Then it’s “only” 125,000 words.

Science fiction grand master Jack Williamson, whom I was fortunate to know for awhile, had trouble writing more than 100,000 words per year. Amazing, eh? Look him up sometime and check out his bibliography. At age 94 he was still writing two novels per year for TOR.

Finally, realize that if you miss your goal, Absolutely Nothing Will Happen. The goal will simply re-set and you can go for it again.

So there you go. If you need help with any of this, please let me know. I’d be more than happy to help. I’m not kidding.

Today’s Writing

It’s perfect that I picked Productivity as the Topic of the Night above. And it’s perfect that I mentioned that failing to meet goals is all right.

Today, like yesterday, my daily goal was to write 3,000 publishable words of fiction. I failed miserably.

Now, I am in that stage of the novel in which I have to nitpick my way through it, making sure I get the names right, making sure I include enough backstory so the novel stands alone, but also adding enough new stuff to keep the story moving for those who have read the entire saga from the beginning. It’s a rough balance to walk.

So that’s my excuse, and it’s a valid one.

Still, I know me. And I know there’s no reason I couldn’t have done that (very slow writing) AND still met my goal.

I just didn’t. (shrug)

But that’s all right. The novel is still farther along today than it was when I got up this morning.

And tomorrow morning around 2 or 3 a.m. I’m gonna roll outta the rack and have a brand spanking new daily goal: 3,000 words. And that’s what keeps me going. (grin)

Fiction Words: 1046

Writing of Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga
Day 1…… 3213 words. Total words to date….. 3213 words
Day 2…… 1046 words. Total words to date….. 4259 words

Total fiction words for the month…………… 13828
Total fiction words for the year……………… 456228

The (Resurrected) Journal, Wednesday, 8/19

The Day
Well I’m back. I decided to fire up this journal again.

When I shut down this blog 11 days ago, I wrote, “over half of the subscribers aren’t interested, so why bother detailing my daily journey as a writer?”

What a stupid question. And the answer is “Um, well, because I was doing it more to hold myself accountable than for any other reason. And the half who ARE interested make it worthwhile.” So my apologies to those of you who were/are interested.

When I shut it down I even wrote that I could “keep the numbers myself.”

Yeah, well, I could, maybe, but I didn’t. And I won’t. I know me, and that’s something I won’t do.

Anyway, since then I realized that stopping this journal was stopping part of my writing ritual, and that’s just insane. More on that in the Topic of the Night below.

Recent History
I haven’t written any new fiction to speak of since August 8 when I finished The Battle of Tres Caballos. I piddled around, wrote about 2500 words on Book 9, then tossed it. I also started two short stories, then tossed both of those openings as well.

Of course, today is only August 19. That’s a break of only 11 days, inclusive. But that 11 days seems like a world-ending eternity. Especially coming, as it does, so soon after ANOTHER break of 11 days that spanned my trip to Indiana. What is it with me and 11-day breaks? Ugh.

So here we go. I’ll read back over a few of my journal posts and absorb some of my own advice. Then I’ll read back over some other stuff to get the feeling of writing again. Then I’ll set a few goals (at least a couple of those will automatically re-set) and start writing again.

Okay, so I rolled out a little after 3 this morning. Did little or nothing the first few hours of the day, except thinking. I did a lot of that.

No walk today. Ate a good breakfast, then came here to put down a few of those thoughts.

Topic of the Night: Enduring the Perfect Storm
I just endured (and barely survived) my own personal perfect storm. All within a fairly short time period,

  • For some inane reason I intentionally ended a streak of writing a short story every week. That streak had lasted for 66 weeks and 71 short stories; then
  • I finished the eighth novel in a saga; and then
  • I stopped publishing this journal, which was holding me accountable to others and myself.

Each of those is an inertia killer.

Each of those sends the wrong message to the subconscious. And as you know, the care and feeding of the subconscious is all-important to a guy who writes off into the dark.

By ending the short story streak, I effectively discarded a goal that re-set itself every week. No goal = no incentive. Discarding that goal also helped dilute the importance of meeting my daily goal of writing 3000 new publishable words of fiction per day.

By finishing the novel and not immediately starting the next one (or even a short story since I no longer “have” to write a story every week) I also at least dampened any inertia I had built up.

And by ceasing publication of this journal I was no longer holding myself accountable.

So no real goals, no writing inertia and no accountability— Seriously? No wonder my subconscious decided to take a vacation for awhile. It was probably out looking for a real writer. (grin)

Gotta change all of that. I’ve already fired up the journal again. Now I’ll set new goals and get back to having fun telling stories.

Okay, I almost forgot I had to drive into Benson to do routine blood tests for my doctor. I’m back, so I’ll finish this now. It’s just after 10:30 in the morning at this point.

So here are my new goals:

At least 3000 words of new publishable fiction per day— Same goal, reestablished, reaffirmed.

At least one new story every week— I’m taking up the story a week personal challenge again. Besides helping with discipline, it’s a great deal of fun. As I mentioned earlier, if anyone would care to join me, just email me to let me know. Either way, I look forward to it. I’ll post the new story (or one of them) each week on the website under the Free Short Story of the Week tab.

Finish two more novels before October 25— I’m only setting this as a goal because October 24th will be one year from the date I started writing my very first novel. If I can pull this off, I will have written 11 novels and a novella during that twelve months. This is NOT a major goal. Just something interesting to keep me on track, and there’s absolutely no reason I can’t do it.

I’m (re)starting Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga today. I won’t be using anything I wrote from the earlier opening. I was gonna start tomorrow morning, but that’s just my old conscious mind trying to drop a cloud over everything.

Okay, so on to the writing. I’ll fill in the blanks below later.

Today’s Writing
Finally got my priorities straight as I detailed above.

Before I began writing I did some preliminary stuff. Came up with twenty-two new character names (all Mexican males and one newlywed female) and assigned six new jobs. All of that took a little over an hour.

Then between noon(ish) and about 3:40 (as I write this) I had three good writing sessions during which I knocked out the word count you see below. Can’t tell you how good it feels to be back on track. Is there a better job in the entire universe? I don’t think so.

Fiction Words: 3213

Writing of Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga
Day 1…… 3213 words. Total words to date….. 3213 words

Total fiction words for the month…………… 12782
Total fiction words for the year……………… 455182

The (Final) Journal, Thursday, 8/13

The Day
If you read this earlier, I’ve edited it.

Rolled out a little before 3 this morning.

Had a fairly good walk, mostly asphalt, with some heart and lung-pumping hills. Only a little over 4.5 miles, but the hills made it a good workout too.

Had a trip to Sierra Vista for groceries and cat stuff and a new coffee maker. It was early afternoon before I got back and haven’t written a word of fiction today. That’s all right.

Checked out Dean’s site. I recommend it. http://deanwesleysmith.com

NOTE: In Addition To the new chapter every day on his next nonfiction book, How to Write Fiction Sales Copy, he’s also posting his daily blog. It is very similar to this one, but better. You’ll find the daily blog post just below the new chapter. So when you get there, scroll down if you haven’t been. Really good stuff, complete with a separate topic of the night. Today’s topic was “Massive Deadlines,” in which he talks more about this wonderful new world of publishing.

Go. Read. Learn stuff.

Topic of the Night: Shutting Down

Before I edited it, this topic was “Shutting Down, Perhaps.” I’ve decided to remove the possibility and make it a fact.

Last night here I talked about knowing when to hang on and when to let go. I was talking about a particular piece of writing.

But that goes to things like blog posts also.

I’ve been posting to this particular blog (The Journal) ALMOST every day since October 19, 2014. To date, that’s 171,275 nonfiction words.

Well, 171,275 nonfiction words is a bunch of words. Seriously. And that’s only on THIS blog. It doesn’t take into account my regular blog post, which comes out every ten days and most often contains around a thousand words per post.

Thing is, for this blog (The Journal) I currently have only 30 subscribers. Not good, considering the effort I put into this thing every day. (grin)

Of those 30 subscribers, most of the time not quite half (13) even open the post to read it. That means slightly over half of the subscribers are seeing the email in their inbox and deleting it without even opening it. Talk about a vote of no confidence. (grin)

One of the main reasons I started this was to share my personal journey as a prolific professional fiction writer. I hoped it would help motivate others to write. But apparently now, over half of the subscribers aren’t interested, so why bother detailing my daily journey as a writer? (shrug)

Another reason was to keep myself accountable and watch my own publications grow. I’ve done that. And frankly, I can keep the numbers myself without posting them to a daily blog. I think I’m gonna ask my friend Dawn to help me create a spreadsheet like hers (or maybe just copy hers myself). (grin)

So I’m seriously considering shutting down this Daily Journal blog. Yeah, I was just considering shutting it down, but I’m gonna do it.

In a few cases, at least, I know it has served its intended purpose, motivating other writers. If you’re one of those, I’m happy for you. If you aren’t, well, sorry I failed you.

Okay, so if you are reading this and you are NOT signed up for my main blog (Pro-Writers Blog)—and if you want to stay in touch—I urge you to sign up. For your convenience, you can simply click this link: http://eepurl.com/pQT6f. Then follow the directions.

This will be the final edition of this blog, The Journal. Maybe I’ll see you over at the other blog. Until then, take care.

Today’s Writing: Nothing today except this blog post.

Total fiction words for the month…………… 9569
Total fiction words for the year……………… 451969

The Journal, Wednesday, 8/12

The Day
Rolled out a little after 3 again this morning.

No walking today, that’s for sure. Tomorrow morning should be a good walk again if it isn’t raining.

Spent the better part of the morning rearranging my office. I got rid of some stuff and placed some stuff where I want it. The rest I just stored in the corner of my office until I’m in the mood to go through it. At any rate, it’s all out of the living room, where it’s been ever since my wife painted my office. Ugh.

Checked out Dean’s site. He’s still posting a new chapter every day on his next nonfiction book, How to Write Fiction Sales Copy. Invaluable stuff, and he’s posting it free. Later he’ll take down the posts and sell the book, so get it now if you want it.

I turned to the writing ‘puter a couple times during the morning, but there was nothing there. I think Wes wants a breather, so I’m gonna back off him for awhile. I’ll return to the saga later if Wes chooses to share anymore of his life story with me. If not, well, then the saga will have ended with Book 8, The Battle of Tres Caballos. Either way is fine. We’ll see.

I’m not overly concerned. Since I started the first novel on October 25, 2014, I’ve written eight books in that series, totaling 323,478 words. During that same span of time, I also wrote another novel and a novella, totaling 79,199 words. And the short stories I wrote (only since October 25) total 131,377 words. So that ain’t too shabby. Since October 25, 2014, I’ve written 534,054 words of published fiction.

Over a half-million words since I wrote the first word on my first novel. I’m a happy camper. (grin)

Plus I compiled and published thirteen collections of short fiction. And designed 60 or thereabouts book covers. (grin)

I’ve been a very busy boy for the past almost ten months. (grin) But I don’t know, maybe now I’m gonna slow down a little. Or maybe not. Shrug.

Remember, I practice Writing Off Into the Dark. I never want to direct my characters, force them to say and do things. I want to have fun. I want to run through the story WITH them. I want to simply be there when they say or do things, when things happen to them, so I can write those things on the page.

So for now, I’m going to enjoy writing short stories, get caught up on publishing a few collections, and maybe wander off into another novel in another genre.

Or if Wes decides he’s ready to continue, we’ll continue.

For now, I’m going to chuck what I’ve already written on Book 8. It’s only less than three hours’ work, and it isn’t wasted. It brought me to the point of knowing it wasn’t the right opening.

Topic of the Night: Knowing When to Hang On, When to Let Go

Remember Kenny Rogers? He was a singer, initially with The First Edition where he “slipped on a cloud and fell eight miles high” and then “tore [his] mind on a jagged sky.” And all of that led him to say he had “just stopped in to see what condition [his] condition was in.”

But later he was a solo country-western singer and then starred as The Gambler. And in a combination of those roles, he once sang, “You got to know when to hold ’em [and] when to fold ’em.”

Yeah, I know that’s a long way to go to set up a topic of the night, but I like nostalgia.

Anyway, regarding Kenny’s advice, that’s all well and good, but HAVING to know when to hold ’em is one thing. But knowing HOW to know when to hold ’em is something else entirely.

I mean, it’s a good idea to know HOW to know whether to hold ’em, fold ’em, or just chuck the whole shebang into the river and start over.

This is an important concept in writing.

So how do I know when to let go of a novel or story or series and when to hang on?

Simple. If I feel like I’m having to “think” my way through it, I back away. Period. The conscious mind never did anything good for literature. I take a break (from a few minutes to an hour or more) and then come back.

I put my fingers on the keyboard. If nothing comes, I let it go. I fold ’em.

If words come, any words, I hang on for the ride and let the characters lead me through the story.

After you learn to trust your subconscious, it’s precisely that simple and it’s precisely that easy.

Today’s Writing
No writing today. I’m taking the rest of today off, period. Fresh start tomorrow with all possibilities open to me.

Fiction words: XXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 9569
Total fiction words for the year……………… 451969
Stay Tuned!

The Journal, Tuesday, 8/11

The Day
Rolled out closer to 2:30 this morning. Still tired from the trip, I think.

Well, I woke up in the mood to “take some air,” as we used to say, and I set out to go for 6 miles.

But just as I reached the two mile mark, I realized the large, severe storm I’d been watching to the south was closing on me. Just so you know, I DID look at that lying weather radar before I set out. Nothing threatening on it.

So anyway, I called it a half-walk at two miles and headed for the pickup, two miles back the way I’d come.

Now I’ll cut this tale short. Once it got wound up, the rain was ice cold, horizontal and stinging. Had about a mile and a half of that, though it finally settled down for the final two tenths of a mile or so.

I was drenched pretty much to the bone and exhausted. Then again, it was an experience very few people have had. So there’s that.

Overall it was like watching your great-grandmother take a bath. It was really wet, but otherwise it wasn’t all that interesting. (grin)

Back to the house, a shower, a hot breakfast, then writing this. Now to chill for a few, then to the writing ‘puter.

Other things ate up part of the day, plus I’m really dragging. The storm took it out of me today.

And I checked my story of the week and found I didn’t have one posted for next week yet. So I did that. Just finished. Now I’ll turn to the writing ‘puter to play with Wes and the guys for awhile.

Not getting much in the way of comments on the stories, so I might cut that story of the week stuff off. A little less to do, more time to write.

Topic of the Night: No topic tonight. Except seriously, if you aren’t going to Dean’s site, he’s running a great series over there on how to write sales copy for fiction (cover blurbs, descriptions, etc.).

BUT DON’T take everything he says for gospel. Just visit the site and glean what you can, what’s useful to you.

Today’s Writing
Worked a little on Book 9, but not a lot.
Fiction words: 1009

Writing of As Yet Untitled (Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga)
Day 1…… 1511 words. Total words to date…… 1511
Day 2…… 1009 words. Total words to date…… 2520

Total fiction words for the month…………… 9569
Total fiction words for the year……………… 451969

Stay Tuned!

The Journal, Monday, 8/10

The Day
This post is longer than usual, but you wanna read it, I promise. (grin)

Rolled out late this morning at 3:30. Weird. right at 2:30. Things are different when I get up later than usual, especially a whole hour later than usual. Messes up part of the routine.

Barely had time to wake up before I had to let the pets out. Then I started getting ready for my walk, so no writing early.

Good walk, although short at just under 4 miles. Then I had a shower and breakfast and came here to open the journal entry.

Still thinking about my personal goals (writing and otherwise) and putting things away after painting my office and squaring away things from the trip in addition to getting back into writing. There are also some big changes coming up in my life, so that’s on my mind some too.

Nothing’s easy, eh? Then again, if it were easy, how boring would that be?

Topic of the Night: Walking and Writing

No, they aren’t in any way the same thing, but they are the same process.

In walking you just put one foot in front of the other. Those steps become a tenth of a mile, then two-tenths and so on. And those tenths become a mile, then two, and so on.

Moreover, walking doesn’t require conscious thought. Your nervous system and your muscles know what to do. They, aided by the gyroscope that is (I guess) your middle ear, act in concert to propel you, usually in the direction you want to go.

In fact, walking is endlessly more pleasurable if you DON’T give it conscious thought. I’ve gotten considerably stronger, improved my breathing and lost more weight more quickly when I was “just walking” than when I walked “as a workout,” “trying” to improve my health. Seriously.

Letting go and Just Walking is easy. Just let your subconscious take over and do its thing while you enjoy the view.

When I just walk for the pure pleasure of it, I call it “touring.” It isn’t a workout. I’m simply enjoying the rhythm of walking.

I’m also noticing in greater detail whatever scents are on the air and whatever sights are (slowly) passing by to either side. If I see something interesting, I stop and investigate. If I see a great photo, I stop and take it.

And when I walk like that, I go a lot farther with a lot less stress than when I “try” to work out by walking. In fact, “just walking” is so stress free that if I begin to feel fatigued I think, Wait a minute. It’s just walking. There’s no rush, no hurry.

Plus there’s no rule that says I can’t sit down for a few minutes before I get up and continue.

Okay, so what about writing?

Well, let’s draw some parallels. In writing you just put one word in front of the other. Those words become phrases and clauses and sentences. Those become paragraphs and scenes and stories or chapters. Those become a book, either a novel, a novella or a collection. Cool, eh?

Moreover, writing doesn’t require conscious thought. Your conscious mind has absorbed all it needs to know to write a story at your current skill level. That knowledge has seeped into your subconscious, and your subconscious has been telling stories since long before you learned how to form the letters of the alphabet.

In fact, writing is endlessly more pleasurable if you DON’T give it conscious thought. I’ve written considerably better stories, improved my writing rhythms and story telling skills a lot more quickly when I was “just writing” that when I was writing as a workout, “trying” to perfect my skills. Seriously.

Letting go and Just Writing is easy. Just let your subconscious take over and do its thing while you enjoy moving through the story with your characters.

When I just write for the pure pleasure of it, I call it “playing.” It isn’t work. I’m simply enjoying the settings and the characters and their reactions to the setting and the situation. In other words, I’m enjoying the rhythms of writing.

My characters cause me to notice in greater detail whatever scents and sounds are on the air and whatever sights are passing by to either side. If they see something interesting, they investigate and I write it down. When they show me a great scene, I write it.

And when I write like that, the writing goes a lot smoother with a lot less stress than when I “try” to write with my conscious mind. In fact, “just writing” is so stress free that if I begin to feel fatigued I think, Wait a minute. My characters and I are just telling a story. There’s no rush, no hurry.

Plus there’s no rule that says I can’t take a break for a few minutes. My characters know I’m not as young as most of them are. They don’t mind.

Imagine the stress involved if I tried to force my characters to say and do certain things. Ugh. How can that possibly be any fun at all? Well, it can’t.

Today’s Writing

Even with all the stuff going on that I talked about under “The Day” above, I did finally get some writing done.

When I sat down at my writing ‘puter I was still thinking about setting some new goals and so on. But one phrase kept slipping into my head: Book Nine.

My subconscious wants to continue Wes’ story, so for at least part of my writing, that’s what I’m gonna do. ‘Cause seriously, only a complete and utter moron ignores the subconscious when it’s time to tell a story. (grin) And I am a moron, but I’m not so good as to consider myself “complete and utter.”

So I wrote two short sessions on Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga. Not bad at all given all the background stuff I have to do at the beginning of each book. And this one is bringing back two big characters from earlier in the series. (grin)

Anyway, all of that led me to set a goal.

I started what turned out to be Book One of the saga on October 25, 2014. My goal is to have finished Books 9 and 10 in the saga on or before October 24, 2015.

I also realized recently that when I was writing a new short story every week, that process invigorated my writing in other ways as well. So I’m starting that self-challenge again, and it’s perfect timing.

Today is Monday. Before next Monday I will have written and published a new short story. This is in addition to whatever I get finished on Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga.

Should any of you want to join me in this challenge, let me know. I’ll do anything I can to help, except writing them for you. (grin)

Fiction words: 1511

Writing of As Yet Untitled (Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga)
Day 1…… 1111 words. Total words to date…… 1511

Total fiction words for the month…………… 8960
Total fiction words for the year……………… 451360

Stay Tuned!

The Journal, Sunday, 8/9

The Day
Rolled out right at 2:30. Turned on the coffee water (I use Kava, which is instant but no acid), then went into the office.

I opened the writing computer first thing and wrote an opening sentence that was slapping me around as I was waking up. I won’t count those words unless I work on that potential story later today. Then email etc. then to this journal entry.

I might take a day off today. I want to think about my upcoming challenge. What it’s going to be. How often it will reset.

Wrote the Topic of the Night (below) and then took a walk along a broad wash near St. David. Wanted to see whether the recent rains had solidified the sandy bottom and it had. So that will be good for walks until the four wheelers tear the snot out of it again.

Yeah, I know not everyone likes to walk, but I don’t know why they can’t reuse the same tracks coming out that they used going in. When they tear up the entire bottom, it makes for very difficult walking or hiking.

Soon a side trip to Sierra Vista for some cat stuff and probably to look around for awhile. Then back here for whatever awaits.

No writing today. I’m just gonna blow off the rest of the day and start fresh tomorrow on something.

Topic of the Night: One of Heinlein’s Rules Revisited
Just as a quick reference, the rules are

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting.
  4. You must put your work on the market (publish it or submit it for publication) so readers (or editors/publishers) can buy it.
  5. You must leave it on the market (leave it published or resubmit rejected manuscripts) so readers can continue to buy it  (or so different editors/publishers have a chance to buy it).

Dean Wesley Smith has often said his biggest failure in following Heinlein’s Rules, especially in his early days, was Rule 4.

Most would-be writers have trouble with 1 or 2 or 3. They’re still inundated with all the myths they’ve been taught (writing is hard, it’s work, it’s drudgery, etc.) so it becomes much easier to talk about writing than to actually write. They’ve also never been taught to push down the fear of rejection surging within them.

So instead of finishing what they’re writing, they start a new piece, then another and another. If they don’t finish a work in progress, they can’t send it off and risk suffering rejection.

Or they do finish. But the same fear of rejection, coupled this time with the myth (and LIE) that they must rewrite, keeps them rewriting and editing and polishing. Because again, if they’re rewriting, they aren’t finished and they can’t send off their work and risk rejection.

I understand how would-be writers can fall victim to  those first three rules. Considering all the (ahem) *crap* we’re taught almost constantly about writing, it’s absolutely amazing that anything has been published EVER.

But I never quite understood how a writer could be tripped up by Rule 4.

Now Dean has said repeatedly that what tripped him up on Rule 4 was the same fear. If he didn’t submit his work, he wouldn’t risk rejection.

But he also said he enjoyed WRITING. He enjoyed the storytelling. He has been a writing-into-the-dark type ever since he found Heinlein’s Rules and another SF writer told him to “Dare to be bad.” And ever since the wisdom of those concepts sank in, writing has been much more important to him than publishing what he wrote. To some degree, even in today’s brave new world of publishing, he’s still that way.

And I finally understand it.

Yesterday, I finished The Battle of Tres Caballos. It was the eighth book in the Wes Crowley saga. But as I finished it, spell checked it and published it for pre-publication orders to Smashwords and Amazon, I realized I wasn’t worried so much about when it will come out. Or even whether it will come out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I WILL release it in both ebook and paper, but my priorities have shifted. I used to long for others to read and enjoy what I had written. Now I just want to write. I’ll release this one mostly because there is a small cadre of readers who enjoy the series and want to know what Wes is up to next.

But I have to be honest here. I’m not suffering under any delusions of grandeur. I’m not buying for a second that my novels or stories are “important” to anyone other than myself.

When I was a child, I read or heard somewhere that if you want to gauge your true importance, fill a pail about 3/4 full with water. Then stick your fist in the pail. Note the water level.

Then take your fist out of the pail and notice how little the water level changed. There you go.

That’s how much my stories would be missed if I stopped putting them out there.

The good thing is, that’s a completely freeing concept. When I write, it’s strictly so I can enjoy running through a story with the characters. Believe me, it doesn’t get any better than that.

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

Writing of XXXXX ()
Day 1…… XXX words. Total words to date…… XXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 7449
Total fiction words for the year……………… 449849

The Journal, Saturday, 8/8

The Day
Rolled out right at 2. Like yesterday, I spent a short time on email and games to wake up. Then I turned to the writing computer and did a very short session of around 400 words to finish the big battle scene from yesterday. This is an extremely emotional scene. Whew.

No walk this morning as I wasn’t feeling well. Nothing serious, just blah.

Finally decided to hit Walmart early in the day to stock up on groceries. Got back by about 8:30, put stuff away, then fixed and ate breakfast. Checked and answered email again, then turned to the writing computer again and powered through to the end in two sessions, each of which was about an hour.

Some very interesting things happened in the last few thousand words. MAN I love my characters! They’re never shy about throwing me a curve. Keeps it interesting. (As Ray Bradbury said, if you don’t surprise yourself as a writer, how can you expect to surprise your readers?)

Then I came to write this post and finally remembered to check Dean’s blog post. Again, interesting. Today he started an instruction book for writers called “How to Write Fiction Sales Copy.” If you want to learn how to write blurbs, etc. (sales copy), I advise you to tune in to his blog for awhile and read the posts.

Battle 180Anyway, I ran the spell-checker (that’s my second draft) and then created a cover. (That’s it over there on the right.) After that I published the book to Smashwords and Amazon for pre-orders. It will release officially on 1 October. If you’d care for a preview, please visit http://harveystanbrough.com/the-battle-of-tres-caballos. I think you’ll enjoy the excerpt there. (grin)

Topic of the Night: Another Challenge Coming

When I went to Smashwords and Amazon today to publish The Battle of Tres Caballos, the process seemed very stiff and stilted. That was my fault, not the fault of the sites.

When I was writing a short story every week (and creating a cover and publishing it and combining the latest 5 or 10 stories in a collection and creating a cover and publishing it) I was a very busy camper. (grin) I was publishing something at least once a week, so I got in practice.

Now I’m rusty. I’m also old and cratchety (old and cratchety enough that I really like the word “cratchety”), so I’m rustier than I’d have been at say 60 or whatever.

So I think another self-challenge is on the horizon. I would LOVE for you (all of you or any of you) to join me in that challenge if you want, but more than likely I won’t ask. I mean, if you wanna do it (or even a modified version of it), take a hint from Nike and Just Do It.

Okay, sorry for the abbreviated topic, but I’m pooped.

Today’s Writing
Great day of writing today. The characters surprised me two or three times during the climax and ANOTHER two or three times during the ending. Incredible fun.

Fiction words: 2405

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
Day 20… 1541 words. Total words to date…… 47528
Day 21… 3503 words. Total words to date…… 51031
Day 22… 2405 words. Total words to date…… 53436 (done)

Total fiction words for the month…………… 7449
Total fiction words for the year……………… 449849

The Journal, Friday, 8/7

The Day
Rolled out at 2:40. Not quite as tired this morning.

Spent a short while doing emails, etc. to wake up, then turned to the writing computer. Did a short session of around 700 words, then took a walk. Only went just under 4 miles, but it was over rocky, sloping terrain so it was a good workout. Also took time to get a lot of pictures as well as a few videos. Still learning the video feature on my camera so I play with it now and then.

Downloading pics now (and writing this journal entry).

Fixed and ate breakfast, showered, checked and answered email, then read Dean’s blog post. Interesting.

Topic of the Night: Climax Versus Ending

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that all I have left to write on this book is the final big climax and the ending, and I mentioned that those are not the same thing.

No matter the story you’re telling, no matter the length, the climax is just the climax. It isn’t the ending. If you write the climax and then skip a blank line and write The End, you’ll lose readers in droves for future books. What happened as the result of the climax? That is the ending.

The easiest example to use (as is often the case) is from a film. In Star Wars (the last of the original ones), the final big climactic scene was the one that culminated with the explosion of the Death Star and the connotation that the Empire was finished. I won’t even begin to discuss how improbable it was that the Empire actually lost to a rag-tag band of misfits. US Revolutionary War anyone?

But that wasn’t the ending. For the ending, the writer skipped ahead a few weeks and showed the big red carpet, with the princess (or queen, whatever) hanging medals on everyone within reach, including a big tawny carpet. Remember? That was the ending.

In another favorite film, the final in the original Lonesome Dove series, again the writer skipped ahead from the climax to have a nervous reporter say to Captain Call that he was a man of vision. At that point, Call mumbled “Yeah, one hell of a vision” sarcastically and stared off into space as the director paraded all his dead friends past him.

The climax is the climax. The ending is the part that lets the viewer (films) and the reader (books) know it’s okay to get up and find something else to do. The story is over.

Finally, in a story like the one I’m currently writing (remember, I’m on the eighth book in the same story), the ending serves to let the reader know it’s all right to find something else to do for now, but it also entices the reader to want to read the next book in the story.

And I hope to reach that point today, or maybe tomorrow.

We’ll see.

Today’s Writing
Okay. Good day of writing today.

After the initial session of around 700 this morning, I had three more good sessions, each about an hour long. So the big climax is done. Now I have only the denouement (ending) to wrap it up and lead into the next book. That should fall into place tomorrow.

Fiction words: 3503

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
Day 20… 1541 words. Total words to date…… 47528
Day 21… 3503 words. Total words to date…… 51031

Total fiction words for the month…………… 5044
Total fiction words for the year……………… 447444

The Journal, Thursday, 8/6

The Day
Rolled out at 2. Not really sure why. Still tired and unmotivated.

Anyway, after a few hours of doing basically nothing, I went for a walk. That was good to the tune of just under 6 miles, so at least I got my blood pumping again. Yay. I guess.

Got back, made breakfast for myself and ate. Sat here to waste a little more time and then start this journal entry. Now to the shower, and then to the writing computer. Even if I do nothing but open it and stare, I’ll do that for at least a few hours today. Ever get unmotivated? Not fun.

Anyway….

Topic of the Night: Pre-Partum Depression
Very short topic tonight. I’ve known since about a week before my trip (which started almost two weeks ago) that the current novel is going to end soon. I think that’s part of my problem. I think I don’t want it to end.

Yes, the story will continue in the next book, and yes, writing that one will be a great deal of fun. But I still hate seeing this one end. Ugh. Worst part of the writing process for me personally is coming to the end.

And I still don’t understand those who actually celebrate finishing a story or a novel. I mean, if writing is fun, as it should be, why celebrate being done with it?

For me that would be like celebrating the end of a session of wild lovemaking. “Woohoo! It’s over! Get the champagne!”

Uhhh, no. I just wanna grab a nap to sleep off the glow and then start the next one. And by “the next one,” you know, I mean the next story or book.

Today’s Writing
Not a lot, but some. I’m in the middle of the final big battle scene now, so when I finish that and then the ending (the climax and the ending are not the same thing) I will have finished this one. Ugh.

So anyway, moving again with my writing. Probably no more foot dragging starting tomorrow.

Fiction words: 1541

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
Day 20… 1541 words. Total words to date…… 47528

Total fiction words for the month…………… 1541
Total fiction words for the year……………… 443941