The Journal, Wednesday, 8/26

The Day
Rolled out a little after 2 this morning. Coffee and emails to wake up, and then a shocker from the Smashwords blog.

Mark Coker has decided to end his association with Flipkart, the small ebook retailer in India. That effectively hands Amazon a monopoly in distributing ebooks on that continent.

Although I understand why he’s doing it, I don’t like that even in the title of his post he seems to blame Amazon. Regardless of the circumstances, this was still his own decision. He didn’t have to completely abandon the continent to Amazon. You can read the blog post here.

This is terrible news for indie authors. Competition is ALWAYS better. Your ebooks are an investment. Make them available in as many markets as you can.

Seriously, DON’T go exclusive with any one retailer. If you do, you’re only feeding the beast that will eventually enslave and/or devour you. Amazon has already started paying KDP Select authors less than other retailers pay them. Don’t give ANYONE leverage or control over your work.

I was planning to do a little early morning writing and even get in a walk today. Uhh, no. In light of this news I’ve decided to switch all of my major publication (novels, novella, short story collections) from Smashwords to Draft2Digital for distribution. So I’ll be doing that today.

D2D will now handle distribution of my titles to all the major booksellers, including Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Inktera, Oyster, Scribd, and Tolino. Smashwords will still distribute those only to library outlets and something called OverDrive. (I’ve garnered a total of 4 sales through these outlets since September 2011 so I’m not overly worried about it.)

Why do I suspect this will supplant writing new original fiction for the day? Because it entails moving nineteen publications, all but one of which are collections. I’ve also decided I’m going to rebrand each collection under my own name (except the two magic realism collections).

Rebranding means revising the cover or creating a new one. Either way, the rebranding part will take only about ten minutes per title.

But I also have to create new front and back matter. (This is NOT a requirement of D2D. It’s my own requirement of myself because I want my books to look good.) I also have to reformat each book, double check to make sure the new copied/pasted front and backmatter on each one reads right, etc., then upload each title to D2D.

So I’m expecting to be working on this through most or all of today, and probably more on another day. Or two. (grin) That’s all right. It’s an investment. Once it’s done, it’s done.

Okay, my novels and novella were already over there. Today I put up nine of my collections. all of the ten-story collections plus a few others. I also rebranded 14 covers. No more Eric or Nick on collections.

Well, with only most of the day over, I thought I might write for awhile. But I went and talked with Wes a bit and even he agreed that my brain’s too tired to ride with him today.

I’ll do the topic of the night, and then I’m gonna call it an early day.

Topic of the Night: Be Organized
With what I wrote above about switching my books over to Draft2Digital, you can see the importance of being organized.

In the folder for each book, I had the cover (the raw product so it was easy to change for those I rebranded) as well as several sizes of the old finished cover. I kept the old finished covers as well as one size (2000 x 3000 pixels) of the new covers. I’ll make a smaller version soon so I can replace some of the ones on my website too.

I also had a Smashwords edition version of each book, plus a “general” version in each folder. Opening the general version and using Save-As made it a relative breeze to format a new verson for D2D with the new front and back matter I came up with for my D2D books.

Now again, THEY DON’T REQUIRE any particular format, but I like my work to look good and I like it all to look similar from one book to another. So I made all of the books I shipped to them look the same.

In the folder for each book I also thought I had a “promo” document. That’s just a simple text document that contains the title of the work, the short and long descriptions, and the Internet search terms. Having that little text document made it easy to just copy/paste the information for each book.

Of course, that was missing from a few folders. Huge difference. When I had that little document, it saved about a half-hour over the time I had to spend on one book when I didn’t have it.

You get the idea.

Now maybe you think you won’t ever need this level of organization.

Back when I started with Smashwords, I thought they were the be-all, end-all of ebook distribution. Now, four years later, I’m switching everything over to a new distributor, and in the future I might have to again.

So I’m just sayin’, when time is at a premium, it’s better to do the Boy Scout thing and Be Prepared.

If you have any questions about any of this, I’d be happy to answer them for you. Please ask in the comments section so others can see the Q & A.

Today’s Writing
No fiction writing today.
Fiction Words: XXXX

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
Day 3…… 1858 words. Total words to date….. 6117 words
Day 4…… 1023 words. Total words to date….. 7140 words
Day 5…… 1587 words. Total words to date….. 8327 words
Day 6…… X943 words. Total words to date….. 9270 words
Day 7…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words

Total fiction words for the month…………… 20501
Total fiction words for the year……………… 462901

A Sample of My Daily Journal

Hi Folks,

This will be an extra blog post. On 1 September I’ll be back to posting nuts and bolts how-to information for writing.

I’ve come to see my daily journal, the other major blog post from this site, as eminently more important than this one.

In it, I outline my day (the day of a professional writer) and write a Topic of the Night on most nights. I also generally pass along whatever important tidbits I can about the writing life and the publishing business in this wonderful new world of opportunity for indie publishers.

And then toward the end of the daily journal, I let you see exactly what I’ve accomplished (or not) in writing that day.

I wanted to give everyone a sample of that blog. So below is my post from a few days ago. If you like what you see, I hope you’ll sign up for that blog. To do so, click The Daily Journal, either here or in the link on the right side of the header on the website. Then follow the directions.

You can still keep your subscription to this blog too, but if one or the other goes away eventually, it will be this one.

Here’s the sample. This is actually from the daily journal on Saturday, August 22. Enjoy.

The Day

Rolled out at 3 this morning. Checked email, got my coffee and had to go run off a bunch of coyotes. Ugh.
No walk again today. Just writing again today.

Listen, if you’re publishing your own stuff through your own publishing company, check out https://draft2digital.com/.

I wrote a new short story today. When I went to publish it to Smashwords, for the first time EVER (153 books) my story didn’t convert to any format at Smashwords. I nuked it, tried again, and it still didn’t convert, which tells me it pretty much has to be their problem. So I sent them an email to that effect.

Then I popped over to D2D. I’d heard about it before, but hadn’t tried it. All within about a half-hour, I signed up for an account, uploaded my book and cover, and it was published in PDF, .mobi (Kindle) and .epub (everything else). It was just that quick.

And the quality is incredible.

In my opinion, you still need to do some basic formatting (or have it done) but the service itself is great.
D2D does not have their own online store, but they do distribute to Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Inktera, Scribd, Tolino, and Oyster. I’m going with them from now on for those venues.

I’ll also continue to publish with Amazon KDP (but not Select, not exclusively) and with Smashwords mostly for their online store.

Now for a break, then back to writing.

Topic of the Night: Write What Scares You

Stephen King advises writers to “write what scares you.” Sounds right to me.

Now I don’t mean like “they’re only zombies so I know it isn’t real” scary. I mean you’re tied up so you can’t intervene, your eyelids are sliced off so you can’t close your eyes, and you’re forced to watch as an intruder uses garden shears to lop off the leg, just above the ankle, of a two year old child.

(See? I almost wrote “your” two year old child, but somehow that was even worse.)

The intruder looks at you, sneers, then turns back to the baby again.

The child, wide eyed, screaming, automatically reaches down to grab the stump and— Oh no! No! Snip! Her little hand and arm are gone halfway to the elbow.

Wider eyes. Wider mouth. Louder screams. Just when you thought louder screams weren’t possible.

You don’t have to imagine the child’s eyes stretched wide in disbelieving horror. You can see them, can’t you? And you don’t have to imagine the screams either, do you?

Y’know those coyotes I mentioned before? I have nightmares sometimes about a song dog carrying off my baby girl. Ugh. Following King’s advice, I wrote a very similar scene in a short story called “A Natural Study of the Scream.”

Now I’m just enough of a scientist that I noticed, writing that scene in that story created an odd, almost paradoxical sensation. First, it was easy to write. I would have thought it would be difficult to put on paper, but it wasn’t. It was easy. The writing almost raced away without me.

But it also left me trembling, physically. I was upset to the point that I had to pour a couple fingers of Jameson’s to sooth it away. That was the first drink of alcohol I’d had in a very long time.
It was an experience. One I both dread and will most definitely repeat.

Because that’s good writing.

Today’s Writing

Wrote for a while on Book 9, still struggling with tight stuff and otherwise getting started. Then I wrote the first new story of my challenge. It will publish under the Free Short Story of the Week tab on Monday morning. Felt good to create a new story and a new cover. And the story was FUN. Read it. You’ll like it. (grin)

Fiction Words: XXXX

Writing of “Pete and Repeat” (short story of the week)
Day 1…… 1662 words. Total words to date….. 1662 words (done)

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
Day 3…… 1858 words. Total words to date….. 6117 words
Day 4…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words

Total fiction words for the month…………… 15686
Total fiction words for the year……………… 458086

Oh, by the way, I’m doing a new promo thing. I’ve set the price of Book 1 of the Wes Crowley saga at FREE on Smashwords. You can download ANY electronic format there and it costs you nothing.

If you’ve been wondering about this story that’s pushed me through eight books and into the ninth, I urge you to go check it out. You can get it here.

(For Kindle, download .mobi. For other e-readers, download .epub. You can also download PDF. If you read it and like it, consider leaving a review.)

The Journal, Tuesday, 8/25

The Day
Thanks to storms disrupting the clock at the head of my bed, I rolled out at 1:30 this morning, but thinking it was 2:45. So much for battery backups in the clock. (I never use an alarm, but have the clock there so I can see what time it is when I get up.)

Despite the alleged battery backup, when it turns off, the clock reverts to midnight and starts keeping time from there. So the best it can do is tell you how long it’s been working since the last time the power went off.

Wow. Remember back when stuff actually worked as advertised?

Anyway, it’s all good. I have an appointment with the eye doc this morning at 9:20 in Safford, so leaving here about 7:30 to head that way. My eyes will be dilated and all that, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to write again today. So it’s good that I’m up a little early.

I’ve had my coffee, checked email and all that, so now I’m gonna make a run at the novel.

Read back over some of what I’d already written and allowed myself to touch it here and there (in creative mind) and ended a session with a grand total of 943 words. Woohoo. Still, at least the novel’s moving forward. Well, inching forward.

I was distracted by a notification regarding an update on one of the websites I manage. That got me started in update mode and I spent the next two hours making sure all the updates were done. Sigh.

Then one more major disruption cropped up, so I’m setting the novel aside at least until after my appointment. I have to get ready to leave soon, so I’m gonna skip down and write the Topic of the Night now.
Then we’ll see what happens with writing when I get back and my pupils get back to their normal size.

UPDATE: Okay, all is well with the eyes for the next year when they’ll talk with me about Cadillacs or something like that. I’m scheduled for a hearing test too. Anyway, back in Dear Old Saint David and my pupils are still HUGE. Okay, plus I’m basically just feeling lazy.

So I’m gonna call today a day. Hey, life happens. So no more writing for today other than the little I got done and reported earlier. Got a couple great ideas for stories while I was up there this morning though. So all in all, a great day.

Topic of the Night: Setting Realistic Writing Goals
It’s important to set goals with your writing. I mean, if you’re serious, if you really want to write, nothing else will help quite as much getting you there as setting good, realistic goals.

And by realistic, I mean something you know you can achieve.

Most people who set goals in other activities will tell you that a good goal should make you reach. That isn’t necessarily true in setting writing goals.

So what are the hallmarks of a good writing goal?

  • It should be reasonable.
  • It should automatically reset each day (or each week or each month).

What do I mean by reasonable? If you write 1,000 publishable words of fiction per hour and are able to write two hours per day but only five days per week, a reasonable daily goal would be 2,000 words per day. A reasonable weekly goal should be 10,000 words per week. If you want to fudge a bit, make it 1,500 words per day and 7,500 words per week. (That extra half hour per day makes a huge difference, doesn’t it?)

Why should a good writing goal automatically reset at a specific time?

Because “reset” means “goes back to zero.” Neither abundance nor lack is carried forward.

If your goal is to write 2,000 words per day and you write 2,438 words today, that’s wonderful. But beginning tomorrow morning, you still have to write 2,000 words. (grin)

If your goal is to write 2,000 words per day and you write only 18 words today, that’s okay because beginning tomorrow morning you still have to write 2,000 words.

But since writing 2,000 words per day is well within your capability, isn’t the goal too easy?

No. Because life happens. People happen. Distractions happen.

There will be days when you won’t be able to write for two hours.

There will be days when, even though you have the time set aside, you’ll find that your subconscious is on hiatus. On those days, nothing will come.

And there will be days when you are beset by fear and allow your conscious mind to stop you from writing. Because again, if you don’t finish, you can’t submit or publish your work and risk rejection.

Or your fear will cause you to rewrite “just this once.” Because rewriting is better than actually finishing and risking rejection.

What’s best of all about good, realistic writing goals is that they’re personal to you. Trust me, nobody else cares, except maybe a few people who support you and want to see you succeed.

If you achieve or exceed your goal, Nothing Happens except that your work is that much further along.

But if you fail to achieve your goal, guess what? Nothing Happens then either and the goal resets the next morning or the next week.

But of course, you won’t bother setting goals if you don’t intend to achieve them.

And there’s one other tool that’s a great motivator for meeting goals: The Streak.

And that will be the topic of the night for tomorrow.

I’m going to post this now. Then when I get home from my appointment, if I’m able to write anymore, etc. I’ll modify it before it actually posts through MailChimp.

So if you’re reading it on my site before 5 p.m., you might want to check back in a while.

Today’s Writing
Just a little. Less than I wanted, but more than I had when I started the day. That’s why the daily goal resets. (grin)
Fiction Words: X943

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
Day 3…… 1858 words. Total words to date….. 6117 words
Day 4…… 1023 words. Total words to date….. 7140 words
Day 5…… 1587 words. Total words to date….. 8327 words
Day 6…… X943 words. Total words to date….. 9270 words

Total fiction words for the month…………… 20501
Total fiction words for the year……………… 462901

The Journal, Monday, 8/24

The Day

Got up closer to 3:30 this morning. Still dragging a bit.

Checked email, got my coffee and went to check out Dean’s site. I haven’t been there for a few days. It’s almost better that way because when I go late, I read the comments too. Sometimes there’s some good stuff there.

Reading Dean’s stuff took an hour, almost exactly. Worthwhile, though. I found out in the comments section that we both use the same word counts to describe certain story types. Sort of vindication for me.

Here they are:

Mine and Dean’s: To 10,000 words is a short story, to 25,000 words is a novella, to 40,000 is a short novel, and above that is a novel.

In case you’re wondering, I also define fewer than 100 words as flash fiction, fewer than 2,000 words as a short-short story, fewer than 7,000 words as a regular short story, and up to 10,000 words as a long short story (or novellette).

Of course, those are my own definitions for my own use in categorizing and pricing my work.

No matter how you categorize your own work, it’s cool that we who are not ignorant of this wonderful new world of publishing no longer have to bow before traditional publishing and their mandatory word/page counts and price points. (grin)

I added my novella, A Little Time, to my new distributor over at Draft2Digital.

Ate lunch, and back to writing for a bit. Sort of.

Oh, by the way, I’m doing a new promo thing. I’ve set the price of Book 1 of the Wes Crowley saga at FREE on Smashwords. You can download ANY electronic format there and it costs you nothing. If you’ve been wondering about this story that’s pushed me through eight books and into the ninth, I urge you to go check it out. You can get it here.

(For Kindle, download .mobi. For other e-readers, download .epub. You can also download PDF. If you read it and like it, consider leaving a review.)

Topic of the Night: The Conscious Mind and the Fear of Rejection
I said awhile back I’d make this a topic of the night. It’s probably overdue for many of you. If so, don’t feel bad. A year ago it was overdue for me. And the thing is, even after you beat the fear back, it can show up again and again. It’s an ongoing battle.

First, the role of your conscious mind—

Your conscious mind exists to gather information and to protect you. That’s it. Nothing else.

In its role as a gatherer of information, it’s excellent. Then the information that makes sense to you and is useful to you is absorbed by your subconscious mind. After that happens, it’s yours, permanently. (This is why you don’t have to “remember” how to form a capital letter A every time you sit down to write, or to put a period at the end of a declarative sentence.)

In its role to protect you, though, your conscious mind is a pain in whatever part of the anatomy you’d care to denigrate.

Your conscious mind is what keeps you, a writer, from actually putting words on the page. It’s protecting you. If you only talk about writing but never actually put words on a page, you never have to worry about anyone rejecting your work.

I deal with this problem pretty much every day to one degree or another. Even after all the stuff I’ve written.

Many would-be writers say they’d really like to write but they can’t because

  • they don’t have time
  • they don’t have a quiet place
  • they don’t have the right equipment
  • they have to do something for someone
  • and so on.

And many more finally actually sit down to write and then, just as they put their fingers on the keyboard, they

  • have to feed the cat (dog)
  • have to make coffee
  • have to check email (Facebook, other social media)
  • have to do the dishes from the night before
  • and so on.

The thing is, it’s much easier to “intend” to write than it is to write.

It’s much easier to do research or look for cover art or take a trip to your favorite writer’s haunts to absorb his/her “spirit” than it is to sit down and actually write.

In other words, it’s easier to let the fear win.

Not everyone has the problems I listed above. Some would-be writers don’t write because they already KNOW

  • their writing won’t be any good anyway
  • they can’t possibly write as much as Harvey does (or Dean does or someone else does)
  • the story they want to write has already been done (so have ALL of them)
  • the sun came up
  • the wind’s blowing
  • and so on.

Yeah, I know those last couple were ludicrous, but so were the rest of them. Really.

Now, the best way I’ve found to get over the fear comes in two parts:

Part One: Ahere to Heinlein’s Rules. Find them here or click the new link on the Free Downloads page. I copied a three-part presentation into one document, so this is Heinlein’s Rules, annotated.

Part Two: Set realistic goals.

And that will be the topic of the night for tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.

Today’s Writing
No new writing today. The day just got away from me. That’s why the daily goal resets. (grin)
Fiction Words: XXXX

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
Day 3…… 1858 words. Total words to date….. 6117 words
Day 4…… 1023 words. Total words to date….. 7140 words
Day 5…… 1587 words. Total words to date….. 8327 words
Day 6…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words

Total fiction words for the month…………… 19558
Total fiction words for the year……………… 461958

The Journal, Sunday, 8/23

The Day

Rolled out at 3 this morning. Still feeling a little under the weather – ulcer stuff – and then padding through the living room, I was hit by a wood scorpion. Fortunately he caught me on the outside of the left heel and apparently hit a callus.

Either that or I’ve developed a tolerance for things that sting. Fire and intense pain for about a half-minute, then a very small, dull and subsiding ache for another five minutes, then nothing. I am SO lucky.

Sadly, the scorpion did not fare as well once I found my sandals and a flashlight.

Still, kudos to the little dude for being willing to attack something that’s like a b’jillion times his size. I’ll never quite understand why they get that really quizzical look on their face just after you smash ’em. Like “How in the world did you do that?”

Anyway, as befitting a tough little dude, I gave him the closest thing I could arrange to burial at sea.

Checked email, got my coffee and started in combining two spreadsheets. One contained info on all my electronic publications, and the other was print only. Took close to an hour, but I got new columns added to the larger one and the info transferred over. Now it’s all in one place. More on keeping records in the Topic of the Night.

No walk again today. Just administrative stuff and writing.

Okay, it’s now 10:30 a.m. I’ve finished switching over the spreadsheet information and I’ve moved all eight of the books in The Wes Crowley Saga over to D2D. Gonna take a break, then come back to write a little bit.

Wrote a little, but a necessary trip to the store popped up.

Hoping to get a walk in the morning. Try to twist myself back into a more normal (for me) routine.

Topic of the Night: Keeping Records

My Fiction spreadsheet includes columns for the Title and Author (since I occasionally still write under various personas), which Collection each short story is in, Word count, ebook Price,  Ebook ISBN 13, and the Publication Date.

Then I have URL columns for my new distributor, Draft2Digital, and a URL column for each major bookstore. That currently includes Kobo, Inktera, Oyster, Scribd, Tolino, Apple, B&N, Amazon and Smashwords (both distributor and bookstore).

I reach a few other major outlets through Smashwords (Baker & Taylor Blio, txtr, Library Direct, Baker-Taylor Axis360, OverDrive, Flipkart), but I don’t have individual URLs for those. As D2D adds each one, I’ll add a column.

If you’re wondering, I keep the URLs in case a reader emails wanting to know where to find a certain book or story. It’s nice to have the information handy. This happens a lot more often than you might think.

On the other side of all those URL/venue columns I added the new information: the print edition ISBN 13 (Yes, you have to have a different ISBN for print and ebook), number of pages, print price, and the URL for the CreateSpace eStore. (You can’t buy ebooks there. CreateSpace has its own print book store, but it’s not brick and mortar. It’s only on line.)

If this seems like a lot of extra work, after the initial setup, it really isn’t. I view it as a necessary part of being my own publisher. From the time I publish a book or story, it takes about five minutes (if that) to enter all the information on my spreadsheet.

And just so you know, I don’t know a lot about spreadsheets in general or about Microsoft Excel in specific. But I’ve figured out enough to keep a good record of my publications. The point is, if I can do it, you can too (if you want to).

Today’s Writing
Honestly, the way the day started, first with the unusual dance with a scorpion and then all the admin/publisher stuff I did, I wasn’t expecting to get a lot of writing done and I didn’t. But I’ll take it.

It’s great to hit goals, but the main thing is to keep the story moving forward. I’ve been doing that on this one in fits and starts. Forward a bit, back, forward a bit more, back. Nope, that isn’t the opening. That scene comes somewhere AFTER the opening.

Okay, write a new opening. Ah, that’s better. I’ve written three openings for this book in five days. (grin) But I’ll get through all the fits and starts soon (I do this on pretty much every novel) and the thing will start flowing. Sure looking forward to that. (grin)

Hang around. It’ll happen.

Fiction Words: 1187

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
Day 3…… 1858 words. Total words to date….. 6117 words
Day 4…… 1023 words. Total words to date….. 7140 words
Day 5…… 1587 words. Total words to date….. 8327 words

Total fiction words for the month…………… 19558
Total fiction words for the year……………… 461958

The Journal, Saturday, 8/22

The Day

Ray Bradbury’s birthday. Ray Bradbury is the guy who knew at 12 years old what it took me 62 years to learn. Glad I didn’t wait until I was 63. Blessings, Mr. Bradbury. And thank you so much.

Rolled out at 3 this morning. Checked email, got my coffee and had to go run off a bunch of coyotes. Ugh.
No walk again today. Just writing again today.

Listen, if you’re publishing your own stuff through your own publishing company, check out https://draft2digital.com/.

I wrote a new short story today. When I went to publish it to Smashwords, for the first time EVER (153 books) my story didn’t convert to any format at Smashwords. I nuked it, tried again, and it still didn’t convert, which tells me it pretty much has to be their problem. So I sent them an email to that effect.

Then I popped over to D2D. I’d heard about it before, but hadn’t tried it. All within about a half-hour, I signed up for an account, uploaded my book and cover, and it was published in PDF, .mobi (Kindle) and .epub (everything else). It was just that quick.

And the quality is incredible.

In my opinion, you still need to do some basic formatting (or have it done) but the service itself is great.
D2D does not have their own online store, but they do distribute to Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Inktera, Scribd, Tolino, and Oyster. These are all individual bookstores, and some of them have subsidiaries. I’m going with D2D from now on for these venues.

I’ll also continue to publish with Amazon KDP (but not Select, not exclusively) and with Smashwords mostly for their online store.

Now for a break, then back to writing.

Topic of the Night: Write What Scares You

Stephen King advises writers to “write what scares you.” Sounds right to me.

Bear in mind, this isn’t just for horror writers. The good writer will evoke emotions from the reader. The stronger the better.

Now when I say write what scares you, I don’t mean the “they’re only zombies so I know it isn’t real” kind of scary.

I mean you’re tied up so you can’t intervene, your eyelids are sliced off so you can’t close your eyes, and you’re forced to watch as an intruder uses garden shears to lop off the leg, just above the ankle, of a two year old child.

The intruder looks at you, sneers, then turns back to the baby again.

The child, wide eyed, screaming, automatically reaches down to grab the stump and— Oh! Oh no! No! Snip! Her little hand and arm are gone halfway to the elbow.

Wider eyes. Wider mouth. Louder screams.

Just when you thought louder screams weren’t possible.

Notice that you don’t have to “imagine” the child’s eyes stretched wide in disbelieving horror. You can see them, can’t you? And you don’t have to imagine the screams either, do you?

And I’m just messin’ around here, givin’ you a f’rinstance.

Now, y’know those coyotes I mentioned before? I have nightmares sometimes about a song dog carrying off my baby girl. Seriously, nightmares. Obviously, that’s something that scares me.

So following King’s advice, I wrote a very similar scene in a short story called “A Natural Study of the Scream.”

Now I’m just enough of a scientist that I actually noticed, writing that scene in that story created an odd, almost paradoxical sensation. First, it was easy to write. I would have thought it would be difficult to put on paper, but it wasn’t. It was easy. The writing almost raced away without me.

But it also left me trembling, physically. I was upset to the point that I had to pour a couple fingers of Jameson’s to sooth it away. That was the first drink of alcohol I’d had in a very long time.

Writing that scene in that story was an experience. One I both dread and will most definitely repeat.

Because that’s good writing.

Today’s Writing

Wrote for a while on Book 9, still struggling with tight stuff and otherwise getting started.

Left that for awhile and wrote the first new story of my challenge. I took a brief break, came back, sat down and wrote Pete & Repeat. Then I skipped a couple lines and just started writing whatever came through my fingertips. MAN that feels good!

It will publish under the Free Short Story of the Week tab on Monday morning. Felt good to create a new story and a new cover. And the story was FUN. Read it. You’ll like it. No garden shears or anything. (grin)

Feeling a little under the weather and a lot of things up in the air right now. Hard to get settled in. I got a little done on the novel, but not a lot. It’s coming. Stay tuned. (grin)

Fiction Words: 2685

Writing of “Pete & Repeat” (story of the week)
Day 1…… 1662 words. Total words to date….. 1662 words (done)

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
Day 3…… 1858 words. Total words to date….. 6117 words
Day 4…… 1023 words. Total words to date….. 7140 words

Total fiction words for the month…………… 18371
Total fiction words for the year……………… 460771

The Journal, Friday, 8/21

The Day

Rolled out at 2 this morning. Checked email and saw that several revised/rebranded covers and Book 8 of the series were ready for proofing. So I got my coffee and started that process. Finished an hour or so later. Still amazes me that I have eight books out in that saga. Who’d’a thunk it?

Last night I figured I wouldn’t walk today. I would use my early morning hours to get a jump start on this novel. I would finish the slug work I mentioned yesterday and get into it. Okay, so that means no walk, no interruptions. Just writing, punctuated with occasional breaks.

Here begins the section on The Best Laid Plans.

Not going to walk today, I made an early breakfast (hash browns, eggs, sausage and dry rye toast). And one extra cup of coffee.

I’d already let the ladies outside. No sooner was my breakfast on the plate, cut up and all mushed together, than coyotes started howling. Coyotes have a really odd sense of humor, and impeccable timing.

Roughly an instant later, my little girl siamese was standing at the door separating the kitchen from the dining room asking politely to come inside until the coyotes stopped being rude. Good girl.

I let her in, then put my breakfast plate on the cabinet and covered it with a pan lid. I grabbed a flashlight, slipped on my flip-flops and went looking for the other girl, who is blacker than night and not easy to find even with a flashlight.

I circled the house twice. Yes, inside a fence, but the fence surrounds about a third of an acre and is filled with natural desert brush. You know that passage in the bible about wailing and gnashing of teeth? Yeah. It was like that.

Halfway through the third circuit I finally found her. In the dining room. At the door. Waiting to come in. Acting as if she’d been right there all along. Okay, good girl. Whatever.

Ate my cold breakfast, played two games of spider solitaire (the game should be outlawed), then answered some more email. And here I am, at 6:30 a.m., doing this and about to turn to the writing ‘puter for the first time. I’ll write the topic of the night later.

I’m going to try to keep better tabs on my writing/break habits. This is probably not innately interesting, but I’m hoping it will help me take a break every hour or so. Those of you who have been following this for awhile know I’ve been working on the concept of taking a break every hour or so for awhile now.

By the way, I received a nice acceptance email for a short story I sent to The Scribe, the magazine of the St. Louis Writers Guild. The magazine is free and has a lot of neat stuff in it. If you’d like a copy, visit Smashwords and download it in PDF, .mobi (Kindle) or .epub (all other readers).

By the way, the story in this issue is the very first short story I wrote by completely trusting my subconscious and writing off into the dark. If you read it, be sure to read the About the Author blurb afterward too. I think you’ll get a kick out of it.

Oof. MAJOR lightning strike on my position. Literally the loudest, sharpest sound I’ve ever heard. Not exaggerating. Man, that’ll get your ticker pumping. And no rain.

Took a break to hit the PO, then back here for lunch and a few minutes doing nothing, then back to the novel.

Topic of the Night: Writing Off Into the Dark

Very briefly, when you do this, you’re simply trusting your subconscious to tell the story. Believe me, it knows MUCH better than you do what needs to go into the story. Just trust it. And yes, saying that is much simpler than doing it. But once you learn to trust it, You Will See Miracles in your characters, settings, stories.

All of this was prompted by a comment from Bonnie, who complained that the killer in her WIP was not the person she thought it should be.

In my response, I reminded her to just write the next sentence, then write the next sentence, etc. and eventually the situation and the characters would reveal to her who the killer actually is.

And since it will be a surprise to her, it will also be a surprise to the reader. True dat.

Bradbury even once said if you can’t surprise yourself as a writer, how in the world do you expect to surprise the reader.

So again, learn to trust your subconscious. Nothing good in literature ever came out of the conscious mind.

Sit down, put your fingers on the keyboard, and just write the next sentence. And above all else, have fun. (grin)

I encourage you to read the exchange between Bonnie and me in the comments on yesterday’s post.

Today’s Writing

Wrote at several different times today for various lengths of time. Also did a lot of reading for various reasons. Came up with the name of an important horse, for example. That took close to an hour.

His name is Vuelo, by the way, which means Flight. He comes from the sacred cliffs (los acantilados sagrados) so it’s a good name for him. But it took awhile to get there. So that’s how much of the writing day went, which translates to another day with a short word count.

I took several short breaks during the day, so no fatigue from writing. But I did drag myself down with “necessary” things I had to do for the story.

This is going to be great fun for me when I break through the opening several pages. Looking forward to that.

Fiction Words: 1858

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
Day 3…… 1858 words. Total words to date….. 6117 words

Total fiction words for the month…………… 15686
Total fiction words for the year……………… 458086

Passive Voice

Hi Folks,

Note: Before I begin this post, I wanted to point you to an invaluable resource I recently found. At your leisure, please check out https://killzoneblog.com/. It’s a blog home of several best-selling authors. I’ve found some great advice there already on pacing.

Also I want to offer you a free SF sampler from Lightspeed Magazine. I received it only this morning. To download it in PDF, just click Women Destroy Science Fiction (Sampler). When the file opens, click File (upper left corner of your browser) and then click Save Page As and save it to your desktop.

Okay, on to passive voice—

There are so many misunderstandings regarding passive voice, that first I’m going to explain what it is not. Then we’ll go into what it is, along with some examples.

Back when I was copyediting, clients continually told me they’d heard that they should always

  • avoid using words that end in “ing” (gerunds);
  • avoid using has, have, and had
  • avoid using state-of-being verbs (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been).

They’d been told, INCORRECTLY, that if they used any of those, they’d be writing in passive voice.

Wrong. Let’s take them one at a time.

Gerunds (“ing” words) have nothing whatsoever to do with passive voice. In one manuscript I edited, the author, because someone had told him to avoid “ing” words, filled the manuscript with sentences like this:

As the sheriff entered the saloon, several men stood at the bar. Other groups of men sat at tables, and still others ascended or descended the stairs.

Sentences like these can give the reader the perception that the men suddenly leapt from their chairs (“stood”) or dropped into them (“sat”) at the moment the sheriff walked in, which of course was not the case. To provide a sense that the action was ongoing, recast those sentences like this:

As the sheriff entered the saloon, several men were standing at the bar. Other groups of men were sitting at tables, and still others were ascending or descending the stairs.

Sometimes past-progressive tense (e.g., “were standing,” “were ogling,” etc.) is necessary to indicate ongoing action.

Have, Has, and Had are “helper” verbs, and they have nothing whatsoever to do with passive voice. In another manuscript, because a local writing instructor had told her using the word “had” creates passive voice, a lady wrote sentences like this:

I sat at the kitchen table and looked out over the back porch to the beach. My dad ran along the beach as a young boy, laughing and chasing seagulls. Later, a cigarette poised between his first and middle finger, he walked alongside my mom as they dreamed of the house they would build on this spot.

I would recast those sentence to read like this:

I sat at the kitchen table and looked out over the back porch to the beach. My dad had run along that beach as a young boy, laughing and chasing seagulls. Later, a cigarette poised between his first and middle finger, he walked alongside my mom as they dreamed of the house they would build on this spot.

These changes make it much easier for the reader to understand her father wasn’t actually on the beach in the present time, that she was imagining him being there much earlier in his life.

State-of-Being Verbs are part of passive voice, but they do not create passive voice by themselves.

Because state-of-being verbs do not show action and do nothing to advance the story line, I tell writers to avoid them whenever possible, but it isn’t always possible. There is no other way to describe a state of being. For example, there is no other way to write “Tucson is a large city in southeast Arizona.”

In a passive construction (passive voice), the writer lets the subject avoid responsibility for the action of the sentence by using the rightful subject of the sentence as the object of the preposition “by” in an actual or implied prepositional phrase. I call this a “by-phrase.”

Here are a couple of my old examples. The by phrase is underlined.

Passive: This event is sponsored by Arizona Mystery Writers.
Active: Arizona Mystery Writers sponsored this event.

Passive: The pizza was delivered by Harvey.
Active: Harvey delivered the pizza.

Note that even if the by-phrase is only implied, it’s still a passive construction that enables the subject of the sentence to avoid responsibility for the action of the sentence. The first example is an old one:

Passive: The package was delivered on time.
Active: UPS delivered the package on time.

The second is a living example from the New York Times a few days ago in a contemporary (July 2015) news story. According to Politico’s Dylan Byers,

“The New York Times modified its article about a potential criminal investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of her private email account in a ‘small but significant’ way at the request of Clinton’s presidential campaign.”

See, the intent here is to use a passive construction to enable the actual subject of the sentence to avoid responsibility for the action of the sentence. As you will see, it works. This time, I’ll provide the active example first. In the passive example, I underlined the part that renders the sentence passive. Note that the by phrase is only implied:

Active: Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.

Passive: Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.

In short, if a sentence doesn’t contain BOTH a state-of-being verb and an actual or implied “by phrase,” it isn’t a passive construction.

Hope this helps. Until 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, 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