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

The Journal, Wednesday, 8/5

The Day

Back on schedule, rolled out about 2:45. Actually, staying on schedule wasn’t difficult. Although every other state in the vicinity (north/south) was intelligent enough to stay on Central Time, Indiana’s legislature voted several years ago to put most of the state on Eastern Time (Doh!).

But it worked out well for me personally. I went to bed around 10 p.m. local time (7 my time) and got up around 5 or 6 a.m. local time (2 or 3 my time), so no real adjustment. (grin)

High hopes yesterday to get back to writing today, and I will, but as I write this it’s mid morning. Before sunup I spent time with my beautiful little daughter and did some waking up things, then updated several websites, cleaned up my inbox, etc. I also began doing some research that I might need for a novel someday.

With first light, I opened the back of my pickup and camper shell and began unloading the stuff we brought back from Indiana. Seems to me it’s roughly twice what we hauled up there to our boys, but that might just be me and my grouch levels after the eleven day trip. Probably that’s it.

So unloading finished, put most of it away (at least temporarily) I did some more research on the same topic. A little while later I noticed the yard needed to be mowed. Like many in Arizona, I do not have a “lawn,” but I do have an extensive yard. Out came the mower, overfilled it with gasoline per usual, started it and away I went. Now that’s finished.

It’s always struck me as ironic that I’m living in southeast Arizona, loving the “wild” look of it, and mowing the yard. If the place was mine, I’d do the whole thing over in rock. Large rock. Massive rock. One big huge massive gargantuan rock with a house on top. That’s what I’d do.

Okay, gonna chill a bit, then get a shower, then see what comes and hope it’s the story. Back in a bit.

Well after the shower, remembered I had to replenish groceries here in the house, so went shopping, then back here for lunch. Still exhausted from the trip. I might end up taking a nap today. If I do it’ll be the first since about first grade. (grin)

No nap, but I decided this has to be another non-writing day. Just too tired. Cleaning up from the trip, plus the trip itself took a toll. Onward to tomorrow.

Topic of the Night: Life Happens, or Letting Life Happen

There’s nothing we can do about it anyway, and sometimes life just happens and we have to let it.

That’s the case with me for the last eleven days and now today. I could have written while I was gone. I could have just carved out some time and written. The people I was around (most of them) would have understood and a few would even have envied me. They probably wouldn’t even have interrupted me with noise or otherwise.

But I didn’t write. I didn’t even try to carve out the time because I didn’t want to run the risk of being interrupted. When I’m writing, I want to write. I don’t want the TV to come on. I don’t want someone in the next room to laugh at something cute or stupid someone else did or said. I don’t want the house to be on fire and someone to come rushing into the room to order me out, as if the burning house is more important than the fact that I’m right in the middle of a scene.

When I’m writing, I want to write. If I don’t feel I can guarantee that, then I’d rather just not write until it’s time.

I think that’s what I did again today, albeit subconsciously. As much as I wanted to write, my subconscious knew better. It shut down. And just before it shut down, it sent me a series of commands on all frequencies:

Rest up from the trip. Unload the truck. Do that research you need to do. Check the oil. Clean off the weird red mark some moron in Hatch scrawled on your passenger window. Do some more research. Mow the yard. No, the whole yard. Put away the stuff from the truck. Stare at your story if you want, but I’m tellin’ you, you ain’t writin’ today.

Okay, go write the daily journal if it’ll make you feel better.

And here I am. So still no Day 20 of writing. Tomorrow probably. Tomorrow almost certainly.

See you then.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: XXXX

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… 1678 words. Total words to date…… 41469
Day 18… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 43274
Day 19… 2713 words. Total words to date…… 45987
Day 20… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 0000
Total fiction words for the year……………… 442400

The Journal, Tuesday, 8/4

The Day

After roughly 6 months of driving around the country, I’m back. Okay, it was only 11 days, inclusive, but I drove on both the first and last day, so “inclusive” is also true. Ugh. And yes, it seems like every bit of six months.

ANYway, I’m back. Cleaning up email, running updates, issuing a refund to a guy who bought my computer and changed his mind, etc.

Today, I am happy to report, will be the last day of the worst streak I’ve ever endured: eleven straight days without writing so much as a word of fiction. I would literally rather be beaten than go through that again. Well, I WON’T go through that again, not voluntarily.

If you haven’t visited Dean’s website lately, I urge you to do so, and read back over the past several days for the Topic of the Night.

The Writing

First, I finished up the month of July with only 36717 words. Absolutely terrible, but it will get better. After all, the monthly goal resets every month. (grin)

Tomorrow morning, I will begin writing the climax and the ending. To do that, I will read back over maybe the last ten pages or so. Then I’ll put my fingers on the keys and type whatever comes.

I expect to finish the book within a few days, and then I’ll be on to something new. Or Book 9. Much depends on Wes.

To set a restarting point, below I’ve put in the numbers thus far for The Battle of Tres Caballos.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: XXXX

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… 1678 words. Total words to date…… 41469
Day 18… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 43274
Day 19… 2713 words. Total words to date…… 45987
Day 20… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 0000
Total fiction words for the year……………… 442400

 

More Real Dialogue Tips

Hi Folks,

In the previous post I mentioned the nuances of the stuff between the quotation marks. Here’s a second installment on dialogue tips. This is all about the nuances. If you have questions about any of these, please ask in the comments section. Thanks!

Well-written dialogue should

  • be colorful, especially the dialogue of flat or secondary characters, and even more especially if the flat or secondary character is used to foreshadow a later event. Strive to write each line of dialogue so well that the reader will remember it.
    • why? because flat or secondary characters, if they’re in a story at all, are there to serve a specific purpose, like foreshadowing for example. They or what they say should be memorable.
  • differentiate the characters from each other and enable the reader to identify the same characters in different situations. (A character will act and speak differently in different situations.)
  • have the rhythms, the immediate give and take, of real speech. Also, the use of contractions is important, just as it is in everyday speech, unless your character is a librarian who Speaks. Very. Succinctly. And. Precisely. With. No. Contractions.
    • I don’t recommend having a character like that. If you do, I recommend letting her hang around only as long as is essential to the story.
  • be emotion-laden, both on and beneath the surface.
  • reveal the character’s relationship to the various people with whom he or she talks.
  • give the reader a sense of time and place.
  • reveal the character’s reaction to his surroundings and to the other characters with whom he shares the scene.

General dialogue techniques

  • Use dialogue to reveal the character of the character — who the character really is, how he feels about a particular situation or another character — not always with what is said, but with how it is said, and often with what is not said.
    • “You lied to me! You said you were going for a drive.”
    • “C’mon, Baby. I didn’t say I was going alone.”
  • Allow characters to interrupt each other. This keeps the reader involved in the conversation, as if she’s eavesdropping. (To form an em dash to show interrupted dialogue, use either two unspaced hyphens — like this — or an em dash — like this. Do not use an elipsis… unless dialogue trails off or a character’s speech is halting. See examples above.)
  • Allow characters to answer a question with a question. This technique is excellent for subtly setting up, or hinting at, a conflict.
    • “If you knew she’d be there, why did you go?”
    • “What difference does it make who was there?”
  • Use ragged, non-linear dialogue. Use sentence fragments. The most common is the sentence with the implied you or I as the subject.
    • “Stop!” “Don’t even think about it!” “C’mon, give me the gun.”
  •  Avoid using substitutes for “said” in tag lines. (You’ve heard this before, yes?) “He said” or “She said” is usually the best choice except when the tag line can be eliminated in short passages. (The definition of “short passage” is left to the discretion of the writer.) Sometimes eliminating the tag lines will cause the reader to pay closer attention to the story. (Witness Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.”)

Next time we’ll discuss the use of verbs, especially action verbs. They are essential to the wellbeing of your story.

Harvey

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The Journal, Monday, 7/27

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

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

But no.

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

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

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

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

Whole different deal here. So we’ll see.

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

Harvey

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

 

The Journal, Friday, 7/24

The Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topic of the Night: Starting and Restarting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just write the next sentence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: 2713

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

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