Stopping and Starting (or Starting and Restarting)

Note: I’m posting this one again now as a lead-in to the post that’s coming next week. I’ve also revised this post so it’s up to date.

Hi Folks,

This is a common problem for all writers. We all have to stop writing at various times for different reasons. The trick is to get started again.

I’m not talking about stopping writing once an hour or so to move around a bit. I’m talking here about stopping for the day and coming back to a blank page. Or stopping because Life Happens, perhaps you become ill or a loved one has a problem you have to deal with or whatever.

When those life events happen (and they happen to everyone), if you’re a mechanic, you deal with the life event, then go back to your job. If you’re a lawyer, same thing. If you’re a postal worker or a tuba player in the local symphony. If you’re a writer, after the life event you go back to writing. You start again, or restart.

But what if you don’t want to?

It’s extremely easy to allow yourself “time off” from your writing when you have no valid reason for doing so. What’s that? You don’t need a reason? So you don’t need a reason to stop doing your job? Remember, I’m talking to writers here. Writers write.

If you feel like you need to just not write for awhile for whatever reason, check in with yourself: which fear is requiring you to want “time off” from writing?

  • Fear that once you finish you’ll have to submit it for publication or publish it?
  • Fear that an editor will reject your work?
  • Or if you self-publish, fear that some other reader won’t like it?
  • Or perhaps you just realized you’re working on a NOVEL, this huge thing, and you’re feeling overwhelmed, like no possible way can you finish something so large and intimidating. Is that it?

Whatever fear is keeping you from writing, remember that it’s not an actual limitation. It’s a false limitation, a mirage.

When you identify that fear, push it down and get started again. Just put your fingers on the keyboard and write what comes. Smile. Enjoy it. Have fun!

If your immediate mental response to all this began with “But,” again, check in with yourself. Identify the fear. Laugh at it, push it down and write.

If you’re in the midst of a work in progress (WIP), the same thing applies. Read a bit of what you’ve written (a paragraph or two or three) to remind yourself of where you are in the storyline, then put your fingers on the keyboard and just write whatever comes.

Remember, your subconscious knows the story better than you do.

Ah, but what if nothing comes? Then chances are you need to begin a whole new scene. Don’t worry about chronology for now. Just Write. You can move scenes around later if necessary.

Just so you know, I’m not talking from on high here. This happens to me regularly. Especially while writing Wes 2 (file name for my second novel in a series) I find myself suddenly feeling overwhelmed. I know it’s going to be a novel, so I sometimes slip into feeling overwhelmed.

It’s like the old joke, How do you eat an elephant? The answer applies, of course: One bite at a time.

The notion that I have to “write a novel” is overwhelming. But writing a scene is easy. It’s fun. I get to run and play with my friends for an hour or so.

Then I take a break, then write another scene. Then another. Then another. Eventually, I eat the whole elephant, but only one bite at a time.

Try it. It works. I promise.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting. It costs less than you think.

If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

 

Stigma Dis, Stigma Dat… Whatever

Note: This post was originally scheduled for October 2014. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post so it’s up to date.

Hey Folks,

Received yet another note today from a friend about the “stigma” of self-publishing. What a bunch of crap. There, I said it.

Not only is it a bunch of crap that there’s a “stigma” in the first place, but it’s an even bigger, smellier bunch of crap that anyone who calls himself or herself a writer cares either way. Writers write.

Self-publishing (indie publishing, not going through a subsidy publisher) is just another way to get your work to readers, period. That’s all it is. And if you tell a good story, someone out there will want to read it, period.

Look, if you’re a fiction writer, either professional or aspirant—you know, a person who actually puts new words on the page—and you’re serious about your writing, do yourself a HUGE favor and swing by the website of my unintentional mentor, Dean Wesley Smith. You’ll find it at http://deanwesleysmith.com.

While you’re there, please be sure to click the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing tab and read some of the ridiculous myths we’ve all bought into over all these years.

Now just so you know, Dean is no slouch. The guy has had over 100 novels published with “traditional” publishers since the late 1980s. He goes almost strictly indie now.

One other thing—if you truly are serious about your writing, check out the Lecture Series tab on Dean’s website as well. His video series on Heinlein’s Rules is absolutely essential. It’s $75 and easily, EASILY worth several times more that. Think of it as an investment in your future. Seriously.

Dean’s wife is Kristine Kathryn Rusch. You can find her website at KrisWrites.com.

Kris is the only person in history to win a Hugo award both as an editor and a writer. She’s had hundreds of novels published through traditional publishing, and now does tons of stuff in indie publishing. You want to see a work that literally defines the definition of accomplishment? Check out her Retrieval Artist Series.

Those of you who still feel there’s a “stigma” attached to self-published books, listen up:

Self-publishing doesn’t make a book bad anymore than traditional publishing makes one good. It’s the writing, nothing else.

And because I’m in a good mood, I’ll tell you something else: YOU are literally the worst judge of your own writing. When you’re editing and polishing and rewriting because you think it’s boring or bad or needs to be “punched up,” that’s because it’s in YOUR voice.

You are with your voice 24/7, so OF COURSE it sounds boring or bland or bad to you. But to other readers, it will sound unique— Well, if you don’t polish all the good off of it before you finally submit it or put it up for sale.

A little factoid for you—did you know before WWII there were NO traditional publishers?

That’s right. Only self-publishers and the pulps. There were no trade paperbacks until the late 1940s, but people (even writers, who are getting severely, I mean SEVERELY screwed by the big publishers) seem to think traditional publishing predates the printing press and is the most wonderful thing since that same old clichéd sliced bread. Ugh.

Oh, Dean is also the first person in history to create a monthly magazine (Smith’s Monthly) that contains a complete novel and several short stories and all of the work is his own. Quite an accomplishment.

Stop by and take a look. Maybe it’ll clear away some of that “stigma” for you. Seriously.

‘Til next time,

Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting. It costs less than you think.

If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

 

Safeguard Your Credibility

Note: This post was originally scheduled for sometime in 2014. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post so it’s up to date.

For anyone who’s interested, The Professional Fiction Writer: A Year in the Life is available for preorder in all electronic venues. It will ship on January 15.

Also, while I’m pushing help for writers here, I can’t do better than recommend you read Dean Wesley Smith’s recent post titled “Once More… For the New Year… Pulp Speed.” This one is massively important for anyone who wants to be a professional fiction writer. To see it, click this link: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/once-more-for-the-new-year-pulp-speed/.

Hi Folks,

A long time ago, those who made their living with the written or spoken word obeyed two self-imposed rules:

  1. they knew the language intimately, and
  2. they applied that knowledge skillfully.

It seems that level of commitment has become the exception rather than the rule.

Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Edwin Newman, Mark Twain, Papa Hemingway, Dorothy Parker and countless other professional writers studied the language and knew the meanings (both denotation and connotation in all its delightful intimacies) and spellings of the words they used.

They also knew and applied the rules of grammar and syntax, not because they had to, but because they knew it would enhance reader understanding. And they themselves wouldn’t look like blithering morons.

Those news professionals and writers took no chances that their readers might misunderstand, and they took no chances that their readers or listeners might think them ignorant. And yet the battlecry of contemporary so-called professionals seems to be “Well, it’s close enough. The readers will know what I was trying to say.”

I mention Murrow, Cronkite and Newman because they were news professionals who wrote and read the news on radio and television. I mention them because today’s news professionals apparently don’t know that “likely” is an adjective that is synonymous with “probable,” not “probably.”

They don’t understand that a “weapons cache” (pronounced “cash”) is a store of weapons and that “weapons cachet” makes no sense at all to a thinking person. Why? Because a “cachet” (pronounced “cashay”) is an aroma, not a stored collection of weapons or anything else.

And worst of all, at least to me, they don’t understand that such errors DO matter. In fact, they are grievous affronts to our language and to the writing profession as a whole.

A recent correspondent mentioned that in a Michael Crichton novel she repeatedly saw statements like “I better be going” instead of “I’d better be going”  (this would be okay in dialogue, but not in narrative) or  “would of” and “could of” in place of “would’ve” and “could’ve” (this would not be all right in dialogue or narrative). And this is an author whose works regularly populate the bestseller lists.

So what’s going on? Are these usages simply considered acceptable now?

Sadly, the answer is yes.

They are considered acceptable because it’s much easier to simply accept something as “good enough” than to expend the effort to teach students the correct way to spell and the rules of grammar and syntax.

Consider, the word “acceptable” doesn’t even mean “adequate.” It simply means “good enough.” If it were a letter grade, “acceptable” would be a D, and “adequate” would be a C.

In other words, it’s a soup sandwich, sloppy at best.

“The Reader Will Know What I Mean”

Umm, no, Sparky. Bad writer. It isn’t the reader’s responsibility to figure out what you mean.

That responsibility belongs to the person who puts the words on the page, and um, that would be You.

Unfortunately, it’s too late to simply ask the teachers in public schools to begin (please) teaching their students proper grammar and syntax. Many of today’s teachers can’t do so because they don’t know it themselves.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen in written works that a room was “void” of furniture. Of course, the writer meant “devoid.”

In the manuscript I’m currently working on (back when I wrote this) a character “embarked from” a train. Yes, I changed it to “disembarked.”

The writer or speaker can “imply” something; only the reader or listener can “infer,” yet increasing numbers of writers treat those terms as if they’re interchangeable.

  • Would you want your next surgery to be conducted by a guy who barely made it through med school?
  • Would you want the guy who’s adjusting your heater to get it ready for the winter to do a job that’s just passable?
  • Would you want a contractor whose buildings routinely barely pass inspection?

The fact that increasing numbers of writers accept “good enough” as a standard is an abomination that contributes more every day to the dumbing down of America.

And to any writer who’s worth his or her salt, “good enough” is never good enough. You’re an artisan, one who strives constantly to perfect your craft. And that, my friends, is “good enough.”

Next up, more on safeguarding your credibility as a writer.

‘Til next time, happy writing.

Harvey

THIS JUST IN FROM KRISTINE KATHRYN RUSCH: If you have ANY books with All Romance Ebooks/OmniLit, read Kris’ post here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/business-musings-7624150. This is an advance look at her post from later this week.

Two other links that might help are these:

All Romance Ebooks Closing

All Romance Ebooks Suddenly Closing

I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting. It costs less than you think.

If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

The Journal, Wednesday, 11/30

Hey Folks,

Yesterday was so hectic, I actually forgot to view and listen to the Week 5 videos of the DWS workshop I’m taking right now. So I spent the first couple of hours this morning doing that.

Well, summer in southeast Arizona is officially over. Shortly after the sun came up this morning (pilot light was on, blower wasn’t working yet) it was 21° outside. Ugh. No moisture in the air to hold in the heat of the day. It Is Eye-Cee.

Topic: Horrible Advice

By “horrible advice,” I mean advice from people who recommend you do exactly the same garbage you’ve been hearing your whole life and THAT DOESN’T WORK.

This topic was keyed by an article at BookBub: “Self-Publishing Your NaNoWriMo Book? Don’t Miss These Steps” (http://insights.bookbub.com/self-publishing-nanowrimo-book-steps/). I provide the link NOT because I recommend the article (I Don’t), but so you can see first-hand what bad advice looks like. I intend to defrag (or maybe frag) their advice a bit later in this topic.

Okay, first, as everyone who follows my Journal knows, I don’t like NaNoWriMo. It’s wonderful to get a person started writing. But in every other way it’s terrible. Now, I know some of you like it, and that’s fine.

Most notably, it is actively based on the premise that you should give yourself permission to write a bad “first draft” and then fix it later, and it prods you to involve others in your work (critique, content edits, etc.). There are other bad things about it, but those are the big two.

So with that as the basis, back to the BookBub article.

First, their introductory premise: “Your NaNoWriMo book is most likely not ready for readers today.”

No, if you wrote it in accordance with NaNoWriMo guidelines, it probably isn’t because you INTENDED for it to be bad.

Writing something intentionally bad the first time is like filling a wheelbarrow with dirt a shovelful at a time. Then moving it halfway to where you want it. Then dumping it. Then loading it all back up again and moving it the rest of the way. So metaphorically speaking, how many times you “revise” or “rewrite” or “polish” is the number of times you’re dumping and reloading the wheelbarrow.

But if you wrote the cleanest “first draft” you could at your current skill level, do this:

1. run your contextual spell checker,
2. have someone proof it for spelling errors (yes, even after you ran the spell checker) and wrong-word usages, and
3. publish it and start writing the next one.

IF YOU TOOK NANOWRIMO’S ADVICE and intentionally wrote a “bad” first draft, I advise you to go back through it ONCE, reading for pleasure but with your fingers on the keyboard, and allow yourself to touch it. When you finish, it should be as good as you can make it at your current skill level. This is not rewriting because it’s done with your creative subconscious in control.

Okay, now to the ten points BookBub says you shouldn’t miss (and why you should ignore them):

1. Revise the book (and they say “several times”).

Umm, no. Not even once. I’m a writer. I’m being paid to write. I’m not being paid to rewrite, revise, or polish. IF YOU DO REVISE, REWRITE OR POLISH, YOU WILL POLISH YOUR ORIGINAL VOICE RIGHT OUT OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT.

2. Get critique partners.

Umm, No! I strive not to allow my own conscious, critical mind into my writing. Why would I allow someone else’s? Also, why in the world would I accept advice from someone who isn’t a LOT farther along the road as a writer than I am?

3. Do line edits. (Wow. Under this one, they list “43 Words You Should Cut From Your Writing Immediately.”)

Again, no. This is your proofreader’s or first reader’s or copy editor’s job. And please PLEASE don’t cut ANY words from your writing “automatically.” Words are there to be used. Use them as necessary.

4. Hire an editor.

Okay, yes, a copy editor. But a “developmental editor?” Seriously? How can ANYone else POSSIBLY know more about your characters and your story than you do?

5. Understand your target audience.

Blah blah blah. Everyone knows this is smart. In the real world, it means “Be aware that there’s a reader on the other side of the book.” That’s all. Don’t worry about it. Besides, If you write what you love, readers will come. (Do I need to repeat that?)

6. Choose a great title.

Umm, yeah. Duh. But most often the story itself will give you the title. Again, don’t worry about it.

7. Hire a cover designer.

Okay, but I recommend you learn to do it yourself. I design all my own covers. Most of them take about five minutes if I have already selected the cover photo. This isn’t difficult if you follow a few basic common-sense guidelines.

8. Format your book correctly.

Again, duh. But I wonder why they didn’t say “Hire a formatter?” Anyway, this is also something you can learn, FREE OF CHARGE, by downloading The Essentials of Digital Publishing from my Free Stuff page at my website.

9. Choose retailers and/or distributors.

Yeah, this is kind of misleading. (Like if you stand in the path of a tidal wave you might get “kind of” wet.) As long as you aren’t insane enough to go exclusive with Amazon or anyone else, you’ll do fine on this score. And if you DO go exclusive, well, then you don’t have to worry about stores and distribution, do you?

Here: Upload ebooks to Amazon and Smashwords and let the latter worry about distribution. For print, upload to CreateSpace and then select “Extended Distribution” and you’re done. This advice is gratis from yer Uncle Harv.

10. Create a marketing plan.

Uhh, no. Write the next book. The most effective marketing you can do is to write the next book. And the next one. And the next one. Do that, take my advice on other matters (like #9 above) and understand that writing is about the long term and marketing will take care of itself.

But if you’re stuck on the notion of marketing, I recommend Kris Rusch’s book, Discoverability.

Of Interest

At Dean’s place, An Interesting Assumption (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/an-interesting-assumption/). He flat nailed it. Pretty good daily post below that too.

Today’s Writing

Started on Ray Acuna around 9:45 after writing everything above, checking Dean’s site, etc.

Got about 900 words done in a good first session, then went in and tried to try on my old field jacket from the Marine Corps (17 years ago).

Uhh, No. Seems there’s a three-inch gap down the front that didn’t used to be there. Funny how clothing shrinks over time. Off to the thrift store it goes. Back to the novel at 11:30.

Guess I’m finally back on track with writing. Pretty good day today. Oh, and I’m pleased to announce this feels like it’s gonna be a novel. (grin)

Back tomorrow.

Fiction Words: 3752
Nonfiction Words: 1130 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 4882

Writing of Ray Acuna (tentative title)

Day 1…… 2058 words. Total words to date…… 2058
Day 2…… 3752 words. Total words to date…… 5810

Total fiction words for the month……… 24539
Total fiction words for the year………… 679694
Total nonfiction words for the month… 19060
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 257900

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 937594

I Did It Myyyyyyy Way…..

Hey folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 3/21/2014. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post so it’s up to date.

I don’t like misunderstandings. I like them even less when they’re based on skimming information and missing important facts that are Right There In Front Of You.

If you take exception to any concept I present in any of my posts, that’s fine, but please at least read the post first. If you just skim it and hit the high points (or what you believe to be the high points) and then choose to comment, you might miss some relevant information.

After one post, I received notes from two writers.

I corresponded with both of them and clarified my position in order to alleviate their concerns. That experience led me to the notion that this post was necessary.

Of course, I would never divulge my correspondents’ identities, and my purpose of conveying bits of those conversations here is only to illustrate.

One writer assumed the post was all about her because she and I had engaged in a peripherally similar exchange on the topic a few months ago. (She wanted me to provide something in an edit that I knew to be wrong and therefore refused to provide.)

Thing is, the post wasn’t about her.

The conflict on which I based the post was from a paid edit for which a writer initially hired me and later changed her mind.

I was actually glad she changed her mind (even though it cost me a hefty paycheck) because giving her edit less than my best effort would leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Thing is, I made it clear in the post that the bone of contention was about a paid edit. The person who assumed the post was about her never hired me to do anything.

Another person wrote to point out that a great author from the past had written “her way” and that her writing had “endured the test of time.” She drew from that the completely appropriate conclusion that “Sometimes rules can be broken.”

Actually, I couldn’t agree more.

Sometimes, to create a certain effect in the reader, it’s a very good idea to break the rules of punctuation and grammar and syntax. (See my book on Writing Realistic Dialogue at Smashwords or Amazon or my audio course of the same name, in which I advocate breaking the rules to create a particular effect in the reader.)

But my previous post wasn’t about rules or breaking them. It was about how the reader reacts every time he encounters certain marks of punctuation or the italic font attribute.

Please understand that how you choose to present your work to the world doesn’t matter to me. I would like to see you succeed as a writer, but you are free to attach whatever value you like to any advice or knowledge I pass along in these blog posts.

As more than one writer has mentioned to me over the years, everything in writing is a matter of personal preference.

That is true. Everything in writing and in life itself is a matter of personal preference. For example,

  • You may choose to omit all capitalization from your writing (e.e. cummings did it in his poetry; Don Marquis did it in his archy and mehitabel collection).
  • You may choose to write dialogue without benefit of quotation marks (Cormac McCarthy did it in one novel).
  • You may choose to replace all the periods in your work with commas or em dashes or nothing at all. That will give the reader the truly unique experience of interpreting your work however he chooses and creating the novel with you.

The point is, if you would rather concentrate on being “unique” instead of just writing your story, that’s completely up to you.

But I do hope you remember that the reader also has personal preferences.

By and large, readers choose to select works that they aren’t required to “figure out.” The reader’s job is to be entertained, not to decipher “cutting edge” writing.

Everything depends on what you deem important.

If you want readers to be standing around the water cooler on Monday morning talking about how there was no capitalization or punctuation or quotation marks or whatever in your book and “that must have taken great courage on the part of the writer, blah blah blah” that’s fine.

But frankly, if those same readers read some of my work, I’d rather they were talking about what a great story they just read. In fact, I’d rather they hadn’t noticed the punctuation or font attributes or other “writing preferences” at all.

Hope this clarifies things. 🙂

‘Til next time, happy (clear) writing.

Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting.

If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

Tools for Writers

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 1/10/2014. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now.

Instead of a regular blog post I thought I’d toss out this list of URLs this time. I’ve found all of these useful at one time or another, and I still refer to many of them regularly. However, the presence of these URLs on this list does not necessarily constitute my endorsement or recommendation except as noted below.

I chose not to make the links live. Many email programs will kick out an email that contains more than a few links. You’ll have to copy/paste these URLs into the address bar at the top of your browser. (Note that some of the URLs wrap to the next line. Be sure to copy/paste the whole thing.)

Once you’ve done that I suggest you bookmark those that interest you so you can refer back to them quickly. I hope you find this list of use.

First, I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting. Here’s the rest of the list.

Dictionaries

Acronyms — http://www.allacronyms.com/
American Slang — http://onlineslangdictionary.com/
British Slang — http://www.peevish.co.uk/slang/
Dictionary — http://dictionary.reference.com/
Sex Dictionary — http://www.sex-lexis.com/Sex-Dictionary/
Semantic Reference — http://semanticreference.com/
Spanish Dictionary — http://spanish.dictionary.com/
Spanish Slang — http://www.languagerealm.com/spanish/spanishslang.php
Thesaurus — http://thesaurus.com/
Translator — http://translate.reference.com/
Urban Dictionary — http://www.urbandictionary.com/

Converters
Colors and Others — http://web.forret.com/
Future/Past Calendar — http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/
Keyboard Shortcuts PC to Mac or Mac to PC — http://myfirstmac.com/index.php/mac/articles/ultimate-switcher-guide-windows-pc-to-mac-keyboard-shortcuts
Length — http://www.exrx.net/Calculators/LengthConverter.html
Metric — http://www.worldwidemetric.com/measurements.html
Mileage — http://www.randmcnally.com/mileage-calculator.do
Temperature — http://fahrenheittocelsius.com/

Reference, Research or Interesting
Arizona Master Gardener Manual — http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/
Arizona Sunrise/Sunset — http://www.sunrisesunset.com/usa/Arizona.asp
Cherokee FAQs — http://cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/FrequentlyAskedQuestions.aspx
Drive-In Theaters — http://www.drive-ins.com/
Extensive Collection of Quotations — http://www.drmardy.com/dmdmq/
McSweeney’s — http://www.mcsweeneys.net/
NOAA National Weather Service — http://www.weather.gov/climate/
Preditors & Editors — http://pred-ed.com/
Personality Types — http://www.humanmetrics.com/hr/JTypesResult.aspx
Shakespearean Insults — http://www.shakespeare-online.com/quotes/shakespeareinsults.html
Snopes — http://snopes.com/ (biased politically but can be useful)
Stupid Plot Tricks — http://www.sff.net/paradise/overlord.html
The Bible on One Page — http://www.jrsbible.info/bible.htm
The Gun Zone — http://www.thegunzone.com/clips-mags.html
Time Dilation — http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/HEP/QuarkNet/time.html
TV Tropes — http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HomePage
Vietnam Virtual Wall — http://www.virtualwall.org/
Warp Drive — http://io9.com/5963263/how-nasa-will-build-its-very-first-warp-drive
Worldwide Sunrise/Sunset — http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/sunrise.html
Writers Market — http://www.writersmarket.com/

Writers’ Resources and Tools
Book Trailer — http://kingdomelectlady.hubpages.com/hub/Create-Your-Own-Book-
Trailer-Free
CopyBlogger Media (Marketing) — http://my.copyblogger.com/
Free Word Processor — http://www.jarte.com/
Free Word Processor — http://www.openoffice.org/
Links to Delete Accounts — http://justdelete.me/
Microsoft Word Products — http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/
Newsletter — http://chopeclark.com/
Writer as Publisher — http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/ and Think Like a Publisher
Hashtags 1 — http://publicityhound.com/shop/how-to-use-hashtags-the-new-search-tool
Hashtags 2 — http://writersweekly.com/this_weeks_article/008264_11202013.html
Security for your PC or Mac — http://lojack.absolute.com/en/persistent
Stop Smoking Resource — http://www.whyquit.com/
Writing Software — http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5.html?yWriter5

Professional & Regional Writing Organizations
Arizona Mystery Writers — http://www.arizonamysterywriters.com/
Horror Writers of America — http://horror.org/
International Thriller Writers — http://thrillerwriters.org/
Mystery Writers of America — http://mysterywriters.org/
Novelists Incorporated — http://www.ninc.com/
Pikes Peak Writers — http://www.pikespeakwriters.com/
Romance Writers of America— http://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=521
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America — http://www.sfwa.org/
Sisters in Crime — http://www.sistersincrime.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=2
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators — http://www.scbwi-az.org/
Society of Southwestern Authors — http://www.ssa-az.org/
St. Louis Writers’ Guild — http://www.stlwritersguild.org/
Western Writers of America — http://westernwriters.org/

Subsidy/POD Publishing

Compare Subsidy/POD Publishers — http://www.writersweekly.com/pod-price-comparison.php

Note: I vehemently disagree with Booklocker about CreateSpace. And especially in this wonderful new world of indie publishing, I also do NOT recommend you use ANY subsidy publisher. However, if you insist on not doing things yourself, I decided to leave this entry in this post.

If you know of any great writers’ resources you’d like to share, please share it in a comment below.

Finally, you can find numerous great writers’ resources in the left sidebar on my website under Writers’ Resources.

That’s it for now. Until next time, keep writing!
Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer. If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

For Purveyors of the Soup Sandwich

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 8/20/2013. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post so it’s up to date.

I started to call this “Dueling Respondents” but that wouldn’t have been quite accurate. After all, as far as I know, the two writers who served as the catalyst for this post don’t even know each other.

One of those writers, upon reading my “Top 10 Mistakes Writers Make” argued, albeit lightly, that he had used many of the “mistakes” I argued against and that none of his readers seemed to care.

Point taken. Far be it from me to attempt to teach an old dog (I can talk because I’m an old dog too) new tricks, even if those tricks will help him retain readers.

The actual truth of the matter is that none of his readers seemed to care As Far As He Knows. That’s very different and more realistic than just assuming they didn’t care.

Most readers won’t bother to contact a writer to say “Hey, your book stinks.” Generally, I’ve found that most lay readers (those who are not also writers) have a dog’s outlook on life: if they can’t eat it or read it, they’ll tinkle on it and get on with their life.

Okay, to be absolutely fair, I should also mention that this particular author is a very strong writer and well-enough established that he probably can get away with some things that most of us wouldn’t be able to get away with. But that wasn’t the point.

The point was, having more readers is better than having fewer. Successful writers with bad habits also have a bad effect on writers who are younger in the craft.

Novices, while citing the success of other writers, often say silly things like “Well, Famous Author doesn’t use quotation marks around dialogue, so why should I?” or “Famous Writer’s work is replete with misplaced modifiers, so what’s wrong with them?” or “Famous Writer says adverbs are bad so I will never use an adverb.”

Or my personal-favorite avoidance clause: “The reader will know what I mean.” That, frankly, is a p-poor excuse for not learning and applying the craft. And no, when I wrote p-poor I wasn’t st-stammering. The reader will know what I mean.

The fact, plainly stated, is precisely this: Every single solitary time you write something that interrupts the reader, you’re running the risk of the reader having reached the point where he’s had enough. At that point, he’ll close your book and find something more enjoyable and less maddening to do.

I preach this constantly, even working it into seminars and classes and conversations and email exchanges that have nothing to do, directly, with the writer-reader interaction that occurs through your work. Yet some folks believe they’re immune, that “the reader will know what I meant.”

Of course, I’m a bit conflicted. As a writing instructor, I want what’s best for other writers. But I’m also a writer, and as more and more writers bow to mediocrity, the fewer I will have to compete against.

Okay, so if you honestly believe letting your narrator say the character “sat looking out the window” when she was already sitting or “gave his hand a shake” instead of saying “shook his hand” is a good idea, hey go for it.

If you believe it’s all right to let the narrator say in a tag line that your character “snickered” (or “laughed” or “cut in” or “gave back” or “returned” or “sentenced” or “tumbled out”) a line of dialogue instead of “said” a line of dialogue, that’s fine.

As an instructor, I have to shake my head in disbelief. But as a writer? Hey, I’m with you all the way!

If you believe the narrator saying the character “moved to the couch’s edge and pushed her glasses up her nose’s bridge” is as effective and clean as saying she “moved to the edge of the couch and pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose,” that’s okay too.

If you believe it’s fine to let the narrator say “Bob’s nose pressed against the window” instead of “Bob pressed his nose against the window” or “Sharon’s legs raced wildly down the street” instead of “Sharon raced wildly down the street” or (Heaven forbid) “John’s eyes shot across the room” instead of “John quickly looked across the room,” PLEASE go ahead and write it that way.

If you think you should write “When he walked into the room several men sat at tables and others walked up or down the stairs” instead of saving reader confusion by writing “When he walked into the room several men were sitting at tables and others were walking up or down the stairs,” have at it.

And by all means, please, if you believe it doesn’t sound at all redundant and ludicrous to write “he thought to himself,” go right ahead.

At this point, I’m actually grinning, greedily and anxiously, and cheering for all those writers who know “the reader will know what I mean.” You betcha.

Oh, and the other respondent I mentioned at the beginning of this? She sent me an email recently. Here’s an excerpt:

I read only one chapter of a book I downloaded. That was as far as I could go.

“They both laughed. She nodded her head yes and they went in two opposite directions.”

And then there were words used incorrectly. For example, one guy was “nauseous” instead of “nauseated.” Then again, maybe he was. I never saw him. That was all I could take.

Do you suppose this reader (who also happens to be a very good writer) will contact the author of that book and tell him about these problems? Of course not. That isn’t her job.

The reader’s job is to suspend her sense of disbelief.

The writer’s job is to not buy it back.

‘Til next time, happy writing.
Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting.

If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

Deep POV?

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 7/30/2013. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post so it’s up to date.

There’s been a great deal of talk in the past few months (when I wrote this) about a “new” technique called “deep point of view.” The truth is, deep POV is nothing new.

Most sources define it as a way to enable the reader to experience the scene as the character experiences it. In other words, don’t allow your narrator to keep the reader at arm’s distance by telling the reader what the character experienced. Instead, the narrator should simply describe the scene (that’s the narrator’s only job anyway) and then step out of the way so the reader can see, hear, taste, smell and feel the scene for himself.

In still other words, Show, Don’t Tell.

Yep, that’s right. Deep POV is precisely the same thing as Show, Don’t Tell.

Both of them mean “don’t tell the reader what’s going on; describe the scene and then get out of the way; let the reader experience it right along with the character.”

I hear your next question: Well, Mr. Man, how might one accomplish such a thing?

As you well know, I’m up to here with writing instructors who, when asked to explain “Show, don’t tell,” say something like “Well, I can’t really explain it, but I know it when I see it.” If you ever hear that from any writing instructor in response to a question about something he’s trying to teach you, run. And for goodness’ sake, stop giving him your money!

Okay, if you really want your stories to be more interesting and more engaging for the reader (for you practical types, this translates directly to more sales), use deep point of view or show, don’t tell or whatever other label you want to slap on it.

To accomplish that, first

Don’t allow your narrator to use the sense verbs: saw, could see; smelled, could smell; tasted, could taste; heard, could hear; and felt, could feel.

Are there exceptions? Times when it would be better to allow your narrator to use a sense verb?

Probably, but most of the time, no. You should be able to recast a sentence so you get rid of the sense verb. (Again, this is only for the narrator. Characters can say and do pretty much whatever they want.)

Again, just describe the scene. Here are some examples:

  • She felt the ground tremble. (The ground trembled.)
  • She heard an explosion rock the city. (An explosion rocked the city.)
  • Second, don’t allow the narrator to tell the reader how a character feels about something or what the character “knew.” Instead, trust your reader. Let him infer from the character’s own dialogue or unspoken thought how the reader feels and what he knows:
  • John felt an uneasiness growing inside him. (An uneasy feeling grew inside John or An uneasiness grew inside John.)
  • John knew the sense of unease should be setting off alarms in his brain. (Just delete this pig of a sentence. Or get on with it: A sense of unease set off alarms in John’s brain.)

Third, when the characters are talking, don’t allow your narrator to step in and tell the reader what they’re saying:

Red walked into the room. “Hey, John. You wanna go to the movies later?”

John looked up. “Sure! What’s playing?”

Red told John Gone with the Wind was playing on the first screen and that Barbarosa was playing on the second screen. At that point, John reconsidered his options and told Red he’d rather not go because he had a lot of work to do.

Okay, this wasn’t a truly engaging conversation in the first place, but do you see how the narrator just stepped in between you and the characters and took over? That will tick off even the most loyal reader.

Using deep POV (or Show, Don’t Tell or whatever) really is just good manners. Just remember that every time your narrator speaks, he’s stepping between the reader and your story, the reader and your characters, the reader and whatever tension is going on. Therefore, when the narrator speaks it should be absolutely necessary.

For much more on this and other narrative tips, consider picking up my ebook, Narrative in Fiction: Whispers from the Background. I even more strongly recommend Notes from Writing the World. It contains the full text of the narrative book and five more writing how-tos from my writing seminars.

By the way, I’ve decided to revive my copyediting service. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer. If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Daily Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

Story Starters, Openings and How to Write Fiction

This is a topic of the day from my Daily Journal yesterday. I’m considering moving the Daily Journal over here and posting it to my Pro Writers list every day. If you’re reading this, you’re on that list.

Anyway, here’s a topic of the day for you.

Story Starters, Openings and How to Write Fiction

One person asked me in an email yesterday where I get ideas and how I can move from story to story. Apparently because of my flurry of activity recently.

I’m going to answer that in two topics.

First of all, I’ve started only seven new works since May 4 (finished 6). That isn’t a lot. At all. In May, I wrote only two works: a novel and a short story. The short story also became the first chapter of my next novel (so eight works if I counted that twice).

In June, thus far I’ve written one novel and four short stories. Yesterday I started a fifth short story that might be a novel instead. That’s it.

But to story starters —

When I sit down to write a short story, it’s most often on the spur of the moment. So I have to come up with a story starter.

What is a story starter? It’s a character with a problem (doesn’t have to be “the” problem of the story) in a setting. Period. That’s it. Seriously.

(But where do I get the characters? The problem? The setting? That will be in “Getting Ideas” in tomorrow’s post.)

From that story starter, I write an opening.

To do that, I sit down at the keyboard and write whatever springs to mind. Then I write the next sentence, write the next sentence and so on.

The length of the opening varies from writer to writer. For DWS the opening is around 300 – 500 words. For me, the opening is usually 500 – 700 words. By then, I know whether the story will work.

If the opening works, I just keep writing the next sentence. I don’t worry about (or think about) sentence structure, spelling, etc. I just write and keep writing.

I never wonder where the story is going or how the character will solve the problem or any of that. I just write the next sentence.

It really is that simple. It works. It’s how Bradbury wrote. It’s how Stephen King writes. It’s how almost every pulp writer who ever lived wrote. And those of you who have been with me for awhile have seen it first hand.

Do I develop the character?

No, other than knowing his or her “type.” Beyond that, like all humans everywhere, the character develops himself (or herself).

I am constantly surprised by the things my characters say and do. And that’s good. If the characters surprise me, they will also surprise the reader.

If I think them out, plan, plot etc. in advance, I’m playing the Almighty Writer on High. I don’t do that because whatever I can “think up” (conscious mind) the reader can think up. Plotting, planning etc. leads to predictable stories, and predictable stories lead to yawning readers.

Do I agonize over the problem?

Again, no. In my stories, the problem in the opening usually is the “big” problem of the story, but not always. In my openings, the character most often makes decisions and moves toward solving the problem.

What about the setting?

In every opening, I try to invoke all five physical senses. That’s what makes the scene come alive in the reader’s mind. I love writing dialogue and I love writing action (especially Sam Peckinpah style slow motion stuff, sparingly) but none of that happens in a vacuum.

If you don’t provide (through the POV character’s senses) a good description of the setting, any action or dialogue is being delivered against a white background. Not good.

Okay, so come up with a character who has a problem. Drop him (or her) into a setting. Sit down at the keyboard and write whatever springs to mind.

And don’t worry about it. You’re just allowing your characters to tell a story. Nothing more earth-shaking than that.

Back soon with “Getting Ideas.” Or you can subscribe to my other blog at HEStanbrough.com  and read it when it comes out tonight. (grin)

Harvey

Update to Brave New World of Publishing

Hi Folks,

This morning as I emailed a friend, I had occasion to revisit an old blog post, one I wrote here back in October, 2015. The information in it bears repeating, especially in light of recent posts over at Dean Wesley Smith’s website. I recommend you read my older blog post before continuing with this one, even if you think you remember everything about it. To do so, click Brave New World of Publishing.

After that, to read one of the more important posts to come along in awhile in the way of advice for writers from a guy who’s been doing it successfully for decades, read Dean’s Blaming the Reader (for no sales).

His post includes a list of reasons your books don’t sell even a few copies. It was so good I copied/pasted it into a Word document, mostly so I could re-read it in the future and also to share it with others.

But back to this post. This is an update on the information I shared in the October 17, 2015 post.

First, I no longer use Pronoun. They don’t allow the author to select the venues to which they distribute the author’s work. For me, that’s a deal killer.

As for XinXii I have sold one copy of one short story collection through them (as far as I can tell) for a grand total royalty of $1.10. That’s in well over a year. So I’m not pushing them anymore either. Then again, $1.10 is a minuscule price to pay for a lesson.

I also had some problems interfacing with OmniLit’s website (they’re also All Romance Ebooks). I found the website clunky at best and unresponsive at times. Soon I decided the few sales I might get through them wasn’t worth the hassle. But that might have just been me. I recommend you check them for yourself, especially if you write romance or erotica.

So today, my titles are distributed through Amazon, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, and through direct sales at StoneThread Publishing.

Yes, Amazon remains the biggest seller.

Draft2Digital remains by far the easiest distribution venue to use, and they pay fair royalties.

I still despise Smashwords’ extremely clunky interface. If you have only a few titles to manage, it isn’t a big deal and it isn’t bad. But if you But with 200 titles in my account, using the channel manager or anything else is a nightmare. Still, the number of big-deal sales venues they offer makes the aggravation acceptable.

Back in the Iron Age (2011) I didn’t mind the clunkiness at Smashwords so much. It was pretty much state of the art. But today, all you have to do is compare the submission process at Smashwords with D2D to see what I mean. If D2D had the venues Smashwords has, I’d drop the latter in a heartbeat.

I haven’t mentioned CreateSpace. They are by far the best choice for do-it-yourself print production and distribution. If you don’t want to do it yourself, you’ll need to look around and select a print-layout and cover design service. Because loyalty and honesty are important to me, I cannot in good conscience recommend any service in particular.

If anyone out there knows of any that you recommend or if you do your own layout and spine and back cover AND ENJOY IT, please let me know.

Of course, if you aren’t writing and producing new work, none of the above matters in the slightest. Ahem.

That’s it for this time. ‘Til next time, keep writing.
Harvey