HarveyStanbrough.com — A New Look

Hey folks,

Some of you might have noticed the website has a new look. If you haven’t, check it out at http://harveystanbrough.com.

I’m slowly transitioning the website. Well, expanding might be a better term.

The site will continue to be a valuable source for writers. I’ll continue the weekly posts each Tuesday on topics of interest to writers, and the Writers’ Resources listed in the left sidebar will remain. I’ll also continue to offer writer services like copyediting and occasionally add to the items available at no cost on the Free Stuff tab.

But I’m a professional writer, and this is also a writer’s website.

To that end, for the foreseeable future, the website will open on a new homepage, one that showcases the various bundles from BundleRabbit in which my works are included.

When you purchase a bundle, you pay approximately what you would normally pay for a single ebook. But you get several additional books by various writers at no additional cost. It’s a great bargain, both as an entertainment venue and to purchase fictions by authors whose work you want to study and emulate.

If you’re a writer, I strongly recommend you get your work listed at BundleRabbit.com. It’s a great way to expand your audience. Readers purchase a bundle to read my novel or the novel of a best-selling writer like Dean Wesley Smith or Kristine Kathryn Rusch or Kevin J. Anderson and they also get to read your work, all for one low price. It’s one of the best discoverability tools out there.

If you’re a reader, BundleRabbit is an invaluable way to find new authors and maybe even new genres you’ve never considered before. Again, all at a very low price.

BundleRabbit also gives you the option of donating part of your payment to charity, and you always have the option of purchasing the bundle through your favorite electronic retailer. It truly is a win-win situation.

As part of the expansion of this website, I’ll also occasionally post news about my own fiction and nonfiction writing. That will include news concerning upcoming and new releases, news about my writing personas and characters, and occasional special surprises that will be available only to readers of this blog.

To keep them separate of the professional writing advice posts (on Tuesday each week), these new posts will publish less frequently and always on a Friday. They will always contain news of potential interest to readers.

For example, did you know that in addition to the Magic Realism stories from my persona Gervasio Arrancado, I have also written a 10-volume Western saga? It’s the story of Wes Crowley, a Texas Ranger in 1870s in the Texas Panhandle. It ends some 50 years later in a small fishing village along the Pacific coast in the Mexican state of Guerrero.

Did you know I also write both “we went there” and “they came here” science fiction? And apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels? And novels that take place during the Spanish Civil War? And Mystery novels? And Noir-PI Detective novels? And Crime novels?

About the only genre I haven’t tackled to date is Contemporary Romance, but trust me, there’s plenty of romance in my other works. (grin)

And if you enjoy reading Mystery, I’m excited to announce I’ve recently stumbled across a series PI character named Stern Richards. In fact, my current novel is the third that features him. It’s all very exciting and a great deal of fun.

Whether you’re here as a writer hoping to polish your craft or a reader seeking entertainment, please stay tuned. And either way, thank you for your continued loyalty to this blog.

Best,

Harvey Stanbrough

 

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

Writing the Character-Driven Story: Introduction

For these special posts, I’m providing only an excerpt via email. Please click Read More or Read On near the bottom of the email to read the entire post at the website.

Remember, you can get this and other of my works by subscription now at a substantial savings. To learn more about that, click the Subscribe to My Work tab on the website.

About the Blog Version

Writing the Character-Driven Story is going to be both an ebook and (probably) an online audio lecture. My publisher, StoneThread Publishing, probably will release it as a print book too.

But first I’m posting it as a series of chapters on the Pro Writers blog on my website. At any time until it’s published, you will be able to visit the tab that says Writing the Character-Driven Story and read the chapters free of charge.

You may also copy and paste the chapters into a document for your personal use if you want to.

However, please remember that all content on this blog is ©Harvey Stanbrough in the current year. I ask that you do not share what you copy from here with anyone except perhaps your significant other. And of course, if you quote from any of this material, please be sure to attribute authorship to me and to HarveyStanbrough.com.

As you read the chapters on the blog, I encourage you to leave comments in the comment section. I also encourage readers to read not only the chapters, but the comments as well. Often the comments will provide, or evoke from me, additional information that was not in the chapter originally.

One note— If you choose to comment below, you are granting me permission to use the essence or the whole of your comment in the ensuing b0ok(s) and/or audio course without monetary remuneration. I will not identify you by name.

If you want to leave a comment but you do NOT want me to use your comment, please put a sentence to that effect in the comment itself. I’ll be happy to omit it from the published version.

Introduction to the Actual Book

The very first thing you should know about this book, Writing the Character-Driven Story, is that the title is intentional. You’ll notice it isn’t called Writing the Character-Driven SHORT Story.

That’s because it’s equally effective for writing short stories, longer stories, or novels.

It’s great for flash fiction, which I always have defined as double-digit fiction, meaning it can be no longer than 99 words, not including the title.

It’s also great for short-short stories (the short-short), which is what many today are calling flash fiction or quick fiction or sudden fiction or whatever. Doesn’t matter. You can call a duck and eagle, but it will still be a duck. For me, the short-short is from 100 words up to 1,999 words.

And if you use the techniques in this book, you can effectively and more than efficiently write anything longer: the short story (2,000 to 6,999); the long short story or novelette (7,000 to 9,999); the novella (10,000 to 24,999); or the novel (short novel, 25,000 to 39,999; novel, 40,000 to 80,000; long novel, over 80,000).

Before you ask, these lengths are not “official” in any way. They are my own defined lengths. I use them only to determine approximately how much to charge for electronic and print editions of my own work.

But back to the techniques in this book. Will I guarantee they will work for you?

No. Not unless you’re asking me, for you and for your writing career, to be what a Personal Trainer is for a professional athlete. I mean, I can’t even guarantee that you’ll sit down and put your fingers on the keyboard, so I certainly can’t guarantee anything beyond that.

What I can tell you is that if you DO sit down at the keyboard and if you DO use the techniques in this book, you will have a great deal more fun than you’ve ever had with your clothes on. So that’s pretty good, right?

Definitions

Different writers and different writing instructors sometimes use different terms for the same thing. For example, what others call a “narrative beat” I call a “tag line.” If you don’t know what those things are, chances are you would benefit from my book, Writing Realistic Dialogue & Flash Fiction and/or my book, Punctuation for Writers, 2nd edition.

If you would rather listen to me blather on about such things, you can sign up for some of my Audio Lectures over at HarveyStanbrough.com/lecture-series. The courses are not expensive, and once you purchase one (or more) you may listen to them at your leisure, as many times as you like, as often as you like. You can also get those through subscription. Oh, and the Writing Realistic Dialogue course (Course 1) includes Punctuation for Writers. Okay, end of advertisement.

But here and now, just to be sure we’re on the same page, are my definitions for the following terms.

Story Starter — This is a catalyst to get you to an idea. It can be an idea born whole (a character with a problem in a setting) or it can be only a character or a problem or the setting. It also can be a lyric from a song or a line of dialogue or a sound or a smell or another physical stimulus.

Idea — This is a catalyst to get you to the keyboard. Nothing more, nothing less. An idea typically consist of a character with a problem in a setting.

Hook — This is the first striking sentence or paragraph. This is the first bit that forces the reader to read the next sentence, and the next, and the next.

Opening — This is the introductory scene, in which the reader is introduced to a character with a problem in a setting. That’s it. And the problem doesn’t have to be “the” problem of the story.

Beginning — This is the first roughly one-quarter of the story. The beginning leads up to the first try-fail sequence. (Note that the beginning and the opening are not the same thing, although in a story of the right length they could be.)

Middle — This is the second two quarters (the middle half) of the story. This is the series of try-fail sequences.

End — This is the final one-quarter of the story. This is the final big try-fail or try-succeed scene and the big climax.

Validation (Resolution/Dénouement) — This is a few sentences or paragraphs or pages that serve to wrap up any loose ends. This is the part of the story that tells the reader it’s all right to close the book.

Setting — This is the locale in which the scene takes place.

Scene — This is what happens within a setting.

That’s the intro. If you believe there’s something missing, please comment in the comments section below. I’ll either add it or explain why I didn’t.

Next time, Chapter 1: What Do You Mean, Character-Driven?

‘Til then, 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 so much.

If you enjoy my work, I hope you’ll also consider subscribing. For info, click the Subscribe to My Work tab above.

If you can’t make a monetary donation, please consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. (grin) Again, thank you.

Write What You Know — Seriously?

Howdy Folks,

How many times has some pundit told you to “write what you know”?

Uh, no. That is bad advice. Maybe the baddest advice ever, and I mean that in the old sense of “baddest,” before we started dumbing down the language. I mean “worst.”

It’s bad advice because the connotation is that you should write ONLY what you know.

So what? You’re supposed to write what you DON’T know?

Yes. Of course. You should also write what you know, but not ONLY what you know.

If everyone wrote only what they know, there would be very little science fiction, zero science fantasy (or other fantasy, for that matter), very little mystery, very little suspense, and so on. You can only “know” what actually exists and what you’ve actually experienced.

But think about it. Can you write a police procedural if you’ve never been a cop? Of course. Can you write a spy/thriller if you’ve never worked for the CIA? Yep. Can you write a romance novel if you’ve never been involved with a “shuddering, heaving breast” or a guy with flowing hair, broad shoulders, a thick chest with just the right amount of hair on it and trim, athletic hips? Yep.

If you couldn’t, novels wouldn’t exist.

All you need is Interest. If you’re Interested in writing Science Fiction, create a character, give him a problem, and drop him into a setting. Okay, then what happens first? Shrug. I don’t know. He’s your character. All I know is he has to solve the problem. (This might not be “the” problem of the story. Just a problem to get the character/situation started.)

If you’re interested in writing Mystery, create a character, give him a problem, and drop him into a setting. In this case, it’s a good idea if the problem is that the character just stumbled across a body. (grin)

If you’re interested in writing Romance, create a character (or two), give him a problem, and drop him into a setting.

Beginning to notice a trend here?

All you need to begin a story (of any length) is a character with a problem in a setting. That’s it. By and large, the setting determines the genre. Most characters and most problems can be cherry picked from one setting and dropped into another. And you’ll write an entirely different story in an entirely different genre.

If you don’t believe me, try it.

And what do I mean by “setting”? For purposes of this topic, the setting is where the character suddenly realizes he has a problem, and where he works through the problem. The smaller and more focused the setting, the better. (More on that next time.)

For now, create a character, give him a problem, and drop him into a setting. Then write an opening.

The opening will be around 300 to 500 words, probably. Be sure to include the character’s sense of the setting (sight, smell, taste, feel, sound) and have him either solve the problem or get well underway in solving it.

If the opening takes off (most of the time it will take off), just write the next sentence. Then write the next sentence. Then write the next sentence until the character leads you to the end of your new short story, novella, or novel.

If the opening sags out and dies, so what? Toss it. Then if you like the idea, write it again from scratch. And if you don’t like the idea, create a character, give him a problem, drop him into a setting and write another opening. (grin)

Seriously. Character + problem + setting = story opening. Try it. You won’t be disappointed. Add resolution and stir well. Bake for one hour per thousand words, spell check it, slap a cover on it and publish it.

‘Til next time, happy writing.

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks! If you can’t make a monetary donation, please at least consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. Again, thank you.

Writing and Selling Short Fiction

Hi Folks,

I’m thinking about doing a daylong seminar on this. It would depend on interest. If you happen to be interested and able to travel to Tucson, let me know by email please at harveystanbrough@gmail.com.

A brief announcement for a friend. JoAnn Popek and Deborah Owen recently told me about a no-fee short story contest. The deadline is September 15 though, so get cracking. (grin) For guidelines, visit Creative Writing Institute and scroll down.

I’ve had questions recently from folks who are signed up for my Free Short Story of the Week. (If you are not signed up, you can Sign Up Here.) They all ask why I’m not selling my short stories instead of putting them on the website free. A professional writer friend of mine asked the same question in a slightly different context a few weeks ago.

Think about that for a moment. Why in the world would I limit the audience for my short stories to around 70 subscribers? The answer is, I Don’t.

Yes, if you subcribe (see Sign Up Here above), you will receive a brand new short story free in your email once a week. It costs you nothing and you can read it as many times as you want for the next week or so.

But I ALSO publish each story, usually on the day I write it, to Amazon, the Smashwords store, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Inktera, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd and Tolino. Through those markets, my stories, collections and novels are available in over 100 nations worldwide within a few days of publication.

To give you an idea of the process, as I’m writing this (September 2), I wrote the next short story of the week yesterday. It’s called “Paper Hearts.” As soon as I finished it, I did the format, created a cover, and published it to my Free Short Story of the Week blog. It will go live on my website on the morning of Monday, September 7. It will go out in email to subscribers on the afternoon of the same day.

So I posted it to my website yesterday and set a future release date. But I also published it for sale to Draft2Digital, a distributor who sends it to Apple, Barnes & Noble, Inktera, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd and Tolino. Then I published it to Smashwords, but only for sale in their online store. (You can buy titles at Smashwords.com in any ebook format.) Then I published it to Amazon.

If you want to see it, I recommend you subscribe to my Free Short Story of the Week and wait until Monday to read it. Or just come back to my website on Monday and click the Free Short Story of the Week tab.

But if you’re really in a rush and you have more money than patience, you’re more than welcome to visit your favorite ebook store anytime and buy it. It only costs $2.99. That includes tax, even if you live in Europe and have that horrible VAT thing going on.

Not ony do I sell each individual short story that I write, I also do this:

When I’ve written five short stories, I combine them in a short collection and sell it for $4.99. So my readers can buy my stories one at a time for $2.99 (five stories would cost just under $15) or they can get five stories in a short collection for $4.99.

So when I’ve written TEN short stories, guess what? Besides the two 5-story collections for $4.99 each, my readers can also opt to buy one 10-story collection for $5.99 to $7.99. Can you say Good Deal?

From a writer and indie publisher standpoint, each story gives me multiple streams of revenue, too. When I’ve written ten short stories, I get thirteen publications: ten individual stories, two 5-story collections, and one 10-story collection.

And each of those is for sale at every venue listed above PLUS at those venues’ subsidiaries. Most of the “big” vendors have a few to several subsidiaries to whom they further distribute the books. Cool, eh?

That gives me three separate streams of revenue for each short story. Thirty streams of revenue for ten stories. Times the number of venues in which my stories are for sale.

Finally, I also publish each 5-story and 10-story collection as a paperback. Do I get a lot of sales in paperback? No.

But when the reader finds my collection or novel online and sees the paperback price (usually around $15.99) right alongside the ebook price (usually around $5.99) it makes the ebook price look really good. See? Which of course it is.

‘Til next time, happy writing. And selling.

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, Saturday, 9/5

Playing around in Gila National Wilderness or someplace just as wild. No entry today about the day.

Topic: Setting and How to Write It

Okay, to start a story (of any length) you have to begin. You have to write an opening.

In order to write an opening, you have to create a character, give him a problem and drop him into a setting. But what do I mean by “setting”?

First, here I’m talking about the setting of the opening. The character(s) might move through several settings during the course of the story. Those settings will vary depending on what’s happening at the moment. And where it’s happening. And sometimes why.

But in the opening, you’re trying to get and keep the reader’s attention, and the setting has everything to do with that.

I mentioned yesterday that you should include the character’s sense of the setting in the opening. That means including all five senses if possible. (For example, if the character’s blind or in a completely dark room, probably the sense of Sight won’t be involved.)

The character’s perception and opinion of the setting will not only paint a picture for the reader, but also will tell him a lot about the character. So it’s important. Any description of the setting should pass through the perceptions of the character.

But let’s get down to the setting itself. First, it should be as focused as possible.

If your character is on Earth or the moon or a strange planet, that’s pretty vague. If he’s on the the South American continent, that’s a little more focused, but still far too general to draw the reader in. If he’s in the Amazon rain forest, that’s a little better.

But what about this:

Dr. Steven Zimmer slipped into the brush just in time. He crouched among the broad leaves and sweet, heady scent of a passion flower vine. The Amazon was flowing a few yards behind him. Several yards ahead of him, a few local males were engaged in some sort of ritual.

And his stupid camera was miles away in the stupid base camp. Wherever that was. He frowned.

But lost or not, he was still a scientist. He leaned slightly forward. His brow tightened against the whispering of the Amazon as he strained to listen.

The language was nothing more than a series of clicks and clacks. Even if he could hear it plainly, he wouldn’t have a clue what they were saying. The thought brought a grin to his face.

But the grin fled when a hand gripped his shoulder.

Then again, if your character’s down at the docks, that’s too vague, isn’t it? (Yeah, we probably need to know what city/country but not until the story moves away from the docks.) If he’s in a warehouse, that’s better. If he’s in a particular part of the warehouse, that’s a lot better.’

But what about this:

The night was dark, the air heavy. A foghorn sounded in the bay and was driven flat in the pattering rain. In the distance, somewhere back in the middle of the city, sirens wailed.

Carrying bolt cutters, Detective Steven Zimmer approached the warehouse door. A thin rivulet of rain trickled off the right front brim of his fedora.

He brought up the bolt cutters, but paused. He could barely make out the padlock. It was the same corroded non-color as the corrugated steel walls.

Maybe he could just cut the hasp. He leaned closer. The musty wood frame was so damp he probably could just pry the hasp out of it.

But the hasp had already been cut. He looked at it for a moment, then put one palm against the edge of the door. Carefully, he pushed. It slid a few feet to the right with only the slightest grinding in the runner.

The scent of old grease reached his nose as he crouched, placing the bolt cutters on the tarmac. When he straightened again, his .45 caliber Kimber Tactical II was in his right hand.

He took a deep breath. Backup would be good. But you can’t call for backup when you’re working a case on the sly.

He gentled his index finger along the cool metal of the trigger well, then slipped in through the door.

Get the point?

Note that the setting in the second example was external to the warehouse. Still, it was focused down. Everything took place within a man-sized area just outside the warehouse door.

In the first example, the setting was actually larger, encompassing a few yards behind the POV character to several yards ahead of him. In it, as in the second example, the focus was created through the character’s physical senses.

Today’s Writing

No writing today, probably. I’m out in the boonies somewhere refilling my well of experience. And yep, still loving it. (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…… X943 words. Total words to date….. 9270 words
Day 7…… 1084 words. Total words to date….. 10354 words
Day 8…… 1056 words. Total words to date….. 11410 words
Day 9…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXXX words

I’m gonna leave up the numbers for ol’ Wes while my subconscious continues to turn the story over. If it doesn’t perk up and get with it pretty soon though, I’ll send Wes out behind the barn to think about what he’s done while I’m writing some other stuff.

Total fiction words for the month…………… 1590
Total fiction words for the year……………… 466631

Defining “A Huge Amount of Time”

Hi Folks,

Well, here we are with another post that isn’t part of the usual series. Still, even with these that are not part of the normal series, I try to pass along what I’ve learned as a writer.

This post is the result of an email I received in response to a recent short story of the week. The respondent (also a writer) writes,

[H]ow do you manage to get all these  stories edited?  Congratulations on your many stories…wow, one a week- sort of takes a huge amount of time.

I didn’t respond to him as thoroughly as I wanted to or probably should have, but I’ve grown a bit gun shy recently.

What I did tell him is that I send the stories to a first reader and then publish them. I told him I follow Heinlein’s Rules and that I follow a process called Writing Into the Dark. I said like Bradbury, I believe “plot” is what the characters leave behind as they run through the story. And finally I said I write about 1000 words per hour so writing a short story per week really doesn’t take up all that much time.

Then I got to thinking, I kind of enjoy writing these little interim posts, the ones that appear between the posts in the normal ten-day rotation, so why not write one about this and expand on my answer to him? After all, if even one writer out there gets an aha moment from it, that will be great for that one writer.

For the majority, who will think this is all hooey or that Heinlein’s Rules can’t possibly work for anyone but SF writers or whatever, well, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything to help them anyway. They’ll have to just keep doing what they’re doing, and that’s fine with me.

But for that one guy, that one woman, for whom the little light might come on, here’s what I should have written in response to the gentleman’s email:

I don’t have the stories edited, per se. I do have a first reader (and copy editor) read over them and look for inconsistencies, wrong words (e.g. waist vs. waste), etc. but nothing else. The cost of the copy edit, like the cost of the cover and the time involved in writing the story, is an investment. Whatever that total cost is, that’s all I’m ever going to put into it. Yet the story will earn income for me and my heirs from the time I publish it until 70 years after I die.

If it costs you $150 (time writing plus cover plus edit) to publish a story, and you make only $15 per year on that story from all sales venues, that’s a ten percent Return On Investment. Not too shabby. And if you’re smart you publish every short story on its own plus in a five-story collection plus in a ten-story collection. So for every story I write, I have three streams of revenue.

So here’s what I do. Per Heinlein’s Rules,

  1. You must write. (I write.)
  2. You must finish what you write. (I finish what I write.)
  3. You must not rewrite except to editorial order, and then only if you agree. (I don’t rewrite.)
  4. You must put your work on the market. (I publish what I write so readers can buy it.)
  5. You must keep your work on the market. (I keep it published so more writers can buy it.)

Writing a short story per week isn’t a problem for me because I’m a writer. It’s what I do. Does it take some time? Yes. About one hour per 1000 words plus an hour to design a cover and publish it. But what else am I gonna do? I’m a writer. Writers write.

Would you say to a mechanic, “Man, you put in one carburetor per week? That must sort of take a huge amount of time.” If he’s a mechanic, what else is he gonna do?

As I also told my respondent, writing a story per week isn’t a problem. The problem is having to stop working on the current novel to write the story. Over the first 15 days of March 2015, I wrote 30,852 new words of fiction. That’s only a little over 2000 words per day, so right at 2 hours per day.

From January 1, 2015 through March 15, 2015 (so 74 days), I’ve written 172,354 words of new fiction. Still, that’s only 2329 words per day. That’s less than 3 hours per day. I’m currently working on two novels. For those of you who have read the Wes Crowley series (Leaving Amarillo, Longing for Mexico, and South to Mexico), I’m currently writing a prequel to Leaving Amarillo and a sequel to South to Mexico. It’s absolutely the greatest fun I’ve ever had.

I mentioned earlier I write about 1000 words per hour. If that seems like a lot, divide it by 60. You’ll find that 1000 words per hour is only 17 words per minute. Can you write 17 words in a minute?

Now, my respondent was impressed that I write a short story per week. He said it “sort of takes a huge amount of time.” But I’m a writer. Why do folks—and especially other writers—find it unusual that I want to (or can) Just Do My Job (write) three or four or five hours per day? Is that really “a huge amount of time”? Not if you’re a writer.

Life is all about priorities, and we each set our own. I mean, if you have other things in your life that are more important to you than writing, then spending three hours per day writing probably would seem like a lot of time to you. But to me, walking along the beach for three hours would seem a horrible waste of time. Watching TV for more than about an hour per day would be excruciating.

I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else than writing, because I’m a writer and writing is my priority.

Ray Bradbury once wrote, “I love to write. It’s all I do.” I can relate. At one point during his career, Bradbury was writing a short story every day.

More than one time during his long career, Harlan Ellison set up a small desk and a chair and typewriter in the display window of a department store and wrote stories “live.” As he rolled a completed sheet of paper out of the typewriter, he’d tape it to the window so people outside could read the story as he was writing it.

Writers write. That’s all. Writers write.

If you want to be a prolific writer (if you want to make your living as a writer) you don’t have to write  garbage, and you don’t have to be a “hack” writer. You just have to put the hours in the chair.

What you do have to do is stop rewriting and polishing your original voice off everything you write. Follow Heinlein’s Rules. And instead of being the great Writer God On High directing the little characters, step down off your pedestal and run through the story WITH them. Enjoy.

I promise, it will be the most fun you’ve ever had.

Harvey

PS: If you’d like to learn some of these techniques and you live in or near Tucson, I’m teaching what will probably be the final presentation of Writing the Character Driven Story in Tucson on Saturday, March 28. We’ll begin at 9 a.m. and go all day. If you want in, email me pronto and I’ll send the rest of the info. I have only a couple of slots left.

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!

On “Way” and “Process” and Other Stuff

Hi Folks,

This is a personal aside. It isn’t part of the regular series, which comes out every ten days. There’s some humor here, so I hope you’ll enjoy it. If you take it seriously… well, that’s a function of your perception of yourself, not my intent.

Here’s the thing: People keep talking about me having found “my way” to be a writer. Then most often they congratulate me, as if I’d been out in the Superstitions digging test holes for the past 40 years and finally, just last week, found my “way.”

For reasons I’ll discuss a little later in this post, the congratulations are neither warranted nor necessary. The first couple of times this happened, I even told the person something like, “Thanks, but congratulations are not necessary.” But it didn’t matter, see, ’cause the congrats weren’t sincere anyway. They were merely the prelude to the dressing down I was about to receive.

So right after the congrats, that’s when the insanity starts. My assailants usually begin by saying that although they’re happy for me (a lie), my “way” won’t necessarily work for anyone else (a lie) and pretty much everybody has to find their own “way” (a lie) so “Please stop giving me advice!”

What? Really? You want that someone who is successful at doing what you’re not successful at doing but allegedly want to be successful at doing should stop passing along time-honored lessons learned that he received from other highly successful people in the same field in which you currently attempting an ongoing endeavor?

Shrug. Okay. No problem.

Seriously, I don’t care. I’m not saying that because you hurt my feelings (you can’t) or offended me (again, you can’t unless you use a firearm or a knife or a really large stick). I’m saying I don’t care because I obviously wasted my time (and I don’t want to waste anymore) passing along those lessons to someone whom I thought wanted to learn about her chosen craft.

Totally my fault. I was wrong. I should have known better. Most wannabe writers are far too steeped in myths about writing to extricate themselves. You go on back to your twenty-third draft. I have a story to write and publish.

Sigh. I really do want to help, so sometimes I do say more. That’s an unfortunate side effect of “I have the knowledge to help” multiplied by “I’m stupid enough to try one more time.” And if I do say absolutely anything else about it at all, well, everything goes downhill from there.

I have to say folks, I am constantly incredulated (a victim, perhaps, of a medical condition called persistent incredulositis that I just made up) that this sort of thing happens so often. I honestly don’t understand why so many people take offense when I offer them writing advice. I mean, if you don’t want to accept it, don’t. After all, it’s worth precisely what you paid for it. If you don’t agree with it or if you don’t even want to try it for yourself, ignore it.

Oops. There I go giving you advice again. I can just hear it. “You can’t tell me what to do! I don’t have to ignore your advice unless I want to! You’re not the boss of me!” Perhaps I should have written, “Ignore it, or not, whatever you want to do.” Seriously, I couldn’t begin to care less. Here’s why.

In the first place, the advice I pass along is fact, not opinion. It isn’t something I made up. It’s what I’ve learned from other, very successful sources. Yet upon receiving such advice (after they asked) the pretentious avant-garde set leaps to their feet, points at me, and begins jumping up and down screaming,

“That’s YOUR way! You can’t force that on me! I have a right to my OWN way! I have to spend time contemplating my CREATIVE PROCESS and mulling over my CHOICES as a PERSON and I have the right to call myself a writer even if I don’t do it YOUR way which is, you know, to actually write stuff, and you have absolutely NO right to define “writer” for me because my definition is up to me and I’m never gonna do what you tell me to do no matter what you say, Hater!”

Then they slap their hands over their ears and jump up and down and run around in circles while screaming “La la la la la!” to shut out my voice. Wow. And we’re not even married.

Okay. Thing is, I didn’t find “my” way, okay? So please stop saying that. Now, people are different. If you personally feel you have to contemplate your “creative process” or find your particular “way” or any of that, great. Knock yourself out. But don’t include me in all that. Again, I didn’t find “my” way. What I found was Bradbury’s way and Heinlein’s way and the way of every long-term, highly productive professional fiction writer who ever lived: I write.

I don’t spend so much as a second contemplating my creative process, and I absolutely do not “give myself permission” to do anything, ever. I hasten to add, if you feel you have to go through all those machinations, that’s fine with me. I just write.

Oh, and I don’t accept advice on writing fiction from folks who are less productive than I. If you’re a priest and you want to describe what it’s like to be on your side of a confessional, that’s wonderful. If you’re a surgeon and you can fill me in on what it’s like to slice through those layers from the skin to the heart, that’s great. But if you’re a writer and you are less successful and productive than I, well, that would just be silly. It would be kind’a sort’a like accepting advice on driving a sixteen-wheeler across the country from a person who has only driven her Prius around the block once a day for the last thirty years.

Finally, I don’t offer advice on what I don’t know to be true. I just don’t. I also don’t claim to be what I’m not, although certainly what anyone else chooses to do in that regard is strictly up to them. I mean, if I called myself a mechanic or plumber or firefighter or lawyer or doctor or grocery store clerk, I would feel compelled to actually fix engines or plumb pipes or fight fires or practice law or practice medicine or spray water on vegetables. But I’m not any of those things.

I’m a writer. I write.

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!