The Journal, Thursday, 9/10: Life Happens

Checked email first thing this morning per usual. I received a request to write a foreword for an anthology being published by Creative Writing Institute. I’ve told them I’ll do it.

Rolled out a little after 2, and by 3 a.m. I was writing. Woohoo! The retraining is in progress.

I wrote awhile with a couple breaks, then went to walk a local arroyo about 6. Again left my camera in the pickup and just walked. Finished with 5.8 miles and got back here around 9.

Then I remembered a drab but beautiful little flower that appeared in the background of a pic I took a few days ago. So on the spur of the moment, I decided to drive out that road, find the flowering plant, find that flower and capture it. Got it and was back within another hour. It’s a road I walk on a lot out here so I know it pretty well. I pinpointed the flowering plant I wanted by looking at the pic I took before that one and the pic I took after it. (grin)

When I got back I had a stack of emails waiting, many from the folks for whom I will write the foreword, so I responded to those, spent a little time on Facebook posting pics, then got a shower. Now it’s noon (where does the time go?) and I’m turning to my writing ‘puter.

Hey, life happens. When it does, you roll with it, then start writing. No matter what happens, if you’re a writer, you write.

Right now in my retraining, I’m focusing on writing first thing in the morning. Got that done this morning, so success there. Tomorrow I’ll do the same thing. When that becomes habit, I’ll begin expanding the hours and calming down the rest of the day.

But for today, good enough.

Topic of the Post: No topic tonight beyond the above.

My Current Challenge and Goal

Before October 1, I will write at least 30 new short stories, one for each day in September. To satisfy the challenge, these have to be actual short stories, meaning they have to be over 2,000 words. If I write anything shorter than that, it will count on my numbers but not toward the challenge. Stay tuned. 

Today’s Writing

Usually, when I write a short story it all comes flooding out in a few to several hours in one day. Maybe two or three times in my life have I taken longer than one day to write a short story. And then I took two days to write “Finding Harold Harshbarger.” And now, apparently, I’m going to take two days to write my current WIP, a short story about a mob accountant who turned state’s witness and is in witness protection.

That’s okay. Even though I’m not officially throwing in the towel on the challenge for this month, I’m not suffering under any illusions that I’ll actually pull it off at this point. I’ll leave it in place as a personal incentive, but probably I’ll use the rest of this month to retrain myself and get my writing pump going again.

As I wrote above, for today, good enough. At least my daily word count is climbing back up to respectable levels.

Fiction Words: 2327

Writing of “Untitled about mob accountant” (short story)
Day 1…… 2327 words. Total words to date….. 2327 words
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words (done)

One thing about these stories — I just have to write them. I don’t have to rush to slap a cover on them and publish them. All of that’s going to come later, although I will pick one each week to be the story for that week. At the end of the month if I’m successful in my challenge I should have 40 publications: 30 individual stories, six 5-story collections, three 10-story collections, and maybe one book titled The Stories of September.

Total challenge stories for the month…… 1 (Goal is 30)
Total challenge words for the month…… 4810
Total fiction words for the month………… 6400 (1590 on Wes)
Total fiction words for the year…………… 471441

 

The Journal, Wednesday, 9/9: Retraining

One more fairly major change to this blog. I’ve changed it so the full post appears in your email. You’ll still have the option of reading the whole thing in your browser where it looks a lot better. And of course I’ll continue to hope you will refer this to others, but you can also just read the whole thing in your email now.

This won’t help those who don’t bother to even open the email, but for those of you who do, maybe this will make things a little easier.

Rolled out a little before 2 again this morning. Checked email and other stuff while waking up. Unfortunately, I was distracted so failed to write during the first two hours of the day.

Sometimes email or Facebook or an article in one of the newsletters I get distracts me too much. I might need to go straight to writing, then go to emails and all of that after two or three writing sessions (so around 5 or 6 a.m.) Maybe I’ll try that for a day or two. I mention this only in case you might also have this problem occasionally.

So today I allowed myself to be distracted, then wrote this blog post and now it’s almost time for my walk.

Becoming a professional writer takes some retraining, and some of it is ongoing. Like you, I’m learning as I go. Much more on all this in the Topic below.

I’ll go out to walk about 6. Then back here to write.

Good walk. Left my camera in the pickup and just walked. Planned on 6 miles, but at mile 3 I decided to go for 8. Then about halfway to that I realized I was being stupid and cut it off. Ended up with 7.4 miles at just over 18 minutes per mile. Not bad for an old guy. Turns out I could have made 8. I’ll put that in the bank for another time.

Topic of the Post: Retraining

Well, all of that was a good lead-in to the topic of retraining.

If you want to become a professional writer, or if you want to become a more prolific professional writer, chances are you need to change a few habits. That’s the retraining I’m talking about.

This is something nobody else can do for you. It’s a lonely, internal endeavor.

Others can give you motivation, tools and suggestions that you can use in your retraining, but that’s as far as they can walk with you along this very private path.

What keyed my own retraining way back in early 2014 was reading Dean Wesley Smith’s very short book, How to Write a Novel in Ten Days. He ghosted a complete 70,000 word novel, under contract, in ten days. He blogged about the experience as he did it, then published those blog posts as a book.

When I first started retraining myself to be a writer, I adjusted my personal day to replace a few hours that to me were wasted. I replace those with hours during which I could work. That’s why I go to bed at 7 or so.
The time from 7 to 11 p.m. holds little value to me. I would do nothing but sit on the couch and stare at the TV, slowly numbing my mind. So I sleep during those hours.

From 2 to 6 a.m., it’s quiet and I can work, so I substitute those hours for the ones I cut.

Those hours, that schedule, is pretty much all I have left of my original retraining. But what I do during that time has slipped severely. So here I am, having to retrain myself again. In case they’ll help you in your own endeavors, here are the main points of my own retraining:

  • I’ll keep the hours I have now, but I’ll use the early hours (2 to 6 a.m.) for writing.
  • In all writings, I will strive to give my subconscious free reign and Write Off Into the Dark.
  • I will adhere to Heinlein’s Rules.
  • I’ll get off the break-every-hour schedule. Dean does this so I thought I’d try it. It doesn’t work for me. As often as not, forcing myself to take a break after an hour or so kills the story I’m working on. I’ll continue to take breaks when I’m tired, even if only to get up and move around a bit, but I won’t limit those to a particular time frame or word count.
  • I’ll spend no more than a half-hour on wake-up time. During that time I’ll consider my progress and make necessary adjustments in my current challenge. Might also use the time to revisit goals, etc.
  • As part of my retraining, tomorrow morning (and on the mornings that follow) I will write for at least two hours before my walk (fiction only).
  • I’ll continue to walk on most days. Gotta do it, and I like it anyway.

And I’ll continue to post this blog as a journal for myself and in the hopes my mistakes will help someone else.

My Current Challenge and Goal

Before October 1, I will write at least 30 new short stories, one for each day in September.
To satisfy the challenge, these have to be actual short stories, meaning they have to be over 2,000 words. If I write anything shorter than that, it will count on my numbers but not toward the challenge.
Stay tuned.

Today’s Writing
Still stuck in a slow start on the challenge. Every story is different. In this one, I’m working to add a lot of depth through the characters’ physical senses, so I’m doing a lot of cycling back. It’s similar in a way to rewriting, except you do it as you go and it’s all done in creative voice (from the subconscious). In other words I’m not making any conscious decisions regarding word choice or sentence structure or anything like that.

I finished this one, but at times it was rough going. Not smooth and not as much fun as it should have been. The fun was more in the dialogue exchange among the characters and in weaving the setting into that through the senses of the characters.

I won’t do a second one today, that’s for sure. As I said, I allowed myself to be distracted, and that slowed me down a lot.

Tomorrow morning I’ll get up with a new story idea and go for it.

Fiction Words: 1762

Writing of “Finding Harold Harshbarger” (short story)
Day 1…… 0721 words. Total words to date….. 0721 words
Day 2…… 1762 words. Total words to date….. 2483 words (done)

One thing about these stories — I just have to write them. I don’t have to rush to slap a cover on them and publish them. All of that’s going to come later, although I will pick one each week to be the story for that week. At the end of the month if I’m successful in my challenge I should have 40 publications: 30 individual stories, six 5-story collections, three 10-story collections, and maybe one book titled The Stories of September.

Total challenge stories for the month……… 1 (Goal is 30)
Total challenge words for the month……… 2483
Total fiction words for the month…………… 4073 (1590 on Wes)
Total fiction words for the year……………… 469114

The Journal, Tuesday, 9/8: Challenges

Rolled out a little before 2 this morning. I think I’m almost caught up on my rest. Still, not much in the mood to write, although I’d better GET in the mood as the clock is ticking for the next short story. (grin)

Again I didn’t do much this morning but catch up on more of my preferred reading. Later I also opened all the pics (over 400) from the Gila trip. I separated out the ones my partner wanted to see and put them in a special folder to share. (As soon as they’re synced in my Dropbox, Dan, I’ll send you a link.)

Went for a walk, though it was more to take more pics than anything else. Still, turned over just less than four miles. Also managed to take 168 pics. All that in about 2 hours.

Did a little more yard work after I got back from the walk.

Topic of the Post: Challenges

I was reading Dean’s blog post a little while ago. He set a mega-challenge for himself. To meet the challenge, he has to write three novels in September, two in October, three in November and two in December. That’s ten novels in four months. He’s thinking around 40,000 to 60,000 words each.

He’s getting a slow start on the first month. He needed to write a novel every 10 days during September, and today, on the 8th, he’s written only about 15,000 words. But he isn’t worried.

For one thing, writing “only” two novels during October and December gives him a little catch-up room if he needs it. For another — and this is the biggie — if he “fails” in his challenge and writes “only” 7 novels or 8 or 9 instead of the 10 novels he plans to write, won’t that just be terrible? (grin)

The real value in a challenge is teaching the writer that Failing To Success is a good thing.

I said something similar a few posts back. Even if I stopped writing right now and didn’t write anymore fiction for the rest of the year, I would still end the year with over 466,000 words of publishable fiction. And all but 11,410 words of that is actual PUBLISHED fiction. This year.

So even if I just stopped right now, I would have “failed” to success.

But that wouldn’t be any fun, now would it? (grin)

A New Challenge

Back in July, Dean set himself another challenge. He challenged himself to write 31 short stories in 31 days. He then published them individually as short stories, but he also will publish them in a collection titled The Stories of July (or something like that).

Now seven days of September are already history, but I really need to jumpstart my writing. I need to get my writing blood pumping again. So I’m setting a new goal, publicly. As Andy Griffith would say, “Right chere, right now.” (grin)

Before October 1, I will write at least 30 new short stories, one for each day in September. Not really that big a deal. It just means that I’ll have to write two stories on seven of the remaining twenty-three days. (grin)

Now, just so everything’s above board, to satisfy the challenge, these have to be actual short stories, not flash fiction (6 to 99 words) or short-shorts (100 to 2,000 words). So they all have to run over 2,000 words. I don’t dictate to my characters how long stories have to be, so I might write some of those shorter ones too, but if I do they don’t count toward the challenge.

Stay tuned. This should be a blast.

Today’s Writing

Okay, first a note about the Wes Crowley saga. I’ve set the most recent novel aside for the time being. From what I can tell, it doesn’t feel like being written right now, so that’s that. I still feel as if there are at least two more novels in the story, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

I think this is the right thing to do. Book 9 was rough from the beginning, and it isn’t supposed to be like that. On that one thus far, I wrote only 11410 words in 8 days. That’s an average (aritmetic mean) of only 1426 words per day. On a novel full of characters that I love. That isn’t me.

So it’s off to the races on the challenge. I hope maybe some of you will join me.

Well, a slow start on the “race.” (grin) Only 721 words on a brand new story. Absolutely no worries. I expect to finish this one in an hour or two in the morning, then write a second one. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even knock out a third one tomorrow.

Fiction Words: 0721

Writing of “Untitled about Mavis Harshbarger” (short story)

Day 1…… 0721 words. Total words to date….. 0721 words
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words

Total challenge stories for the month……… 0 (Goal is 30)
Total challenge words for the month……… 0721
Total fiction words for the month………… 2311 (1590 on Wes)
Total fiction words for the year………… 467352

 

The Journal, Monday, 9/7: Reading

As you can see from the title of this post, beginning today I’m offering a slightly different format. I’m including at least a hint at the Topic of the Post in the title. When I don’t include a topic for that day, I’ll try to slip something in there to give you an idea of what the post is about.

I’m also going to be removing older posts from the website. They take up unnecessary space, and there’s no need for that. I’ll leave some of them up in case anyone wants to scroll back. Maybe a week’s worth or something. But if you enjoy a particular topic or something like that, be sure to save it for yourself.

Rolled out around 3:30 this morning. The trip to the Lower Gila Box was very good, but more exhausting than I realized. We both (Michael = Dan, and I) got a lot of good pics. I thought a few of mine would slide up into the excellent category, but when I opened them on my computer last night, they just weren’t all that. I’ll post a few of them on Facebook later. Probably. Maybe.

Haven’t done much this morning but catch up on reading online news and newsletters, emails, etc. Later today I hope to read more in a book of Bradbury interviews. More about that in the topic below. I’m also going to mow the yard in a while, and I plan to put together a few daylong seminars. So no fiction writing today.

No walk today either. Maybe even for the next couple of days. My buddy and I walked only perhaps 3 miles per day on Friday and Saturday, and another mile or so on Sunday before we left to come home. But a great deal of that walking was on some pretty steep slopes. And it seemed we were always climbing, never descending. Weird how that works. (grin)

Okay, so rather than boring you with minute by minute details, I’ll just say generally today will be some nonfiction writing, some reading, some exploring a new sales venue I found (I’ll report on it later if it works out), some work out in the yard, and a lot of sitting under a fan trying not to move so I won’t burst into flames.

Talk with you again mañana.

Topic of the Post: Reading

Of some significance, while we were camping in New Mexico, I caught up on a bit of reading. Specifically I read parts of a book called Conversations with Ray Bradbury. Edited by Steven L. Aggelis, this is a compilation of Interviews with Bradbury, whom I consider to be the best short story writer—and maybe the best storyteller—of all time.

I strongly recommend this book.

The title is not yet available as an ebook (darn it), but I got a mint-condition paperback copy for 99 cents plus $3.99 (or thereabouts) shipping. If you’re interested, just look for the title at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, then pick which copy you want. I think you won’t be disappointed.

In many ways, the writing advice imbedded in Bradbury’s responses validates my own beliefs about good writing practices, including writing into the dark, reading your work aloud and many others.

But I have also learned a few things (in less than a few hours’ reading time) that might have taken me years to learn if I hadn’t picked up this book.

Bradbury’s process is slightly expanded over my own and over what I teach. He does write strictly from his subconscious (writing into the dark). But instead of sending his work off to a first reader, he then reads over his own work, reading aloud, looking carefully to trim anything that is unnecessary to the work.

He isn’t looking to rewrite anything. He isn’t looking at sentence structures. He’s looking only to trim the fat.
The, I believe, he submits the work or publishes it. (I say “I believe” because in one interview, when pressed, he told the interviewer he makes at least seven passes at his work, cutting more each time. I seriously doubt that is true. I suspect it’s something he feeds writers who need to feel that their own “rewriting” process is valid.)

The point is, remain open to learning. The more open-minded you remain, the more information you can take in, assess, and choose to retain or discard. And the more your skills as a storyteller and writer will improve.

Today’s Writing

As I mentioned above, no fiction writing again today. Just kind’a getting used to being back. Also I put together three daylong seminars I’m planning to offer to the good folks in the greater Phoenix area and also over in Tucson. We’ll see whether anyone’s interested.
Here they are just in case you’re interested:

Writing Off Into the Dark (daylong writing intensive) — Major subtopics include Heinlein’s Rules, Productivity, Writing Myths, The Difference Between Short and Long Fiction, How to Practice Writing, The Difference Between Rewriting and Revising (Cycling Back), and a lot more.

Writing the Character Driven Story (good for any length story, daylong writing intensive) — Major subtopics include Where to Get Story Ideas, How to Write from Inspiration, The Importance of Setting and How to Write It, How to Write an Opening, How to Select a Genre, The Five Senses Exercise, and two more in-class and take-home exercises.

Smart Self-Publishing (daylong seminar on the publishing side of writing) — Major subtopics include Why Self-Publishing Instead of “Traditional” Publishing, The Difference Between Self-Publishing and Subsidy Publishing, Copyright Explained (It Costs Nothing), ISBN and LCCN Explained (Don’t Buy Your Own), Set Yourself Up as an Indie Publisher, Epublishing and Print Publishing, Getting Paid as a Self-Publisher, Your Book Available Worldwide in a Matter of Days, Price Your Ebooks and Print Books Competitively, The Importance of the Book Cover, Where to Find Cover Art, and a handout listing specific URLs and recommendations for formatting, print layout and cover design.

So there y’go. If you’d like to have any of these seminars in your area, email me at HarveyStanbrough@gmail.com or leave a comment below.
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 number 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

The Journal, Sunday, 9/6

No doubt on our way back from playing around in Gila National Wilderness or someplace just as wild. No entry today about the day. Just some musing and some silliness, as you will see below.

Few things are more enjoyable than writing a brand new story.

As I’ve been telling anyone who will listen, just give a character a problem, drop him into a setting, put your fingers on the keyboard and go for it. It’s an absolute blast.

I’ve already pre-posted Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s posts, and now this one. IF I’ve written anything during the weekend and IF I’m back early enough on Sunday, I’ll update this before it goes “live” at about 5 p.m.

Over the next day or two (meaning Monday or Tuesday) or however long it takes, I’ll update you on the trip. I like to share things like that, especially as they affect (or might affect) my/your writing. So I hope you’ll look forward to that.

For now, though, just in case I’m not back early enough on Sunday, or just in case whatever else keeps me from posting, I’m going to write one more Topic and add it below. ‘Cause from what I’ve heard it’s always wise to be prepared.

Topic of the Day: Using the Persona

Everyone who’s familiar with my work already knows I have used personas to great advantage as alter-egos. They were/are writer friends of mine who write things I am/was unable to write.

I stopped using two of them when Eric Stringer (it is strongly suspected) killed Nick Porter. Nick wrote mostly mainstream, serious stuff. It was relatively easy for me to take over that writing myself.

Some time after Nick was killed, Eric simply didn’t show up for work one day. It is rumored that he moved to a far-far-faraway land where he occasionally writes short stories under the pen name Harvey Stanbrough. Quite the jokester, our Eric. Anyway, Eric, at one time, was my borderline psychotic persona. Since he left, I have decided to “let my little light shine” in that regard. Stay tuned.

Okay, but here I’m going to talk about using the persona as a recurring character. I think that that would be valuable.

For one thing, writing your passion (note, I didn’t say writing ABOUT your passion) would be a lot easier if you did so through a persona.

The best known example of a writer using a persona to (ahem) distance himself from responsibility for his writing was Samuel Clemens. In his books, Clemens made social commentary that would rankle politicians and pundits alike. To distance himself somewhat, he allowed Mark Twain to write those books.

And in one case, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, arguably his strongest advocacy for social reform, he handed off the job to Mr. Twain, who in turn handed off the task to an innocent named Huckleberry Finn.

Now say I get a strong sentiment in my head. Just as an example, let’s use the (very) thinly veiled rhetoric in the paragraph I almost wrote (but didn’t) just before I started this Topic of the Day.

I can’t write stuff like that. Seriously. I might offend someone. Whatever.

But my characters can do or say anything they like. After all, they’re doing the talking. I’m just writing it all down. It’s like Don’t kill the messenger, right?

Wow, and I could have characters for all kinds of different genres.

I could have a hard-nosed detective, say somebody like Steven Zimmer, who goes around solving crimes. Plus he obviously is All Man enough to even take on cases that are not sanctioned by the local police department so you just KNOW he’s gonna break a few rules. And that’s always fun, right?

I could let Cranston Longdink III sink his family’s “old wealth” into a porn empire specifically for an untapped market roughly halfway around the world. The ensuing stories would be about the procurement of goats and what happens to the goats after they’re procured. (Of course, no underage goats would be used in the stories.) This might well spin off into documentaries concerning goat trafficking, national and international treaties on goat trafficking, and the link between goat trafficking and “medicinal” poppy production in certain parts of the world. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Film at 11.

I could have Rip Sternaman barge into hostage situations all over the world, muscles bulging, and call the bad guys names that are SO fitting for bad guys before he breaks every bone in their arms and then ties them together (by the arms) for transport to wherever he’s gonna take them.

I could have Dexter Murfee Nettleson, he with the radiant smile, walk happily into The Morning Store each morning to begin the day with a cup of sunshine sweetened with butterfly spit and stirred with the pinky finger of an eighty-three year old virgin.

You get the idea.

Of course, these are books that EVERYBODY would buy but that nobody would talk about or admit to buying. Well, except possibly the ones starring ol’ Dexter.

Anyway, regardless of what you think personally about these particular examples, you’re writers, so give the topic some thought. Value? No value? Seriously, I think if you write your passion through your characters, you can let ‘er rip.

And if we’re all very lucky, maybe I’ll get back on Sunday early enough to replace this with something else. (grin) But if not, just look at all the trash you will never have to write because I just wrote it.

Today’s Writing

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

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

The Journal, Friday, 9/4

Today I’m somewhere in the Gila National Wilderness or someplace just as wild. No entry today about the day.

Topic of the Morning: Write What You Know — Seriously?

Uh, no. 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.

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. 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 the body the character just found. (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. The smaller and more focused the setting, the better.

More on setting tomorrow while I’m not here. (grin)

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 solve the problem or get underway 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 either write it again from scratch (if you like the idea) or create a character, give him a problem, drop him into a setting and write another opening. (grin)

Okay, tomorrow, a lot more on setting.

Today’s Writing

No writing today, probably. I’m out in the boonies somewhere refilling my well of experience. And 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

 

The Journal, Thursday, 9/3

Rolled out a little before 2 this morning.

I’ve done practically nothing this morning other than tend to the babies (two kits and a chihuahua), visit Facebook etc.

The bug seems to be going away finally. Woohoo! I walked as a kind of test to see what I could do. Made almost 6 miles out a wash and back. Admittedly the sand was moist from all the rain so well-packed and good walking. Only slogged in a few places. Really nice. So I think I’m over whatever creeping crud has held sway over me for the past several days. I should be able to get back to my fiction writing soon.

The rest of today I’m going to devote to packing for my upcoming trip and to writing nonfiction. (See today’s Topic for more information.) So another planned day of no fiction writing.

Oh, by the way, be sure to keep an eye on DeanWesleySmith for the next few days. He’s supposed to begin posting chapters of his new nonfiction book (FREE) on Heinlein’s Rules. I strongly urge you to read them. And be sure to look at it today for sure. He put up a post on Pulp Speed and it’s extremely good on several levels.

Okay, I also very strongly recommend this article by Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

http://kriswrites.com/2015/09/02/business-musings-obsession-delusion-and-writing/

Topic of the Morning: The Unintentional Streak — Possible?

Yep.

I didn’t intend to create a streak with this blog, but I think maybe I have.

Yesterday I announced that this blog probably wouldn’t be here for the next few days because I’ll be out in the boonies with my bud, Michael Badouin. That’s pronounced Bad One, I’m sure, especially since it’s a pseudonym and we can pronounce our pseudonyms any old way we want.

Although he might say it’s pronounced bad – oo – WIN. To which I would say poTAYto poTAHto when what I actually meant was poTAYto ORange. Anyway….

I also mentioned before that streaks have power. They have a life of their own. Turns out that’s true even for unintentional streaks.

Even though I wasn’t trying to create a streak with this blog, It Wants To Continue even while I’m gone. The thought of leaving a few days blank is just annoying.

So I’m going to at least write a topic for Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then pre-post them. That’s the nonfiction writing I mentioned earlier. That will give you something of interest (maybe) to read and it will keep my unintentional streak going.

I could just post “placeholder” posts with no real significant content, but when I visit Dean’s blog and see one of those, I feel kind of cheated.

And I realize these will be sort of placeholder posts, but at least there will be something there for your money, right?

Besides, my friend Tyron Love just subscribed, and I can’t let him start off with a few blank days  in a row, can I? Well, can I? Of course not.

So you may expect to see this blog in your mailbox toward the close of each day for the foreseeable future.

Does anyone else out there enjoy the taste of jalapeno slices when they’re slurped off a toad’s head?

Never mind. I just was overcome with a sudden urge to write a series of words that probably have never been written before.

Michael would understand.

Today’s Writing

No fiction writing today.

I’m devoting Thursday to writing the topics for the next few days for this blog so I can pre-post them. That and putting together more blog posts for the Pro Writers blog.

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.

The Journal, Wednesday, 9/2

The Day
Rolled out a little before 3.

Still have a bug but it’s not a major deal. Just very slight headaches that come and go accompanied by (also very slight) chills/fever and nausea. Just blah, y’know?

I did get out for a walk. I decided to do hills, into and out of a wash off Sybil Road. I hoped to shove whatever this is on through my system, but that doesn’t work like it did when I was thirty. (grin) I went only about 2 miles, and I felt worse after it was over. So I guess I won’t be trying that again.

Looked at pics from the walk this morning, posted a few to Facebook. They’re not bad if you like that kind of stuff. You can see them here.  The first one looks kind’a like Granny’s wig.

By the way, I strongly recommend you check out DeanWesleySmith.com today. Great stuff on his challenge for the rest of this year.

Oh, a quick announcement. I probably won’t post anything on this for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I hope to be in the Lower Gila Box Wilderness north of Lordsburg seeing some amazing stuff.

Topic of the Morning: Writing and Selling Short Fiction

Could I do a seminar on this? Yes. I could do a daylong seminar on this. It would depend on interest. If you’re interested, let me know by email please at harveystanbrough@gmail.com.

Recently, some folks who are signed up for my free story of the week have asked 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 the Story of the Week link in the header on the website), 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 the same day I write it. I publish 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, 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 published 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? Instead of buying one or both of the 5-story collections for $4.99 each, my readers can 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.

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.

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?

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.

Today’s Writing

Yeah right. I messed around a bit but not enough to mention. I’m kind’a taking the day off today. Might be a few days like that until I get over this stuff. Sure will be glad to get back up to speed.

Now, that being said, I’m not overly worried about it. I mean, yes, I would MUCH rather be writing fiction because it’s SO much stinkin’ fun when it flows like it should. But the words will still be there when I come out of this crap. So there’s that.

In the meantime, all of you can write your little fingers to the bone. (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 number 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

The Journal, Tuesday, 9/1 (Yay!)

The Day
Rolled out a little after 2. It’s September 1, a shiny brand-new month. New possibilities, newly re-set goals.

Thank goodness.

Coffee and email to wake up. No walk today. Had a violent storm come through here yesterday. That and this little bug that’s taken hold of me recently will keep me from walking today. I’ll walk tomorrow for sure. A good long one.

Well, back to writing today. It is September 1. No real significance there except that this month I will rededicate myself to writing. I will also see my 755th full moon sometime this month, and the first thing has about as much significance to anything important as the second.

As I alluded to in yesterday’s post (I think) things move so fast in my life. I mean even second to second. Or maybe it’s just that I’m noticing the seconds more. I’ve been too distracted recently, with the violent weather and whatever it pitches into the air and a minor nagging illness and all that. I can imagine my drill instructor (Sgt. McGrew, my favorite) saying, “Well, get UNdistracted, y’moron.” And he’s right.

So I’m beginning to focus on writing again because it’s important to me

I felt bad for awhile last night as I considered that my monthly total was only 22641 for this month. That’s very low for me. I’m usually up in the 60,000 to 80,000 per month range.

Then I got to thinking about it. If I wrote 22641 every month for a year, that would be 271,692 published words of fiction in a year. One of my writing heroes and a very prolific SF writer named Jack Williamson once lamented that try as he might, he never wrote much more than 100,000 words in a year.

So I’ll take it.

And as I keep saying, today is September 1.

Topic of the Morning: No topic today. I’m pooped.

Today’s Writing
Fiction Words: 1590

Writing of “Paper Hearts” (began as “A Hiding Place for Weary Men” — short story of the week)
Day 1…… 1056 words. Total words to date….. 1056 words
Day 2…… 1590 words. Total words to date….. 2646 words done

Writing of Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga
Day 1…… 3213 words. Total words to date….. 3213 words
Day 2…… 1046 words. Total words to date….. 4259 words
Day 3…… 1858 words. Total words to date….. 6117 words
Day 4…… 1023 words. Total words to date….. 7140 words
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

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