Interim Post

Hi Folks,

Well, I just posted a complete how-to book—in chapters and appendices—free on this site over the past several weeks. If you haven’t read it and you would like to, you can click Writing the Character-Driven Story to find the links to every chapter.

I’ll be taking it down soon, so if you haven’t read it and you’d like to, please do so soon. If you would rather buy your own copy, you can find it at Smashwords, Amazon and all other major ebook retailers. The cost is $9.99. Sorry. It isn’t available yet in print.

Finally, you can always also order your own copy (Kindle, Nook/Apple or PDF) directly from me for only $8.50 by emailing me at

One person posted on Facebook that she “love’s Bradbury’s rules for writers but Stanbrough’s rules are just common sense.” (grin) I was kind of flattered.

Forgetting for a moment that what’s common to some obviously is a luxury to others, NOWHERE in Writing the Character-Driven Story did I post anything remotely resembling Stanbrough’s Rules. To my knowledge, they don’t exist.

I can only imagine she meant the rules that I annotated (Heinlein’s Rules). You can get a free copy by visiting the Free Downloads page on my website. Then scroll down and click Heinlein’s Rules.

Anyway, if that’s what she meant, yes, she’s absolutely right. They are common sense, or should be for writers. Unfortunately, most aspiring writers never learn or follow them.

In fact, Heinlein first posted his “business habits” almost as an afterthought to an obscure essay. He himself said they were extremely simple; yet they are also “amazingly hard to follow—which is why there are so few professional writers and so many aspirants, and which is why I am not afraid to give away the racket.”

If you would like to read his essay first hand, you can find it in Of Worlds Beyond, ed. Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, 1947. The title of the essay is misleading: “On the Writing of Speculative Fiction.” Anyone with the aforementioned common sense can read his business habits and tell that they would apply to all writing, speculative or otherwise.

But I digress.

This interim post and probably the next two or three are to give me time to develop the next nonfiction book I’m going to post here.

As before, I’ll post it a chapter at a time. As before, you will be able to read it free of charge and even download it and save it to a file on your own computer. You may even print it if you wish. Please just remember it is copyrighted material and respect my copyright.

Until I begin posting the next nonfiction book, this blog will go back to appearing every ten days, albeit on the sixes instead of the ones. This one will post on 6 April. The next two will post on the 16th and the 26th. I might keep to that schedule in the future.

If you’d like to really see what it’s like to follow Heinlein’s Rules, I recommend you sign up for my other blog, my secret blog, the one to which I post daily, over at The Daily Journal ( I think you won’t be sorry.

The next post on this blog (on the 16th) actually is derived from a recent post on the other one.

Whatever you choose to do, happy writing.


I am a professional writer. This is my living. If you enjoy or learn from my work, click the Subscribe to My Work tab above. (It isn’t the same as subscribing to this blog.) As an alternative, consider dropping a tip into my Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, thanks so much.

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

A Revised Baker’s Dozen: Thirteen Traits of a Professional Writer

Hi Folks,

I’m sending this out a little early because, darn it, it’s the Christmas season and I wanna give you a few presents. I’ll slip in an appropriate post on the 21st just to keep the routine of every ten days going. That’s when this one would have gone if I’d left it to its own devices.

First, Merry Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you have an enjoyable holiday season. Also, I hope you will accept the contents of this post as a small token of my appreciation, a minor gift for your attention over the years.

Here are thirteen traits of a professional writer.

The first five are a true gift to anyone who wants to be a professional writer. They are what Robert Heinlein called his “business habits.”

Note that these five rules have nothing to do with whether or not you like Heinlien’s work or want to write science fiction (or any other particular genre). If you want to write fiction, period, and if you follow these five rules, you will be a professional writer:

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must not rewrite.
  4. You must put your work on the market (submit your work so publishers can buy it or publish it so readers can buy it).
  5. You must keep your work on the market (keep it in the mail until a publisher buys it or keep it published so more readers can buy it).

To get my annotated paper on Heinlein’s Rules (it’s free) Click Here. (Clicking on the link will open a new window and enable a PDF download. When the file opens, click File in the upper left corner of your browser and then click Save Page As and save it to your desktop.)

There are more free things in PDF format at the Free Stuff tab above, including The Rise of a Warrior, Book 1 of the Wes Crowley series. It’s available here for download in PDF, but you can also Get it free at Smashwords in Kindle (.mobi) or Nook/Apple (.epub) format. Enjoy!

The other traits of a professional writer are in no particular sequence:

  • You are an avid reader in the genre(s) in which you want to write.
  • Writing is high on your list of priorities, and it’s Great Fun! not d-r-u-d-g-e-r-y. Seriously, don’t torture yourself. If ANYthing you’re doing 1) is drudgery and 2) is not your money-making job, for goodness’ sake stop doing that and find something else to do. Duh.
  • You hunger to continue learning the art of storytelling, and you actively seek instruction from successful long-term professional writers (a few novels does not a career make). You take criticism from those with less experience with a MASSIVE grain of salt. Or not at all.
  • You are a professional. You check your manuscript for typos, punctuation gaffes and wrong-word usages (e.g., waste for waist or solder for soldier) before even thinking of sending it to a publisher (or indie publishing).
  • You look at writing as a vocation, not something you do for therapy or because it’s a “calling.”
  • You understand that style manuals, making sure your grammar and syntax are perfect, and political correctness have absolutely N-O-T-H-I-N-G to do with creative writing. (The subconscious creative mind creates; the conscious, critical mind destroys.)
  • Holidays and other interruptions are incidents during which you slap on a fake smile and “get through it” so you can get back to your writing.
  • You are vaguely aware of the occasional presence of other people in your life. You believe they might even live in your house as they seem to be there with some regularity.

As Algis Budrys wrote in his book Writing to the Point, “Your writing cannot be done by anybody else but you. Also, when you are not actually doing it, you are doing something other than writing. … Many people who call themselves writers spend very little time doing writing. … That very rare person, the real writer, in effect just writes. When they’re not actually writing, they’re resting from writing, and they get back to it as soon as they can.”

You can get Writing to the Point and several other great writing books in a bundle for next to nothing. But only through December 27. To see the bundle, Click Here. I strongly recommend this, and no, I don’t get anything out of it if you buy a bundle. But you will get a great deal out of it.

Researching is not writing. Rewriting is not writing. Reading or learning, though valuable pursuits, are not writing. Attending writers groups is not writing. Writing is putting new words on the page, period. By extension, a writer is a person who does just that.

Til next time, happy writing!


To sign up for my diary of a professional writer’s journey and learn by osmosis, click The Daily Journal.

To receive a free short story every week in your email, click Story of the Week.

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 or just click If you’ve already contributed, thanks so much. If you can’t make a monetary donation, please consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. (grin) Again, thank you.

The Journal, Wednesday, 11/25

Well, I’m back. Finally. And I won’t leave again unless it’s feet first. I promise.

Listen, if you’d rather not receive this, please don’t just unsubscribe. Please email me at and I’ll remove your name from this list myself. It makes a difference over at MailChimp. Thanks.

When I wrote here last, I was writing fiction pretty much every day, in addition to writing this (daily) blog as well as my main Pro Writers blog, creating the publisher website, creating book covers, promo docs, and everything else.

Then I decided to cut this Journal to save some time. But in so doing, I cut my accountability. And apparently that’s something I still need.

I thought recording my numbers on a spreadsheet would suffice. In fact, I recorded my numbers on that spreadsheet from the first day of September straight through until November 23.

But the numbers were dismal. Not surprisingly (in hindsight), I fell off Heinlein’s Rules, specifically Rules 1 and 2. Not good for a guy who boasts he is an adherent to those rules.

In September, I wrote 65,135 words, a decent month, though nothing to brag about. In October, I wrote pretty regularly right up until I cleared the 750,000 word mark that began on October 19, 2014. Then, no longer having a “place to report” (this Journal), I stopped.

For October, up until I hit 750,466 words for that one-year period, I wrote 35,073 words. For the rest of October (from Oct 15 through Oct 31) I wrote on only two days for a total of 8624 words. (For comparison, had I met my daily goal of 3,000 per day, that would have been 51,000 words.)

And the self-imposed slump wasn’t over. During the month of November, I wrote fiction only on the 2nd (3330 words) and the 23rd (5142 words) for a monthly total thus far of 8472 words. Ugh.

So since October 14th, when I reached the 750,466 word mark, I have written a grand total of 17,096 words. And yes, that’s better than nothing. But the potential during those 41 days (at my goal of 3,000 per day) was 123,000 words.

Okay, so the point of all this is that I need the public accountability. So The Journal is back.

Probably I won’t write as many “topic” things here as I did before. Probably I’ll just record the daily round, any changes in goals, and my numbers.


  • My daily goal is to write 4,000 new publishable words of fiction per day. (On the few days that I did write during my self-imposed slump, the totals were well over 4,000 words on four of the five days.)
  • The weekly goal is to write one new short story per week. However, I’m no longer posting the newest story live every week. When I finish a new one, it goes into the queue to be posted.
  • My goal for 2015 is to hit 148,000 words in the next 37 days (taking off December 25). If I hit that it will bring me to 721873 words for the year. That’s considerably less than I wrote from October 19, 2014 through October 18, 2015, but I’ll take it.
  • My goal for 2016 is to hit one million words of original fiction. That’s easily doable even if I miss my goal of writing 4,000 words per day every day. So we’ll see.

Okay, onward and upward.

The Day

So today I rolled out at 3, messed around for a half-hour or so with email and Spider solitaire (the devil’s own temptation, that game).

Then I added 10 photos from my Saved file at Bigstock into my cart for downloading when my download day resets at about 11 a.m. (I’m currently in a subscription plan in which I can download ten images per day for a month. Not easy to keep up with it, but doing so means my cover images cost only 33 cents each.) Only two days left on that.

Then, between trips to let cats in or out, I did a little website work on the two websites and then came here to write this. It’s currently 7 a.m.

Going now to restart this “campaign” at MailChimp, so this will go out at 6 p.m. Arizona time.

Today’s Writing

Well, I set out to write a short story based on Wes’ travels in Mexico. About 1200 words in, I realized it didn’t want to be a short story. It was the new opening for the ninth novel in the Wes Crowley saga. So first, as painful as it was, I found my old files regarding the ninth book and deleted them. Period.

Ugh. Then I went back to the opening and wrote a couple more sessions, ending up with the word count that you see below for today. I didn’t get quite as many new words done today as I wanted to, but I did get reinvigorated. To be sure I’m firing on all cylinders from the start tomorrow morning, I cut off the writing and read back through a few of the other novels in the saga to get some names and a timeline right.

This is going to be a painful book to write (emotional, not difficult) but I know it’s right. So part of me dreads it and part of me can’t wait. Okay, that’s more than I expected to write on this post, so I’ll put up the numbers and talk with you again tomorrow.

By the way, thanks for being there.

Fiction Words: 3887

Writing of The Scent of Acacia (Book 9 in the Wes Crowley saga)

Day 1…… 3887 words. Total words to date…… 3887 words

Total fiction words for the month……… 12359
Total fiction words for the year………… 586232


Choices, and a Toast

Hey Folks,

Well, here’s another interim blog post. Part Two of the writing setting posts will be here on November 11.

In the meantime, two quick notes:

Dean Wesley Smith, in the Topic of the Night in his Blog Post From Yesterday, which I finally found early this morning, wrote an excellent, brief article about making choices.

In addition to talking about making choices, he provides a technique that really works to help you find “extra” time in your schedule. I’ve taught some of my writing students the same technique. He says to do it for four days. I recommend a week, or at least that you include a weekend. During the extra time you find, you can choose to do one thing or another.

One of the choices most long-term professional writers make is to follow Heinlein’s Rules. Here’s a Free, Annotated Copy if you want it, in PDF. When the window opens, click File > Save Page As (or Save As) and save it to your desktop.

I’ve been an adherent of the Rules for about a year and a half. Recently, I fell off. I allowed myself to be sidetracked helping folks move websites and used that as an excuse to not write.

Ugh. Seriously. Even after writing over three-quarters of a million published words of fiction in the 365 days that began on October 19 2014, I recently allowed my critical mind and fear to creep in and stop me from writing. So I’m just saying, I hope all of you are on Heinlein’s Rules, but just know that you have to always guard against the old myths of writing creeping back in, and the fear of rejection.

Anyway, back to it today, right after I post this. I have several story openings to choose from and a new short story due on Monday.

So that’s my motivational writer pitch for the day. (grin)

Now to matters just a bit more serious, tomorrow is the 240th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. As I try to do each year, I offer this toast to my fellow Marines:

May your days be vibrant,
your evenings calm,
your heart safe and warm at home.
Semper Fi

And here’s the current Marine Corps Commandant’s Message just in case you’re interested. Enjoy.

‘Til day after tomorrow, happy writing.


The Journal, Monday, 8/24

The Day

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

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

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

Here they are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, the role of your conscious mind—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Two: Set realistic goals.

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

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

Writing of Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga
Day 1…… 3213 words. Total words to date….. 3213 words
Day 2…… 1046 words. Total words to date….. 4259 words
Day 3…… 1858 words. Total words to date….. 6117 words
Day 4…… 1023 words. Total words to date….. 7140 words
Day 5…… 1587 words. Total words to date….. 8327 words
Day 6…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words

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

The Journal, Sunday, 7/19

The Day
Rolled out at 2:30. Checked emails and weather. No rain, so maybe a walk a bit later.

Messed around waking up, then drove out a little early for a sunrise walk. Got some great perspective pics of the railroad tracks and maybe a couple good cover shots, but the walk was truncated when I kept encountering swarms of flying ants. Even got a video of them, little monsters. (grin)

Back at the house, while it was still cool I mounted the gas struts on the back lift door of the camper shell. So that works now. Yay.

Gave my 30 quart cooler to one of my sons last time he was out here and now I need one so pulled out a really old Coleman metal cooler. We’ll see how long it keeps ice. If it works, I’ll use it. If not, off to Wally World later.

Sat down to chill for a bit, then decided to mow the yard. Normal, everyday stuff. So all of the above plus some other life stuff, and it’s after noon, and now I’m gonna turn to the writing ‘puter.

Life doesn’t stop when you’re a cop or a waiter or a truckdriver, and it doesn’t stop when you’re a writer. Only difference is that I have really flexible hours. (grin) With the day dwindling, I decided to make this a day off. I’ll get back to Wes tomorrow.

Topic of the Night: Heinlein’s Rules, with an addendum, with two addenda
I’ve talked about Heinlien’s Rules before, so this will be brief. This is taken from an article I posted in this journal back in October.

I added a Rule 6 to Heinlein’s Rules. As a refresher, here they are, followed by a bit of discussion:

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must not rewrite.
  4. You must publish (or submit).
  5. You must keep your work published (or keep it in the mail, submitted).
  6. If you try to follow these rules, you WILL fall off them at times.
    • That’s okay, and it’s perfectly normal.
    • To succeed as a writer, once you realize you’ve fallen off the rules, you MUST get right back on them again.

Did you get that Rule 6 with its two addenda? Listen, seriously, if you find you have real trouble following these rules, I strongly recommend you visit and sign up for his Lecture 1: Heinlein’s Rules.

It costs $75, it’s composed of 15 videos, and it will be the best investment you’ve ever made in your writing. I promise.

One warning: During his lectures, Dean will tell you that Every Writer Is Different. It’s his mantra. I suspect he developed it when he was dodging bullets at writers’ conference all those years. It’s a gentle way of saying, “Not everyone can be a professional writer. You ain’t it.”

But don’t let it fool you. Don’t accept the opportunity to cop out. Elsewhere he also says he doesn’t know a single professional writer who isn’t following Heinlein’s Rules. If you can handle the truth, that’s the truth.

Now, when he says that or something similar to describe the difference (for example) betwee his writing process (sprinting) and Kris’ writing process (slow and steady), he means it.

But when he’s saying something like “Following Heinlein’s Rules works for me but every writer is different,” he’s giving you an easy way out if you aren’t disciplined enough to enjoy having fun making up stuff for a living.

Today’s Writing

Fiction words: XXXX

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

Total fiction words for the month…………… 30521
Total fiction words for the year……………… 436204

On Being Selfish

Hey Folks,

This is another “extra” post, not part of the regular 10-day cycle.

If I could assume the attitude of any other writer, it would be that of Ray Bradbury. There are a lot of quotations about him and from him, but the one biggie I always associate with him is, “I love to write. It’s all I do.”

It’s very easy for me to allow myself to slip into living in the past. Had I found Heinlein’s Rules and WITD (Writing Into the Dark, such a simple, freeing technique) when I was in high school, I probably would never have done anything else in my life. What a wonderful life that would have been.

But as Charlie Task keeps reminding me, all I can do is make the most of the present. It is what it is.

Still, there are some things for which I’m grateful. Chief among them is that I’m very glad I don’t still carry around the illusion of immortality that comes with youth.

A friend recently reminded me that fifteen years ago last month (February), I was recuperating from The Ross Procedure, an operation during which my aortic and pulmonic valves were replaced. If you like medical stuff and science, look it up. It’s interesting.

Of course, me being who I am, the surgery, which should have taken 4.5 hours, took 7.5 instead. And afterward I coded. I laugh and tell people I died three times that day. Twice my heart was stopped and my body temp lowered to facilitate the operation. The third time probably my spirit stepped out for a look around. Or maybe a sip of Jameson’s.

That is when I learned I wasn’t immortal, and it brought with it a lesson on the value of time. And that lesson is why I’m glad I don’t still carry around the illusion of immortality. I know how important priorities are, and there is zero ambiguity in my life regarding my priorities.

Well, for whatever reason, I didn’t find Heinlein’s Rules and WITD in my early youth. But you would think Fate would have allowed me to stumble across them in February 2000, right? That would have been perfect, finding those gems at the same time I learned the true value of time.

Just think. That would have been fifteen more years that I would have been turning out my own work rather than trying to teach others how to write. Let’s see. At six novels per year (minimum) and one short story per week, that would have been 90 novels and 780 short stories. Not a bad body of work.

But it is what it is.

I didn’t find Heinlein’s Business Rules for Writers or the WITD technique until February 2014, a year ago as I write this. I didn’t start using them until mid-April 2014, and even then I was still glued to the notion that I could help other writers.

I started sawing on the umbilical cord in August, and finally, finally, I cut them adrift in October. Between late October and the end of December, I wrote three novels. That’s in addition to writing at least one short story per week since April 15. As you read this, that challege will end in six weeks. Maybe. I might keep the streak alive.

If I keep my one-story-per-week streak going at least until then, I will have written 59 short stories in that 52 weeks. Plus the three novels. Plus a novella. And I published all of those stories individually and in 13 collections.

I’m not bragging here. I’m just saying, like everybody else who has to put up with living in a mortal shell, I don’t get a redo. But that’s all right, because now I know the value of time and that life is a matter of priorities. And of course, like everyone else, I set my own priorities.

Is that selfish of me? Sure. Absolutely. But it is what it is.

Now, at long last, I can say, “I love to write. It’s all I do.” If you’re a writer, I wish the same for you.


If you’d care to learn about Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark yourself, visit the Audio Lectures tab on my website and look at Lecture 12.

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!