On Specificity and Clarity in Writing

Hey Folks,

I was going to write a whole post on this topic, but really, that isn’t necessary. It’s a personal pet-peeve kind of thing. And far be it from me to foist my “beliefs” on anyone else.

What pet peeve?

Well, people who write things and then postulate—not even apologetically but more apoplectically and with a wag of the hand—that “The reader will know what I mean.”  Those folks get on my nerves. Deep and hard.

But I have come to understand that such things don’t matter, by and large, to many people, writers and readers alike. Or at least it seems so to me.

For example, despite published writings that are replete with inappropriate instances of absolutes (all, never, always, everyone, nobody, etc.), apparently no writers write like that. Ever.

If you don’t believe me, ask them.

And despite published writings that are chock full of eyes wandering out of heads and doing things on their own (her eyes flew across the room and came to rest on a barrel of metal shavings), again, no writer put those words on a page. Again, ever.

And the same goes for other body parts: “her legs raced along the sidewalk” or “his nose smelled something strange” or “her ears listened closely” or “his finger dialed the telephone” or “his hand crept into his pocket to retrieve his revolver.”

No writers that I’ve been able to find write like that either. Ever.

But based on the hard evidence contained between the covers of some books, some do. Or maybe the publishers are sneaking that stuff in.

Anyway, if you mention those faux pas to the writers, they grin the grin of a thousand braying jackasses, wag that hand in the air as if you and they are old buddies and say something like, “Aah, you know, the readers know I didn’t mean it like that.”

And most often I smile and say something noncommittal, like “Hey, when you’re right, you’re right” or “Ah.”

But the truth lurks in my mind: No, Sparky, they don’t.

Readers read for either or both of two purposes: entertainment and-or information. If you write “never,” they read “never.” They don’t automatically substitute “seldom” or “sometimes” or some other less-inclusive, less blanket-clad word.

If you write that “her legs raced down the road,” the reader sees disembodied legs racing down the road.

If you write that “her eyes came to rest on a barrel of metal shavings,” the reader will wince. Because face it, that had to hurt.

And it isn’t the reader’s fault that they take you at your word(s). It’s your fault.

After all, the reader has no choice but to accept what you put on the page, whether it’s in your novel, in your Essay On Some Topic Of Major Importance or on your Facebook page.

I’ve never known a reader who was hungry for a verbal repast to go looking for a soup sandwich. But that’s often what they get.

It is up to the purveyor of the repast to determine whether he or she is going to serve a nutrituous, delicately balanced meal or something that’s half-baked and barely slopped together.

Am I being nitpicky?

Yes. But only where my own sensibilities are concerned.

Hey, if you want to continue slopping grey, watery soup over stale bread in a bowl, go ahead. If you want to hit it with a dash of sea salt, proclaim it prime rib and hand it out to weary, gaunt-eyed travelers who are starved for sustenance, that’s your business.

I’m only giving you notice that I will not partake. Nor will I sidle up alongside you in the soup kitchen, grab a ladle and begin flinging greasy dumplings at the wall in the hope they will stick and “be something good.”

So anyway, I was gonna devote a whole post to this notion that writers, not readers, are responsible for the clarity or lack thereof in writing.

But it’s a personal thing, so I won’t.

I’ll just pass along a wish that your characters’ eyes will remain in their head. Unless it’s a horror novel and they get whacked really, really hard.

‘Til next time, happy writing.

Harvey

PS: If you wanna see what I do when I’m having fun, swing by Harvey Stanbrough Writing in Public (https://www.facebook.com/HarveyStanbroughWritingInPublic/) and take a gander. For the month of June, you can watch short stories grow there scene by scene.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 12/24/2013. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. Besides, it’s kind’a timeless. A little pre-Christmas fun. Enjoy.

Well, here we are.

We’ve made another approximate revolution around the big yellow ball of fiery gas and come full circle to that time of the year when humans are expected to be giddily happy. And true to form, most of them are, bless their hearts. (Those of you who hail from Texas or have visited Texas and paid attention will understand.)

Anywho, according to those who know me well, I should be expecting a visit from three ghosts a little later today/tonight, so I’d better spit this out while I’m thinkin’ about it: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. And I mean it.

Unlike my Uncle Ebby, I don’t think you should ignore or avoid all the merriment if that’s the sort of thing you like.

Anyway, that’s my wish for you (yeah, just as if it’s original to me, eh?), but it’s not automatic and it’s not what’s necessarily gonna come true. So if you care at all, work at it, a’right?

In the meantime, my personal toast to you and yours:

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

‘Til next time, happy writing.

Harvey

 

Top Three Tips for Emarketing

Hi Folks,

Awhile back, a lady sent me a request. “Harvey, would you go to my Facebook page, These Three Words, and ‘friend’ the page?” (This is not the actual name of the page, of course.)

In her friendly but business-like email, she then explained a bit of what the page is about, how often she posts to it, and so on. It was generally a good email. But she didn’t include a clickable link.

I emailed her back a quick note asking her to send me a link. I could have stopped there, but always striving to teach, I explained that I was running too hard to take the extra time at the moment to copy/paste the title of her page into a search engine, browse through the responses, find it, go there, and click Like. (Of course, I did take the extra time to explain all that. Wordy, I am.)

She did respond with a link, which I clicked. Then I clicked Like and was done.

But in the brief email that accompanied the link, she also expressed that she wasn’t sure what I meant by “running too hard.” She added, “Perhaps if you slow down a bit you will enjoy your visit to my page.”

Problem is (and this is a problem for which I am grateful), at the time I almost always had several manuscripts awaiting editing or proofreading. I also (at the time) usually had one or more writing seminars to prepare for and new ones to develop and write.

I also had, and still have, blog posts of my own to write and schedule, and free advice to hand out via email when folks ask (and when I know what I’m talking about). Oh, and of course my own writing takes precedence over everything else.

So I had to wonder. If hers was one of those edits in the queue, would she still want me to slow down? But I digress….

Remember, when you ask someone to do something for you, it’s always more important to you than it is to them.

Here, then, are my top three tips for emarketing via email:

1. If you send an email asking the recipients to visit your website or your Facebook or other social networking page, make it easy by providing a link. If they have to go digging to find it, they probably won’t.

2. Include a direct link to your website (Facebook page, etc.) in a “signature block” at the end of every email you send out. Most email programs provide a way for you to set this up so it will appear automatically.

3. Include a brief description along with any direct link (in your email body or signature block or on a website) unless the link itself is self-explanatory.

Visitors have literally thousands of choices when it comes to which websites they will visit and whether they will subscribe or bookmark those sites. Remember that it’s always more important to you that the visitor remains on or subscribes to your site or newsletter or blog post than it is to them. Making it worth their while is never a waste of your time.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

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

My Daily Journal now appears on my main website at HarveyStanbrough.com. To sign up and receive an email notifications, go to the website and click The Daily Journal in the header.

 

Expressing Tone

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 4/6/2014. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post so it’s up to date.

After my original posting of “sigh… present-tense narrative is great. please write in present-tense narrative,” a couple of years ago, several writers emailed to ask why I titled that post the way I did, namely in lower case and repeating the main primary phrase. I thought my response was entertaining enough to warrant updating and posting here.

Actually, as is the case with many techniques I use, I stole that technique from television.

In a couple of episodes of Family Guy, the writers did a take-off of Star Wars.

Of course the take-off was pure satire. The writers took pains to point out major flaws in the Star Wars story. They also pointed out places where dialogue began with a decision, wandered pretty much aimlessly for awhile, then returned with a new decision that would better serve the story.

In the actual story, the dialogue was written and delivered with excitement and pleading and firm resolve, as it should be. In the Family Guy version it was DOA, as evidenced by the flat-lined, deadpan delivery.

In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker flies off to some star system to study under Yoda, the Jedi master of masters. After some playful interaction, at the end of which Yoda finally admits who he is, Luke tells Yoda he has come to learn the ways of the Force.

Yoda, in so many words, says no, he will not train Luke. But after much pleading and wailing and gnashing of teeth (about a half-hour of movie time, if I remember correctly), Yoda finally relents.

In the Family Guy version, it went much quicker than that.

1. Luke flies up and asks Yoda to train him.

2. Yoda says, “No, I will not train you in the ways of the Force.” Wait two beats. “Okay, I will train you in the ways of the force.”

And that’s what I had in mind when I wrote “present-tense narrative is great. please write in present-tense narrative.” I preceded it with <sigh> to flatten it out a little further.

Some probably will notice that my delivery is not the same structure as that in the Family Guy episode. In mimicking the original story, they began with “no” and progressed to “okay.”

But because most who read this blather already know I’m staunchly entrenched against the inane idiocy of writing narrative in present tense, I saw no reason to do the same. Though perhaps it would have been more effective.

So consider this a revision of the title if you need one:

present-tense narrative is evil. no, wait. present-tense narrative is great. please write in present-tense narrative.

Ah, it was also called to my attention that my posts are sometimes too long (and I assume not entertaining or educational enough) to warrant reading them all the way through.

Well, at this late stage in my life I can hardly notch-up the entertainment value of my drivel, so from here on out I’ll do my best to shorten it a bit. 🙂 Maybe I’ll post a little more often too. Maybe.

‘Til next time, happy writing…

Harvey

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

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

 

I Did It Myyyyyyy Way…..

Hey folks,

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

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

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

After one post, I received notes from two writers.

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

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

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

Thing is, the post wasn’t about her.

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

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

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

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

Actually, I couldn’t agree more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything depends on what you deem important.

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

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

Hope this clarifies things. 🙂

‘Til next time, happy (clear) writing.

Harvey

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

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

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!

Harvey

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 paypal.me/harveystanbrough. 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, Friday, 12/11

Hi Folks,

Still under the weather a bit today but definitely on the mend. It feels good knowing by this time tomorrow I ought’a be back to my normal level of unhealthinessicity. (grin)

The Day

Rolled out a little before 3 this morning. Sometime overnight my subconscious set up an alarm reminding me to get the “boxed set” of the Wes Crowley novels out for that one guy who might want it for Christmas. (grin)

So in the midst of my first mugga coffee, I started copying/pasting and formatting. Then spell checking, reparagraphing here and there, revising my use of ellipses and em dashes, etc. Basically I brought the entire series up to my current skill level as a writer. Amazing how much stuff I’ve learned since I wrote the first word of that series back on October 19, 2014.

And no, I don’t usually go back over old stuff. I did so this time only because I was putting the whole thing in one book. And I didn’t change words (except a few errors I found). Only paragraphing really, for readability and pacing. Over 800 pages, just under 415,000 words. Cool.

Wes Crowley Saga 180Created a promo document and a new cover for the overall series (that’s it over there on the left) and then resized all nine novel covers and inserted them in the book as well, one at the beginning of each novel. Isn’t Coralín pretty?

So that’s all I did from about 3:30 right up through 10:30. That was almost an hour ago. Then I published the thing to D2D, Smashwords and Amazon. Then I came here to write this, and now I’m gonna break for a bit, maybe visit Dean’s site (new Heinlein’s Rules stuff over there) before getting to the writing computer.

Sometime in the next few days I’ll do some research to see whether I can find a place that produces the boxed-set boxes. If so, and if they aren’t terribly expensive, and if I don’t have to order a b’jillion of them at one time, I hope to sell this creature through StoneThread Publishing in paper as a boxed set too. Failing that, I might have it put in one Lahahaha HONG volume.

Oops. On break since I wrote the above, and forgot to put the new cover on the publisher’s site and create a new page for that one. So off to do that now, THEN to the writing ‘puter. Here’s the book page if you wanna look at it.

Okay, got the updates done, then had to go find my little girl cat. Now that everything and everyone is where it/they’re supposed to be, maybe I can play for awhile.

Today’s Writing

I just want you guys to know, turning out a lot of words doesn’t mean I sit here and write all day. What it takes is getting to the writing computer, and then writing.

Case in point, at 10:30 this morning I made my first attempt to get to the writing computer. I finally got there shortly before 2 p.m. Hey, stuff happens. And when it happens around here, it seems to always come off the blades of a fan. (grin)

Had three frantic sessions crammed in between other stuff. That’s all right. Had a blast while I was writing. And it’s a funny story, depending on which way your sense of humor is warped.

Now I’m gonna post this (almost 5 p.m.) and put down some numbers.

Fiction Words: 2913
Nonfiction Words: 602

Writing of “Makilak Crismazizzle” (short story)

Day 1…… 2913 words. Total words to date…… 2913 words (done)

Total fiction words for the month……… 29511
Total fiction words for the year………… 633502

Total nonfiction words for the month… 7805
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 49907 (since September 1)

Fun with Aphorisms

Hi Folks,

Taking a little break today for a short post and some fun. At least I hope you’ll find it fun.

“Aphorism” is defined by dictionary.com as “a short pithy saying expressing a general truth.” My aphorisms sometimes come out as definitions (ala Ambrose Bierce) and are most often satirical. Here are a dozen of mine. Remember, these are tongue in cheek:

  • apology, n. A device intended to soothe wounds and thereby put a victim off his guard; a precursor to the next offense.
  • arrogance, n. ignorance advertised.
  • common sense, n. A myth. What’s common to some is obviously a luxury to most.
  • human, n. 1. The most conceited animal on earth, unjustifiably so.
  • intellectual, n. 1. One who will drive a Hummer six blocks to a Save the Ozone rally. 2. A closet tuna-eater.
  • intolerance, n. Proof of an atrophied mind and a lazy disposition.
  • kindness, n. An imagined effect created by hopeful expectation. The act itself never issues forth from one whose lips the word has crossed, except to convey superiority.
  • opinion, n. Offered as it is from a single point of view, a meaningless group of words to anyone but the author.
  • patience, n. A pliable substance that wears thin when it’s most needed.
  • protestor, n. 1. One who exercises the right to dissent, provided him by a patriot, against whom he most often dissents. 2. One who, lacking a cause, will create a posterboard sign decrying the lack of causes and picket the nearest conservative.
  • question, n. Because it stirs thought, the only truly important grouping of words in any language.
  • victim, n. In our society, the person held responsible for the crime perpetuated against him.

And a few straight aphorisms:

  • Failure is only practice for success.
  • The right to free speech does not include the right to an audience.
  • The one thing I cannot tolerate is intolerance.

How about you? Do you write aphorisms? It’s a fun exercise and a great way to keep the brain pan lubricated.

‘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 or just click paypal.me/harveystanbrough. 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.

Are You a “Real” Writer? (Humor)

Hi Folks,

This topic doesn’t really fit with the current series of how-tos I’m posting here, so I thought I’d slip it in as a bonus. Just some things to think about.

A couple months ago on Facebook, which as we all know is a fount of absolute wisdom, someone posing as a professional fiction writer posted that writing is a “deliciously tedious travail” or some such nonsense. Yeah, I’m not kidding.

Being who and what I am, I quickly tossed in my two cents: “If you think writing is hard, you aren’t doing it right.” I then mentioned Heinlein’s Rules and the URL (my website) where the person could download a free copy. That’s it. (By the way, that’s http://HarveyStanbrough.com/downloads/. Hint: It’s not just for SF writers.)

About nine hours ago as I write this, someone else posted “U [sic] obviously are’nt [sic] a real writer.”

Oh man! Caught me!

Well, I’m just SO embarrassed at being exposed as a fake that I thought I’d better come out in public.

If being a “real” writer entails enduring “deliciously tedious travail,” then I guess I’m just not a real writer.

Now don’t get me wrong. I really really really WANT to be a real writer, but it’s just so HARD to write with one forearm flung dramatically across my forehead as I complain about how difficult my “process” is.

I understand now that “real” writers spend hours and hours THINKING about writing and TALKING about writing. Apparently that’s part of their process. And then from what I can gather, advanced “real” writers such as the Facebook respondent apparently spend more hours CHATTING about writing in online groups.

But I don’t do any of that.

For a long time, I’ve called myself a writer. Apparently I was wrong.

Somewhere along the line, I got the moronic notion that a fiction writer, by definition, is a person who puts new publishable words of fiction on the page. Probably I got that idea from Dean Wesley Smith, another not-real writer who does none of the above but has well over 17 million books in print through traditional publishing. Many MANY more now that he’s gone strictly independent.

If you look up many professions in the dictionary, you’ll find that a lawyer practices law, a mechanic fixes engines and a plumber, you know, plumbs stuff. By extension, pilots fly planes and painters (either kind) paint. Doctors repair people, veterinarians repair pets, and teachers teach.

I mean, if someone asked me if I was a real cable guy or a real contractor, somewhere in the discussion I would pretty much have to mention that I install cable service or oversee the building of houses. Right? I mean, right?

So based on those obviously wrong-headed definitions, I got the notion in my head that if I was going to call myself a professional writer, I should, you know, actually write.

So that’s what I did. After roughly 50 years of learning my craft, I began calling myself a professional writer on October 19, 2014. (You laugh, but don’t you remember the day you became a [fill in the blank]? If not, check in with yourself. Maybe you’re in the wrong career.)

And since October 19, 2014, I have written 717,024 words of published fiction. Almost three quarters of a million words of published fiction.

How did I do that? By setting a goal and striving to reach it. I often failed. My goal was to write 3,000 words of fiction per day. That’s it. Nothing more.

Now there are only 14 days left in the one-year period that began on October 19, 2014 and will end on October 18, 2015 (inclusive).

That means over the past 351 days I have written an average of 2042 words per day.

That means I spent two hours per day doing my job. Two hours per day.

Anyone know a mechanic or a pilot or a doctor or any of those others up there who work a two-hour day?

Okay, so anyway, here I am to confess. This is kind’a like Fake Writers Anonymous. “Hi. I’m Harvey. And I am not a real writer.”

But I’m okay with it. Actually, I don’t have time to be a “real” writer by the definition of the person on Facebook. Writing is not a “travail” of any kind for me, delicious or nasty tasting or anything in between.

Writing is great fun. Seriously, it’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on. And really, I guess you DON’T have to keep your clothes on either.

Please, don’t be a “real” writer. Instead, sit down at the keyboard, put your fingers on the keys, and write whatever comes. Trust your subconscious. It’s been telling stories since before you knew there even was an alphabet.

Hey, it worked for Bradbury. It worked for Dean Smith.

It works for me.

‘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 or just click paypal.me/harveystanbrough. 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, Saturday, 9/19: Fun with Aphorisms

Rolled out at 2:30 again, fired up to write. I got my coffee, checked email, and an aphorism sprang to mind. I wrote that one in a “Quotations” text document I keep, and it birthed another one. That happened several more times, along with the necessary revisions, and then I went to another file I’ve kept for years: definitions.

I spent some time there, writing a few new definitions and transfering some older ones to my list of quotations. Before I was finished, two and a half hours had passed. So I was writing within a half hour of getting out of bed, but not on the novel. Yet. (grin)

Then I came here. More in the topic below on aphorisms. Hope you enjoy it.

Had a necessary trip to Sierra Vista today (about three hours). I planned to write for awhile first, but we went sooner than I expected. Got back, pulled up the novel, wrote about a hundred words, and remembered My Team (LSU) might be playing today.

Looked them up online. Sure enough, Auburn at LSU was on, halfway through the 3rd quarter. The score was lopsided. Well, there was only a quarter and a half left, so I went to watch it. (grin)

Hey, priorities right? The novel is going really smoothly right now. I’ll have a bit of time to write after the game, and I’ll write for a few hours in the morning before I go to Tucson.

By the way, I’ll be at the SSA Forum tomorrow at around 10 a.m. That’s at the Tucson City Center InnSuites Resort, 475 N. Granada. Primarily I’ll be there to visit and to announce four new all day seminars. Hope to see some of you there.

Okay, went back to the game for a bit, and LSU beat Auburn 45 – 21. Geaux Tigers. (grin)

Now to the novel for awhile. Then I’ll come back and post my numbers.

My Current Goals and Challenge
My goals remain to write 3,000 words of publishable fiction per day and at least one short story per week. I still also intend to write 30 short stories before October 1. I have a ways to go on that one. (grin) Stay tuned.

Topic of the Post: Fun with Aphorisms
“Aphorism” is defined by dictionary.com as “a short pithy saying expressing a general truth.” My aphorisms sometimes come out as definitions (ala Ambrose Bierce) and are most often satirical. Here are a dozen of mine. Remember, these are tongue in cheek:

  • apology, n. A device intended to soothe wounds and thereby put a victim off his guard; a precursor to the next offense.
  • arrogance, n. ignorance advertised.
  • common sense, n. A myth. What’s common to some is obviously a luxury to most.
  • human, n. 1. The most conceited animal on earth, unjustifiably so.
  • intellectual, n. 1. One who will drive a Hummer six blocks to a Save the Ozone rally. 2. A closet tuna-eater.
  • intolerance, n. Proof of an atrophied mind and a lazy disposition.
  • kindness, n. An imagined effect created by hopeful expectation. The word itself never issues forth from one whose lips the word has crossed, except to convey superiority.
  • opinion, n. Offered as it is from a single point of view, a meaningless group of words to anyone but the author.
  • patience, n. A pliable substance that wears thin when it’s most needed.
  • protestor, n. 1. One who exercises the right to dissent, provided him by a patriot, against whom he most often dissents. 2. One who, lacking a cause, will create a posterboard sign decrying the lack of causes and picket the nearest conservative.
  • question, n. Because it stirs thought, the only truly important grouping of words in any language.
  • victim, n. In our society, the person held responsible for the crime perpetuated against him.

And a few straight aphorisms:

  • Failure is only practice for success.
  • The right to free speech does not include the right to an audience.
  • The one thing I cannot tolerate is intolerance.

How about you? Do you write aphorisms? It’s a fun exercise and a great way to keep the brain pan lubricated.

Today’s Writing
Didn’t write as much today on the novel as I expected to. I could have written more this early a.m. I could have written for the hour or so that I was watching LSU football.

No biggie. Sometimes I allow things to interfere. I know I’ll be gone much of tomorrow, so I’ll hit it early and hard before I leave in the morning. (By the time I leave for Tucson, I will have been up 6 or 7 hours.)

So I screwed around today a little too much. Because of that I missed going over the half-million mark for the year. (grin) Bad, bad Harvey.

Fiction Words: 1516

Writing of “Norval Babineaux” (umm, novel)
Day 1…… 3405 words. Total words to date….. 3405 words
Day 2…… 1487 words. Total words to date….. 4892 words
Day 3…… 4139 words. Total words to date….. 9031 words
Day 4…… 1516 words. Total words to date….. 10547 words

Writing of “Curious Shapes” (short story)
Day 1…… 1022 words. Total words to date….. 1022 words
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words (done)

Writing of “Nick Mansione” (short story)
Day 1…… 1458 words. Total words to date….. 1458 words
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words (done)

Total fiction words for the month………… 33955 (1590 on Wes)
Total fiction words for the year…………… 498996

Well, I’ll go over the half-million mark tomorrow then. Easily. (grin)