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 HarveyStanbrough@gmail.com.

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 (HEStanbrough.com). 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.

Harvey

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.

Setting Goals — 2016 Is Almost Here

Hey Folks,

If you’re a human being with dreams and aspirations, this is a great time to be thinking about what you want to attain or achieve in 2016.

If you’re a writer, that means thinking about goals.

At the minimum I recommend setting a daily writing goal, one that automatically resets at the beginning of each time period. If your goal is to write 1000 words per day and you meet or exceed it, great. At the beginning of the next day, it resets to zero and your goal is to write 1000 words. See how many days in a row you can meet or exceed your goal.

One caution here— Set realistic goals. By “realistic” I mean goals that you know you can reach, but that make you stretch a bit. If you find yourself meeting your goal continually, you might want to raise it a bit. If your set your goal too high so that you very seldom reach it, and if that starts to become disheartening for you, lower it a bit.

I also recommend setting a mid-term goal. What do you plan to accomplish before January 1, 2017? It’s only a year away. And what about long-term goals? What do you plan to have accomplished by January 1, 2021? January 1, 2026? Those are only five and ten years away.

A Quick Discussion of Goals vs. Dreams

Beware of confusing these two.

A goal is something that is within your control, at least for the most part.

For example, writing a certain number of publishable words of fiction per day is within your control unless some sort of emergency derails you one day. And if it does, that’s all right because the goal resets the next day.

Writing a certain amount every week also is within your control, again, more or less. You could write a short story every week and see how long you can keep that streak alive. It isn’t as easy as it sounds. (grin)

A dream, on the other hand, is in no way, shape or form within your control.

A dream might be to hit the bestseller lists with your first novel, or to make a million dollars on your first novel. That’s a wonderful dream, and I hope you achieve it, but if you do it won’t be because you decided it would happen. Too many factors are not within your control.

So by all means, dream and enjoy it.

But in the meantime, set realistic goals. Setting goals is your best shot at realizing dreams.

My Goals

Before I do this, one disclaimer — Your goals don’t have to mimic mine. We lead different lives and have different priorities, and that’s fine. If you surpass me by a bunch, I’ll applaud and cheer you on. If you attain your goal of writing only one hour per day, four short stories and one novel per year, I’ll applaud and cheer you on.

If you are a writer, what matters is that you write.

My goals are based on writing approximately 1000 publishable words of fiction per hour. That’s only 17 words per minute. Leaves a lot of time for staring off into space.

So here are my personal writing goals. I know I can achieve them because I’ve achieve them before. But they’re big enough to make me stretch. If you’d like yo watch my progress (or hold my feet to the fire), Sign Up for my Daily Journal.

Daily:

  • 3,200 new publishable words of fiction per day, plus whatever nonfiction (blog posts, articles) I write.
  • write at least 500 words of publishable words of fiction every day (Going for a streak here. Even if I miss my daily goal, the 500 words will keep the streak alive.)

Weekly:

  • At least one new short story every week. (This was recommended by Bradbury, and it’s a great deal of fun. My previous attempt resulted in a streak that lasted over 70 weeks and about 75 short stories.)
  • 22400 new publishable words of fiction per week (the daily goal x 7).

Monthly:

  • One new novel per month (in addition to the short stories and necessary nonfiction).

Annual:

  • Write at least 12 novels during the year. I would like some of these to be in series.
  • Write at least 52 short stories during the year. I hope, this year, to write at least one story in every major genre except mystery. Mystery just ain’t my bag.
  • Write at least one million publishable words of fiction. If I meet my daily goal for at least 313 days I will exceed this goal by 1600 words.

Side Goals:

  • Create an ebook cover for each of the publications above, plus for the five- and ten-story collections I compile from the short stories (so covers for 12 novels, 52 short stories, and 15 collections—79 covers).
  • Format and publish all works as ebooks
  • Layout and publish all major works (novels, collections) as print booksAlso I will have compiled those short stories into 5 ten-story collections and maybe 10 five-story collections. (Giving readers an option.)

I haven’t set my mid-term or long-term goals yet.

Fiction Lengths

For the sake of full disclosure, and because it seems appropriate to this post, here are my personal definitions of the various lengths of literary genres. This is a brave new world in which we no longer have to worry about hitting a certain page count (a certain folio) for traditional publishing’s price points:

6 to 99 words — Flash Fiction
100 to 2,000 — Short Short Story
2,000 to 6,999 — Short Story
7,000 to 9,999 — Long Short Story (or Novelette)
10,000 to 29,999 — Novella
30,000 to 39,999 — Short Novel
40,000 to 69,999 — Novel
70,000 — Long Novel

Okay, looks like that’s it for this time. See you on January 1 with a new post of interest to professional writers and aspirants.

‘Til then, happy writing!

Harvey

Remember, to sign up for my mad diary of a professional writer’s journey and learn by osmosis what to do and what not to do, 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, Saturday, 8/22

The Day

Ray Bradbury’s birthday. Ray Bradbury is the guy who knew at 12 years old what it took me 62 years to learn. Glad I didn’t wait until I was 63. Blessings, Mr. Bradbury. And thank you so much.

Rolled out at 3 this morning. Checked email, got my coffee and had to go run off a bunch of coyotes. Ugh.
No walk again today. Just writing again today.

Listen, if you’re publishing your own stuff through your own publishing company, check out https://draft2digital.com/.

I wrote a new short story today. When I went to publish it to Smashwords, for the first time EVER (153 books) my story didn’t convert to any format at Smashwords. I nuked it, tried again, and it still didn’t convert, which tells me it pretty much has to be their problem. So I sent them an email to that effect.

Then I popped over to D2D. I’d heard about it before, but hadn’t tried it. All within about a half-hour, I signed up for an account, uploaded my book and cover, and it was published in PDF, .mobi (Kindle) and .epub (everything else). It was just that quick.

And the quality is incredible.

In my opinion, you still need to do some basic formatting (or have it done) but the service itself is great.
D2D does not have their own online store, but they do distribute to Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Inktera, Scribd, Tolino, and Oyster. These are all individual bookstores, and some of them have subsidiaries. I’m going with D2D from now on for these venues.

I’ll also continue to publish with Amazon KDP (but not Select, not exclusively) and with Smashwords mostly for their online store.

Now for a break, then back to writing.

Topic of the Night: Write What Scares You

Stephen King advises writers to “write what scares you.” Sounds right to me.

Bear in mind, this isn’t just for horror writers. The good writer will evoke emotions from the reader. The stronger the better.

Now when I say write what scares you, I don’t mean the “they’re only zombies so I know it isn’t real” kind of scary.

I mean you’re tied up so you can’t intervene, your eyelids are sliced off so you can’t close your eyes, and you’re forced to watch as an intruder uses garden shears to lop off the leg, just above the ankle, of a two year old child.

The intruder looks at you, sneers, then turns back to the baby again.

The child, wide eyed, screaming, automatically reaches down to grab the stump and— Oh! Oh no! No! Snip! Her little hand and arm are gone halfway to the elbow.

Wider eyes. Wider mouth. Louder screams.

Just when you thought louder screams weren’t possible.

Notice that you don’t have to “imagine” the child’s eyes stretched wide in disbelieving horror. You can see them, can’t you? And you don’t have to imagine the screams either, do you?

And I’m just messin’ around here, givin’ you a f’rinstance.

Now, y’know those coyotes I mentioned before? I have nightmares sometimes about a song dog carrying off my baby girl. Seriously, nightmares. Obviously, that’s something that scares me.

So following King’s advice, I wrote a very similar scene in a short story called “A Natural Study of the Scream.”

Now I’m just enough of a scientist that I actually noticed, writing that scene in that story created an odd, almost paradoxical sensation. First, it was easy to write. I would have thought it would be difficult to put on paper, but it wasn’t. It was easy. The writing almost raced away without me.

But it also left me trembling, physically. I was upset to the point that I had to pour a couple fingers of Jameson’s to sooth it away. That was the first drink of alcohol I’d had in a very long time.

Writing that scene in that story was an experience. One I both dread and will most definitely repeat.

Because that’s good writing.

Today’s Writing

Wrote for a while on Book 9, still struggling with tight stuff and otherwise getting started.

Left that for awhile and wrote the first new story of my challenge. I took a brief break, came back, sat down and wrote Pete & Repeat. Then I skipped a couple lines and just started writing whatever came through my fingertips. MAN that feels good!

It will publish under the Free Short Story of the Week tab on Monday morning. Felt good to create a new story and a new cover. And the story was FUN. Read it. You’ll like it. No garden shears or anything. (grin)

Feeling a little under the weather and a lot of things up in the air right now. Hard to get settled in. I got a little done on the novel, but not a lot. It’s coming. Stay tuned. (grin)

Fiction Words: 2685

Writing of “Pete & Repeat” (story of the week)
Day 1…… 1662 words. Total words to date….. 1662 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

Total fiction words for the month…………… 18371
Total fiction words for the year……………… 460771

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.

Harvey

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!