The Journal, Friday, 7/17

The Day
Rolled out about 2, so back to normal. Checked emails and other things, including Dean’s blog for the past two days. I recommend reading his topic of the night Here and then Here. Great stuff if you want to see why I say you should NOT get an agent, and why you should publish your work and then leave it published.

I also read a lot of the comments on Dean’s posts. Interesting stuff, both for what people “get” and what they don’t.

Started out the day around 4 a.m. (after all of the above) just writing with Wes. My intention for today is to write all day in a series of starts. Should work out well. We’ll see.

I miss writing short stories. I miss the break that gave me from the Wes Crowley storyline and I miss the excitement of as-yet-unknown characters surprising me. I’m going to continue my hiatus from writing shorts for a while yet, but I’ll be starting a new challenge for myself soon.

Now I could just write a short story as it occurs to me, and if a story idea occurs to me strongly enough, I’ll do that. But I’m better motivated when I’ve attached my writing to a goal.

During one break in writing I designed and printed up BusCard1some new business cards. Very basic, just to get the information out there. Here’s one, in case you’re interested.

Topic of the Night: Be Careful Where You Get Advice
I talk often about learning to quiet your conscious, critical mind when you write.

Some of you accomplish that, at least temporarily, and that’s fine. I don’t think anyone has found a way to permanently silence the critical mind. The trick is to remain on guard and to silence it each time it reappears. And it will reappear. It wants to stop you from writing as a way to protect you, remember? If you don’t write, you can’t publish, and if you don’t publish, you aren’t opening yourself to criticism.

So you learn to silence or squelch the critical voice when you sit down to write.

You are determined, even, not to rewrite because finally you’ve understood that rewriting, more often than not, will destroy a perfectly good piece of writing. So far so good.

Then you finish a short story or a chapter in your novel or a scene in your memoir and, for some completely unfathomable reason, you share it with a critique group.

So let me get this straight. You have learned, finally, to trust your subconscious and quiet your own critical voice… and now you’re going to subject your writing to someone ELSE’S critical voice?

Uh, no. Bad idea. Maybe baddest idea ever. Don’t do that.

And if you DO decide to submit your stuff for critique, AT LEAST submit it to people who have a LOT more publications than you do in the same literary genre (i.e., short fiction, essay, novel, etc.) and/or in the same commercial genre (i.e., SF, western, romance, etc.).

My advice today is the same as it was way back in October. Find yourself a good first reader.

Preferably, this person will NOT be a writer and will therefore not be tempted to bring his or her own voice to the work.

Preferably, this person will be an avid reader of the type of work you write.

Then ask that person to tell you about

  • any typos
  • any inconsistencies (character wearing a grey jacket when he goes into a bank and a brown one when he comes out, and
  • anything else at all that confuses the reader or stops the reading cold.

Then go back and fix those places IF YOU AGREE with your first reader. You don’t have to do everything the first reader recommends.

If your first reader starts giving you writing advice, smile, say Thank You and find a new first reader.

Seriously.

Today’s Writing
Started on Book 8 by cycling back through a scene that was bothering me.

My subconscious was nagging me, saying the scene wasn’t complete, but I wasn’t able to see earlier where it was lacking.

Today as I read back through it, the rest of the scene flowed out through my fingers with no prompting from me. I love it when that happens.

Note that this is NOT rewriting. Rewriting is something you do with your conscious, critical mind, counting the number of times you use a particular word or checking to make sure you alternated sentence structures just so or whatever. None of that will improve your work. I promise.

As I expected (and hoped), the writing ran well today in a series of starts. I’m still trying to train myself to write for about an hour (about a thousand words) and then take a break.

Getting pretty good at it. Now if I can just keep doing it that way. (grin) Still, with my overall goal of wanting this novel finished and out before July 25, I think it’s not going to be a problem.

Fiction words: 4018

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

Total fiction words for the month…………… 27405
Total fiction words for the year……………… 433088

The Journal, Thursday, 7/16

The Day
Rolled out about 3 (yay, slept in). Checked emails and other things.

Started today by writing a nuts and bolts post on dialogue for the Pro Writers series that posts every ten days. Guess I’ll be running through my core seminars again (briefly) in the next several posts over there.

Had a good walk today. Planned to hit about 6 miles and wound up with 7.5.

I was planning to take most of today to finish finding parts I need for that used shell I bought for my pickup, but I decided to write all day today (wife’s a work) and tomorrow. I’ll plan to take Saturday to do all that other stuff. Not that I won’t write Saturday, but writing will slip to Priority 2.

Just a normal non-writer day, really. Laundry, and a lot of other stuff. Normal stuff. Bland, boring normal stuff. I need to go camping again.

Anyway, then I finished off the day listening to The Four Tops sing “Baby, I Need Your Lovin'” (remember that?) and Aerosmith’s “Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” and then Garth Brooks’ version of “It Don’t Matter to the Sun.” Why? No idea. Except I like perfection. Especially beautiful, emotional perfection. Up there with “Annie’s Song” by Denver or Lonestar’s “Amazed.” Whew.

Topic of the Night: Keeping Track of You
I was browsing back through EARLY installments of this journal for possible topics to update and share (Yes, I canibalize my own work) when it struck me how far I’ve come as a write in only nine months. Seems very gestational, doesn’t it? (grin)

I started writing a short story each week way back in April, but I started Writing Seriously (novels, novellas and nonfiction plus the story of the week) last October. So for any realistic measurement I’ve been a real writer for only about nine months.

One of those entries was about a short story I wrote. I never dreamed I’d write a western, and it was a western. And toward the end of it, the characters told me they’d been buddies for a long time before they were enemies. They told me where everything started, and they asked me to write the story.

It became a novel called Leaving Amarillo. And then there was another one. Then another. Now I’m working on Book 8 in that saga.

And when I started, I wasn’t sure whether it would be a novel or just a novella. Even Dean Wesley Smith told me to be careful about setting a firm date to have it out.

But the point here is how wonderful it is to glance back over those entries since October 19, 2014 and see how much things (especially my perceptions) have changed. It’s nothing short of incredible.

So I encourage you to carve a little time out of your day each day to make a few notes on a journal. You can do it like I do this one, complete with a daily, monthly and yearly word count, or whatever. I guarantee you’ll enjoy looking back over it a few months down the line.

Today’s Writing
I wrote a little bit on Book 8 of the Wes Crowley saga, but I’m not gonna count it as a writing day. I got a lot of writing done, but very little fiction.

I wrote three blog posts for the “main” blog (Pro Writers category) and scheduled them. I’ll be on a modified vacation from July 25 through August 5 and don’t want to have to depend on OPI (Other People’s Internet). Opi is not a good boy. When everything else is clicking along famously, Opi will screw you every time.

Also went through and prepped (very lightly rewrote, heavily reparagraphed) three more stories from Gervasio for stories of the week and got those pre-posted as well. Incredible how L O N G some of my paragraphs were back when I originally wrote those. Ugh. They read much better now. The poetry and humor is still there, but at a lot better pace.

Fiction words: XXXX

Writing of Book 8 in the Wes Crowley saga
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… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 23387
Total fiction words for the year……………… 429070

The Journal, Wednesday, 7/15

The Day

Rolled out about 2. Checked emails and other things.

Had another short walk today, right at 4 miles. Looking forward to a good walk tomorrow.

Sticking on one scene in Book 8 for some reason.  Standard, average, typical day for me.

Topic of the Night: Eating an Elephant

There’s an old joke. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

That’s how you write a novel, too. One word, one sentence, one paragraph, one scene at a time.

I was looking over some old stuff, back when this journal was strictly private. Back in late October 2014, one of the new goals I set was to write “six novels in the next calendar year.”

Well, that’s when I expected to finish my first one by December 8. Then I was going to lay off until January 1, then start writing toward my goal.

As it turned out, I released the first novel on November 11 and the second one on December 7. Then I released the third one on December 27.

I was able to do that once I realized I can’t write a “novel.” The idea is overwhelming. But I can write a sentence, a paragraph, a scene. I can keep plugging away until the story is finished.

So this calendar year (thus far) I’ve written five novels and a novella. Those are in addition to the two “extra” novels I wasn’t expecting to have finished last year.

But not one time was I able to sit down and wrap my head around an entire novel or even the novella. Each time I wrote a scene, then another scene, then another scene. I ran through the story with my characters, and I wrote down what they said and did. That’s all.

And that ended up being eight novels and a novella, and counting. Oh, plus a short story every week. (grin)

So if you’re ever overwhelmed at the idea of writing a novel, just remember you can’t. Just write the scene. Don’t worry about how it connects to anything else. Just write the scene. Then write another one. Then another. Your characters will lead you through.

Today’s Writing

Not a lot to it. Finally knocked out the one scene and that’s about it. Things will break loose soon.

Fiction words: 1784

Writing of Book 8 in the Wes Crowley saga
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

Total fiction words for the month…………… 23387
Total fiction words for the year……………… 429070

The Journal, Tuesday, 7/14

The Day
Rolled out about 2. Checked emails and comments on Facebook (posted some things about the trip). I did walk today, but keep it short at just over 3 miles.

Had a trip to Sierra Vista for two new tires and an oil change for the pickup. Ugh. But it was necessary with a long trip coming up.

Stopped in at the mall and talked very briefly with the Marine recruiter, a young veteran of the goings-on in Iraq. He was wounded. He was also stout, staunch, and upright. He is a protector. Many of the protected do not deserve his fine defense. I hope he never wakes up to feel that everything he and his friends have given was in vain. I hope he never feels his nation abandoned him.

Topic of the Night: Fiction as Escape
Certainly fiction is an escape for the reader. Maybe it’s an escape for the writer too. Maybe it’s a way to write what ought to be instead of what is.

I suspect Tim McCanlies, the screenwriter who wrote lines for Uncle Hub in the film Secondhand Lions, was thrilled to write what ought to be:

That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and that love, true love, never dies. … Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. A man should believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in.

Now the protagonist isn’t perfect. He isn’t all good. He or she is an ordinary human being who does extraordinary (and extraordinarily good) things.

And the antagonist isn’t all bad, unless he’s Hitler or Charles Manson or an insane religious freak who will behead women and children while the nation that holds itself up as the beacon of the world apologizes for him and strives not to “offend” him. But I digress.

You are fortunate, folks. If you are writers, you are fortunate. You get a chance to write what ought to be. You get a chance to escape the insanity for a little while, and write what ought to be.

Today’s Writing
I wrote a bit here and a bit there, before my walk, after my walk, and after the trip to SV. Bits and pieces here and there. Kind’a had the air taken out of me when I talked with my young brother in arms.

Fiction words: 1083

Writing of Book 8 in the Wes Crowley saga
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

Total fiction words for the month…………… 21603
Total fiction words for the year……………… 427286

The Journal, Monday, 7/13

The Day

Rolled out about 2. For some reason, still recovering from the camping trip. I might not walk tomorrow, or keep it short.

Today again I messed around the house a bit, went for a walk and got some pics. I also posted a video of the place where Dan and I went camping. It’s a calm video, between rainstorms, to show people why we go there.

Also posted a few pics from the trip. Then I ordered a couple of parts for the camper shell and bought some stuff for it. It’s coming along slowly. No rush.

Back to writing with Wes off and on today. Like I said, I’m still recovering. Weird.

Topic of the Night: Write the Next Whatever

The best advice I’ve ever received or given is to Write the Next Sentence. If you keep doing that, your characters will lead you eventually to the end of whatever you happen to be writing.

I was following that advice one day when I realized there WAS no next sentence. A short time later (thankfully) I realized the scene was over. I was trying to move the character into a dead area that was unnecessary and boring. What I needed to do was write the next SCENE. And that’s when I became a writer who writes scenes.

A scene is a character (or a few characters) dealing with one situation. To this day, I still can’t “write a novel,” but I can write a scene. I can write a bunch of scenes. I can write a novel.

If you’re the kind of writer who writes scenes, that’s good. If you aren’t, or if you need a refresher, here ’tis.

1. To begin a scene, put your fingers on the keyboard and write whatever comes.

2. To get through the scene, write the next sentence, then write the next sentence, then write the next sentence. Don’t think about where it’s all going or even about the second or third sentence: Just write the next sentence.

3. When you’re writing a scene, don’t worry about how it connects to other scenes. Just focus on that scene.

4. When the scene ends, write whatever comes for the next scene (or for another scene), then write the next sentence, then write the next sentence, then write the next sentence.

5. Your character(s) will lead you to where you need to be.

The whole trick is to Keep the story moving forward.

The Writing
I prepped a couple more stories for the weekly free short story release, and I wrote some on Wes today. Feeling great about the book. Not moving fast right now, but moving toward where it’s gonna move fast. It wouldn’t surprise me if this one wrapped at about 20 days. Woohoo!

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: 1730

Writing of Book 8 in the Wes Crowley saga
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

Total fiction words for the month…………… 20520
Total fiction words for the year……………… 426203

The Journal, Sunday, 7/12

The Day

Rolled out just before 3 a.m. Back to reality.

Still recovering from the camping trip. For a full day and the better part of a night, Dan and I were alternating between the low of being exhausted and the high of repeated adrenaline rushes. That sort of thing wore me out when I was 30. I’m a little older than that now. (grin)

So I messed around the house a bit, went for a walk, got some pics (posted a few on Facebook and I’m posting one here, see below), then did some things to improve the camper shell I bought the other day. Now I’m gonna take the rest of the day to do nothing. Talk with you again tomorrow.

Here’s the pic:

DSC00014_600

Topic of the Night: Ending a Streak

This isn’t really a topic. Being a little selfish here.

Today I decided to end the streak I began back on April 15, 2014. On that day, I published the first short story in a self-challenge. Following the lead of Dean Wesley Smith, I challenged myself to write at least one new short story every week for a year. I exceeded that goal by quite a bit, but it’s still a bit sad to see a streak end.

Last week I published my 100th short story. It also was the 71st short story in a row that I wrote during the past 66 weeks.

I fully intended to write a new short story for this week too. In fact, I started one before I left on the camping trip.

Now I could have simply slapped an ending on it and called it finished, but that would not be in keeping with the spirit of the challenge. I started three other stories today as well. I wrote three more openings. Those openings might become something someday, but for now, they simply aren’t working.

Writing Off Into the Dark is a freeing, Zen-like technique. It isn’t something you can force. (If you force it you aren’t writing into the dark.)

Over on the Free Short Story of the Week blog I’ll continue to post a short story each week. For now, those will be stories I wrote before I began the challenge, stories that I haven’t shared since the challenge began.
If you enjoy magic realism or think you might, the first few will be from Gervasio Arrancado.

The Writing

I wrote more on the story that was going to be the short story of the week and then I wrote three new openings, none of which panned out. I wrote the words, but I can’t feel certain they’ll be published so I’m not going to count them. So no new publishable words of fiction for today.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: XXXX

Writing of Book 8 in the Wes Crowley saga
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… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 18790
Total fiction words for the year……………… 424473

The Journal, Saturday, 7/11

The Day

Rolled out just before 4:30 (Arizona time) in New Mexico, north of Lordsburg. No checking email. No Internet. Just reality.

Great trip, but Dan and I experienced three days of excitement and adventure in about 8 hours.

Topic of the Night: Refilling the Well

I write from experience, as do most of us. Or at least near experience. I experience things, then put my characters in those situations, then extrapolate out from there. But to do that, I have to experience things. I have to refill the well occasionally. Yesterday, I topped off my well of experience.

PART I

We pulled into our camp about 45 feet away from a 500 foot drop into the Gila River, got out and began re-exploring and taking pics. I take photos for my book covers, but many also give me story ideas. Others are “art photos,” suitable for framing and display, and I might someday offer those for sale.

Then it started sprinkling, then raining. We got in the cab of the pickup.
It started raining harder, then hailing pea-sized hail. Soon that turned to dime-sized. That all lasted about an hour, then quit.

Cool. Back to exploring and taking photos, except this time there waterfalls all over the place. I think there were three or four to our south, two or three across the gorge to our west, and another one to the north. The widest (that I could tell) was probably 50 feet. The narrowest was a few feet. But all of them were grandiose. Remember, all of them were falling at least 500 feet.

Then an hour, maybe two later (I think… it might have been longer) Dan noticed a massive blue curtain to the west with a roiling off-white valance. I have never seen a wall of rain quite like that, and it looked like the precursor to a tornado, or maybe a batch of them.

Of course, being guys, we climbed a nearby rocky hill so we could see better. (grin)

When we’d seen all we wanted or needed to see, it was back to the pickup, and just in time.

The rain came. It was horizontal. I am not kidding. Then the hail came. It was dime-sized to quarter-sized, and much of it too was horizontal. The waterfalls I mentioned earlier were flowing hard, but after they plunged off the cliff, the wind caught them and tossed them up so they looked more like geysers. Again, I am not kidding.

The pickup (again, we were parked 45 feet from the edge of a 500 foot drop into the Gila) was jostling around hard from the wind. We seriously considered working our way down a “chimney” between two huge rocks to slip into a 1,000 year old pueblocito that had remained dry throughout.

But everything around the pueblocito was wet and slick, and very near the pueblocito, should you miss your grip on a juniper tree, was that same 500 foot drop with nothing to grab but slick rock and air. We stayed in the pickup.  (grin)

With more storm fronts rolling in, we decided to head for Lordsburg. It was apparent we wouldn’t be able to use our cots and sleeping bags, etc. Dan couldn’t make use of his tarp to protect from the rain because the wind was, well, western wind.

PART II

Several miles down the road there’s a large wash. The road ducks into it for about a quarter-mile, then out again. Only the wash was under fast-moving water.

So we “decided” (as if there was a choice) to make camp near a rancher’s windmill and catch pen until the wash was not moving.

I slept sitting up in the cab (because I can) and Dan slept under the camper shell in the bed of the pickup. It rained and dropped lightning off and on pretty much all night. However, when I wandered down to the wash in the predawn light, it was damp but not flowing.

About an hour later we drove down a hill, across the wash, up onto relatively firm ground and out. There were other minor adventures, including inching past a motorhome that some moron had parked ON THE ROAD (this is a dirt road, one and a half lanes max) because apparently he didn’t want to drive any farther in the mud.

But we were tired and hungry and wet and far from home (just like in the Marine Corps) so we didn’t honk or shoot at him or anything when we went by. (The owner and whomever else was apparently asleep in the back.)

Into Lordsburg at last, we dropped in to a restaurant for breakfast, then out to Shakespeare where a very kind gentleman named Rod allowed us in to take pictures even though they usually only allow people in during official tours. (We told him we’re both writers and that our characters know Shakespeare better than we do. Truedat. One of Dan’s characters named the place.)

Then Dan dropped south of I-10 to St. David and dropped me off. And here I am. Dan should be home about now, as I write this.

I’m not gonna write today. I’m gonna indulge my other side and enjoy the pics and videos. Tomorrow I’ll write the story of the week and then get back to Book 8 of the West Crowley saga.

BY THE WAY if you’re one of those who limit yourself to writing “only novels,” I urge you to read the topic of the day on Dean’s site AT THIS LINK. It isn’t today’s post.

The Writing
No writing today.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: XXXX

Writing of “(as yet untitled)” (story of the week)
Day 1…… 2238 words. Total words to date…… 2238

Writing of Book 8 in the Wes Crowley saga
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… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 18790
Total fiction words for the year……………… 424473

Taking Care of the Little Things

Hi Folks,

There’s some old wisdom that says if you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.

It’s true for gas tanks. If you keep the top half full, the bottom half will take care of itself.

It’s true for health. If you eat right and exercise, you won’t have nearly as many health problems as a lot of folks do.

And it’s true for writing. Oh man, is it ever true for writing.

A few posts back I wrote one called “A New Series of Posts.” This will expand a bit on the basic premise of that one.

For this discussion, consider learning all the mechanics and skills of writing the little things. And consider Writing the big thing. If you take care of the little things, the big thing will take care of itself. You only have to trust yourself and get out of your own way.

I advocate following Heinlein’s Rules and writing off into the dark. That’s all well and good as far as it goes. But following HR follows knowing how to spell, having a decent grasp of grammar and punctuation, and so on.

And trusting your subconscious to tell the story (writing off into the dark) follows having those skills imbedded in your subconscious.

But when you write into the dark, you aren’t supposed to think, right? You’re supposed to Just Write, right?

Yes.

So how does the “right” grammar and punctuation and sentence structure and paragraphing and spelling get into your subconscious? I mean, if I’m writing a story, shouldn’t I make sure I use certain sentence structures in certain places? And doesn’t that require conscious thought?

Okay, slow down. One question at a time. The answer to the third question is Yes, and that’s precisely why the answer to the second question is No. When you’re writing a story, you shouldn’t “make sure” of anything. That’s your conscious mind trying to slow you down and eventually stop you from writing in order to save you the embarrassment of rejection.

When you’re writing a story, you should Just Write. You’re trusting that what you need in the way of grammar, punctuation, etc. is already in your subconscious.

Okay, but what about that first question? How does that knowledge get into the subconscious?

That’s where your conscious mind comes in. You LEARN with your conscious mind. You take classes and seminars. You read books about sentence structures and paragraphing and dialogue and dialect and adding depth to scenes and creating realistic characters and whatever else you think you need.

And what you actually DO need seeps into your subconscious. It’s permanent there. And it’s waiting until you need it.

Many of you probably think this is a bunch of hooyah (whatever hooyah is). You believe that yes, you actually DO have to think your way through which sentence structure to use where, or whether you used “that” too many times, or whatever else. So let me convince you otherwise.

When you’re in the midst of writing, do you have to stop with each keystroke and think about which letter on the keyboard to hit next? If you’re writing The Book, do you have to consciously think Well, I need a capital T to start. Okay, good. Then I need a lower-case H. Okay, then an E and then a space. Let’s see, that’s the wide thin bar at the bottom of the keyboard in the center. Do you have to do that?

Why not? Because you already “know” it?

That’s right. You don’t need to think about it because it’s already in your subconscious. Permanently. You took care of the little things.

And so are the various sentence structures (even if you can’t name them), and so is the grammar and punctuation and how to construct characters and how to have them speak dialogue that sounds real.

Okay, so does that mean you’re done? Does that mean you should stop learning and just write? Uhhh, no.

You keep learning (and unlearning bad stuff) and you keep writing. You use your conscious mind to think and learn and you use your subconscious mind to write.

Next time up we go over the lip of the abyss, into the mechanics and skills and specifics. Is that dramatic enough? (grin)

Harvey

PS: In case anyone’s wondering about the “challenge” posts, I took both of them down. Apparently I wasn’t clear enough in explaining the concept, so maybe I’ll try again sometime but for now they’re pulled.

The Journal, Friday, 7/10

The Day

Rolled out at 2:30. Checked email and, from that, a few journal entries. Congrats to my friend Bonnie for a good start on a personal writing challenge. Also had an email from my buddy Dan, to let me know he’s on his way down. We’re headed for the Lower Gila Box on a camping trip this morning around 6.

And just then I realized I hadn’t written the story of the week yet. (grin) So as soon as I finish this basic post, I’ll get on that. I don’t like to limit a story, so I probably won’t finish it today. I’ll write the opening and see where it goes.

I’m posting this mostly so I can pass along the topic of the nnight. I’ll catch up on numbers etc. when I get back.

Topic of the Night: Just Start

Yesterday and the day before, “Just Start” was the first point of the topic of the night.

It would be EASY to allow my conscious mind to rationalize this opportunity away. My writing ‘puter is turned off (I usually just put my computers into sleep mode so they’re ready to go). My writing ‘puter also is packed in its handy dandy travel bag.

So the conscious mind says to write, I’d have to get it out, turn it on, plug it in, etc. Wouldn’t it be better to wait until we get to our campsite? Then, after things calm down, the day’s hiking is finished, THEN maybe I can write.

See? That’s the conscious mind trying to stop me from writing. It has all sorts of tricks. (Today it didn’t work. grin)

And another conscious-mind ploy is already under way because I’m still writing this nonfiction blog post instead of writing my story of the week. (grin) Not Writing Fiction comes in many guises. You have to guard against it, or at least be aware of it, at all times.

And the easiest way to beat it is to Just Start. Which is where I’m going right now. (grin)

The Writing
Started the story of the week, to be finished on the road. (grin) Aren’t challenges and streaks fun? This one is due to post Monday morning at 9 a.m.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: 2238

Writing of “(as yet untitled)” (story of the week)
Day 1…… 2238 words. Total words to date…… 2238

Writing of Book 8 in the Wes Crowley saga
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… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 18790
Total fiction words for the year……………… 424473

The Journal, Thursday, 7/9

The Day

Rolled out at 2:30. Checked email and went looking on CraigsList for a shell for my pickup. I don’t really use it as a truck anymore to haul things that don’t need protection from the weather, so….

Will spend the morning in Tucson for doctor and other things, including picking up that shell.

Another good walk this morning, though only a little over 4 miles. The 7.4 yesterday wore me out. (grin)

Took my camera with a different lens. Got some pretty good pics, but nothing to post today. What does this have to do with writing? I use the camera mostly for book cover pics and secondarily for art pics. Sometimes the pic gives me a story idea.

So I visited Dean’s site again, and again he wrote a great topic. I urge you to check it out. Just because you hit your goal for the day doesn’t mean you have to stop writing. You can move on to the next project or next goal.

Well, as it turns out, reporting the day today will be easy. Thanks to the proficiency of the medical profession, it was pretty much a total loss.

I showed up in Tucson at Pima Heart at 9:30 for a 10:15 appointment. I was to have an echo done on my heart, have my pacemaker checked, and then visit with the doctor to receive the results of the echo.

I was in the back at 10:10. My echo took a little longer than usual but went fairly smoothly, and the pacemaker check went like butter. I was out of those two by 10:30 with assurances that “We’ll call you in a few minutes for the doctor.”

JUST UNDER THREE HOURS later I was called back and put in a room. About ten minutes after that, the doctor came in, told me everything was fine, and dismissed me.

I am not pleased.

From there we went to a late lunch at Jimmy John’s. (A high note.)

And from there we went to buy a used camper shell for my pickup. The price was fantastic, the guy helped me put it on the truck, and finally, finally, I got back here just in time to write this note and watch NYPD Blue.

So no new topic today, and no writing. I’m reposting yesterday’s topic in case anyone missed it.

Tomorrow morning EARLY I go camping. Probably will be gone through Sunday. I won’t post during that time but will catch everyone up on Monday’s post.

So thanks for your patience.

Topic of the Night: A Repeated Few Notes On Goals

1. Just Start — Yes, I understand you have Xxxxx going on tomorrow (or next week or whatever) but no, that is not a legitimate reason to put off setting a goal or starting a challenge. Why? Because there will ALWAYS be one Xxxxx or another starting or stopping or going on. There will always be birthdays and vacations and movies you’ve been waiting forever to see and so on and so on. If you want to start a challenge, just start.

2. Missing Isn’t the End of the World — If you miss your goal, what happens? Nothing. The same thing that happens when you achieve your goal for the day. Nothing. So don’t sweat it. If you vow to write 3,000 words of publisable fiction per day and you write only 1200 one day, nobody’s gonna come beat you up. Your house won’t suddenly be foreclosed. The bank won’t suddenly come get your car. Nothing happens. So challenge yourself already. Set goals.

3. Adjust Your Goals as Necessary — If you challenge yourself (or set a goal) to write 3,000 words per day and you just can’t make it and feel that you need to back that off to 2,500 or 2,000 or whatever, that’s perfectly all right. Again, it’s YOUR goal. It affects nobody but You. If you only write 1000 words per day (that’s about an hour) five days per week that would still be 20,000 words per month. That’s a 60,000 word novel in three months, and that’s taking every weekend off and only working one hour a day.

4. Set Other Goals Too (em) I have to shed some fat. Beginning today, my goal is to walk at least 4 miles per day. Every day. (It’s just walking.) And yes, I’m going to keep a journal to motivate myself. Last year I lost from 205 down to 174 pounds.

Okay, this is a biggie. IF ANYONE OUT THERE would like to post your numbers on a website (similar to the way I do here), let me know and I’ll set you up with an account on another website. Right now several other people have accounts but only a few are using the site. I’d be happy to let you in if you want in. It’s a good way to get support from other professional writers and hold yourself accountable.

The Writing
No writing today but I AM taking my writing ‘puter with me on the camping trip. If I can’t hammer out 3000 words a day while I’m out there then… well, I just don’t know.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: XXXX

Writing of Book 8 in the Wes Crowley saga
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… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 16552
Total fiction words for the year……………… 422235