Reverse Outlines Revisited

Hey Folks,

This first appeared as a topic over at my Daily Journal at http://hestanbrough.com.

It also sprang from a comment (a question from another writer) on Dean Wesley Smith’s website.

Awhile back I talked about writing a “reverse outline.”

The idea is, as you write your novel off into the dark (no pre-plotting, outlining, etc.) sometimes keeping track of characters, what they’re wearing, major situations, etc. becomes cumbersome.

Now when I write a novel, I open the Word doc (novelname.doc) and start typing whatever comes. I’m an adherent of Heinlein’s Rules and I enjoy writing off into the dark.

But I also open a Notepad text (novelname notes.txt) document. I use Windows, but Mac has something similar. I keep it open and minimized on my screen as I’m writing the novel.

In that .txt document, at the end of every chapter or major scene, I fill in a few details about the chapter or scene.

Those details might include

  • character names and anything significant (wearing a brown leather vest or a grey longcoat),
  • place names (was the hotel called The Amarillo Inn or the Amarillo Inn? did the scene or chapter take place in Justin, Texas or Eustace, Oklahoma?),
  • names of any minor characters introduced in that scene or chapter and their occupation, and so on.

Anything at all that I think I might need to remember later in the novel.

This takes only a few seconds per chapter or major scene and it keeps me from having to scroll back or use the Find function to search for the information.

On Dean’s site, the question the other writer asked was about series short stories.

I know many writers (like Dean) can set out to write short stories in series.

I can’t and so far, I don’t.

But sometimes, a character from a short story (or novel) I wrote awhile back tugs at my sleeve and pitches another story to me.

So now when I write a short story, I also keep a reverse outline of it. Then if I do return to that world to write another story, I don’t have to open the original story and read through it for information. I only have to open the “shortstoryname notes.txt” document and I’m good to go.

Try it. You’ll like it.

Happy writing!
Harvey

PS: Hey! Only two days left before the madness begins at https://www.facebook.com/HarveyStanbroughWritingInPublic/. Stop by and watch the short stories develop scene by scene. I’ll post each scene live there as I write it. 🙂

Read Everything, Think Critically, Accept Only What Feels Right

Hi Folks,

Many of you know I put a lot of stock in Dean Wesley Smith’s advice, but sometimes he tosses a blanket over a topic and beats it to death with assumptions and generalizations.

When he’s talking about things he knows about, his advice can be golden. I’ve learned a great deal from him.

However, he has his prejudices like anyone else. I suspect he was burned once by a bad freelance editor (or book doctor) who didn’t know what he was doing. This is precisely why, when I was editing (yes, freelance copyediting), I offered writers a free sample edit. That was a complete edit of up to a few pages. In that way, my ability sold itself.

Anyway, as what I suspect is the result of a bad personal experience, DWS seemingly endlessly tries and convicts “book doctors” and “freelance editors.” Among the charges he levels without any possible way of actually knowing about all book doctors or all freelance editors, he says

  • they have never written a novel (I have written over twenty and I have gone back to editing for others as well)
  • they have no experience at all in commercial fiction writing (see above)
  • they know only what English teachers taught them (no, some of them have a feel for the language)
  • they have no idea what will make a novel sell (some do, and a good one has a very good idea what will keep a novel from selling, and he or she will steer you around that)

Now it’s worthwhile to note that Dean himself says after he’s written a novel, he sends it to a first reader (his wife, Kris Rusch) and then sends it off to a copyeditor.

However, in his rant against “freelance editors” he doesn’t mention that he uses a copyeditor. That’s a little misleading to say the least.

Perhaps his copyeditor is licensed, but I’d bet not. Would he have hired this person in the first place if the copyeditor had said he or she was a “freelance editor” instead of a “copyeditor”? I’m just sayin’, to many people in the business, the terms are interchangeable.

As a disclaimer, let me say that there are many so-called freelance editors (and proofreaders and copyeditors and book doctors) out there who don’t have a sense of the language. There are many who mean well, but don’t know what they’re doing. And yes, there are some who are strictly scam artists and mean only to separate you from your hard-earned money.

There are also many out there who are very good at what they do and they can help you improve your work. I am one of them.

So do a little research. At a minimum, request a free sample edit. If your would-be copyeditor won’t let you see up front what he or she can do for you, don’t hire that editor. Move on to the next one.

I take exception to Dean’s post not only because I am a very good freelance copyeditor who always gives more than I am paid for. I take exception because he’s a trusted, respected source of information and he’s steering all writers away from what some of them might actually need. And he’s doing so based solely on generalizations, innuendo, and half-truths (i.e., all freelance editors are bad, but he sends his own work to a copyeditor).

As a related aside, DWS also has said many times, “real” editors (by this he means “not freelance”) work for publishers in New York. Period. All other editors are charlatans who are only out to scam you out of your money. All of them.

I guess the twenty-something “editors” working in New York for the Big Five are licensed. But I’m not gonna ask him.

Okay, so the point here is the title of this topic, and it kind’a piggybacks on the Learning post I wrote here a long while ago (http://harveystanbrough.com/pro-writers/learning/). If you’re a writer, it’s important that you keep learning. In that regard, I recommend that you

  • Do a little research to discover your would-be advisor’s level of experience (I never accept advice on a particular topic from anyone who has less experience with that topic than I do)
  • Even after you’ve decided to trust the source to provide good advice, Think Critically about what you’re being told
  • Discard ANY advice from ANYONE that’s based on broad generalizations and assumptions. All of it. Period.
  • Discard any advice that doesn’t “feel right” to you or work for you

I do recommend DWS as an excellent source of information regarding production as a writer, getting depth in your writing, etc.

However, I’ve noticed over the past several years, he DOES base some information on assumptions and generalizations. He slips them in every now and then. Fortunately, they’re pretty blatant so they aren’t difficult to identify and steer around.

I’m just sayin’, forewarned is forearmed.

Happy writing.

Harvey

Measurements and Dimensions

Hi Folks,

This post first was published in a slightly different version on October 10, 2016 over on the Daily Journal. I’m reposting it here because I felt it needed a broader audience and might help some of you.

Got a great email from a respected writer friend recently (Thanks, JGV!) regarding my current WIP (back in October, 2015). He wrote

What about doing away with the specific dimensions and leaving the images of the structures, etc., up to the reader’s imagination unless it’s critical to the story. Maybe imply those measurements through dialogue or description like “cramped” or “spacious.” (The account of Noah’s ark might’ve worked better without enumerating cubits.)

That’s a good and valid and point, and as it turns out, he caught me just in time. He made me think.

So when should we include dimensions and when should we not include them? As my friend mentioned, they should be included when they’re critical to the story.

That sounds simple, but beneath the surface it’s problematic. To at least some degree, the reader determines what is critical and what is not. Omit the dimensions and some readers will find the writing “thin.” Include them, and other readers will skip over that part, as I have done occasionally in Heinlein and Asimov novels.

So to expand a bit on the discussion of what should be included, maybe dimensional details should also be included when they’re not critical but still interesting and/or entertaining.

Which leads us to wonder how to determine what is or is not interesting and/or entertaining. To the reader. (Always remember there’s a reader on the other end of the writing.)

As I wrote earlier, my friend’s email made me think. What I came up with is this question and the following rules of thumb:

Q: What exists within the character’s and reader’s probable shared area of experience?

1. If the feature you want to describe does NOT exist within the character’s and reader’s probable shared area of experience (e.g., a lunar colony), include the dimensions.

2. If the feature DOES exist within the character’s and reader’s probable shared area of experience (e.g., a bedroom within the lunar colony), do NOT include the dimensions. Here you would opt instead for descriptors like “cramped” or “spacious” because the reader has seen an apartment and can relate.

I like to think I already knew this, but if I did, I hadn’t yet realized that I knew it. I do now, so it’s more firmly rooted in my subconscious. That’s a Good Thing.

As one other more or less minor consideration, I’m writing into the dark here. I’m allowing the characters to tell the story. (A technique I highly recommend because it’s so freeing.)

So say a character wants (or needs) to know specific dimensions as evidenced by her awe at first stepping into a lunar colony. Should I stop the Receiving Liaison who appears at her shoulder (having noticed her sense of awe) from delivering a short canned speech regarding the massive dimensions?

No.

The colony is new and wonderful to the character. It’s also new and (I hope) wonderful to most readers. So the dimensions are necessary, though probably not critical.

But should I also then drill down to the nitty-gritty and describe in meters and feet the size of the bedroom in the apartment the character is eventually assigned?

Again, no.

The apartment (living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom) already exists within the character’s and reader’s shared experience.

So in that case, the character might note (for example) there’s barely room for a double bed in the bedroom, much less the seating area and walk-in closet the character enjoyed in her home on Earth. But she doesn’t need specific dimensions for that.

And much as people generally disagree with differences between genders in this bizarre day and age, whether or not a character will wonder about dimensional details (and so whether the writer should include them) also goes to the character’s gender.

A character who has spent his life excavating sites like the Queen Open-Pit Copper Mine in Bisbee Arizona probably won’t wonder at the specific current size of the lunar cavern in which he works. If he does so at all, he probably will do so via comparison (e.g., “cramped” or “spacious” as compared with Queen Mine or some other place he’s been).

But if his wife is allowed to visit the worksite, she might well ask questions like, “Wow! How big is this place?” And when he answers, he might well brag. “Well, it’s only (insert massive dimensions) but it’ll be (insert even larger dimensions) when we’re through.”

As an added thought, this morning I got another email from another very good writer friend whom I respect a great deal. He recommended writing using whatever measurements I’m comfortable with (feet/yards) to facilitate the flow of the writing. Then I can convert everything afterward to the appropriate unit of measurement. Another excellent idea. Thanks, RJS!

So thanks to my friends for the mental exercise. Overnight I have learned and grown as a writer, and I have JGV and RJS to thank.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

Pricing and Various Sales Venues

Hi Folks,

A little rant this time, but a well-reasoned rant.

It really is attrocious what Amazon does to authors regarding royalties. This problem came fully home to me awhile back when I uploaded the new version of The Wes Crowley Saga (10 full novels in one book) to Amazon and Smashwords.

At Amazon, to get a 70% royalty, a book must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99. All other prices glean the author a 35% royalty.

The Wes Crowley Saga is priced at $19.99. (Ten novels for $20 ain’t that bad, ya’ll.)

From Amazon, for each $19.99 sale, I get $6.99. Amazon keeps $13.

From Smashwords, for each $19.99 sale, I get $16.24. Almost $10 more. Can you believe that? Smashwords keeps $2.87 and charges a “billing fee” of 88 cents. Of course, that’s for sales directly from Smashwords.

But from Premium Catalog Retailers (B&N, Kobo, and about 30 others), for each $19.99 sale I still make $11.99. The retailers get $6 and Smashwords gets $2.

And what empowers Amazon to do this? Authors who publish through KDP Select, the exclusive program Amazon set up.

When you publish through KDP Select, not only do you cut off those readers who prefer to purchase from other retailers and read .epub files, but you aren’t even allowed to publish and sell YOUR book on your own website. Did you know that?

Oh, and just in case you wondered, yes, I could lower the price for The Wes Crowley Saga (remember, this is ten complete novels) on Amazon to $9.99 in order to take advantage of the 75% royalty rate. And I’d actually make a few tenths of a cent LESS per sale ($6.993) than I make at the 35% rate for $19.99 ($6.9965).

This is the same reason you can purchase my short stories (from 2000 to 7000 words) at Smashwords and all other e-retailers (around 50 of them worldwide) for only $1.99, but if you go to Amazon the same story will cost you $2.99.

Amazon is a business. I understand that. But their devaluing of authors and their works really chaps my butt. Please PLEASE never cave to Amazon’s KDP Select program. If you do, you’ll add one more straw to the problem.

I’m considering “unpublishing” The Wes Crowley Saga from Amazon altogether and doing a blitz advertisement sending Kindle owners to Smashwords to purchase the .mobi (Kindle) file there. The only reason I haven’t done so thus far is because I don’t want to cut Amazon buyers out either.

Maybe I should write a nonfiction book titled Why I No Longer Distribute and Sell Through Amazon and then offer it for sale ONLY on Amazon. (grin) I wonder whether they would even allow it.

Conundrums, conundrums….

‘Til next time, happy writing and publishing!

Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer. 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.

Stigma Dis, Stigma Dat… Whatever

Note: This post was originally scheduled for October 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.

Hey Folks,

Received yet another note today from a friend about the “stigma” of self-publishing. What a bunch of crap. There, I said it.

Not only is it a bunch of crap that there’s a “stigma” in the first place, but it’s an even bigger, smellier bunch of crap that anyone who calls himself or herself a writer cares either way. Writers write.

Self-publishing (indie publishing, not going through a subsidy publisher) is just another way to get your work to readers, period. That’s all it is. And if you tell a good story, someone out there will want to read it, period.

Look, if you’re a fiction writer, either professional or aspirant—you know, a person who actually puts new words on the page—and you’re serious about your writing, do yourself a HUGE favor and swing by the website of my unintentional mentor, Dean Wesley Smith. You’ll find it at http://deanwesleysmith.com.

While you’re there, please be sure to click the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing tab and read some of the ridiculous myths we’ve all bought into over all these years.

Now just so you know, Dean is no slouch. The guy has had over 100 novels published with “traditional” publishers since the late 1980s. He goes almost strictly indie now.

One other thing—if you truly are serious about your writing, check out the Lecture Series tab on Dean’s website as well. His video series on Heinlein’s Rules is absolutely essential. It’s $75 and easily, EASILY worth several times more that. Think of it as an investment in your future. Seriously.

Dean’s wife is Kristine Kathryn Rusch. You can find her website at KrisWrites.com.

Kris is the only person in history to win a Hugo award both as an editor and a writer. She’s had hundreds of novels published through traditional publishing, and now does tons of stuff in indie publishing. You want to see a work that literally defines the definition of accomplishment? Check out her Retrieval Artist Series.

Those of you who still feel there’s a “stigma” attached to self-published books, listen up:

Self-publishing doesn’t make a book bad anymore than traditional publishing makes one good. It’s the writing, nothing else.

And because I’m in a good mood, I’ll tell you something else: YOU are literally the worst judge of your own writing. When you’re editing and polishing and rewriting because you think it’s boring or bad or needs to be “punched up,” that’s because it’s in YOUR voice.

You are with your voice 24/7, so OF COURSE it sounds boring or bland or bad to you. But to other readers, it will sound unique— Well, if you don’t polish all the good off of it before you finally submit it or put it up for sale.

A little factoid for you—did you know before WWII there were NO traditional publishers?

That’s right. Only self-publishers and the pulps. There were no trade paperbacks until the late 1940s, but people (even writers, who are getting severely, I mean SEVERELY screwed by the big publishers) seem to think traditional publishing predates the printing press and is the most wonderful thing since that same old clichéd sliced bread. Ugh.

Oh, Dean is also the first person in history to create a monthly magazine (Smith’s Monthly) that contains a complete novel and several short stories and all of the work is his own. Quite an accomplishment.

Stop by and take a look. Maybe it’ll clear away some of that “stigma” for you. Seriously.

‘Til next time,

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. It costs less than you think.

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.

 

You Know More Than You Know

Note: This is a guest post by my friend Dan Baldwin. (Thanks, Dan.)

Hi Folks,

You know more than you know, you know?

Hemingway wrote, “A writer, of course, has to make up stories for them to be rounded and not flat like photographs. But he makes them up out of what he knows.”

That’s wonderful advice, but there’s a trap in it.

I have encountered many writers who have shied away from a project due to a fear of not knowing the desired subject matter. “I don’t know anything about Planet Zygorth and the Sleekbelly Vixens of Tyros, so I can’t write about such things.”

Following that logic, Frank L. Baum never would have ventured down the rabbit hole and instead of reading about The Wizard of Oz we’d be reading about The Guy Down the Street in Mattydale, NY.

There are many things I have never done. For example,

I’ve never been in a gunfight in a wild west saloon (the Caldera and the Canyon series).

I’ve never sat down with a KKK boss to plan the assassination of Elvis Presley (Sparky and the King).

I’ve never been stalked by a mad shaman on top of a hill in Arkansas (The Ashley Hayes Mysteries).

I’ve never been a lonely vampire looking for a family (Vampire Bimbos on Spring Break).

I know nothing about these things, yet I’ve written about them, sold books and even won awards for writing about what I don’t know.

What’s the secret?

Take your experiences, your emotions, and the people and events in your life and place them whereverthehell you want to place them in your writing.

Sure, neither you nor I have ever been to a rowdy singles bar with Conan or Han Solo. But we have been to bars, restaurants, and parties with some pretty interesting characters.

We’ve never been in an old west gunfight, but we’ve been in heated confrontations in board rooms, committee meetings, and in personal encounters.

We’ve never been stalked by a mega-python in the veldt, but we all know that sudden zap of fear when we see the lights come on in the patrol car that’s been following us for the last mile and a half.

Use that information. Writing is about characters and their emotions, and you know that stuff backwards and forwards. You live it every day. Now, all you have to do is put it in place.

Never be intimidated by what you think you don’t know; you really do know more than you think you know. You know?

* * *

Dan’s Quote of the Week: “A simple style is like white light. Although complex, it does not appear so.” Anatole France

BTW, Dan’s new photo books feature 21 of his Arizona flowers snapshots, each with poetic commentary.

Wildflower Stew is the first of four photo/poem books. It’s available (Just in Time for Christmas!) in paperback and e-book from Amazon, and in ebook from Smashwords as well as other distributors.

To learn more about Dan Baldwin and his work, please visit his websites at http://www.danbaldwin.biz or http://www.fourknightspress.com/. You can subscribe to either or both by emailing him at baldco@msn.com.

Tools for Writers

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 1/10/2014. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now.

Instead of a regular blog post I thought I’d toss out this list of URLs this time. I’ve found all of these useful at one time or another, and I still refer to many of them regularly. However, the presence of these URLs on this list does not necessarily constitute my endorsement or recommendation except as noted below.

I chose not to make the links live. Many email programs will kick out an email that contains more than a few links. You’ll have to copy/paste these URLs into the address bar at the top of your browser. (Note that some of the URLs wrap to the next line. Be sure to copy/paste the whole thing.)

Once you’ve done that I suggest you bookmark those that interest you so you can refer back to them quickly. I hope you find this list of use.

First, 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. Here’s the rest of the list.

Dictionaries

Acronyms — http://www.allacronyms.com/
American Slang — http://onlineslangdictionary.com/
British Slang — http://www.peevish.co.uk/slang/
Dictionary — http://dictionary.reference.com/
Sex Dictionary — http://www.sex-lexis.com/Sex-Dictionary/
Semantic Reference — http://semanticreference.com/
Spanish Dictionary — http://spanish.dictionary.com/
Spanish Slang — http://www.languagerealm.com/spanish/spanishslang.php
Thesaurus — http://thesaurus.com/
Translator — http://translate.reference.com/
Urban Dictionary — http://www.urbandictionary.com/

Converters
Colors and Others — http://web.forret.com/
Future/Past Calendar — http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/
Keyboard Shortcuts PC to Mac or Mac to PC — http://myfirstmac.com/index.php/mac/articles/ultimate-switcher-guide-windows-pc-to-mac-keyboard-shortcuts
Length — http://www.exrx.net/Calculators/LengthConverter.html
Metric — http://www.worldwidemetric.com/measurements.html
Mileage — http://www.randmcnally.com/mileage-calculator.do
Temperature — http://fahrenheittocelsius.com/

Reference, Research or Interesting
Arizona Master Gardener Manual — http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/
Arizona Sunrise/Sunset — http://www.sunrisesunset.com/usa/Arizona.asp
Cherokee FAQs — http://cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/FrequentlyAskedQuestions.aspx
Drive-In Theaters — http://www.drive-ins.com/
Extensive Collection of Quotations — http://www.drmardy.com/dmdmq/
McSweeney’s — http://www.mcsweeneys.net/
NOAA National Weather Service — http://www.weather.gov/climate/
Preditors & Editors — http://pred-ed.com/
Personality Types — http://www.humanmetrics.com/hr/JTypesResult.aspx
Shakespearean Insults — http://www.shakespeare-online.com/quotes/shakespeareinsults.html
Snopes — http://snopes.com/ (biased politically but can be useful)
Stupid Plot Tricks — http://www.sff.net/paradise/overlord.html
The Bible on One Page — http://www.jrsbible.info/bible.htm
The Gun Zone — http://www.thegunzone.com/clips-mags.html
Time Dilation — http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/HEP/QuarkNet/time.html
TV Tropes — http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HomePage
Vietnam Virtual Wall — http://www.virtualwall.org/
Warp Drive — http://io9.com/5963263/how-nasa-will-build-its-very-first-warp-drive
Worldwide Sunrise/Sunset — http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/sunrise.html
Writers Market — http://www.writersmarket.com/

Writers’ Resources and Tools
Book Trailer — http://kingdomelectlady.hubpages.com/hub/Create-Your-Own-Book-
Trailer-Free
CopyBlogger Media (Marketing) — http://my.copyblogger.com/
Free Word Processor — http://www.jarte.com/
Free Word Processor — http://www.openoffice.org/
Links to Delete Accounts — http://justdelete.me/
Microsoft Word Products — http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/
Newsletter — http://chopeclark.com/
Writer as Publisher — http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/ and Think Like a Publisher
Hashtags 1 — http://publicityhound.com/shop/how-to-use-hashtags-the-new-search-tool
Hashtags 2 — http://writersweekly.com/this_weeks_article/008264_11202013.html
Security for your PC or Mac — http://lojack.absolute.com/en/persistent
Stop Smoking Resource — http://www.whyquit.com/
Writing Software — http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5.html?yWriter5

Professional & Regional Writing Organizations
Arizona Mystery Writers — http://www.arizonamysterywriters.com/
Horror Writers of America — http://horror.org/
International Thriller Writers — http://thrillerwriters.org/
Mystery Writers of America — http://mysterywriters.org/
Novelists Incorporated — http://www.ninc.com/
Pikes Peak Writers — http://www.pikespeakwriters.com/
Romance Writers of America— http://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=521
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America — http://www.sfwa.org/
Sisters in Crime — http://www.sistersincrime.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=2
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators — http://www.scbwi-az.org/
Society of Southwestern Authors — http://www.ssa-az.org/
St. Louis Writers’ Guild — http://www.stlwritersguild.org/
Western Writers of America — http://westernwriters.org/

Subsidy/POD Publishing

Compare Subsidy/POD Publishers — http://www.writersweekly.com/pod-price-comparison.php

Note: I vehemently disagree with Booklocker about CreateSpace. And especially in this wonderful new world of indie publishing, I also do NOT recommend you use ANY subsidy publisher. However, if you insist on not doing things yourself, I decided to leave this entry in this post.

If you know of any great writers’ resources you’d like to share, please share it in a comment below.

Finally, you can find numerous great writers’ resources in the left sidebar on my website under Writers’ Resources.

That’s it for now. Until next time, keep writing!
Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer. 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.

Five Reasons to Hire a Ghostwriter

Hi Folks,

More and more often recently, I’m being asked about ghostwriters. Why to hire one, and why not to hire one. So I put together this handy list for you.

When folks ask me why I recommend hiring a ghostwriter, my first answer is always this:

First and foremost, a professional ghostwriter is a professional writer.

When we want something done right, we employ someone who’s already mastered the learning curve.

Hiring a professional always gets better results. Always.

The professional writer, like the professional carpenter, plumber, lawyer, mechanic or farmer, has studied his craft. He can readily apply skills, knowledge and even “tricks” to your project that would take you years to learn.

The professional writer also has a proven track record of his own work, often under his own name as well as several pen names.

In short, the professional writer loves to to write. It’s his day job. It’s all he does.

But why should you hire a professional ghostwriter?

Well, if any of the specific reasons below ring true for you, it’s something you should consider.

One: You have a great novel idea rattling around in your head.

You aren’t alone. Many, many really good novels are written in the mind but never committed to the page.

A professional ghostwriter will run with your idea. Your book, with your byline, will be written and ready for publication before you know it.

Two: You lack the time to write your novel.

This is a common problem most would-be authors face. In most cases, it’s the main reason the novel never makes it to the page.

Maybe you have a full-time job, family commitments and other interests. Nothing wrong with that. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

A professional ghostwriter gives the same passion and time to writing that you give—and rightly so—to the activities and interests and people you love.

Three: You lack the skills and knowledge to write your novel.

Most would-be writers don’t even realize all the things they don’t know.

Most genres (including literary) have certain ingredients and certain touchstones that occur at certain places. If you don’t include those ingredients or if you don’t hit those touchstones, readers in your target genre won’t buy your book.

Note that these ingredients and touchstones do not comprise some sort of cookie-cutter “formula.” They are merely what readers expect to see in a given genre.

A professional ghostwriter knows these conventions and many, many more. And because they are his stock in trade, he knows how to apply them.

Four: Even if you wrote your book, you lack the skills and knowledge to publish it.

The whole process seems overwhelmingly complex.

How do you avoid the scams and pitfalls that seem to litter the literary landscape? Do you even know what to watch for? Where and how do you even submit your work?

A professional ghostwriter knows because he’s been there.

Resumé

I have a long history of helping other writers. Hundreds of writers have learned from me in workshops, conference presentations, and even questions posed via email.

And now I’ve decided to offer my services as a ghostwriter.

• I’ve had years of success as a professional writer.

• My work has been widely published through traditional, subsidy and independent publishers. I can guide you, as I have guided dozens of others, in finding the right publishing route for you.

• To date, I’ve published 18 novels and a novella under four names. A few years ago, I also co-wrote a psychological suspense/horror novel with a nationally known writer.

• I’ve also written 15 non-fiction books, and well over 140 short stories in almost all genres and sub-genres.

Email me at HarveyStanbrough@gmail.com and see what I can do for you.

A few other points —

If you believe you lack the funds to hire a professional

it’s in both our interests to develop a workable solution. I will work with you in this regard, and everything will be spelled out up front in a clear and easily understood agreement.

If you’re afraid of being scammed or ripped off

it’s in both our interests that you aren’t. I make a living on my reputation as a writer. I’ll help you protect your intellectual property and your copyright. As my friend, ghostwriter Dan Baldwin, put it, professional ghostwriters are “fiercely protective of our name and […] of our clients and their works.”

If you want your book to be your book

No worries. I will write your book, not my version of your book. My fingers are on the keyboard, but you’re writing through them. For over two decades as a professional copyeditor, maintaining the author’s voice was always my number one concern.

If you’re ready to get that novel or novella out of your head and into print, contact me at HarveyStanbrough@gmail.com and let’s get started. If you’d rather talk by telephone, we can do that too, but please email me first.

Thanks!

Until next time, happy writing!

Harvey

Getting Ideas (and other stuff)

This content was previously posted on June 26, 2016 in the Daily Journal. I posted it here because of the valuable topic included below. Soon I might begin posting the Daily Journal here every day.

Hey Folks,

Probably today will be another non-writing day for me. Despite the fact that when I take a day away from writing fiction I feel itchy and annoyed.

I gave my word to a couple of folks who quickly took advantage of my offer to copyedit for them, so I’ll do that. But otherwise I think I’m going to shove my copyediting service into the ditch alongside the cover design and eformatting services.

Life Events take up too much of my writing time already. Reckon I’m gonna have to cut the cord on providing services.

Getting Ideas

Turns out this is a long topic. I hope it helps.

Yesterday I talked about story starters. To start a story, come up with a character, give him a problem (doesn’t have to be “the” problem of the story and often isn’t) and drop him into a setting. Period.

But a character with a problem in a setting sounds suspiciously like an idea. So how do we come up with the idea in the first place?

Often the idea for the story will spring directly from the character/problem/setting combo. In fact, yesterday one writer sent me an email. In part, it read

Last fall or late summer you gave 3 or 4 character names, 3 or 4 settings, and maybe 3 or 4 problems for us to put together for an opening. … [T]hat exercise gave me the opening for the second book in my contemporary series. (Thanks MAC)

But even more often, ideas simply come at random. Then we assign a character/problem/setting and write the opening.

Example — Right now on my desk, my cherry wood humidor is on my left. An orange Bic lighter is lying diagonally on top. (That’s a story idea.)

Okay, let’s assign a character. Who are you (the character)? Why are you there? And what are you doing? And how does the setting look, sound, smell? Are you

the owner?
a detective?
a male friend of the family?
a female friend of the family?
a masked burglar?
a business associate?

Remember too, the setting can be anywhere that will hold a cherry wood humidor and a Bic lighter: a small home office, the library in a mansion, an office in a place of business, the front seat of a ’58 Nash, etc. Let your imagination run. We don’t know what’s inside the humidor either, do we?

This idea immediately lends itself to mystery, thriller, psychological suspense, romance, and other genres.

If this notion appeals to you, why not just write an opening? See what happens.

There are several ideas on my desktop, in view as I write this:

an open roll of breath mints with one end opened and folded over
a man pecking away at a laptop computer in the wee hours of the morning
three medicine bottles, set snugly beneath a 22″ monitor
a cell phone lying on the corner of the desk. An indicator light is flashing.
a pedometer lying in front of a medicine bottle
a deck of Rider Back playing cards
and so on

Where you’re sitting as you read this, look about you. What do you see that evokes a particular feeling or memory or notion? It can be anything at all. Make a list. Exercise your idea muscle. Then write an opening about one of them.

So how do we come up with ideas? The more apt question would be how do we NOT come up with ideas.

But many writers believe an “idea” is actually the whole story. How boring would that be? If I knew the story in advance, why bother to write it? That wouldn’t entertain me at all. (grin)

Remember, the story idea is not the whole story.
The story idea is just the catalyst that gets you to the keyboard.

Dean Wesley Smith taught me that. Also, he has covered his own process several times in his blog. He has an extensive collection of pulp magazines from the old days.

One of his favorite ways of coming up with story ideas is to “crash” the first half of one old story title into the second half of another old story title. When it appeals to him, he writes an opening.

In addition to just looking around, I tend to get ideas from photographs or from some minor event or from overhearing a snippet of conversation.

Ideas from Photographs

I collect cover photographs from stock photo agencies. I have around a thousand. I intend to use them all.

Every now and then when I want to write a story, I skim through those photos (my favorite agencies are Bigstock and Canstock). If a photo appeals to me, it gives me a title (usually) and a story idea (character, problem, setting) and I’m off and writing.

Plus I already have the photo that I probably will use for the cover when I’m finished. I say “probably” because the story often takes an unexpected turn or two. If the turn is big enough, I have to find a different photo for the cover.

You can also find story ideas in photos that you can’t use for covers. The photos can be from any source at all. If it spurs a memory or a thought or a character, you’re off an running. But again, don’t use any photo for a cover unless you have the license to do so.

Ideas from Events

While I was walking along a dirt road one day, a woman passed me in a minivan.

As she passed me at about forty miles per hour, her left hand was on top of the steering wheel at about the 11 o’clock position. She had twisted her head around to look over her right shoulder and was reaching back and pointing with her right hand. Her mouth was wide open as if she was yelling.

There were three children in the back seat. None were in restraints of any kind. Then a cloud of dust enveloped me and all I could still see was her brake lights as she braked just in time to make the upcoming sharp curve and avoid plunging herself and her children some three hundred feet down a steep, rocky hillside to the wide arroyo below.

How many ideas can you get from that one event?

Ideas from Conversation

Sometimes a snippet of conversation comes while I’m walking the aisles or standing in line at the checkout counter of a store.

But more often a character will pop into my head, usually with an attitude and a line of dialogue. This is most often the result of something I see or hear on TV or from someone I’m talking with.

The dialogue in my head almost always introduces the problem and the setting I need for the opening of the story. And of course, the character is the one presenting the dialogue in the first place. This happens a lot with my Brooklyn characters. (This happened today, actually, and started a new short story.)

So when you ask some presenter at a writers’ conference, “Where do you get ideas?” and they say “Everywhere,” that’s exactly what they mean.

Now, possibly I didn’t cover everything you would have liked for me to cover on this topic. If you have any questions, please ask.

Of Interest

An interview between George R. R. Martin and Stephen King. Very good, but about an hour long. You can find it here. I discovered it on Dean’s site in the comments from yesterday’s blog.

Great interview. I took voluminous notes on a Notepad document. Great stuff. I strongly recommend you set aside an hour to listen. In line with today’s topic (above), this interview is Chock Full of story ideas. It is an unintentional writing seminar. I strongly recommend you take notes as you listen.

The Day

Rolled out right at 4. Email and coffee to wake up.

5 a.m., moved outside and wrote the topic above. Then I went to check Dean’s site and found the link for the interview (see “Of Interest”. I listened to the interview, taking notes.

7:45, to the edit.

11:45, finished the edit and got it sent off. Turns out my mobile hotspot on my phone works too out in my Adobe Hovel (thanks to my wife for calling Verizon and having them reset my phone). That’s a great relief. Of course I won’t have it on most of the time. But it’s nice to have when my phone flashes to tell me something important needs my attention online.

Going to take a break now. And I’ve decided when I come back I’m going to write for awhile. (grin)

1 p.m. after a much longer break than I expected, to the writing.

Well, I got some writing done, but not a lot. The edit left me more tired than I thought. Still, I got a good start on another short story. Something completely different. (grin)

Back tomorrow.

Today’s Writing

Fiction Words: 1077
Nonfiction Words: 1400 (Journal)

So total words for the day: 2477

Writing of “Being Eddie Potrano” (short story)

Day 1…… 1077 words. Total words to date…… 1077 words
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX words

Writing of “The Day the World Shuddered and Went Dark” (probably a novel)

Day 1…… 1272 words. Total words to date…… 1272 words
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX words

Total fiction words for the month……… 58205
Total fiction words for the year………… 316606

Total nonfiction words for the month… 14930
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 131380

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 447986

 

Workshop Report

Hi Folks,

Because many of you still haven’t made the switch to my Daily Journal, I decided to post this over here as well. This is for you, not me.

Workshop Report

I finally watched and listened to the Week 1 videos from Dean Wesley Smith’s Teams in Fiction workshop at about 6:30 last night. I expected them to be bland and boring in the first week. Nature of the beast.

In the first week, because a lot of beginning writers take these workshops too, DWS often talks down or very carefully explains things I already know. That’s fine. I understand, and for that reason, my expectations generally are low for the first week of videos.

The fun thing is, I took a TON of notes on Video 2 of Week 1. Much of it was realization rather than learning, and that’s fine. By “realization” I mean I realized (with a sense of relief) some things that I was already doing and learned why I was doing them. So that was good. I also learned a few things I had never thought about. So total win on Week 1.

These workshops really are invaluable if you want to improve your craft. As a disclaimer, I get nothing from referring writers to the workshops. I pass along this stuff only because Dean’s workshops really are islands of real value in an ocean of misinformation and scams.

I taken many of his workshops, classic workshops and lectures. If you have questions about any of them, please feel free to ask me (link at the bottom). I’ll answer honestly.

Of Interest

Dean’s topic today is Follow the Yellow Brick Road, a metaphor for indie publishing. Check it out.

Also of interest, he noted today that his Ideas to Story workshop has NOBODY in it (at the link above, scroll down just a bit to Online Workshops Starting). If you want one-on-one attention, this is the workshop to take. It’s also a GREAT workshop. I’m a seasoned writer, yet I took it a short while back. And it contained SO much more than I expected. Highly recommended.

If you want to take this workshop, email dean@deanwesleysmith.com and ask. Today is supposed to be the last day. Feel free to tell him I sent you. Not that I have any influence, but it might help convince him to let you sign up a little late.

That’s it for this time. As I wrote in a previous post, I’ll toss in something over here from time to time, but the really informative stuff is over at my Daily Journal. Just click the Subscribe link at the top of the page over there. Or email me at harveystanbrough@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to sign you up myself.

Adios,

Harvey