Spending Time in the Chair

Hi Folks,

There is a pervasive myth that writing “fast” is writing bad. The myth is based on the notion that if you write a novel in a period of days instead of at least several months, it must be badly written. That’s just not true.

Productivity in writing boils down to two things: discipline (which is to say, a work ethic) and Heinlein’s Rules, especially Rule 3 in this case.

Not too long ago one woman told me she could spend all day on one sentence.

Seriously? How boring must that be?

If you’re going over and over and over your writing, counting the number of times you use “that” or “which” and making sure you alternate them (they’re not interchangeable) or checking sentence structure (yaaawn, stretch), then yeah, it’s gonna take you a year or two or ten to write your novel.

And you know what? When you finally finish, it’s going to be horrible. You will have polished all the good off of your work.

Write the thing. Just write it.

Write it as well as you can per your current skill level, finish it, ship it off to a first reader and maybe a proofreader to look for mixups between things like “waist” and “waste” or “rode” and “road.”

Then publish it.

Then start the next one.

All of that comprises step one to being a professional writer.

Step two is spending time in the chair.

I was saying in a presentation a few days ago (as I write this), would you call yourself a mechanic if you only spent a few hours a month under the hood of a car?

Now learning is good. In fact, it’s essential. But no matter how much you learn about being a mechanic, you aren’t a mechanic if you don’t spend some time fixing cars.

Endlessly attending seminars and conferences about being a mechanic is not being a mechanic.

Talking about being a mechanic is not being a mechanic.

Thinking about being a mechanic is not being a mechanic.

Being a mechanic means getting under the hood and doing your job.

Same thing goes for writing.

If you call yourself a writer, shouldn’t you actually write? Okay, it’s a free country. You certainly may call yourself anything you want, but you can’t actually BE a writer if you don’t write.

I write 1,000 words per hour. If that sounds like a lot, do the math. It’s 17 words per minute. That leaves me a lot of time for staring off into space, researching the name of that particular type of pastry the character wants to buy, etc.

Then I spend three or four or five hours in the chair. Every day.

Yep, I have a job that I only have to work three or four or five hours per day.

If you spend only three hours per day doing your job, Mr. or Ms. Writer Person, and if you hit around 17 words per minute, and if you do that only five days per week, taking weekends off, you will write 15,000 words per week. That’s a 60,000 word novel in 4 weeks.

Now why again do you think it should take a year or two to write a novel?

Decide to write the best story you can the first time through, then spend the time in the chair, and you’ll be amazed at how much good writing you turn out.

Happy writing!

Harvey

 

Write Honest Dialogue, You Racist Swine

Hi Folks,

The following is a guest post by my friend, professional fiction writer and ghost writer Dan Baldwin.

Billy Ray Watkins stood in the doorway of the old shack where the unfortunate sharecropper was kept prisoner. Watkins, 300 pounds of angry bigotry and hate, pounded his fist, sneered and wiped the chewing tobacco spittle from his lips. He grinned and said, “You lacking-in-a-proper education, fatherless son of the African veldt, I’m going to smack the doodoo out of your ebony tushie.”

Writers have an unspoken contract with their readers and that is to write with honesty, especially dialog. To write any other way is to break that contract, disappoint or even enrage your reader, and put your writing career on the fast track to the “$1 Each” cardboard box at the front of the foodstore. To write any other way produces drivel like the lead paragraph in this post.

My thriller Sparky and the King takes place in the 1960s Deep South. The plot involves members of the Klan and organized crime figures bent on vengeance against the influence of “race music” embodied by one Elvis Presley. Honest writing demanded that I used the language of those people when I wrote sections of the book in which they appeared. Some of that writing was uncomfortable, but necessary.

Honest dialog can challenge a writer not only in the writing of it, but also in the selling. I tried to explain to an agent who objected to the racial hatred in the terms used by my characters. I said, “Three hundred pound murdering racists in the Deep South don’t say ‘people of color.’”

Honesty isn’t always easy to write. I’ve heard “How can you write such filth?” more than once. Honest writing invites criticism, much of it off course and unfair. My mother was a devout Christian lady and every time I gave her one of my novels I always warned, “Now Mom, remember it’s not me saying and doing all those bad things; it’s the characters.” She understood. I gave a copy of Sparky to my doctor and she understood – I think. However, every time I’ve been in for an exam since, she’s had an armed guard in the room, so….

The bottom line for a writer is basic: If you want to write about certain people and aspects of our culture, you have to use the language appropriate to that time and place and those people. You’ll have to use foul language, unpleasant scenes, and despicable characters doing despicable things. If you can’t do that honestly, choose another subject so you can honor your contract with your reader.
#
Dan’s Quote of the Week: “If the Creator had a purpose in equipping us with a neck, he surely meant for us to stick it out.” Arthur Koestler

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.

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

Restarting After a Layoff

Hi Folks,

Sometimes we begin a new project with the best of intentions and then we set it aside for one reason or another. Maybe a life event rears its ugly head (death in the family or some other unforeseen event). Or maybe, in the case of my own recent restart, another story intervenes.

As I noted below, I started The Marshal of Agua Perlado (the sequel to the Wes Crowley trilogy I originally wrote) back on March 9 (2015).

I wrote steadily for a blazing two days before something interrupted me. That something was the writing of the first prequel, The Rise of a Warrior. Frankly, because they were separated chronologically by about twenty-five years, I thought I could write both novels at the same time.

Some writers can do that, maybe. I found out I couldn’t.

Long story short, the prequel won out.

I wrote on the sequel for four more days in a row, then skipped a week (while writing the prequel) and wrote two days in a row before the sequel drifted off to Back Burner Land.

There it remained until yesterday.

A few days ago I finished the prequel. There is at least one more prequel I want to write for this story, but the sequel, this time, took precedence. I have a feeling this thing is gonna blaze right along to the end. I’m having a ton of fun writing it, and that’s what it’s all about.

So how do you jump back in and restart after a layoff?

I suggest you follow these three steps, which I first learned from Dean Smith. But they are more common sense than some deep wisdom:

  • Read back over what you’ve already written. Remember, your skills might have improved since you last worked on the project. You might read from the beginning (I did with The Marshal of Agua Perlado) or you might read only the last full scene you wrote.
  • As you read back over it, allow yourself to touch it, adding and deleting here and there. You can call this a rewrite or whatever, though it really isn’t since it’s done in the subconscious, creative mind. You shouldn’t be counting the number of times you use “that,” for example, or how many times you use a particular sentence structure. This is only to get you back into the flow of the story.
  • When you get back to the present in the novel, write the next sentence.

I know, that sounds simple, and it is, but it works. Write the next sentence, then write the next sentence, then write the next sentence.

You’ll be amazed how fast you will finish writing the story.

Happy writing,

Harvey

Safeguard Your Credibility, Part 2

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.

For anyone who’s interested, The Professional Fiction Writer: A Year in the Life is available for preorder in all electronic venues. It will ship on January 15.

Hi Folks,

Well, let’s get right to it. 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. It costs less than you think.

Many writers today use “if” and “whether” as if those words are interchangeable, but they aren’t.

Countless times I’ve seen, in both newspapers and novels, sentences like “I don’t know if I should go.” Can you hear the implied “or not?” If so, you know it should be “I don’t know whether I should go.”

Another example appeared in a local newspaper awhile back: “The company has yet to determine if more meetings will be necessary.”  Nope. The company has yet to determine whether (or not) more meetings will be necessary.

And there’s more— much more. I’m not sure when it happened, but the word “till” is now acceptable as synonymous with “until.” Those allegedly in the know say the truncation of “until” (’til), which sounds EXACTLY the same, is archaic. But isn’t a “till” either a cash drawer or what a farmer does to the field in preparation of planting? Why yes, yes it is.

And more and more often, I’m seeing so-called professional writers actually use “are” for “our” when they mean “belonging to us,” and “then” for “than” when making a comparison (this is better then that).

I constantly explain to writers that “all right” always is spelled as two words, not as “alright.”

Many MANY writers use “may” when what they want to say is either “is” or “might.”

And in every single case, the writer NEVER means to write “try and.” The protagonist was going to try and win the war? Nope. The protagonist was going to try to win the war. To win is an infinitive; and win is— well, proof that the protagonist did considerably more than try.

Besides, try is weak anyway. As ol’ Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

When I was still in the Marine Corps and one of my young Marines said “I’ll try” or “I’m trying” or “I tried,” I’d conduct him to the nearest chair and ask him to please be seated. Then I’d say, “Now, I’m not sure I know what you mean by try. Perhaps you can show me. Try to get up.”

One multi-published, highly successful author with a mid-range publishing company wrote that her protagonist had to “run the gambit of insults.” It took me three hours and a dictionary (finally) to convince her the word she wanted was “gamut,” not “gambit.” And get this: even then she wouldn’t change it because “if it were wrong, the publisher would have changed it.”

Sadly, no, the publisher wouldn’t. Chances are, neither would the acquisitions editor or the development editor.

Many publishers and the editors who work for them either are ignorant of these things or simply don’t care.

Then you have someone like e.e.cummings, who wrote poetry with no capitalization, or Cormac McCarthy, who wrote dialogue IN ONLY ONE NOVEL with no quotation marks.

The problem with that is compound:

  • one, their work actually somehow managed to get published anyway, causing readers to believe it must be all right; and
  • two, unpublished writers come to me for editing and say things like, “But e.e.cummings wrote without capitalization, so why can’t I? Cormac McCarthy wrote dialogue without quotation marks, so why can’t I?”

Yes, and Michael Crichton writes “would of” instead of “would’ve” and James Michener’s works are replete with misplaced modifiers.

But the fact that a few “name” authors got away with something doesn’t make it right, and if you do the same thing, it will make you, the writer, look like you don’t know the tools of your trade.

Besides, I want readers to remember my stories, not the flaws in them.

We writers have to hold ourselves to a standard. It’s up to you, of course. After all, it’s your novel or short story or essay or memoir.

If you happen to be a news anchor, it’s your reputation that’s on the line when intelligent people hear you say “It likely will rain” or “This afternoon American troops discovered a weapons cachet” or “I just can’t quite figure out if I’m stupid or merely ignorant.”

That clicking you hear in the background is the sound of changing channels.

If you take pride in yourself as a writer, “good enough” isn’t good enough, not by half—not if you want good reviews and recommendations and a steadily increasing readership.

Don’t just be a writer for whom “acceptable” is all right. Be a guardian of the language. More importantly, be a guardian of your own credibility.

‘Til next time, happy 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.

Safeguard Your Credibility

Note: This post was originally scheduled for sometime in 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.

For anyone who’s interested, The Professional Fiction Writer: A Year in the Life is available for preorder in all electronic venues. It will ship on January 15.

Also, while I’m pushing help for writers here, I can’t do better than recommend you read Dean Wesley Smith’s recent post titled “Once More… For the New Year… Pulp Speed.” This one is massively important for anyone who wants to be a professional fiction writer. To see it, click this link: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/once-more-for-the-new-year-pulp-speed/.

Hi Folks,

A long time ago, those who made their living with the written or spoken word obeyed two self-imposed rules:

  1. they knew the language intimately, and
  2. they applied that knowledge skillfully.

It seems that level of commitment has become the exception rather than the rule.

Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Edwin Newman, Mark Twain, Papa Hemingway, Dorothy Parker and countless other professional writers studied the language and knew the meanings (both denotation and connotation in all its delightful intimacies) and spellings of the words they used.

They also knew and applied the rules of grammar and syntax, not because they had to, but because they knew it would enhance reader understanding. And they themselves wouldn’t look like blithering morons.

Those news professionals and writers took no chances that their readers might misunderstand, and they took no chances that their readers or listeners might think them ignorant. And yet the battlecry of contemporary so-called professionals seems to be “Well, it’s close enough. The readers will know what I was trying to say.”

I mention Murrow, Cronkite and Newman because they were news professionals who wrote and read the news on radio and television. I mention them because today’s news professionals apparently don’t know that “likely” is an adjective that is synonymous with “probable,” not “probably.”

They don’t understand that a “weapons cache” (pronounced “cash”) is a store of weapons and that “weapons cachet” makes no sense at all to a thinking person. Why? Because a “cachet” (pronounced “cashay”) is an aroma, not a stored collection of weapons or anything else.

And worst of all, at least to me, they don’t understand that such errors DO matter. In fact, they are grievous affronts to our language and to the writing profession as a whole.

A recent correspondent mentioned that in a Michael Crichton novel she repeatedly saw statements like “I better be going” instead of “I’d better be going”  (this would be okay in dialogue, but not in narrative) or  “would of” and “could of” in place of “would’ve” and “could’ve” (this would not be all right in dialogue or narrative). And this is an author whose works regularly populate the bestseller lists.

So what’s going on? Are these usages simply considered acceptable now?

Sadly, the answer is yes.

They are considered acceptable because it’s much easier to simply accept something as “good enough” than to expend the effort to teach students the correct way to spell and the rules of grammar and syntax.

Consider, the word “acceptable” doesn’t even mean “adequate.” It simply means “good enough.” If it were a letter grade, “acceptable” would be a D, and “adequate” would be a C.

In other words, it’s a soup sandwich, sloppy at best.

“The Reader Will Know What I Mean”

Umm, no, Sparky. Bad writer. It isn’t the reader’s responsibility to figure out what you mean.

That responsibility belongs to the person who puts the words on the page, and um, that would be You.

Unfortunately, it’s too late to simply ask the teachers in public schools to begin (please) teaching their students proper grammar and syntax. Many of today’s teachers can’t do so because they don’t know it themselves.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen in written works that a room was “void” of furniture. Of course, the writer meant “devoid.”

In the manuscript I’m currently working on (back when I wrote this) a character “embarked from” a train. Yes, I changed it to “disembarked.”

The writer or speaker can “imply” something; only the reader or listener can “infer,” yet increasing numbers of writers treat those terms as if they’re interchangeable.

  • Would you want your next surgery to be conducted by a guy who barely made it through med school?
  • Would you want the guy who’s adjusting your heater to get it ready for the winter to do a job that’s just passable?
  • Would you want a contractor whose buildings routinely barely pass inspection?

The fact that increasing numbers of writers accept “good enough” as a standard is an abomination that contributes more every day to the dumbing down of America.

And to any writer who’s worth his or her salt, “good enough” is never good enough. You’re an artisan, one who strives constantly to perfect your craft. And that, my friends, is “good enough.”

Next up, more on safeguarding your credibility as a writer.

‘Til next time, happy writing.

Harvey

THIS JUST IN FROM KRISTINE KATHRYN RUSCH: If you have ANY books with All Romance Ebooks/OmniLit, read Kris’ post here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/business-musings-7624150. This is an advance look at her post from later this week.

Two other links that might help are these:

All Romance Ebooks Closing

All Romance Ebooks Suddenly Closing

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.

Huge Christmas Sale

Hi Folks,

Usually, attempting to sell fiction to other fiction writers is not a good idea. Even folks like Stephen King have a hard time selling fiction to fiction writers. The fact is, other fiction writers don’t want to buy your books. They want You to buy Their books. (grin)

BUT I DO buy novels and stories written by Stephen King. I also buy (some) novels and stories from Dean Wesley Smith, Isabel Allende, Lawrence Block and many others who meet three requirements:

they are farther along the road than I as writers;
something about their work blows me out of my socks; and
I aspire to learn from them.

When I see myself as a student of another writer, what better way to learn from them than to read their work for pleasure, and then go back and study the passages that blew me away?

So since you’re signed up to learn from me, in the shameless promotion below I’m offering you an opportunity to see first-hand whether I know what I’m doing. (grin) Naturally, I hope you will take advantage of it.

If you’re interested in reading some of my novels or short story collections, here’s your chance, with deep discounts. Consider it an early Christmas gift from me to you.

All our ebooks and print books are on sale. To download a list of titles and prices, Click Here.

ALL  EBOOKS  ON  SALE now through midnight on Christmas Eve. (For print books, scroll down.)

Novels, 10-story collections, 5-story collections, poetry collections, all for $3 each. The complete Wes Crowley Saga (10 novels) is only $15.

All ebooks are DRM-free. Share with your whole family! And No Shipping! 🙂

NOTE: Prices valid ONLY through StoneThread Publishing. Email Orders@StoneThreadPublishing.com.

* * *

ALL  PRINT  BOOKS  ON  SALE now through December 21.

Novels, Short Story Collections, and Poetry Collections are on sale for $9 each. FREE STANDARD SHIPPING! These are not stocking stuffers. These are quality trade paperbacks.

Many print titles are available signed by the author(s). Again, for a complete list Click Here.

NOTE: Again, these prices are valid ONLY through StoneThread Publishing. Email orders@stonethreadpublishing.com.

Thanks, and happy writing!

Harvey

The Journal, Friday, 12/2

Hey Folks,

Well, the morning started off weird. I was up at 2:30. Then the coffeemaker didn’t work. Then my small heater in my office didn’t work. One of those days when everything’s a little off.

In case I didn’t mention it the other day, and in case you’re interested, I now have a list of all the books (novels, collections and nonfiction) available in the Christmas sale. To download it, Click Here(http://stonethreadpublishing.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/StoneThread-Publishing-Available-Titles.pdf).

By the way, if you want any of the print books signed, be sure to order them sooner rather than later. I have only one or two copies of some of them.

Got a bunch of little necessary chores done by 9:40. Among the little chores, I downloaded 10 new cover images from CanStock Photo. My subscription resets around 11 a.m., so I’ll have to take a break for that (so I don’t forget). But otherwise it should be a day of Just Writing.

10 a.m., I need to see what I can get done today on the novel. I think this is the first time I’ve called a one-off a “novel” when it wasn’t even to 10,000 words yet. As of yesterday, this one’s just barely out of the short story range.

* * *

Well, a bit of a slow start. I sat down at my outside desk, keyed in about ten words and realized I hadn’t seen my kitten for awhile. She has a penchant for escaping over the fence. It’s a game we play. Unfortunately the coyotes like to play too.

So up I went, cigar in hand, to find her. First I checked the house. That took only about five minutes. Then I checked the neighbor’s chicken coop area. About four months ago, I found her there looking longingly at the laying hens. But she wasn’t there today.

Then I circled the perimeter of my vast holdings (all told, maybe an acre) and ended up bush-whacking about thirty feet outside the back (south) fence and around the perimeter again. No cat.

Finally I came back through the barbed wire (for ya’ll in Texas, that’s “bob war”) outer fence and circled out behind the Adobe Hovel (my other outer office) and the corral. But the horses (they’re the neighbors’) weren’t spooked so I didn’t think she was out there.

Then I checked the room where they keep hay. The door’s always swinging open with the wind. No cat. Then I headed back for my fenced-in yard.

Where of course, she was sitting patiently just inside the gate waiting for me. The look on her face said, “Dad, why you wanderin’ around out there?”

She patiently led me into the house and my office, arching her back about every third step, and I gave her a treat for being such a good girl and putting up with me. Then I went back to my writing. Almost an hour later. Sigh.

I said earlier it was that kind of day, didn’t I?

* * *

I’m supposed to be camping with my buddy this weekend, but the fact is, I’m a weenie. Despite (or maybe because of) enduring Cold Weather Training in a haven called Pickle Meadows in the High Sierras above Reno several years ago (57° below Zero in a snow cave) I don’t do cold weather well.

It isn’t bad, but when my cigar’s finished I prefer to get in out of the icicle-strewn wind. So there. And yes, if you didn’t know, it gets extremely cold in the desert in the winter. No moisture to hold in the heat of the day. It all heads out for Jupiter or somewhere and we desert rats hybernate.

Of Interest

A new resource for you at English Language & Stack Exchange (http://english.stackexchange.com/). I found it this morning while researching what they call that sheet-thing the barber drapes over you while you’re in his chair. (It’s called a barber’s cape.) Very useful.

Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (http://vlaa.org/get-help/other-vlas/) has a comprehensive listing of state VLA organizations.

There are some good comments on Dean’s “An Interesting Assumption” (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/an-interesting-assumption/#comments)

Finally, you’ll find an extremely worthwhile effort to save Red Wolves at http://bit.ly/2eY2r74. I hope you’ll visit and sign the letter. That’s all they ask.

And in case you’re interested, here’s an excellent article on General James “Mad Dog” Mattis. He probably will become the new SecDef: http://thefederalist.com/2016/12/02/served-james-mattis-heres-learned/.

Today’s Writing

A rocky start at about 400 words, but a good start on a new chapter that’ll probably end up earlier in the book than where I’m writing it.

Well, I didn’t get nearly as many words done today as I wanted to, but the story is moving along fine. No excuses. I just didn’t spend the time in the chair.

Back tomorrow.

Fiction Words: 1587
Nonfiction Words: 690 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 2277

Writing of Ray Acuna (tentative title)

Day 1…… 2058 words. Total words to date…… 2058
Day 2…… 3752 words. Total words to date…… 5810
Day 3…… 1934 words. Total words to date…… 7744
Day 4…… 1587 words. Total words to date…… 9331

Total fiction words for the month……… 3521
Total fiction words for the year………… 683215
Total nonfiction words for the month… 1660 (wrong number yesterday)
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 259560

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 942275

The Journal, Thursday, 12/1

Hey Folks,

A brand new month! Yay!

I received an exciting email yesterday from Claudia Benitez Garcia. Claudia is the editor of the Cultural section of a beautiful Mexican magazine called Este País (http://www.estepais.com/).

Two or three years ago, I received another email from a gentleman named Pedro Poitevin. He asked my permission to translate my triolet (poem) “God?”. Permission? Are you kidding? Of course, I was honored and told him so.

Then in yesterday’s email, Claudia wrote, “[W]e are going to publish a Spanish translation of your poem “God?”, done by Pedro Poitevin. By the way, we really like your work and for us it is an honor to publish it.” She added that they would send me a few copies of the magazine.

Well, I was thrilled. I’ve always loved the Spanish language (especially Latino Spanish) and welcome the opportunity to immerse myself in the magazine.

She also asked whether I would be willing to submit any new, unpublished short stories to the magazine. Yes, yes I would. Although right now I have no unpublished stories. Of course, I can remedy that in a few hours.

This is better than money, folks (not that there won’t be money involved). As I’ve written here before and as I preach constantly, if you write what you are passionate about, readers will come.

To satisfy any curiosity that might be out there, here’s the poem:

God?

If you are there, bequeath a gentle snow
to blanket grass and hills and trees and us,
the weary ones who really need to know
if you are there. Bequeath a gentle snow,
and let it drift to comfort us below
these endless marble rows, victorious.
If you are there, bequeath a gentle snow
to blanket grass and hills and trees and us.

* * *

A Brief Topic: And / Then

A while back I read an article or note somewhere in which the author advised writers to never use “then” as a conjunction. To always use “and” instead.

Of course, as I do with most blanket policies, I disagree.

Yesterday in the topic I wrote that all words in the language serve a purpose. That’s especially true when writing in English, in which the entire meaning of a sentence can hinge on a nuance.

In my WIP, I just wrote a sentence that provides a very good example of this concept:

She nodded and shivered as if cold.

This sentence means nodding is a sign of being cold. It isn’t at all what I wanted to convey.

Now it reads

She nodded, then shivered as if cold.

Using “then” in this way establishes a sequence: first this, then that. It also identifies only “shivered” as a function of being cold.

Purists (especially those who adhere to the notion of keeping “then” out of their writing) might point out that the addition of a comma before “and” would have created the same effect.

Almost, but not quite.

The coordinating conjunction “and” still connects (coordinates) the two verbs. So using “and” and a comma would necessitate the insertion of the same subject again (she).

Note again, this is a nuance. The connotation is only slightly different, but it is different.

Is this something you should consciously look for in your writing?

No. Absolutely not.

Do you have to “decide” on a case-by-case basis whether to put a period at the end of a declarative sentence or a question mark after an interrogative?

Of course not. But you learned those things long ago and they seeped into your subconscious. So now they come out automatically when you write.

So it is with this “and / then” conundrum, and so it is with all other words that one person or another advises you to omit from your writing.

Trust your subconscious as you write. Let your characters tell the story they want to tell.

When you aren’t actively writing and you’re in the mood to be a student, consider (or reconsider) and learn new things.

Those that are useful to you will seep into your subconscious and come out “automatically” as necessary when you write. And those that don’t, won’t.

* * *

Today in addition to my usual email, Facebook etc. I did a couple loads of laundry, etc.

Laundry creates custom-made breaks in writing to fold stuff, put it away, etc. But mostly today I’m dedicating to writing. I want and need a good start for the month.

I’ll try not to get too sidetracked with Other Things today. We’ll see how that goes.

Later today during a break I’ll also endeavor to find and break out my Pimsleur System Spanish language lessons. Mona and I are really looking forward to beginning our study of that beautiful language again, though I can’t be sure her Hoosier tongue will ever get the pronunciations quite right. (grin)

Of Interest

If you wanna see something really cool from a NaNo participant (who’s also a professional fiction writer), check out Dawn’s Final NaNo Report (http://hstanbrough.org/final-nano-report/).

Dean’s post Fiction River Volume #20 Now Out (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/fiction-river-volume-20-now-out/) is interesting. Plus kind of a neat short video in Dean’s 11/30/16 Daily. To find that, just scroll down on the Home page.

Today’s Writing

After messing around the first few hours of the morning, I started writing again on my WIP at around 9. Took a brief break around 9:45 to fold and put away a load of laundry.

Not as good a day as I’d liked, but I’ll take it. The story is coming along well, but I cycled back a few times to add some things when what I thought was going to be secondary characters took center stage.

Back tomorrow.

Fiction Words: 1934
Nonfiction Words: 970 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 2904

Writing of Ray Acuna (tentative title)

Day 1…… 2058 words. Total words to date…… 2058
Day 2…… 3752 words. Total words to date…… 5810
Day 3…… 1934 words. Total words to date…… 7744

Total fiction words for the month……… 1934
Total fiction words for the year………… 681628
Total nonfiction words for the month… 1934
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 258870

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 940498