A Public Service Announcement… sort of

Yeah, sort of. If you’re a writer, you need resources, and the fact is, I’m a good one. I’ve recently revamped the Writers’ Resources listing in the right sidebar of my page.

That sidebar contains a list of copyeditors as well as various useful tools: several dictionaries for everything from slang to sex; language translators and conversion resources for measurements, mileage, money and more; invaluable information for would-be independent publishers; character naming conventions; free apps; free or inexpensive alternatives to Microsoft Word; and a great deal more.

Among the great deal more there are also miscellaneous resources, such as the newly added Historical Maps site where you can get free digital maps, two resources concerning gardening, two or three quotation sites, notes on police procedures, and links to various writers’ groups. Seriously, take a look.

I also point directly to the websites of Dean Wesley Smith and Steven Pressfield. If you haven’t visited Dean’s website, you are missing out on a TON of great information for writers and indie publishers (and you are an indie publisher if you’re a writer and you’re smart). If you haven’t yet read Pressfield’s Do the Work and The War of Art, well, just stop complaining about not finding time to write ’cause really, seriously, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

Of course, there are also my very own instructional blog posts, which come out every ten days and which of course I hope you find useful. I don’t care for false modesty, so I’ll just say, without bragging, if you read my regular posts, you will learn a great deal about writing, and it will be good information, not the inane bullcookies you hear from people who hold themselves up as experts although they’ve never published anything. I mean, puh-lease.

One thing… Beginning with my next post, you’ll receive those on the 1st, 11th and 21st day of the month. Up until now they were going out on the 10th, 20th and 30th, but despite protracted, endlessly frustrating negotiations, my team thus far has been unable to get February to go along with the program re the posting on the 30th. So I’m making the switch.

Just in case you’re scratching your head and saying something like “Huh?” the problem is that February has only 28 days, except every four years when it begrudgingly adds a 29th day, apparently to tease us and show us it could get to 30 if only it wanted to, which of course it does not because, frankly, that’s just the way February is.

Okay, finally, I’ve also decided to take the plunge into donation land. I mean, I’m a professional writer. I make my living with my words, except the words in my instructional blog posts, which I give you because it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Okay, but warm, fuzzy feelings don’t put bacon on the table, and the fact is, I like bacon, despite the fact that (or maybe because) liking bacon isn’t politically correct because it isn’t made from soy.

So if you’re one of those folks who tells me now and then how much you learn from these posts or how valuable they are or how reading them doesn’t actually give you a migraine, hey, I hope you’ll consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar. You can click the preceding link or you’ll find a button in the upper right corner. And if you’re one of those folks who like to remain silent because, after all, that’s your right, but you also enjoy the posts, learn from them and so on, I hope you’ll consider tossing a tip my way as well.

I’m a full-time fiction writer now, which means I’m making my living with my words. In the past 9 months, since April 15, 2014, I’ve written over a quarter-million words of fiction (263,441 to be exact). That doesn’t include blog posts and other nonfiction. In those 263,441 words are 46 short stories and 3 novels. During that time also, I collected the stories in 12 short fiction collections and the novels into a trilogy. Finally, during that time I created 62 book covers and published those 62 works to over 100 nations around the world through various ebook and print venues. Not bad for an old man, eh? (grin)

I’m just sayin’, writing blogs posts and seminars and other nonfiction is no longer my main focus. When I write a blog post to help you out, it costs me time that I could otherwise use to tell a story. And frankly, telling stories—sitting at my keyboard making stuff up—is a great deal more fun. (grin)

Oh speaking of which, I also added a tip jar to my fiction showcase website over at HEStanbrough.com. If you sign up over there, you get a free, brand new, freshly minted short story every week. Anyway, that’s the same tip jar so don’t feel like you have to hit both of them, okay? But yeah, one would be nice. (grin) You know, if you can see your way clear.

Those tips will help me keep these blog posts going. Oh, and if you do decide to toss something into the kitty, as they say down in Texas, Bless yer hort.

Coming up, in addition to new blog posts, I’ll also be reposting a series on Microsoft Word for Writers and a revised series on Being a Professional Writer as well as a lot of other good stuff.

Until then, happy writing!

Harvey

 

Let’s Go Streaking

Hi Folks,

First, Happy New Year! I hope it’s perfect for you. If you’re a writer, there’s no better time than right now to go streaking. (grin)

No wait… I mean, you know, there’s no better time to begin a new streak.

Nah, I’m not talking about taking off all your clothes and racing around in public. Seriously, nobody wants to see that. I’m talking about eating an elephant.

Remember the old (very wise) joke? Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time.

When you set a goal and that goal is huge (say you want to write a novel in the next six months), it can seem overwhelming, like eating an elephant. So you have to break it down into manageable bites. That would be smaller goals.

First, I recommend figuring out how many publishable words of fiction you write per hour. (Most pro writers seem to write around 700 to 1000 words per hours.)

Now, how many words do you think your novel will be? Let’s say 60,000.

How many weekdays are there in six months? (To make it easy, let’s give each month 4 weeks. So that would be 24 weeks in six months, and 120 weekdays. Okay, now divide your elephant into bite-size pieces. If your novel will be 60,000 words, you’ll want to write at least 500 words per day. That’s it. Weekends off, and you’re working at your “job” (can you really call sitting at a computer making stuff up work?) only about a half-hour per day. Hmmm…. okay, so maybe you could write TWO novels in that six months. 🙂 But I digress. This is supposed to be about streaks.

Okay, you know now what you have to do if you want to write that 60,000 word novel in six months. So now you make those bites a goal. And it’s not only a goal, but a goal that re-sets itself:

Goal: I will write at least 2500 words of fiction per week. There you go. Now you have a goal that resets every week. See how many weeks you an go without breaking your streak, writing 2500 words per day of new, publisable fiction. Want to break it down further?

Goal: I will write at least 500 words of fiction per day, five days per week. Bam! Just like that, you have a goal that resets every time you get out of bed. In other words, you have the potential for a streak! See how many weekdays you can go without breaking your streak.

I’m telling you, Streaks Have Power. Once you start a streak, the longer it lasts, the harder it is to break.

But if you do miss a day, then what? Do you have to make it up by writing an extra 500 words the next day? No. I mean, that would keep you on track for the larger weekly goal, but no, you don’t have to. Because the goal re-sets every day. If you miss a day, you can just skip it and start over on the next day.

Likewise for the next level up: If one week you write only 2350 words instead of 2500, do you have to make up the missing words the following week? Well, I’m anal, so I would, but no, you don’t have to. You gave it your best shot, so forget it. This goal, too, resets at the beginning of each week.

The point is, follow Heinlein’s Rules and Just Write. Keep moving your fiction forward. Write the scene, write the next sentence and keep moving your fiction forward.

It’s all up to you. If you’re a writer, you have to write.

‘Til next time, happy writing.

Harvey

An Essential Tip: Just Write the Scene

A long while back, I posted that if you’re writing and you get bogged down, you should just write the next sentence, then write the next sentence, and so on. Soon you’ll be back in the flow of your story and you can forge ahead. There’s one proviso—that “next sentence” should come directly from your subconscious (creative) mind. In other words, you shouldn’t force it and think about it and make it read just so. You should literally JUST write the next logical sentence.

Well, sometimes when I get stuck, my fingers are poised on the keyboard, all ready to write the next sentence and— the next sentence doesn’t come. Oh crap! What now?

Sometimes you aren’t stuck. Sometimes you’re in the wrong place. Sometimes you’re trying to make something happen (conscious, critical mind) that isn’t part of the story. Remember, the real story is coming out of your subconscious mind, your creative mind.

A few days ago I found myself in exactly that situation. I had written a long (over 1800 words) but very terse opening scene. At the end of that scene, I tried to write a transition and then another scene. (“Tried” is the operative word here. When you “try,” that’s your critical mind. Ugh.) Nothing doing. There was no next sentence.

So I sat back for a moment, released all the conscious, critical mind “try” stuff that I was trying to force on the story. Then I leaned forward, put my fingers on the keyboard, and wrote the first thing that came to mind. A new scene sprang onto the page. When I felt I might bog down again, I just wrote the next sentence, wrote the next sentence. This time it worked fine. I was back in sync, allowing my subconscious creative mind to tell the story it wanted to tell. My fingers barely stopped moving for another 1892 words. Then they slammed to a stop.

Can’t fool me twice, at least not in the same story. I got up, moved around, got a glass of water and came back to the story. I put my fingers on the keyboard, wrote the first thing that came to mind, and again a new scene flew across the page. Yep, just like that. This scene was only 581 words. This time I already knew what the next scene would be, so I added a section divider (for me that’s a series of three centered, spaced asterisks) and started the next scene: that one isn’t finished yet, and it’s just under 1,000 words.

I probably will finish this story a little later today (as I write this post, October 23, 2014). First historical western I’ve written since I was a kid. These days my primary interest is in writing psychological suspense (like horror, but no slash and gash). My secondary is science fiction. My third is magic realism. Historical westerns aren’t anywhere on my list of priorities, but this is the story that wanted to be written, so this is the story I’m writing. Cool, eh?

UPDATE: If you’re signed up for my story-a-week blog over on Harvey Stanbrough & Friends you probably read it back on October 23. It was titled Adobe Walls. If you enjoy westerns, I’ve since written a second western short story based on my novels: Last Raid on Amarillo. For a few more days you can read it free at the blog.

When you get stuck in your writing, Let Go and just write the next sentence. If it won’t come, write the next scene:

  1. To begin a scene, 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, etc.
  5. Your character(s) will lead you to where you need to be.

‘Til next time, happy writing.

Harvey

A Few Resources and Goal Setting

Hey Folks,

A few strong resources—

If you’re serious about your work as a writer, check these out:

http://deanwesleysmith.com—The resource-rich website of Dean Wesley Smith, my own unintentional mentor and one of the most prolific writers in America. While you’re there, check out the Think Like a Publisher and Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing tabs. I also recommend checking out his Online Workshops tab and his Lecture Series tab. Also while you’re there, remember that this guy has published hundreds of novels and several hundred short stories. His wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, has done likewise. Seriously, would you rather “learn” from the peers in your critique group, or would you rather learn from someone who’s highly successful. (Hands raised, palms out: I don’t mean me. I’m not teaching anymore.)

Chuck Wendig’s blogAnother resource-rich website. Chuck regularly offers his books in bundles. I recently bought a bundle of seven for only $20, and they’re full of actual TRUE information about writing. Not the lying, worthless, even harmful stuff that’s in most how-to books for writers. I could name names but, you know, I’m a good guy. Besides, frankly, if you believe that stuff, you deserve the ensuing wasted years. WARNING: Chuck Wendig uses strong language with remarkable regularity. If you’re offended by such language, you might want to avoid this website.

Harvey Stanbrough’s Audio Lecture SeriesThis is for those of you who always meant to get to my seminars when I was teaching them live but didn’t for whatever reason. Well, that extended period of insanity is over, and I’m getting better, thanks. Now I offer the same excellent instruction online so “them as want it can take it and them as don’t can leave ‘er be.” No more need for excuses. 🙂 If you want honest, nuts-and-bolts instruction that you can apply to your writing immediately, you want these lectures. (I recommend starting with Narrative. It’s chock full of good stuff.) There’s no fluff in these lectures. It’s all meat. Or if you’re a vegetarian, it’s all peas and carrots. Okay, unprocessed peas and carrots. Sheesh. Whatever. Even if you been to my seminars, I strongly recommend my Writing Into the Dark lecture. Same link, scroll down to Lecture 12. More coming soon on Employing the Persona, Smart Self-Publishing, and maybe even Writing the Character-Driven Short Story. Maybe. I’m REALLY enjoying writing fiction. 🙂

Finally, on My Main Website, browse the right sidebar under Writers’ Resources. Seriously, there’s a lot of great stuff there. Go. Browse.

Goal Setting

Last time I defined the different types of writers. Only you know where you fit among those definitions. If you’re actually a writer (a person who writes, who regularly puts new words on the page) or a serious aspirant (that’s almost an oxymoron), set a goal for yourself. Then announce it to your friends and family.

If you do this, it will drive you to your writing computer and you’ll actually put new words on the page. In other words, you will actually BE a writer.

Can you revise or adjust goals once they’re set? Of course. Remember, they’re only artificial boundaries. We set goals to help ourselves achieve what we want to achieve. When setting your goals, bear in mind the term “realistic.” Make your goals realistic.

For example, I want to write a novel. Is a novel just a story that doesn’t end really soon? I don’t know. I haven’t written one yet and I haven’t studied enough yet to know that. But I’m taking a six-week online workshop beginning November 5 that will help me know that, so I will set a novel-per goal soon. UPDATE: By the time I got around to publishing this blog, I’d finished my first novel. It’s the one I talked about in the previous post. So woohoo! 🙂

In the meantime, I still also have the recurring goal I set back on April 16: to write and publish at least one new short story per week for a year. So this is both a recurring goal (the goal re-sets every week) and a long-term goal (one story per week for a year). I haven’t missed yet.

But what happens if I do miss one week? Nothing.

The world won’t end. My friends won’t all send me Dear John letters. Deming NM won’t dry up and blow into Texas. Well, maybe, but that’ll be because of its position alongside the journada del muerte, not because I missed writing one stupid short story. And for the overall year, I still will have written FIFTY-ONE short stories. Not too shabby for an old guy learning new tricks. In fact, that’s a pretty good year, don’t you think?

Okay, so what’s stopping you? If you’re a writer, Get On With It.

Harvey

My First Novel and Killing Writing Myths

Hi Folks,

First, a salute to my brothers and sisters in the United States Marine Corps—Happy 239th birthday—and a respectful toast to our brothers and sisters in the other US armed forces as well as friends in the ROK Marines and the Corps of Royal Marines.

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

Okay, on to business.

As I write this, I just finished my first novel. It’s a short novel of just over 40,000 words. I won’t talk about how long it took but those who took my Writing Into the Dark intensive or online Audio Lecture already know.

Most notably, with the accomplishment of this personal goal, a few more writing myths died quick, painless deaths. That will be the main focus of this post so it’s all about You, the writers out there.

But first, if you’ll allow me, did I celebrate? Oh yes. I told the members of my writers’ group. (These are actual writers, mind you. Folks who put new words on the page pretty much every day.) Then I emailed Dean Wesley Smith, my unintentional mentor. Then I sent the manuscript to my first reader. Then I yelled Woohoo! Then I wrote this blog post to share the good news with You. 🙂 I learned SO much during this project. If it never sells a copy, it will still be more than worthwhile just as a learning experience.

So what writing myths died? Well,

  • I did NOT suffer withdrawal symptoms, which I’ve heard some writers actually call “post partum depression” (seriously?) from having finished a novel (ODG, it’s over! What now?);
  • I did NOT feel completely exhausted, arm-across-the-forehead, being-carried-from-the-stage spent (James Brown) like I need to take a day or a week or a month off now that I’ve finished (I felt only elation, actually, along with a touch of annoyance that my protagonist solved his problem without me and probably about 20,000 words before I expected him to);
  • I did NOT feel like I “owe myself” anything in particular beyond the celebratory stomps laid out above; and best (and biggest) of all,
  • I have absolutely NO desire to go back and re-read it, even for pleasure, much less for editing or rewriting or any of that. I’m following Heinlein’s Rules, baby. 🙂 If you want to learn Heinlein’s Rules, you can take my Writing Into the Dark Audio Lecture or you can even Google it. But if you Google it, chances are whoever put up the rules will add their “interpretation” (a bunch of pure crap) to them. Pare away all that and you’ll be fine. Just for grins, I’ve added them below (updated for today’s wonderful self-publishing revival). Yes, revival. You DO know that what we call “traditional publishing” has been around for only the last 70 years of human history, right? As my buddy Denise says, Truedat.

Finally, I woke up this morning thinking Yikes! What if that was just the ending of Part I? Well, it IS true that I had hoped to accompany the protagonist to Mexico, but

  1. I’ve already spouted off to everyone I know that I’m finished and
  2. I can party with him in Mexico just as easily in a second novel as I can by accompanying him across the border in the current story.
  3. Plus, if I write a sequel, I’ll have TWO novels out there instead of just one. Remember awhile back I said the best way to market your work is to write more stuff and put it out there?

So that’s what I’m doing next: writing another story, another novel, another whatever. Just Writing. After all, I’m a writer, and Writers Write. Right? Right! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) 🙂

Here are Heinlein’s Rules. If you want to know what they mean, read them again or take my Audio Lecture.

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must not rewrite.
  4. You must put it on the market so someone can buy it (or in today’s world, publish it).
  5. You must keep it on the market until someone buys it (or in today’s world, leave it up).

If you’re still chasing traditional publishers, numbers 4 and 5 above (he wrote this in 1947) mean after you’ve written something, if you want to be a professional writer you have to actually submit it to someone who can buy it (publisher). If it’s rejected, you put it in a new envelope and send it out to the next publisher on your list.

Heinlein himself wrote that these rules are deceptively simple and ridiculously difficult to follow. He wrote that’s why there are so few professional writers and so few aspirants. Which are you?

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

A very special blog post

Hi Folks,

If you live in southeast Arizona and you are an aspiring writer who

  • can’t seem to find time to write
  • has never heard of Heinlein’s Rules
  • HAS heard of Heinlein’s Rules but have amended them because you think they’re too good to be true
  • believe you have to “polish” your work before publication
  • believe you have to rewrite X number of times before publication
  • believe you have to write X number of drafts before publication

you REALLY need to take my one-day intensive on Writing Into the Dark. It covers all of that and a great deal more.

Believe me, I’m fully aware you can come up with any number of excuses why you can’t come, but if you can, this one day will probably be the best investment you’ve ever made in your writing.

Here’s what it would cost you

    • a trip to Benson next Saturday, October 25
    • a class from 9 – 4 with an hour for lunch
    • immersion in a small group of avid writers who care about the craft, and
    • eighty bucks (okay, dollars… eighty dollars… don’t be showing up with venison)

and I’m telling you, it’s worth at least three times that. Why am I selling my knowledge so cheaply? Because I want as many people to get it as possible, and frankly, after this one, I’m done.

If you live in southeast Arizona, and if you’d like to attend, email me at harveystanbrough@gmail.com and let me know. I’ll send you directions and everything else you need.

This probably is the last live seminar I will ever teach. From here on out, I’m writing at least 3 hours per day, at least 5 days per week. I can do that because I know this technique. I write about 1,000 words per hour. In a day, that’s 3000 words. In a week, it’s 15,000 words. In a year that’s 780,000 words (65,000 words per month). That’s working a “job” five days a week only three hours per day.

But calm my numbers down. Say you can write only 1000 words per day, 5 days per week. That’s still 5,000 words in a week, and in a year that’s still 260,000 words. At 60,000 words a pop, that’s four and one-third novels. Just writing 1,000 words per day, 5 days per week.

Now, do you want to be a writer or do you just want to talk about being a writer?

I still have five seats available in this intensive. Let me know.

Best,

Harvey

A New Era Begins: Writing Intensives and More

Hi Folks,

Now that I’ve retired as a copyeditor and resigned my position as General Manager of the Universe, I have more time for my own writing. Fortunately, I can also focus on teaching writing to those who are serious about becoming professional writers.

Most of my mechanics and techniques seminars (the ones I’ve taught all these years in Tucson, Bisbee, Green Valley and Willcox) are available online in my Audio Lecture Series. If you want to learn in-depth how to write dialogue or dialect or how to create characters or tame your overreaching narrator, that’s where you need to start.

But if you want to go beyond the mechanics and learn to make or augment your living as a professional writer, read on.

I’m developing a series of interactive online workshops. Each workshop will be six weeks long, each will include six “meetings” and five assignments. Each workshop will be limited to 10 participants, and I will work individually with each participant through emails and by critiquing his or her assignments. (The assignments will not be not mandatory, of course, but recommended to get the full benefit of the workshop.) At the end of some of these workshops, you will have written five more chapters in your novel (Yes, in six weeks), or you will have a five-story collection of short fiction or memoir. But much more than that, you will have gained confidence in yourself as a writer.

Initially I expect the online seminar topics will include these:

  • Writing Into the Dark (a technique used by the most prolific professional writers)
  • Employing the Persona (a technique that enables you to give power to your voices… all of them)
  • Writing the Descriptive Short Story (learn to write a story that’s difficult to stop reading)
  • Using Fiction Techniques to Bring Your Memoir to Life (dialogue, dialect, descriptive narrative)
  • Writing the Poem (this is not theory, but writing)

I’ll add other topics as time goes by. Each writing workshop will include 5 or more assignments and critiques, enabling you to learn what you’re doing right, what you could improve, and specifically how to improve it.

But it will take time to create the online workshops.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to offer a series of one-day workshop intensives on some of the same topics. By “intensive” I mean during six hours of instruction from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (an hour for lunch) you’ll receive a LOT of information, and all of it will be essential to your knowledge as a writer. This will be a day chock full of “aha moments.”

I’ll offer these one-day intesives in Benson, Arizona. Each intensive includes at least one critiqued assignment and costs 1/2 as much as the online version. Plus you get all the information in one fast-paced day.

The first intensive is scheduled for Saturday, October 18: “Writing Into the Dark.”

“Writing Into the Dark” is an invaluable, Zen-like technique and possibly the best-kept secret in writing. I am not exaggerating. This knowledge actually changed my life as a writer. If you want to dramatically increase your productivity and actually enjoy the writing process, this is the course you want. This will move you a giant leap closer to being a professional writer. If you already know the mechanics (if you’ve attended my earlier seminars), this course will get you there.
 
This day-long intensive will cover retraining yourself regarding how you think about writing and how you practice writing, learning to trust yourself and your process, setting priorities, an in-depth explanation of the technique itself (what it is and what it is not). Also includes busting some myths that actually quash the desire to write, silencing your critical mind so you can Just Write the Story, being IN the story (not ABOVE the story), increasing your productivity, and the importance of Heinlein’s Rules.
 
The workshop includes at least one critiqued assignment (short story, chapter of a novel [WIP], or memoir, depending on the your interests). The students will complete the assignment within a few days and send it to me via email. I’ll critique it and send it back. (The assignment is not mandatory, but recommended to get the full benefit of the course.)
The cost for this intensive (including the assignment and critique) is $120, payable in cash on the day of the course or in advance via PayPal.
Class size is limited to 10 participants, and I expect it to fill up quickly.
 
Reservations are first-come, first-served. To reserve your seat or for more information, email me at harveystanbrough@yahoo.com.

Those of you who are too far away to attend, hang in there. The online version is coming probably early next year. But if you live anywhere from Phoenix south to Mexico or east to Las Cruces, this trip would be well worth your time.

Perhaps best of all, I’m not teaching these workshops to make money. I’m offering them for those who want to learn. If a workshop makes (it takes only two or three participants to make a workshop, maximum 10) that’s great. I love teaching, and I love watching those little lights of understanding flick on. But if a workshop doesn’t make, that’s okay too. I’ll stay at my desk and write. 🙂

Finally, I still have a few seats available in my next Pro-Level Writing Seminar Group, which will meet in Benson beginning in January. There will be ten meetings, during which I will teach you everything I know about writing as well as a good deal about self-editing and publishing. Again, I have only a few seats left and there is an application process, so if you’re interested, please email me at harveystanbrough@yahoo.com on or before September 30.

On September 30 my regular blog posts will return with how to Safeguard Your Credibility as a writer. ‘Til then, happy writing!

Harvey

7 More Tips for Emarketing

Hey Folks,

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

A few days after I received the request I wrote about last time, I received another one. A fellow literary laborer who asked me to visit her site and subscribe to her blog posts. She explained, “The subscription form is at the bottom of the page in the center.”

Okay, one, kudos to her for telling me where I could find the subscription form. But two, if I had been a casual browser who happened across her site, there’s an excellent chance I wouldn’t have found her subscription form.

Remember that people generally won’t work in order to do you a favor. I mean, if you’re trapped under a log or other inanimate object in your front yard, the person casually strolling by probably will be willing to invest considerable time and effort in freeing you. (Inanimate objects only, though. If you’re trapped under, say, a bear or a tiger or a massive lizard in your front yard, not so much, although the truly caring individual might bother to dial 911 or Animal Control or something.) But if doing you a favor falls under the category of doing a lot of mental calisthenics, again, not so much.

To maybe help you with the marketing aspects of your website, hear are a few more tips for emarketing:

1. If you want prospective readers to sign up for your newsletter or your blog posts, make it easy for them. Put a subscription form at the top of the sidebar on your home page. (Newspaper folks call this “above the fold.” In modern computerese, anything important should appear on the screen without the reader having to scroll down.)

2. It doesn’t hurt to put a “conversion bar”(a subscription bar that converts browsers into subscribers) across the top of your site too. For an excellent example, see the gold bar across the top of HarveyStanbrough.com.

3. Provide at least one call to action (urge to subscribe) in the body of your Welcome or About page, and again, this should appear above the fold. You want the offer to be available whenever the reader is in the mood to take you up on it. (The key to all marketing is to make the product available at the moment that the buyer wants it.)

4. Put at least one call to action in the body of each blog post or immediately after each blog post you write or newsletter you send out. Again, making it easy for the reader to become a subscriber is the key.

5. Offer an incentive for subscribing. For example, if you subscribe to HarveyStanbrough.com you get a free copy of the humorous and informative ebook, The Seven Writerly Sins. I offer that particular incentive because most of my readers are writers or are interested in writing.

6. Offer another incentive for reading the posts. Perhpas offer a free short story if the reader finds the intentional error (spelling or wrong word) and are the first to comment on it. (By the way, if you find the intentional error (spelling or wrong word) in this post and are one of the first few to comment on it in a comment posted on this site you will receive a freshly minted short story from yours truly or one of my alter egos. 🙂

7. Litter your posts and pages with Share buttons. If you look at the bottom of this post or scroll to the bottom of any page on my websites, you will see one-click buttons where the reader can share my post or the information on my page via Email, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, and other venues. Go take a look; I’ll wait. I don’t have accounts with all those places, but why should I keep others from sharing where they have accounts?

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

A Bunch of New Stuff

Hi Folks,

Yeah, I know it isn’t the 10th or 20th or 30th, but then again this isn’t a normal blog post about writing. I mean, it’s about writing in a way, but first it’s about my website.

I’ve made a lot of changes to the site. The first is a general reorganization. I added a sidebar, made my new picture the subscription button, moved my Meet Harvey stuff (formerly Connect with Harvey) over under my picture, added some things I believe in and recent posts under that.

Over on the right side is an extremely important blogroll (especially the first link) if you are serious about Being A Writer. Below that are a series of links to writers’ resources. If you explore it, you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t… well, suffer. 🙂

The menu across the top of the page has changed too, with a couple of exciting additions. I changed the former Events tab to read Calendar. (By the way, my complete series of core seminars are scheduled now. Take a look so you don’t miss the ones you need.) On the far right end of the menu, you’ll see a Downloads tab. If you click that, you will find some valuable information, and it’s free. Click one or more of those links and you’ll see what I mean. I’ll be adding more information papers and documents and ebooks to the Downloads page as I think of new stuff to give away.

The next tab to the left is extremely exciting to me because it represents a new venture: if you click Lecture Series and read that page, you’ll see wheat I mean. In the coming weeks I’ll be recording video lectures on all of the topics and subtopics you see there. Once I get a few recorded and available, I’ll announce that through this blog. Then anyone who’s interested can sign up and begin viewing the ones they would like to view. If you prefer to simply revisit the page from time to time, as the lectures become available I’ll highlight the title in bold blue.

Finally, there will be other changes coming. I’ve decided to divest myself—albeit very slowly—of my publishing responsibilities at StoneThread. I won’t be entertaining any new submissions or extending any of the current contracts. If you know someone who would like to buy StoneThread, let me know. This change will enable me to return to my first love, Writing. Of course, I’ll still make my living as an editor, writing instructor, eformatter and ebook cover designer.

By the way, StoneThread is participating in Read an Ebook Week over at Smashwords. From now through March 8, all our ebooks are absolutely free. Just go to Smashwords Read an Ebook Week and enter coupon code RW100 during checkout to get your selections free of charge. Note: this is a Smashwords promotion, so it doesn’t work at Amazon or Apple or Barnes & Noble. If you poke around over there, you’ll find that a lot of my personal titles are free this week too. Same coupon code applies.

I think that’s it for this time. Oh, if you need the Microsoft Word Essentials for Writers seminar I’m teaching on March 15, you might want to check your calendar and sign up. It’s filling up fairly quickly.

‘Til next time, happy writing!
Harvey

 

Notes on Being a Professional Writer

Hi Folks,

Yeah that's me. The guy with the beard.
Yeah that’s me. The guy with the beard.

When I was first learning to play the guitar at the age of 14, I was frustrated. Even after I learned to chord cleanly, nothing ever sounded quite the way it had when I’d heard it on the radio or when my uncle or others had played it. I checked and double-checked my chording, the progressions and timing between chords, and even how I was holding the guitar. Nothing seemed to make a difference. When I played for others, if anything it actually sounded worse than when I played alone.

I finally I asked my uncle (the guy I’m looking at in the pic), “When will I be able to play like you do?”

He just grinned and pointed at my guitar. “When you stop thinking of that thing as just another toy.”

He was right. When I began to respect my guitar and the discipline, I learned quickly. Like any other craft, it took respect, diligence and practice. Talent doesn’t hurt anything either, as evidenced by the existence of folks like Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Duane Allman, Jimmy Page, Chet Atkins, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Eric Clapton and many more. But there are a lot of great guitarists who make money at their craft but have never gotten famous.

Writing is no different. Although some writers are profound enough or prolific enough to achieve fame, many make a living with their craft without ever becoming household names. But “craft” is the key word. Writing is a craft, and to master it, the writer must study and practice, always striving for perfection. The fact is, great writers never stop learning.

The others, those who will never become great writers, fall into two general categories. The first group consists of those who believe the ability to use two long lines and a short one to create a capital letter A renders them able to write. Their motto is The reader will know what I mean, which in my experience as an editor equates to I can’t be bothered to do the actual work. The second group consists of those whose work has been published (self-published or otherwise) and they’ve taken that as a signal that they can learn nothing more. Ten minutes browsing in a bookstore or reading excerpts online will tell you that simply isn’t so.

If you want to be a successful fictionist—by which I mean a writer of short stories, novellas, novels, memoir and creative nonfiction—you need a driving desire to Get It Right. That’s what separates professional writers from those who just “kind’a sort’a think it might be neat to knock out” a few short stories or a novel.

For a professional writer, the first draft is for himself; everything else is for the reader.

Believe me, I understand the frustrations of trying to get a sentence or paragraph or passage Just Right, but the difficulty inherent in creating something brand new is the joy that enables the writer to keep breathing. There’s a great deal more to it than simply putting in the time. As Hemingway wrote, “Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done.” Most days he wrote only 400 to 600 words, but those words comprised a finished, polished passage. Some writers “just write” then go back and polish later in a second or third draft. But regardless of the individual writer’s ritual or technique, I’ve never known a successful professional writer who would risk anything short of making his or her writing as perfect as possible.

But won’t a really strong story carry weak writing? Generally, no. Consider, even though your overall story might well be wonderful, if any part of it confuses a reader or makes the reader wonder about inconsistencies or stops the reader cold, that story is not ready for publication. The writer should polish endlessly to get those glitches out, not because he can actually achieve perfection but because he should be embarrassed to present such work to the public. In the publishing world more than anywhere else, you truly do get only one chance to make a first impression. “Good enough” simply isn’t.

The point is, it isn’t the reader’s job to decipher your writing. The first time or two that most readers encounter confusing passages or egregious errors, they will simply toss the work aside and vow never to buy anything else by that author. So even though the writing might well improve later, fewer readers will take a chance on it. And why would they buy that author’s work again? The fictionist’s job is to entertain the reader. The reader’s job is to be entertained.

By the way, if you’re interested in becoming a professional writer, I’m offering a free introductory seminar on February 15 entitled “Taking Your Writing to the Next Level.” I’ll conduct the seminar in south Tucson. If you want to earn a regular income from your writing, if you strive for perfection in your craft and want your work to outshine all the other submissions in the publisher’s in box, these seminars are must-have. For information, email me at h_stanbrough@yahoo.com.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

PS: If you’re reading this in an email and you’d like to comment (please do) just visit http://harveystanbrough.com/blog, scroll to the end of the current post and comment.