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

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

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,


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


Deep POV?

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 7/30/2013. 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.

There’s been a great deal of talk in the past few months (when I wrote this) about a “new” technique called “deep point of view.” The truth is, deep POV is nothing new.

Most sources define it as a way to enable the reader to experience the scene as the character experiences it. In other words, don’t allow your narrator to keep the reader at arm’s distance by telling the reader what the character experienced. Instead, the narrator should simply describe the scene (that’s the narrator’s only job anyway) and then step out of the way so the reader can see, hear, taste, smell and feel the scene for himself.

In still other words, Show, Don’t Tell.

Yep, that’s right. Deep POV is precisely the same thing as Show, Don’t Tell.

Both of them mean “don’t tell the reader what’s going on; describe the scene and then get out of the way; let the reader experience it right along with the character.”

I hear your next question: Well, Mr. Man, how might one accomplish such a thing?

As you well know, I’m up to here with writing instructors who, when asked to explain “Show, don’t tell,” say something like “Well, I can’t really explain it, but I know it when I see it.” If you ever hear that from any writing instructor in response to a question about something he’s trying to teach you, run. And for goodness’ sake, stop giving him your money!

Okay, if you really want your stories to be more interesting and more engaging for the reader (for you practical types, this translates directly to more sales), use deep point of view or show, don’t tell or whatever other label you want to slap on it.

To accomplish that, first

Don’t allow your narrator to use the sense verbs: saw, could see; smelled, could smell; tasted, could taste; heard, could hear; and felt, could feel.

Are there exceptions? Times when it would be better to allow your narrator to use a sense verb?

Probably, but most of the time, no. You should be able to recast a sentence so you get rid of the sense verb. (Again, this is only for the narrator. Characters can say and do pretty much whatever they want.)

Again, just describe the scene. Here are some examples:

  • She felt the ground tremble. (The ground trembled.)
  • She heard an explosion rock the city. (An explosion rocked the city.)
  • Second, don’t allow the narrator to tell the reader how a character feels about something or what the character “knew.” Instead, trust your reader. Let him infer from the character’s own dialogue or unspoken thought how the reader feels and what he knows:
  • John felt an uneasiness growing inside him. (An uneasy feeling grew inside John or An uneasiness grew inside John.)
  • John knew the sense of unease should be setting off alarms in his brain. (Just delete this pig of a sentence. Or get on with it: A sense of unease set off alarms in John’s brain.)

Third, when the characters are talking, don’t allow your narrator to step in and tell the reader what they’re saying:

Red walked into the room. “Hey, John. You wanna go to the movies later?”

John looked up. “Sure! What’s playing?”

Red told John Gone with the Wind was playing on the first screen and that Barbarosa was playing on the second screen. At that point, John reconsidered his options and told Red he’d rather not go because he had a lot of work to do.

Okay, this wasn’t a truly engaging conversation in the first place, but do you see how the narrator just stepped in between you and the characters and took over? That will tick off even the most loyal reader.

Using deep POV (or Show, Don’t Tell or whatever) really is just good manners. Just remember that every time your narrator speaks, he’s stepping between the reader and your story, the reader and your characters, the reader and whatever tension is going on. Therefore, when the narrator speaks it should be absolutely necessary.

For much more on this and other narrative tips, consider picking up my ebook, Narrative in Fiction: Whispers from the Background. I even more strongly recommend Notes from Writing the World. It contains the full text of the narrative book and five more writing how-tos from my writing seminars.

By the way, I’ve decided to revive my copyediting service. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting.

‘Til next time, happy writing!


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 Daily Journal tab on the main website at

Creating Characters: Resources

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 5/12/2013. 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.

Odd… I think I’ve never written a post on Creating Realistic Characters. I taught a seminar on the subject [in May 2013] in Bisbee, and I taught the same seminar in Tucson in February. Attendance was low on that one—meaning the market’s saturated—so I probably won’t teach it again for a couple years.

After the seminar in Bisbee was over, I realized it might be a good idea to bounce at least major characters—the protagonist and the antagonist—against Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Doing so will help the author not only understand the character better, but it might also help the author assign particular character traits, quirks and eccentricities.

Certainly a character who still hasn’t mastered and moved beyond the Physiological level (his needs are only air, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, and excretion) would have different personality traits than one who had achieved any of the higher levels. The former character also would express those traits through different personality quirks and eccentricities than would the latter. Not really heady stuff, but something to think about.

After I shared the above bit of information with the folks at Bisbee via email, I received a response from one of my friends there (Thanks Lucinda!) who suggested a visit to the Human Metrics website.

At Human Metrics this particular link will open on the Jung Typology Test. Lucinda mentioned that her acting and communication students use it and find it interesting. I can add that it’s also a bit eye-opening, or it was for me. I recommend it.

Of course, if you answer the questions as your protagonist or antagonist would answer them, it will help inform (and form) those characters. It will help assign or explain character traits, personality quirks and eccentricities, and even  help the author initiate or resolve character arcs.

Why do I believe it will help? Because according to the site itself, having taken the test, you will

  • Obtain your 4-letter type formula according to Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ typology, along with the strengths of preferences and the description of your personality type
  • Discover careers and occupations most suitable for your personality type along with examples of educational institutions where you can get a relevant degree or training
  • See which famous personalities share your type
  • Access free career development resources and learn about premium ones
  • Be able to use the results of this test as an input into the Jung Marriage Test™ … to assess your compatibility with your long-term romantic partner

How could that not be a good tool for creating a well-rounded protagonist or antagonist?

I don’t doubt that there are other online personality assessment tests out there. If you have discovered any that you found useful, please share those in a comment in the form below. That way anyone who chooses to check back will see the information as well.

That’s it for this time. Until later, happy writing!


Note: 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

The Journal, Monday, 9/7: Reading

As you can see from the title of this post, beginning today I’m offering a slightly different format. I’m including at least a hint at the Topic of the Post in the title. When I don’t include a topic for that day, I’ll try to slip something in there to give you an idea of what the post is about.

I’m also going to be removing older posts from the website. They take up unnecessary space, and there’s no need for that. I’ll leave some of them up in case anyone wants to scroll back. Maybe a week’s worth or something. But if you enjoy a particular topic or something like that, be sure to save it for yourself.

Rolled out around 3:30 this morning. The trip to the Lower Gila Box was very good, but more exhausting than I realized. We both (Michael = Dan, and I) got a lot of good pics. I thought a few of mine would slide up into the excellent category, but when I opened them on my computer last night, they just weren’t all that. I’ll post a few of them on Facebook later. Probably. Maybe.

Haven’t done much this morning but catch up on reading online news and newsletters, emails, etc. Later today I hope to read more in a book of Bradbury interviews. More about that in the topic below. I’m also going to mow the yard in a while, and I plan to put together a few daylong seminars. So no fiction writing today.

No walk today either. Maybe even for the next couple of days. My buddy and I walked only perhaps 3 miles per day on Friday and Saturday, and another mile or so on Sunday before we left to come home. But a great deal of that walking was on some pretty steep slopes. And it seemed we were always climbing, never descending. Weird how that works. (grin)

Okay, so rather than boring you with minute by minute details, I’ll just say generally today will be some nonfiction writing, some reading, some exploring a new sales venue I found (I’ll report on it later if it works out), some work out in the yard, and a lot of sitting under a fan trying not to move so I won’t burst into flames.

Talk with you again mañana.

Topic of the Post: Reading

Of some significance, while we were camping in New Mexico, I caught up on a bit of reading. Specifically I read parts of a book called Conversations with Ray Bradbury. Edited by Steven L. Aggelis, this is a compilation of Interviews with Bradbury, whom I consider to be the best short story writer—and maybe the best storyteller—of all time.

I strongly recommend this book.

The title is not yet available as an ebook (darn it), but I got a mint-condition paperback copy for 99 cents plus $3.99 (or thereabouts) shipping. If you’re interested, just look for the title at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, then pick which copy you want. I think you won’t be disappointed.

In many ways, the writing advice imbedded in Bradbury’s responses validates my own beliefs about good writing practices, including writing into the dark, reading your work aloud and many others.

But I have also learned a few things (in less than a few hours’ reading time) that might have taken me years to learn if I hadn’t picked up this book.

Bradbury’s process is slightly expanded over my own and over what I teach. He does write strictly from his subconscious (writing into the dark). But instead of sending his work off to a first reader, he then reads over his own work, reading aloud, looking carefully to trim anything that is unnecessary to the work.

He isn’t looking to rewrite anything. He isn’t looking at sentence structures. He’s looking only to trim the fat.
The, I believe, he submits the work or publishes it. (I say “I believe” because in one interview, when pressed, he told the interviewer he makes at least seven passes at his work, cutting more each time. I seriously doubt that is true. I suspect it’s something he feeds writers who need to feel that their own “rewriting” process is valid.)

The point is, remain open to learning. The more open-minded you remain, the more information you can take in, assess, and choose to retain or discard. And the more your skills as a storyteller and writer will improve.

Today’s Writing

As I mentioned above, no fiction writing again today. Just kind’a getting used to being back. Also I put together three daylong seminars I’m planning to offer to the good folks in the greater Phoenix area and also over in Tucson. We’ll see whether anyone’s interested.
Here they are just in case you’re interested:

Writing Off Into the Dark (daylong writing intensive) — Major subtopics include Heinlein’s Rules, Productivity, Writing Myths, The Difference Between Short and Long Fiction, How to Practice Writing, The Difference Between Rewriting and Revising (Cycling Back), and a lot more.

Writing the Character Driven Story (good for any length story, daylong writing intensive) — Major subtopics include Where to Get Story Ideas, How to Write from Inspiration, The Importance of Setting and How to Write It, How to Write an Opening, How to Select a Genre, The Five Senses Exercise, and two more in-class and take-home exercises.

Smart Self-Publishing (daylong seminar on the publishing side of writing) — Major subtopics include Why Self-Publishing Instead of “Traditional” Publishing, The Difference Between Self-Publishing and Subsidy Publishing, Copyright Explained (It Costs Nothing), ISBN and LCCN Explained (Don’t Buy Your Own), Set Yourself Up as an Indie Publisher, Epublishing and Print Publishing, Getting Paid as a Self-Publisher, Your Book Available Worldwide in a Matter of Days, Price Your Ebooks and Print Books Competitively, The Importance of the Book Cover, Where to Find Cover Art, and a handout listing specific URLs and recommendations for formatting, print layout and cover design.

So there y’go. If you’d like to have any of these seminars in your area, email me at or leave a comment below.
Fiction Words: XXXX

Writing of Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga
Day 1…… 3213 words. Total words to date….. 3213 words
Day 2…… 1046 words. Total words to date….. 4259 words
Day 3…… 1858 words. Total words to date….. 6117 words
Day 4…… 1023 words. Total words to date….. 7140 words
Day 5…… 1587 words. Total words to date….. 8327 words
Day 6…… X943 words. Total words to date….. 9270 words
Day 7…… 1084 words. Total words to date….. 10354 words
Day 8…… 1056 words. Total words to date….. 11410 words
Day 9…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXXX words

I’m gonna leave up the number for ol’ Wes while my subconscious continues to turn the story over. If it doesn’t perk up and get with it pretty soon though, I’ll send Wes out behind the barn to think about what he’s done while I’m writing some other stuff.

Total fiction words for the month…………… 1590
Total fiction words for the year……………… 466631

The Journal, Wednesday, 7/1

The Day

NOTE: I’m trying something today with this blog post. I’m sending it from my main website at If it goes only to those who are signed up specifically for this journal, then it’s all good. If you are reading this and you are NOT signed up for this journal (formerly, please accept my apologies. Thanks.

Rolled out a little after 2. Wow. July just kind’a snuck up on me. Even as I was posting this note yesterday, I didn’t equate 6/30 with the end of the month.

My goal for the month of June was to mimic the month of May in word count and get 80,000 words. I didn’t. I fell short by about 14,000 words, but I’ll take 66,000 and call it good. (grin)

I have to get labs done at 7:30 this morning for a doc appointment next week so I didn’t want to start anything with the novel yet. So I continued working on websites a bit this morning, tweaking here and there. By the way, if any of you would like to talk about websites, themes, plugins etc. just email me. I’ll help in any way I can.

So web stuff for the first two and a half hours of the day, and then I came here to do this. I’ll finish what I’m gonna do here, and then go over to the main blog and write at least one post (maybe two or three) and schedule it for publication. I like to stay a little ahead over there so I don’t have to worry about it.

Then I’ll go do the labs and then back here to write.

Wound up working with the website again. Sigh. The day’s nearly over for me so I’m gonna prep this for the test I mentioned in the opening sentence.

Topic of the Night: Writers’ Conferences

I was invited to speak at the Missouri Writers’ Guild conference in Kansas City next April. They want me to present in two breakout sessions (45 minutes each) and then teach a master’s class on the final day. They’re paying me pretty well plus airfare, hotel and food, so yeah, I’m going. (grin) It’ll be kind of fun after not having presented at a big deal conference for so long.

At one time, I presented at 18 in a year. That was rough. Anyway, I say that so you understand where I’m coming from here. I’ve presented at a lot of conferences and I’ve always given attendees something of value. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case at all conferences or with all speakers.

Many speakers have no problem taking the fee and then dropping names for half their presentation time, telling attendees all about the famous people they’ve met.

Other speakers will do the same thing and then spend half the presentation time hyping their own books or other products.

Yet others simply don’t know what they’re talking about. Some people take a great deal of pleasure in teaching things they don’t know. Perhaps it makes them feel better about themselves or something. I don’t know. There are FAR more of this kind of presenter at conferences now than there used to be, probably because of the money crunch.

But my point here is just this: Before you attend a conference, do your research. Unless it’s Breadloaf or the Iowa Writers’ Conference or something like that. Do your homework. Look up the presenters. What have they accomplished, especially in the topic they’re presenting?

Actually, the same goes for speakers at any gathering of writers. If you go and listen and buy into bad information, it’s really difficult to dislodge that and replace it with valid information.

I think it was Mark Twain who once said it’s much easier to fool people than it is to convince them that they’ve been fooled.

So hey, be careful out there.

The Writing
Weak start to the month. I’m not stuck or anything. Allowed my attention to be diverted by this new bright, shiny obejct. (grin) Back on the writing tomorrow.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: 1052

Writing of Book 8 in the Wes Crowley saga
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420

Total fiction words for the month…………… 1052
Total fiction words for the year……………… 406398

Announcement — WooHoo!

Hi Folks,

Just an announcement today.

I’m ever cognizant that there are writers too far away to attend my on-site seminars and writing intensives. And frankly, I’m not doing many of them anymore anyway.

To that end, I put together some audio lectures. There are several on various aspects of the craft itself, and today I decided to put the best technique I’ve ever learned back in the lineup.

It’s called Writing Off Into the Dark. If you know any writers who might be interested, please let them know. They can get all the information on all the lectures at For Writing Off Into the Dark, scroll down to Lecture 12.

Pssst. I first discovered Writing Off Into the Dark not quite a year ago. I began applying it and Heinlein’s Business Rules in mid-April of 2014. Since then, I’ve written 52 short stories, 3 novels and a novella in just over 313,000 words. I’ve written another 29,000 words on my current novel. What’s really cool is that 275,740 of those words came since 1 October 2014. And what’s even cooler than that is that from January 1 to February 16, I’ve written just under 110,000 words (109,763).

All because of Writing Off Into the Dark and Heinlein’s Rules.

Now granted, this is not the way your English teacher or your critique group says you should write. Then again, my English teacher never wrote and published a novel. And as for critique groups, if the members are more widely published than I am and have a larger readership, I’ll listen.

Thing is, this is how Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein and all the pulp writers and every long-term professional writer out there writes. That’s good enough a recommendation for me. (grin)

Anyway, all the audio lectures are good. I suggest you swing by and look at them, especially if you haven’t taken my seminars or if you missed a few. Once you sign up for one, you can listen to it as often as you like and come back to it whenever you like.

Back on the 21st with the next regular post.

‘Til then, happy writing!

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 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.



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!