The Journal, Thursday, 4/27

Hey Folks,

Today is a nonwriting day for fiction. It’s currently only around 1:30, and I’m making the call.

I’m in the Hovel, where I’m going to enjoy a good cigar in solitude and do something completely useless, like play solitaire or something. Then I’m going to finish a few chores at the house and call it a day.

I spent much of the morning doing things around the house, including putting a new screen on the upper panel of our front screen door, doing some laundry, stuff like that.

I went to the Hovel in the late morning and wrote most of what you see below. After that, as I began to cast about for something to write, my grandson came in.

For the next couple of hours he and I jumped through various federal and state and local bureacratic hoops.

Finally, after we ran in frustrating circles for a couple of hours, Bryan’s phone rang. It was yet another bureacrat, but one of the rarest kind. Not only does she actually DO her job, but today she went out of her way to do her job.

In fact, she called us to clarify, simplify and set aside much of the instruction we’d been given by another bureacrat earlier.

All we had to do, she said, was call our contact at Job Corps and have that person call her. She would personally fax the records directly to them on our behalf. End of story.

In short order, she rendered everything we’d done over the past two hours for the OTHER bureacrat completely unnecessary.

Which is fine, because at least we learned some things from having to deal with the earlier bureacrat, never mind the stress levels and the otherwise wasted two hours of our lives.

Like we learned how to use the combination copier/scanner/printer (I haven’t done that for years); and how to fill out an Official Request Form online and then print it for signature and then scan it into a .jpg file —

So we could email them to him.

Me: Wait, what? Back up. We can EMAIL this stuff to you?

Bureacrat: Yes, of course.

Me: Hmm. So then the signature isn’t really necessary, since you’re going to be looking at a picture of the document. I mean, how can you be sure who signed it?

Bureacrat, after a pregnant pause: Ha! Y’know, I guess you’re right. (Insert laugh track here.) Hey, how about that? Now ain’t that just the funniest thing?

What I Wanted to Say: (Insert series of expletives, many never before uttered in that particular order in this solar system.)

What I actually said: No. No, it isn’t.

And that’s what I hate about cell phones. It doesn’t have the same satisfying SLAM we used to get when we’d slam a telephone receiver into a cradle.

Oh, the issue? We wanted to get Bryan’s HS transcripts for Job Corps. Which we were initially told Job Corps had gotten for themselves a couple of weeks ago.

So it was one’a dem days. Life rolls, eh?

Anyway, here’s the topic I wrote earlier.

Topic: On Practice

One of the invaluable lessons I’ve picked up from DWS over the past few years is that a writer must practice.

His way (and the way that works best for me) is to pick one or two techniques that interest him, and then practice that (or those) in the next work.

That’s why I’ve been writing pulp detective fiction.

For one thing, the shorter novel (by definition, 25,000 to 44,999 words) is very interesting to me, and pulp readers expect shorter novels.

But the other, more important reason, is that I wanted to simultaneously study and practice writing high-tension, bang-bang-bang, action-adventure, thriller-type scenes.

And the cliffhangers and hooks that go with them.

Why? Because you only have to know four techniques to sell your stories:

1. Ground the reader in the scene. (In brief, experience the setting through the physical and emotional senses of the POV character.)

2. Write suspenseful, high-tension scenes.

3. Close (or “end,” but I prefer “close”) each scenes with a cliffhanger.

4. Open the next scene with a strong hook.

If you do those four things, the reader won’t be able to put your book down.

In case of a house fire, right after the children and the dog, your book will be the first thing that makes it out alive.

In fact, your book will probably be tucked under the reader’s arm while he’s rounding up the kids and the dog.

But I digress.

After my latest novella was finished, I wanted desperately to be finished with writing “pulp detective” fiction — or at least with the main character in my last two novels and that novella.

In some ways, the guy’s weak, and I don’t like that. The detective in a pulp mystery or thriller should never be weak, at least not in any major way.

He can appear weak intentionally to set a trap (Columbo) or he can appear “sensitive” blah blah blah.

But he can’t be indecisive or allow others to take the lead in his cases. And this guy even did that at least once.

So I’m through with him until he grows up. In fact, I might write one more with a different POV character and have Galecki killed off. Something. Shrug. I dunno.

Anyway, this morning I realized I’m not through practicing writing those suspenseful, high-tension scenes, cliffhangers and hooks.

And I’m not through practicing writing the two levels of pacing that go along with that. (The Two Levels of Pacing will be another topic.)

So whatever I write next, it will contain those kind of scenes because that’s what I want to practice. Also I enjoy it.

Of course, such scenes can be written in literally any genre. I know I can write them in westerns or SF or pulp detective.

In fact, genre doesn’t matter at all when it comes to this sort of psychological suspense-filled stuff because it’s merely an interplay among characters or between the POV character and some part(s) of the setting.

I’m competent at doing this, according to various readers’ input. My writing has never been called “thin,” for example (even when I thought it was).

And more than several times readers have gone out of their way to tell me they felt as if they were there, in the scene with the characters. Ba-ba-ba-bingo!

But I’m not expert at it by any means, and it’s what I want to practice at the moment.

Give it some thought. What are you practicing?

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 2:30. After email etc. I did some stuff around the house. Then Bryan got a phone call. Then the stuff above happened.

1 p.m., back out here to the Hovel to write the stuff before the topic and enjoy a cigar.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

“Story Twenty-Six” at

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1080 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1080

Writing of

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 33587
Total fiction words for the year………… 242143
Total nonfiction words for the month… 15650
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 72990

Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 315133

The Daily Journal blog streak……………………………… 519 days
Calendar Year 2017 Novel Goal (16 novels)… 5 novels
Total novels to date (since Oct 19, 2014)… 27 (includes 3 novellas)

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