The Journal, Thursday, 5/11

Hey Folks,

Wow. A lot in today’s Journal and no fiction writing. Go figure.

As I write this, I just looked out my north-facing window and caught sight of a purple mountain peak. It’s about 20 miles distant (+/-) and currently lined here and there with pink from the sunrise.

Another beginning to another beautiful day.

I’ll accompany my bride at around 7:30 to a doctor appointment this morning, then to walmart for some things, then back here to begin the first day of the rest of my writing life.

Topic: On Specificity and Clarity in Writing

I was going to write a whole post on this topic, but really, that isn’t necessary. It’s a personal pet-peeve kind of thing. And far be it from me to foist my “beliefs” on anyone else.

What pet peeve?

Well, people who write things and then postulate—not even apologetically, but more apathetically and with a wag of the hand—that “The reader will know what I mean.”

Yeah. Those folks get on my nerves. Deep and hard.

But I have come to understand that such things don’t matter, by and large, to many people, writers and readers alike. Or at least it seems so to me.

For example, despite published writings that are replete with inappropriate instances of absolutes (all, never, always, everyone, nobody, etc.), apparently no writers actually write like that. Ever.

If you don’t believe me, ask them.

And despite published writings that are chock full of eyes wandering out of heads and doing things on their own (her eyes flew across the room and came to rest on a barrel of metal shavings), again, no writer put those words on a page. Again, ever.

And the same goes for other body parts: “her legs raced along the sidewalk” or “his nose smelled something strange” or “her ears listened closely” or “his finger dialed the telephone” or “his hand crept into his pocket to retrieve his revolver.”

No writers that I’ve been able to find write like that either. Ever.

But based on the hard evidence contained between the covers of some books, some do. Or maybe the publishers are sneaking that stuff in.

Anyway, if you mention those faux pas to the writers, they grin the grin of a thousand braying jackasses, wag that hand in the air as if you and they are old buddies and say something like, “Aah, you know, the readers know I didn’t mean it like that.”

And most often I smile and say something noncommittal, like “Hey, when you’re right, you’re right” or just “Ah.”

But the truth lurks in my mind: No, Sparky, they don’t.

Readers read for either or both of two purposes: entertainment and-or information. If you write “never,” they read “never.” They don’t automatically substitute “seldom” or “sometimes” or some other less-inclusive, less blanket-clad word.

If you write that “her legs raced down the road,” the reader sees disembodied legs racing down the road.

If you write that “her eyes came to rest on a barrel of metal shavings,” the reader will wince. Because face it, that had to hurt.

And it isn’t the reader’s fault that they take you at your word(s). It’s your fault.

After all, the reader has no choice but to accept what you put on the page, whether it’s in your novel, in your Essay On Some Topic Of Major Importance or on your Facebook page.

I’ve never known a reader who was hungry for a verbal repast to go looking for a soup sandwich. But that’s often what they get.

It is up to the purveyor of the repast to determine whether he or she is going to serve a nutrituous, delicately balanced meal or something that’s half-baked and barely slopped together.

Am I being nitpicky?

Yes. But only where my own sensibilities are concerned.

Hey, if you want to continue slopping grey, watery soup over stale bread in a bowl, go ahead. If you want to hit it with a dash of sea salt, proclaim it prime rib and hand it out to weary, gaunt-eyed travelers who are starved for sustenance, that’s your business.

I’m only giving you notice that I will not partake. Nor will I sidle up alongside you in the soup kitchen, grab a ladle and begin flinging greasy dumplings at the wall in the hope they will stick and “be something good.”

So anyway, I was gonna devote a whole post to this notion that writers, not readers, are responsible for the clarity or lack thereof in writing.

But it’s a personal thing, so I won’t.

I’ll just pass along a wish that your characters’ eyes will remain in their head. Unless it’s a horror novel and they get whacked really, really hard.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 3. Took Mona for her doc visit at 8, then walmart for stuff, then home. Put stuff away, did some watering in the yard, and somehow it’s already 11.

Still, time for some writing today maybe.

So much for the plans of mice and guys like me. TONS of family stuff going on in seemingly cascading sheets. Some of it’s great, some is frightening, some is in between.

I won’t bore you with a lot of details, but three big things are going on today.

First the in-between. That was M’s doc appointment. It was for cause, but nothing too alarming and it’s all gonna work out fine. As a side deal, I picked up a new primary care person myself.

(Okay, that needs a little explanation. My PC doc recently left for a mission for his church and to work out some personal things in his life. He shifted me to a nurse practitioner. I went with M this morning to her appointment, hit it off with her NP, and switched before we left.)

Second, the frightening. I found out later in the day that I have a daughter in the hospital after she ODd on her regular meds. Everything is under control there. Awaiting updates, of course.

Third, the great thing. I’m working a back-door deal with two of my wonderful kids to get my wife a new-ish car. (She knows, so I’m not really giving anything away here. But she only knows it’s happening. She doesn’t know what she’s gonna get or any of that.)

So all of that’s taking up a lot of time and using a little of my stress quota.

On the good side, I’m also cooking two big pots of beans, blackeyed peas and taters (mixed…it’s a long story that involves me alone with the pantry) along with red onion, green chiles, tomatoes, etc. Gonna be good. I’m tempted to toss a little ground beef and cumin in one pot to make chili, but probably not on this go-around.

I did finally think about writing at around 2 p.m. But with only a couple hours left in the day, I decided to pass and pulled out my camera instead.

I’ll write tomorrow, given no earthquakes, lightning strikes or planes landing on my house.

But hey, at least you got a topic out of it, amaright?

See you then.

Of Interest

Just a little daily update at Dean’s, “Movie and Dinner” at

An interesting insight for anyone who’s locked into Amazon exclusively from The Passive Voice: “Amazon’s Latest Move: Far From Profitability” at

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1180 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1180

Writing of

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

Total fiction words for the month……… 15414
Total fiction words for the year………… 263008
Total nonfiction words for the month… 6540
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 81230

Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 344238

The Daily Journal blog streak……………………………………… 533 days
Calendar Year 2017 Novel Goal (15 novels)………………… 4 novels
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 24
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 3
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 167