The Journal, Monday, December 11,

Hey Folks,

Well, before I even think about returning to my own fiction, I’ve decided to power-through the first half of my latest copyedit to get it finished.

The author of the novel and I have agreed that I’ll finish the prepaid first half, then bow out of the project. It’s just too rough.

In related news, I’ve recently added several “new” inappropriate tag line verbs to my list. I’ll be publishing those in a topic here soon, and in my ProWriters blog in the future.

Not sure when this Journal will go “daily” again, if ever. But I do suspect I’ll at least be publishing it more often once I’ve put this edit behind me.

I’m also not sure of the form it will take. I’ll continue to include boring tidbits about my blasé life for those who like that sort of thing, and I’ll continue to share tips and knowledge you probably can’t find anywhere else.

In the meantime, from my friend Dan Baldwin, here’s a guest topic for you, reprinted by permission.

So You Want to Be a Ghostwriter

I have written more than 60 books, but five out of six have someone else’s name on the cover. Oh, I usually get some form of writer’s credit, but that’s often in the Acknowledgements section printed upside down in 6-point Mandarin Chinese.

But author credit isn’t why someone pursues ghostwriting projects — unless it’s to gain credit with other authors who need ghostwriters.

Ghostwriters are in the business to make money or to gain the experience that will lead to that money. If you’re considering ghostwriting, here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Tip #1. You’re Not the Author — You Only Write the Book.

Keep your ego out of the project. That goes for your desires to win the Golden Ghost Award for Best Acknowledgement, your personal opinions or cause du jour, or what you think your author really ought to say. It’s his (or her) book. Keep it that way.

Tip #2. KISS Your Author.

Keep It Simple, Stupid. Most books are written at the eighth grade level. Why? Because just about everybody in America has at least graduated from the eighth grade. Everybody gets the message (or at least can read the message) when you write at that level.

Tip #3. Make Sure the Price is Right.

What is the right price for a ghostwriting project? I’ll answer with another question: How hungry are you?

The amount of writing, research, client hand-holding, and expenses will vary from project to project. Get a handle on as much of this as possible before quoting a price. Know how much you need to earn from a given job and start at a figure above that. Life as a ghostwriter is a life of negotiating. Have a rate or a fee in mind, but don’t hesitate to adjust according to the level of rumbling in your stomach.

Tip #3a. If the would-be client says, “I’m pretty famous for my memos around here, heh-heh,” double your fee.

Tip #4. Your Client Must Know He is Part of the Project.

I had a potential client tell me, “Just go to the Internet and you can get everything you need.” My response was, “Well, then what do I need you for?”

Fortunately, the potential client was a friend who took my response in the right frame of mind. The writer carries the heavier burden in terms of work, but the project must be a cooperative effort. It’s his book; he has to earn that name on the cover.

Tip #5. You Don’t Have to Believe What Your Client Believes.

But know where to draw the line. Provided you remember that you are the writer not the author, a Republican can ghostwrite for a Democrat. A Christian can ghostwrite for a non-believer. A “My Country Right or Wrong” guy can ghostwrite for a “Peace at Any Price” guy.

When you take on a ghostwriting project, you are hiring out. Once you accept the job, you can be loyal to your client without being loyal to his cause.

Tip #6. Understand that at Some Point Things are Going to Go South.

Something inevitably comes up to extend the agreed upon deadline, foul the research efforts, or get between you and that final payment. Provided the client doesn’t abuse the privilege, put up with as much as you can, finish the job, and earn something worth its weight in gold — a good referral.

I have on rare occasions walked away from a job, but I did so in a way that maintained a level of respect, courtesy, and integrity. I have also finished and been fully paid by clients I will never work with again. One of your best ghostwriting resources is a mental file labeled I Will Never Do THAT Again.

Tip #7. Clients Should Pay as They Go.

As Dr. Laura said about promises of marriage made in the steamy back seat of a sedan on a lonely road, “Unless you have a ring and a date, you don’t have squat.”

I think I got that quote fairly right — certainly the meaning. Your client must be invested in the project or in his mind it’s not a real project. Invest is the key word. Get an up-front payment and then stagger payments on a pay-as-we-go basis.

So, you want to be a ghostwriter. Go for it. Just follow a few basic business rules so that the experience isn’t a scary one.

(For a bit more on ghostwriting, check out http://www.danbaldwin.biz.)

Quote of the Week: “Most men make little use of their speech than to give evidence against their own understanding.” George Savile

Dan’s Western novel, Bock’s Canyon, is a Winner in the Best Book Awards 2017. His latest Western novel, A Stalking Death, is a Finalist in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards competition. His non-fiction work for writers and IP attorneys, How Find Me Lost Me — A Breach of Trust Told By The Psychic Who Didn’t See It Coming, earned a Finalist award in the Best Book Awards and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards competition. And his short stories “Diddy” and “Lurlene Hurlbutt’s Flatline” earned a commendation in the Society of Southwestern Authors Writing Contest.

A Few Websites Dan Recommends

http://www.ssa_az.org

http://www.ssa-vs.org

http://www.lwsliteraryservices.com

Of Interest

Not much out there today that I could find.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 200 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 200

Writing of “”

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXX (done)

Total fiction words for the month……… XXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 453762
Total nonfiction words for the month… 2160
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 177713
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 631475

Calendar Year 2017 Novels to Date………………………… 9
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 27
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 4
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 182

The Journal, Friday, December 8,

Hey Folks,

Just some important info for you today, mostly in the first listing below.

Via The Passive Voice, see Passive Guy’s comments toward the end of “The Contributions of Publishing’s Conference Contrarians” at http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2017/12/the-contributions-of-publishings-conference-contrarians/. Very informative and heartening.

Also of possible interest, see “Astronauts Get Writer’s Block, Too” at http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2017/12/astronauts-get-writers-block-too/. Imagine what Astronaut Scott Kelly could write if only he had learned to trust his subconscious and write off into the dark. Sigh. (Frankly, I’m kind’a ticked off that Margaret Lazarus Dean felt a need to stick that comma in before “too” in the title of the article. Ten to one she can’t tell you why it’s there except that some style manual, probably AP, said it should be. Ugh.)

Around the Stanbrough camp I’m continuing to use this time to work through some life issues, copyedit a difficult manuscript, and visit with family and friends. Fiction seems to tug at my sleeve a little more strongly each day.

I hope you’ll continue to check Dean’s site daily as well as some of the others in the Quick Links in the sidebar of my website. I’ve also updated the Writer Resources page, so you might browse that too.

Just in case I’m not back again before December 25, I hope you will all have an enjoyable holiday season, a very merry Christmas, and a safe and happy New Year.

Be back when I can.

The Journal, Tuesday, December 5,

Hey Folks,

A few days ago, a friend sent me an email: “You think too much.”

I could only respond with a smiley face.

I do understand why “you think too much” would appear to readers of this Journal to be true. After all, the point of the Journal is to bare the most intimate details and thought processes of my writing life, with the ultimate goal of maybe cutting the learning curve a bit for you, the subscribers.

But I assure you, I only think “too much” here, in this Journal. And really, I don’t know that I’m thinking too much as probably sharing too much.

I’m very aware that one of my weaknesses has been conveying too much information (TMI), whether speaking aloud or in nonfiction writing like this Journal. I’ve been that way since my early childhood, so I doubt I’ll change now.

For example, my wife often says I’m “too specific.” When she asks where something is, I might say it’s “near the back right corner of the third drawer from the top in my desk.”

I just can’t bring myself to offer up a soup sandwich like “It’s in my desk” or “It’s in a drawer in my desk.”

I actually want to say “…the third drawer from the top in the pedestal in my desk” but I assume the prepositional phrase “from the top” adequately implies that the drawer is in the pedestal. (grin)

Of course, I’m joking. But I’m not exaggerating. I DO think like that, but I would elaborate on it only here. You know, by way of explanation.

And, as Bill Shakespeare might say, “There’s the rub.”

That “by way of explanation” thing is why I elaborate to such an elaborate degree (isn’t English wonderful?). I prefer to leave no room for misunderstanding, a hopeless goal where human beings are involved if ever there was one.

So think too much? Maybe, maybe not.

Share too much? Definitely. If I didn’t, there would be no basis to believe I think too much. (grin)

***

Thanks to my friend, Robert Sadler, for the excellent poem he wrote as a take-off on my “desk” essay from a few days ago. Absolutely excellent.

I almost wrote a few days ago that Dean seems as stalled as I am. Kind of eerie. You can see the culmination of that in https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/auction-and-other-fun-things-today/.

Then today, he began offering a new nonfiction book (this after he has planned to write two novels in December). This will be an important book for some of us, especially given the gems Dean often drops along the way seemingly without even realizing it.

Dean’s new offering will be a book for writers on ways to beat critical thinking. To see the announcement and the introduction, please visit https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/beating-critical-voice-for-fiction-writers/. He plans to post succeeding chapters on his blog, so I hope you’ll follow along.

IMPORTANT: If you don’t already visit Dean’s site every day as part of your routine, and if you’re serious about your writing, please do so. The existence of this Journal (and by extension, my “Of Interest” section) is not guaranteed.

I probably won’t be back with another edition of this Journal unless and until I start writing fiction again.

Finally, in lieu of the “Of Interest” section, for an excellent article on scene structure, see “A Scene Template For New Writers” (don’t let the title throw you) at https://killzoneblog.com/2017/12/a-scene-template-for-new-writers.html.

IF YOU HAVEN’T established a habit of visiting the sites I mention regularly here, you can always find them in my Quick Links (left sidebar of my main website) and/or on the Writer Resources page on that site.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 600 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 600

Writing of “”

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXX (done)

Total fiction words for the month……… XXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 453762
Total nonfiction words for the month… 1960
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 177513
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 631275

Calendar Year 2017 Novels to Date………………………… 9
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 27
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 4
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 182

The Journal, Saturday, December 2

Hey Folks,

I didn’t plan to post again this soon. With my return feeling imminent, though, I figure what harm could it do.

A friend wrote to me privately. In his email, he mentioned the desk, said he’d like to see it and wondered whether maybe it has magic powers.

Actually, it might have. I thought I’d share my expanded response to him with you.

My Desk

As I mentioned yesterday, my desk is walnut, stained naturally in a warm medium brown. The finish on the leading edge of the large surface shows some wear, primarily in four places: where my forearms rest while I’m typing and where the previous owner’s elbows/forearms rested when he was writing longhand. More on that later.

The top of the desk, which is solid walnut and almost two inches thick, looks like the deck of an aircraft carrier. It’s five feet wide and almost three feet deep.

Originally, the desk had five drawers. Two were shallow lap drawers, each 18″ wide and 2″ top to bottom. They were also as deep as the desk.

The other three drawers are in a single pedestal down the right side. Each of those is 14″ wide and 5″ top to bottom. They also are as long as the desk is deep. So tons of storage.

It just occurred to me, in that way the desk is like a giant treasure box. (All boys, it seems, regardless of age, must have a treasure box. It’s similar to a woman’s hope chest, I suppose, but it relies on actualities and memories rather than possibilities.)

I loved the two wide, deep lap drawers, but when I cut 3″ off the legs to lower it to “computer desk” height, I had to remove the lap drawers and their support so I could get my legs under the desk. Sigh.

But if I hadn’t done that, the desk would be too high, putting my arms at an awkward angle for typing. That can cause all sorts of problems.

I didn’t want to cut the desk down, and that’s why I first moved it out. Then recently I remembered it’s MY desk and I bought it so I could write novels on it. So any modifications are fine. Modifying it is better than having it sit in storage collecting dust.

I saw a stamp somewhere on the underside of the desk that identified it as having been built in the 1930s. If memory serves, according to the lady we bought it from, it was already a writer’s desk when her husband bought it, though the first writer’s name escapes me, if she even mentioned it.

Then her husband, a novelist, bought it. As I recall, that was in the early 1950s. He wrote several novels on it longhand. He also wrote tech manuals.

When he passed away, we attended the estate sale and bought the desk from his 92 (I think) year-old widow for $250.

When I told her I was a writer and novelist, she was very pleased and tears came to her eyes. “Then I know it’s going home,” she said.

So yes, it very probably is magic. 🙂

***

I probably won’t post for a few more days.

Of Interest

Via The Passive Voice, see “A New Story…” at https://electricliterature.com/a-new-story-by-the-master-of-hardboiled-detective-fiction-1ff845e9479a.

Dean’s offering to be a first reader for other writers again. The upshot is, participants get him as a reader (with feedback) free and two online seminars besides. See https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/want-to-be-challenged-i-am-doing-it-again/.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 580 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 580

Writing of “”

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXX (done)

Total fiction words for the month……… XXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 453762
Total nonfiction words for the month… 1360
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 176913
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 630675

Calendar Year 2017 Novels to Date………………………… 9
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 27
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 4
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 182

The Journal, Friday, December 1

Hey Folks,

An Accounting of Days

I closed out this Journal on November 18. I didn’t want the unnecessary pressure of that daily deadline while I was working out whatever problem derailed my writing.

That was only twelve days ago, but it seems as if months have passed. Anyway, for whatever it’s worth, it worked. Or more specifically, it’s working.

Sometime in the last few days, I realized there is no specific one thing that “derailed” my writing habit. Instead, I seem to have reached a merging of life events and factors. I also realized that convergence has been building for some time.

The convergence doesn’t “stop” me from writing, but its components require time and thought. They distract me from even thinking in the way I have to think when I’m writing.

I’m not back yet, but I do at least finally understand what’s going on. And that has enabled me to turn a corner and head back toward where I want to be.

I have to give it the time it requires, but a few days ago I didn’t even know that.

History

The first sign of this convergence appeared in my writing habit a few months ago when I tossed aside my daily goal as being unnecessary. You might remember that. I said specifically I didn’t need a daily goal anymore.

Of course, that’s just silly. If writing is your chosen profession, then you must write. And if your attitude about it is on track (that it’s fun) then why wouldn’t you want to write every day? But for the moment, it is what it is.

From that point, I progressed (regressed?) through starting and giving up on challenges, starting and giving up on novels and stories, struggling to keep writing even while in the midst of writing a short story or novel, and maybe most importantly, trying to “fix” my problem in various ways:

The most obvious and telling fix was that I changed my writing environment several times, both the surface I was writing on and where that surface was located.

To give you a glimpse of the lunacy, I moved my desk out to storage, as if the desk were the problem. To replace it, I used a drafting table; then I replaced that with a large typing table.

I replaced that with an old dining room table (I cut it down to the right height); then cut down a smaller old dressing table because at least it had small drawers in it; and did a few other crazy things.

While all of that was going on, I moved out of the hovel, then back in, then out again etc. I tried to write in the hovel, outside, and in my office. I tried to set up the travel trailer as an alternative office (like the hovel), but that lasted all of one icy-cold day.

And a lot of other stuff, non-writing stuff, was going on over those few months. I won’t go into detail, but I was variously struck with direct physical, mental and emotional blows — some good and some bad — that you (or at least I) can’t simply shake off.

I just have to muddle through them the best way I can. Oddly, the good ones stand alone. They don’t serve to mitigate the bad ones, at least in my experience. Yet the bad ones tend to magnify the other bad ones. Very strange.

Anyway, in the midst of all that I stopped my only “bad” habit — cigar smoking — which was also my only avenue for an uninterrupted hour of Just Relaxation. I’ve written only 6000 words of fiction since October 10, the day I stopped.

(If I were certain I could smoke only one or two cigars per day, I’d start again in a heartbeat. As always, to validate such decisions, you must compare length of life with quality of life.)

Back to the Present

A couple of days ago, a lot of this cleared up for me. As a result, with these new realizations and with my wife’s help, yesterday I moved my old desk back inside my office. It’s a beautiful walnut creation that was put together back when craftsmanship still mattered.

That alone won’t start me writing again immediately. But it’s one massive step back toward my version of normal. I still have a few more things to work out. Maybe some gathering to do, and maybe some shedding of problems and people who lay them at my door.

As I said before, I’m not back yet. But I believe I’ll be back before too much longer. For now, I’ll just give this process the time it needs.

In the meantime, thanks for your attention, concern and support. I appreciate you.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 780 (Journal)
So total words for the day: XXXX

Writing of “”

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXX (done)

Total fiction words for the month……… XXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 453762
Total nonfiction words for the month… 780
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 176333
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 630095

Calendar Year 2017 Novels to Date………………………… 9
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 27
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 4
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 182