The Journal, Friday, April 6

Hey Folks,

Well, I’m home from the camping trip to the Gila River in the Lower Gila Box Wilderness. It was fun.

As promised, I’ve (pre-)posted the third topic below. I’m updating this edition of the Journal a bit since I’m back.

Two days ago I talked in general about reading your work aloud, then discussed reading aloud during my writing process.

Yesterday, I discussed reading aloud in my own after-writing process. So today….

Topic: Using a First Reader vs. Reading Aloud

Of course, you can also do both: read aloud and send your work to a first reader, in either order.

I don’t do both.

I mentioned earlier that when I’ve written a shorter work, which I define as anything less than around 45,000 words, I usually read the work aloud. When I do that, basically I’m serving as my own first reader.

But when I’ve written a longer work, anything longer than about 45,000 words, I usually send it to my first reader.

Dean Wesley Smith advocates using a first reader who doesn’t require payment. Mine doesn’t require payment, but I pay him anyway. The payment is to ensure his blunt honesty.

Kenneth Flowers ( is a high school classmate of mine. He isn’t a fiction writer, but he’s an avid reader. The guy’s reading something all the time.

Most importantly, you want a first reader who doesn’t blow a gasket over sentence fragments. In fiction, sentence fragments are a necessity, both in dialogue and, to a lesser degree, in narration.

A good first reader will read for pleasure, but with a notepad on his lap. His notes will have two parts.

In the first, he will note — by writing down a few exact words from the part he’s reading — anyplace that confuses him or that he feels is lacking or that otherwise pushes him out of the story. In the second part of his note, he will explain briefly the problem as he sees it.

This might be something as simple as “John trudge toward the end of the alley,” with the second part of the note reading something like “trudge should be trudged.” (I often manage to omit the “d” at the end of what should be a past-tense word.)

Or the second part of his note might read “Where it reads ‘John trudged toward the alley,’ I can see John plainly [because of my description of John] but it’s after dark. Is there a street lamp or other illumination?”

Sure there is. But I omitted it. Great catch.

Or the second part might read, “Good description of John, but is he wearing a shirt?” or “John was wearing a black jacket when he got out of the cab at the end of the block but now the jacket is green.”

It’s important that he notes a few exact words from the troublesome text. That enables you to use the Microsoft Word Find utility to go directly to the section in question. From there you can make the necessary changes.

If you do use a first reader or copyeditor (or both), it’s important to note that you should make the recommended change only if you agree with it.

For example, when showing possession for a word that ends in S, you can do so either of two ways: “That’s Disraeli Jones’ house at the end of the block” is correct, as is “That’s Disraeli Jones’s house at the end of the block.”

If you prefer one way over the other, use it. The only caveat is that you must be consistent throughout the manuscript.

There can also be varying degrees of agreement.

The first reader points out that John’s jacket looks black as he steps out of the cab, but under the street light it looks green.

You might choose to change the color of the jacket. Or you might choose to add a sentence that explains why the color looks different. “The yellow glow of the street light revealed his jacket was green, except for the blood stain on the left shoulder.” Or you can just change the color of the jacket. Or do nothing at all.

Whether you print out a work on paper before you send it to your first reader is a matter to be decided between you.

See you tomorrow.

Of Interest

Via The Passive Voice, see “How To Write The Perfect Mystery” at

Also via The Passive Voice, see “Kindle readers read novels. Physical book readers read self-help” at

See “Something New Tonight” ( and “Nifty Cover” ( at Dean’s place.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 740 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 740

Writing of

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

Total fiction words for the month……… 13956
Total fiction words for the year………… 127497
Total nonfiction words for the month… 3610
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 37370
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 206647

Calendar Year 2018 Novels to Date………………………… 3
Calenday Year 2018 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
Calendar Year 2018 Short Stories to Date……… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 30
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 5
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 182

2 thoughts on “The Journal, Friday, April 6”

  1. Hello Harvey,

    I wish you a lot of fun on your trip.

    Thank you for your detailed, in depth answer on your after-writing-process. 🙂
    Now I have something new to think about and try out on my own.

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