In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting
* I Get Emails
* Some Thoughts on Writing Fiction (guest post)
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“A serious writer draws from the well of his own soul, his own beliefs, and his own experience. The invitation for others to enter, mix, affect, alter and modify his work poisons the well.” Dan Baldwin
“I’m never really alone writing fiction. My characters take over. The push, pull, cajole, entreat, beg and bully in a cacophony reminiscent of a third-grade classroom when the teacher had to step out for a minute.” Dan Baldwin
Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting
You can still join in the challenge at any time. There’s no cost of course, and it’s a great way to both have some fun and jumpstart your writing.
- Loyd Jenkins, “On The Trail”, 1470 words, Weird West
- George Kordonis “Free with Ads” 4254 words science fiction
- Chynna Pace “The Dayfall Hour” 6591 words Fantasy
- Christopher Ridge “Surf ‘n Turf” 3200 words Creature horror
- KC Riggs “Phantom Pain” 6023 words Humor
It’s been a strange few days. I hope I didn’t omit anyone who sent results to me.
Tip for the challenge: It’s a good idea to write your story early (Monday/Tuesday) rather than later.
I Get Emails
I had to share this one with you. Balázs J, a young Hungarian man for whom English is a second language, sent me an email about beginning his journey as a writer in English. He said he wants to start a blog that ” follows [his] career from the very beginning.”
For the record, I think that’s a great idea, and why wouldn’t I? After all, I started this Journal in early 2014 as a brand new short story writer and novelist. The Journal has followed my career (thus far) from the very beginning through 73 novels and a ton of other fiction writing.
As I’ve said before, I started the Journal partly to hold my own feet to the fire and partly (paying it forward) to show my readers what they could do if they wanted to. So do I think it’s a good idea to hold yourself accountable in public? Yes, absolutely.
But if you believe in yourself strongly enough to let your readers and subscribers witness every advance and every setback, every failure and every success, you will succeed.
As Balázs wrote, “As an apprentice of the WITD method I think I will have something to tell others. I … think there is a good chance as I write more with WITD, I would have more to say about this. It would be a great benefit for me, and for other writers, too.”
I couldn’t begin to agree more. Again, when I started the Journal, it was to document my own apprenticeship with WITD.
I asked Balázs to please share his blog with me when it’s up and running, and I’ll share it with you. Who knows? He might be the one who finally says just the right thing in just the right way to get you to try WITD for yourself.
Some Thoughts on Writing Fiction
a guest post by Robert J. Sadler
I believe most writers understand the difference between a biography (a recitation or summary of one individual’s life written by another individual) and an autobiography (a recitation or summary of one individual’s life written by that individual).
The Character Sketch
To my mind a ‘Character Sketch’ is an author’s forecasted biography of a story character’s life as opposed to an organic autobiography written by the character, as it is lived by the character.
Written character sketches can cover mere notes on a character to full-blown historical think-throughs of a character’s genealogy, likes, dislikes, proclivities, means, motives, opportunities, tendencies, quirks, speech, manner of dress, favorite preferences, previous responses to situations, projected responses to situations and whatever else the author can conjure up.
The depth to which the author’s critical mind projects or imbues their characters with such detail—before plopping or plotting them into a story—that ‘sketch’ can literally become a full blown stand alone short story about a character.
I prefer that my writing time is spent letting my characters reveal themselves as the story they are telling or living reveals them. Said another way, I am in that camp that believes the characters write their own ‘autobiography’, line by line, page by page, as the story they are living allows or requires it.
As the number of novels in the Michael Grant series increased (26 going on 27), it became more and more difficult to keep in creative mind the characters’ previous events/actions vs. their current place in story history, given there are now thousands of characters who have appeared over the life of the series.
I have found continuity, when writing a series, to be of high value. To aid with continuity I have from time to time created, retrospectively, a character file with text clips of previous written events/actions from various novels of a major character’s life as thus far lived/revealed in the series. Then adding clips of ‘new’ history to that file when necessary.
I do the same for various settings, that have become ubiquitous from novel to novel. This enables me to refer, when necessary, to previous settings, and to note, for example, if there are changes to the setting as the novel and the character’s life progresses that might have gone unnoticed or unexplained.
Here’s a made up an example: Say the character sits behind a desk on an antique oak spindle back swivel chair fitted with iron wheel casters. Then in some future paragraph, page or book he switches to a modern ergonomic mesh-covered swivel chair with round ball casters.
In such a case the character might report buying a new desk chair, describing it and sitting it, or another character may say, “I don’t remember seeing that chair before,” or ask, “When did you get the new chair?” etc. Thus the characters are making sure the reader is aware of the changes in their lives.
While I believe it is important to many readers that such setting details be accurate, some readers may not notice, question why, nor care that the character is using a different chair.
The Story Bible
To keep track of character names, traits and other such detail, I find it helpful to have a series ‘story bible’.
My idea of a ‘story bible’ is putting the complete text (after it is written) of each novel, back to back, in a single searchable file.
* * *
[Ed. Note: For more on ways to ensure continuity and consistency, enter “reverse outline” in the search box at https://hestanbrough.com. You can also search for “series bible” at that same place. For those of you who have downloaded the Journal archives, search them for the same terms.]
Robert J. Sadler is a long-time friend, the author of almost 30 novels in the Michael Grant Black Book Investigations series, and a blogger in his own right. He was also a contributor of the now defunct Pro Writers Writing endeavor some of us undertook awhile back.
Talk with you again soon.
See “I Feel Bad for New Writers… Part 7… More terminology” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/i-feel-bad-for-new-writers-part-7-more-terminology/.
See “Tips to Improve Newsletters Part II: Design” at https://killzoneblog.com/2023/05/tips-to-improve-newsletters-part-ii-design.html.
See “So why are algorithms still so bad at recommending books?” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/so-why-are-algorithms-still-so-bad-at-recommending-books/. See PG’s enjoyable and entertaining take.
See “New study finds lab-grown meat produces up to 25 times more CO2” at https://interestingengineering.com/science/lab-grown-meat-25-times-co2. I’m shocked (not). Won’t matter. They’ll press ahead anyway. Money will pave the way.
See “One in five articles published in journals may contain faked data” at https://interestingengineering.com/science/one-in-five-articles-contain-faked-data. Then again, 99% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
The Journal…………………………………… 1280
Total fiction words for May……… 14404
Total fiction words for 2023………… 97868
Total nonfiction words for May… 14690
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 96380
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 194248
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.