Generating Graphics, and On Writing Techniques

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Generating Graphics
* On Writing Techniques (or Not)
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” Michael Jordan

“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary [humans]. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary [human].” Elbert Hubbard, American writer

Generating Graphics

I do not personally recommend any subscription options for designing covers, social media ads, flyers and other graphics you might need as an indie publisher. There are simply too many great graphics design programs out there that are either free or that you can buy outright.

But the thing is, you aren’t me. Many of you are much younger, are actively engaged on various social media, and don’t mind hiring graphics software on a subscription basis.

If you want to go that way and aren’t already hip-deep in Adobe’s design-suite cloud, I recommend trying BookBrush ( for creating covers and for creating social media memes and ads for your work.

I don’t use BookBrush myself. But having glanced over it for a few minutes, I got the impression that it’s a one-stop destination for all your cover and graphic illustration needs. As a bonus, it’s around a hundred dollars less per year than Adobe. If I didn’t have the programs I have and if I were engaged on social media, I probably would use BookBrush.

If you’d rather own (permanently license) your software (vs. renting it) I have some other suggestions.

I spent a minute or two online and found a “Top 5 Free Book Cover Makers” article from KindlePreneur at

The programs they list are Krita, GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program), (not the Windows one), Canva, and Over. You might check them out.

For my own covers, I personally use the now-ancient Serif PagePlus programs. In my estimation, X6 is the best and most intuitive, but Serif also released X7, 8, and 9 before moving on to their Affinity line.

You can no longer buy PagePlus programs directly from the company. You have to poke around at Amazon or ebay or some similar platform and keep your fingers crossed. I found an X6 disc for $40. It didn’t come with a license key, but the one I purchased ages ago still worked. (I keep a record of all license keys I purchase.)

I also recommend Serif’s Affinity Publisher. You can also buy Photo and Designer to own the full interactive suite. Best of all, each costs a one-time fee, not a subscription. Affinity is very much like Adobe, except that it’s far less expensive and isn’t offered only by subscription.

Finally, for layout and formatting options to create both ebooks and print books, I strongly recommend purchasing Atticus. Again this is not a subscription. You pay $147 to license the program, period.

From yesterday’s Journal entry, “The point by point comparison with Vellum was impressive, as is the promise that all upgrades, new templates, etc. are free for life.

“The only downside (for me) is that it requires Chrome OS. But you only have to download and install Chrome. You don’t have to use it later. Downloading and installing Chrome, which I probably will never use again, took all of maybe a full minute.”

On Writing Techniques (or Not)

This is a little long, but I decided not to write the series of posts titled “Writing Technique (or Not): A Graphic Illustration” that I mentioned in yesterday’s edition of the Journal. Frankly, the end result seemed unworthy of the time and effort required to put it all together and publish it.

The primary idea was that an undecided would-be writer is standing at Point Zero on a flat-line graph. From there s/he had four options:

1. S/he could remain frozen in place, overcome by one unreasoning fear or another or addicted to reading and talking about writing but never actually writing;

2. S/he could just walk away, leave writing to those with a passion for it, and go find something for which s/he has a passion;

3. S/he could take certain “required” steps that would allegedly ensure success; or

4. S/he could back away from taking those “required” steps and Just Write.

Here I’m dealing with only the last two options. If s/he backed away s/he would not only NOT do something but s/he would let go of the requirement of following the steps.

The steps to be followed (some writers omit some steps) are

1. outline
1a. character sketches
1b. place sketches
1c. world building
2. write
3. revise
4. self-edit
5. seek external critique
6. rewrite to apply external critique
7. send to beta readers
8. apply beta readers’ input
9. polish
10. indie publish or submit to agents

(Notice that of the 13 separate steps in the process, only one step is to actually write. And many writers repeat steps 3 and 6 over and over again.)

A few decades ago, I completed numbers 1, 1a, 1b, and 1c above.

In completing No. 1 I outlined a novel, complete with plot points and twists, noting in which chapter the rising action would peak, noting again where the last third of the novel would begin and where I would insert the final few try-fail sequences, etc.

At No. 1a I wrote some of the required character sketches, complete with histories, any significant dates (birth, various graduations, etc.). At No. 1b I did the same for some of the significant places (buildings, intersections, towns, etc.) I would include in the novel, and at No. 1c I completed significant world-building.

And when the outline was finished and the notes were placed and the character- and place-sketches and world-building were done and it finally came time to move to step 2 (Write)—I couldn’t, because

1. I was bored out of my mind. After all, I already knew the entire story, front to back: the characters, where and how the story would unfold, where the rising action would peak. I knew the main character would try and fail twice in the second third of the novel.

Likewise I knew he would then experience a resurgence before trying and failing two more times in the last third of the novel before he finally tried and succeeded, roll the credits, thanks for coming out, you can go home now, the end.

In other words, when the outline was finished there was nothing left to “create,” and thus far I’d created nothing for that novel, though I had constructed an awful lot of stuff. Or a lot of awful stuff.

2. I was scared to death. What if one of the characters went off-script? What if, God forbid, something occurred to me as I was writing the novel that wasn’t in line with the outline and all the planning I’d done? All that work would be down the tube.

I could do only one thing: I had to return to the outline, make sure it was absolutely complete. Once I perfected it, the characters and the story itself wouldn’t be able to waver. There wouldn’t be room.

So I looped back to 1, 1a, 1b, and 1c. And I stayed there for over 3 years. I wasn’t a writer at all. I was an outliner. A plotter. A planner. I was a hard-working (but unpaid) construction engineer, and my materials were words, sentence fragments, and sentences.

The whole time I was struggling with Just Starting to write one novel, I was churning out hundreds of poems, essays, articles, and—starting in the 1990s—blog posts. I also wrote several short stories.

During the ’90s I even edited and published, in paper, three different quarterly literary reviews: The Roswell Literary Review, The Raintown Review: Poetry Edition and The Raintown Review: Essay Edition.

But I was never quite able to pull the trigger on actually writing that novel. I never wrote a sentence of it.

Enter February 2014, Dean Wesley Smith’s website, and Writing Into the Dark. A skeptic, I tried it with every expectation that it wouldn’t work. But it did. And here we are.

As an afficionado and practitioner of WITD I’ve expanded it and advanced it, but I can’t say I’ve added to it because there was nothing there to which anyone can “add” anything. WITD isn’t a technique at all, but a non-technique. So in expanding and advancing it, I’ve taken away more, removed more requirements.

What I teach isn’t even a matter of “writing into the dark” because even doing that requires a conscious-mind decision. What I teach is to simply access your characters’ world, drop into the ongoing story, and race through it with the characters while recording the story as it unfolds around you.

And that’s what I wish for all of you.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Scientists made a mind-bending discovery about how AI actually works” at

See “Scientists detect signs of hidden structure inside Earth’s core.” at Probably where the Mole People live.

See “5 Strategies I Use to Launch New Books in Kindle Unlimited” at Note that this requires distribution only to Amazon.

See “The thing about Bing” at I have to admit I chuckled a little.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1490 words

Writing of “Hortencia Alvarez” (shrug—I dunno)

Day 1…… 1089 words. Total words to date…… 1089

Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)

Day 1…… 3231 words. Total words to date…… 3231
Day 2…… 2990 words. Total words to date…… 6221
Day 3…… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 8026
Day 4…… 2025 words. Total words to date…… 10051

Total fiction words for February……… 1089
Total fiction words for 2023………… 47962
Total nonfiction words for February… 15130
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 35480
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 83442

Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: Because It Makes Sense, I preach trusting your characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living. Duh. See My Best Advice for Fiction Writers at