On Goals, Adjustments, Available Time, and Priorities

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* A Little Fluidity Is Good
* Two Kinds of Writing Instructors/Bloggers
* To My Surprise
* On Goals, Adjustments, Available Time, and Priorities
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“You have no sense of the tragic.”
“Oh for God’s sake. When things are wrong you change them. You don’t set them to strings.” Two characters in the John M. Williams short story “The Weariness of the South,” in the collection of the same name (A recent post by another writer brought this to the forefront of my memory.)

“Best writing advice? Write to a quota and study the craft. One-two, one-two.” James Scott Bell (There you go, LMA, a quote from a member of your own camp.)

A Little Fluidity Is Good

So is thinking for yourself and making intelligent choices. And superlatives are nonsense. “Always” is about as intelligent as “never.”

I read a post in which a writer wrote, “Don’t get me started on the Oxford Comma. You use it. ALWAYS.”

Okay, Johnny B, Grand Master of the Universe.

OR how about this: How about we use it — and all the other marks of punctuation — to direct the reading of our work and clarify the text for our readers? Hmm? How about we just do that?

I recommend using the “Oxford comma” on a case-by-case basis to avoid confusing the reader. Just like all the other commas you use.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the Oxford comma is the comma inserted just before “and” in a series of comparative or related items in a sentence.

The whole purpose of punctuation is to direct the reading of your work. For a great deal more on this topic, see my book Punctuation for Writers. Trust me, you’ve never heard about punctuation in this way before. PFW is not a silly regurgitation of the “rules,” like Strunk & White or some of the other books out there.

Two Kinds of Writing Instructors/Bloggers

1. Those who actively teach freeing, innovative techniques and why writers should feel self-confident and practice, practice, practice, and

2. Those who actively teach the myths and that writers should NOT feel confident in themselves and should NEVER attempt to write anything so Complex and Earth Shakingly Important as a short story or novel without plenty of outside help from critique groups and without learning a LOT of things first that will slow or stop their writing.

And of course, those who push that fertilizer all have books available for sale on those same topics — why and how to outline, rewrite, revise etc. ad nauseam — just in case you have more money than sense and have a strong urge to part with some of it.

To My Surprise

the Flash Sale was a success, so I’ll be doing that again in the future.

In the meantime, the first prequel and the first overall book in the Wes Crowley saga, Rise of a Warrior, is already available free as a PDF download at HarveyStanbrough.com/downloads/.

So you can go there anytime and download it free. And of course, donors may ask for anything at any time.

On Goals, Adjustments, Priorities, and Available Time

This is continued from yesterday. To see the first part if you missed it, Click Here.

On Setting Goals —

Because some folks don’t get it or think I’m trying to tell other writers what they “have” to do….

Setting a daily goal WILL help you write more than you did before, especially on average. That’s why I so strongly recommend it.

Likewise, if you keep track of your word count on a spreadsheet or even as I do in Numbers below, doing so will motivate you by enabling you to see how quickly your numbers build. I also recommend doing that.

That said, you do not “have” to set goals or keep track of your numbers or write into the dark or write at all. If you quit writing completely, the world at large will not miss you, or me, or anyone else.

So if you DO set a goal and if it stresses you out or makes you want to run to a safe space because it’s Just Too Scary, or if it makes you want to give up writing completely, I recommend you either

  • adjust the goal lower,
  • get rid of it completely, or
  • quit writing and find something fun to do.

And of course, you don’t “have” to do any of those things either. They’re only what I recommend. Especially that last one.

Seriously, a daily (or other) writing goal is there to help you, not to hinder or harm you.

(LMA, if you’re reading this, does this clarifly things for you? Unlike you, I do not tell people what they can’t possibly do, I do not tell them that outlining and rewriting is “part of writing” or that it is just as productive as putting new words on the page, and I do not intentionally misrepresent what others say.)

Okay, now back to the real world of writers and would-be writer who actually want to WRITE fiction instead of being all forearm-across-the-forehead melodramatic about it….

My Own Adjusted Routine —

As a point of reference, my workday typically begins whenever I get to the Hovel in the early morning and lasts until between 3 and 4 p.m.

As I continue to work into my new, slightly adjusted routine I will no doubt adjust it (and maybe my goals) further. But my current intentions are

1. to reach or exceed my daily word count goal for fiction every day, except on the day the novel wraps, when the word count will be whatever it is.

When the novel wraps, if I have time left in the workday and motivation, I’ll begin the next novel. If I don’t, I’ll begin the next one a day or two later. Or a week later. Not a big deal. As I mentioned above, if I stopped writing fiction tomorrow, nobody would notice, much less care. And that is as it should be.

Anyway, I recommend you take “not a big deal” to heart and keep pressure out of the equation. (Of course, if this doesn’t work for you, please feel free to ignore it.)

I also hope to reach or exceed my fiction word count goal by noon or 1 p.m. Along in there. But the fiction comes before anything else in my workday.

But that varies too. As I write this, I have written only 1700 words of fiction on the novel, then started this while it was fresh in my mind. But I can spend the rest of my workday on the novel.

2. to leave off the novel each day inside a scene or chapter to help launch me into the writing the next day. For me this is important, so I also recommend this approach for others. Of course, if this doesn’t “work” for you (where “work” = help you put more new words on the page sooner), shrug, don’t do it.

3. to use what’s left of the workday productively after I have reached my fiction word count, I plan to use that time to work on (write) the two or three new nonfiction craft books I have in mind.

I will publish those new nonfiction craft books with the also-new Harvey Stanbrough Writing Series (or StoneThread Publishing Writing Series) cover design.

After those are published and available — but also during that extra time toward the end of my workday — I’ll begin updating some of the older nonfiction books that need to be updated and rebranding them and the other old ones to reflect the new cover design as well.

Available Time (or what I call my workday) —

Above I mentioned available time. Despite having one or two outside “day” jobs (or not) or children at home (or not) or serving as a primary caregiver (or not) and so on, and despite good or poor health, age, and everything else, most of us are on the same footing in one important way: We all have a certain amount of expendable time available to us.

My own available time and workday varies occasionally (life happens), but on most days it remains the same. Yours probably does too.

You might say my life is unplotted. Despite any attempts to regulate it, it unfolds naturally. Just as yours probably does. And just as my characters’ lives do in their stories, which I am blessed to record for them.

“Time available” (or “expendable time”) always follows the same formula for everyone: It is any time during which you are not asleep and not directly and necessarily involved in any other activity.

The secret to success in any freelance “hobby” or other endeavor is how you prioritize what you will do during that time.

For me, during that time, writing fiction is my number one priority. The Journal and other nonfiction writing are a close second, but they are still second. Of course, your own priorities might differ, and that’s fine.

Note: In all of the above, I “sacrifice” nothing and nobody. My family, my chores and other tasks, and any other necessary aspects of my life are not a lower priority to what I do during my workday. They are all Priority 1 (like writing fiction), but in their own time.

I’ll talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

Correcting Pretentious Pronouns Not what you probably think. A very good post.

The Dictionary Isn’t the Rulebook… Just a reminder that I do not agree with every point of every post to which I link in Of Interest.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1590

Writing of Blackwell Ops 17:

Day 9…… 5226 words. To date…… 32027
Day 10…. 3304 words. To date…… 35331
Day 11…. 4022 words. To date…… 39353

Fiction for January……………………. 27810
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 27810
Fiction since October 1…………… 330567
Nonfiction for January……………… 9370
Nonfiction for 2024…………………… 9370
Consumable words for today……… 5612 (new feature)
2024 consumable words…………… 36880

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 0
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 82
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 238
Short story collections…………………… 31

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Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.