In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Practice Makes Perfect
* Stupid (or Lazy) Mistakes
* Of Interest
* Ahem. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.
Quotes of the Day
“Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid.” John Wayne
“The fact that I was a girl never damaged my ambitions to be a pope or an emperor.” Willa Cather (Specifically to address the last item in “Of Interest”)
Practice Makes Perfect
We live in a world in which experience rules and practice makes perfect. Not that we can ever actually achieve perfection because what is perfect depends on individual perception. That said, we can continue to improve, but only by continual practice.
For writers, just like for other artists, “practice” does not mean hovering in place over one work (revising over and over, rewriting, seeking critical input, polishing) in an attemtp to perfect it.
Practice means putting new words on the page. It means doing your best according to your current ability on the current work the first time through. Then you take a little time to learn something new. Then you do your new, improved best on the next work.
Comparisons are useful too, if you compare who you are today with who you were yesterday. But if that person is the same—if you’re still hovering over one work instead of putting new words on the page—you’re wasting valuable time.
Grow some confidence, believe in yourself, and conversely understand that a story of any length is still only a story. Any individual story doesn’t matter except as it matters to the reader, and that is something over which you have zero influence.
Stupid (or Lazy) Mistakes
The writer or writers on one of my otherwise favorite Brit crime shows, Death in Paradise (on Amazon Prime, Britbox, and maybe Netflix), regularly exercises lazy writing. In different episodes, the detective sergeant claims a firearm is “nine millimeter caliber.”
Um, no. A five-second search on any search engine will tell you that a millimeter and a caliber are different measurements.
A caliber is a standard measurement equaling 1/100th of an inch. A millimeter is a metric measurement, 1/10th of a centimeter. A projectile or the weapon that fired it can’t be both.
From Sage & Braker,
“There are 10 millimeters (mm) in 1 centimeter (cm) and 2.54 centimeters in 1 inch (in). Therefore, multiply a bullet or bore caliber given in inches by 25.4 in order to convert it to millimeters. The opposite is also true: divide a given caliber expressed in millimeters by 25.4 in order to convert it to inches.”
For example, the diameter of a .38 caliber round is 38/100 of an inch or 9.652 millimeters.
The diameter in calibers (1/100th of an inch) of a 9mm round would be .3543307086614173. So roughly .35 caliber. Doesn’t exist. So stop it.
If you enjoy great stories, I recommend The Hemingway Hoax, a short SF novel by Joe Haldeman. It won both the Nebula and Hugo awards. I’m not sure where I first heard of the book, but I’m glad I did. I only wish I’d thought of the idea first.
As a few of you have noticed, I’ve allowed fiction writing to slide lower in my priorities recently. That’s due to a few personally significant matters that are beyond my control. As I tend to those matters I do have time to do other things, including writing fiction.
Unfortunately, being away from the familiar surroundings of the Hovel, I’ve allowed myself to develop other habits to fill that time. I’m currently attempting to develop new habits that will rectify the situation. With any luck you’ll see the results of that attempt soon in the numbers below.
Talk with you again soon.
See “A Fun Challenge” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/a-fun-challenge/.
See “Survival Tips for Conferences” at https://killzoneblog.com/2023/03/survival-tips-for-conferences.html. Good as far as it goes but nothing new here.
See “Why We Don’t Need “Heroines”” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/why-we-dont-need-heroines/.
Ahem. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.
No woman was ever called a “heroine” (or a “chairwoman” or a “postmistress” etc.) as an attempt to demean her. Rather, I believe it was to call attention, rightly, to the fact that she is female and therefore elevated by nature above other human beings.
Such titles served as an advance warning to all who approached that they were about to come into the presence of the divine feminine and that they should act accordingly. That basically meant minding their manners, which people on both sides of the gender aisle should do anyway even if being polite and respectful somehow “offends” them.
The Journal…………………………………… 750 words
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
Day 5…… 1451 words. Total words to date…… 11502
Total fiction words for March……… 1451
Total fiction words for 2023………… 54275
Total nonfiction words for March… 8550
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 49880
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 104155
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)………………………………… 9
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. See My Best Advice for Fiction Writers at https://hestanbrough.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/My-Best-Advice-for-Fiction-Writers.pdf.
4 thoughts on “Practice Makes Perfect, and Stupid Mistakes”
Well, to the extent that “caliber” has become a generic term (like, e.g., aspirin), I’m kind of okay with your example. Besides, the police officers on that show don’t even carry guns, so I’m a little more lenient with them than I would be with other shows.
Two examples from print fiction stand out to me as really boneheaded mistakes – both books were wallbanged, and I quit reading the authors after that.
First, and the less egregious of the two, the FBI-agent characters are confronting the bad guy in a cabin on board a mostly deserted cruise chip. One of the agents fires a warning shot overhead – that is, through the ceiling of the cabin they’re in and into the cabin above…when said agent could not *KNOW* for certain the cabin above was empty. GRR.
Second, and worse by far, two military characters are about to have sex. The female grabs a pistol from the nightstand, holds it to the male’s head and basically threatens him (“if you don’t XXX right now….”). That’s assault with a deadly weapon, which is a felony.
Damn shame about those two authors…I generally enjoyed their work, but those were deal-breakers for me, most especially the second one. “Death in Paradise” looks downright *accurate* by comparison. GRIN
Peggy, I only continued watching the series because of the absolutely stunning scenery. But I lost all belief in the competence of the writers, not to mention their work ethic. And “millimeter caliber” almost hurt my ears. It would be like sailing a “24 foot meter boat” or children playing in a sand rock box.
Of your two examples, sounds to me like in the first the writer forgot the characters were inside a boat when one fired a “warning shot.” Maybe more importantly, though (accuracy again), no real law enforcement type would actually fire a warning shot. What, he’s gonna spare the bad guy with his first shot and endanger whomever might intercept the bullet as it falls back to Earth? (grin) As for the second, sounds to me like that woman has some issues that can’t be resolved by… well, anything probably.
As a measure of the diameter of the projectile a weapon can fire, the term caliber only really applies to certain hand- or shoulder-fired weapons; the term means something different when applied to naval guns. For example, the main weapon on the U.S.S. Iowa, lead ship in the last class of U.S. battleships, was nine 16-inch/50-caliber guns. The designation does not mean the weapon could fire both a 16-inch-diameter projectile and a 50-caliber (0.5-inch-diameter) projectile; it means it fired a 16-inch-diameter projectile down a barrel that was 50 times longer than the projectile’s diameter (800 inches). Currently (as of May 2022) the U.S. Navy currently has seventy active destroyers of the Arleigh Burke class (with another thirteen either laid down or under construction and still another seven on order awaiting shipyard availability); the first thirty of these have a single 5-inch/54-caliber (270-inch) main gun while the next forty have a single 5-inch/62-caliber (310-inch) main gun.
Interesting. Thanks, Russ.
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