Take Your Time. Details Matter.

In today’s Journal

* TNDJ vs. The (Almost) Daily Journal
* Writers Ask
* Take Your Time. Details Matter.
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Admin Note

Because this is an important post, I decided after the fact to make it available to free subscriber of the old Daily Journal.

Tomorrow’s post will feature “This Is Next-Level Stuff.” It will make use of the example you’ll find in this post, and it will elaborate on a next-level technique that could jump your writing skill to Stage Four.

That post will be for paid subscribers only. To be sure you don’t miss it, please click  Donate Here and make a recurring donation of $3 per month OR a one-time (annual) donation of at least $36. On July 1, the rate will increase to $5 per month or $60 per year (Stripe’s minimum). Thank you!

TNDJ vs. The (Almost) Daily Journal

I sent out the first free issue of TNDJ yesterday, meaning I sent it also to the old (Almost) Daily Journal list. If any of you received two posts titled “Thoughs on Writing in Public,” email to let me know and I’ll remove you from the old list. Thanks!

Writers Ask

This will become a semi-regular feature in TNDJ. If you have a question, please either leave a comment or email me. Once a week or so I will compile your questions and respond here so everyone can learn.

Question: “If content critique is wrong, what do you do about a writer who writes that mandatory retirement in the U. S. Postal Service exists for regular employees? Other examples could be that MD stands for Medical Doctorate instead of Doctor of Medicine and talking about ‘clips’ when they really mean ‘magazines.’ If they get commonly known facts wrong, do you just let them slide?”

Answer: No. Those fall under mechanical critiques: wrong words or phrases. And a good first reader would catch such nonsense, as would many “regular” readers.

However, none of your examples (or any other wrong words or phrases or facts) address the CONTENT of the story: the fact that the character IS a regular postal worker or doctor or that he uses a semi-automatic weapon that relies on a magazine.

Question(s): “What do you make of the advice that you shouldn’t get family or friends to be first readers? Since, as the advice goes, they will never be straight with you and will always try to spare your feelings. Plus, their love for you may colour how they see the work.”

Answer: I can’t and won’t reject the advice as bunk, but you should trust the first reader to give you his/her honest feedback and to not be critical of content (e.g., “I would have written the passage/story this way”).

Since good first readers generally report what “pops out” at them as they read for pleasure (subconscious mind), there’s no reason they shouldn’t be straight with you, no matter the level of the personal or professional relationship.

If you can’t trust the person to give you their honest feedback at any level (first reading or copyediting), I recommend finding a different first reader or copyeditor.

Take Your Time. Details Matter.

If you want to pull the reader into the story and hold him there, you have to practice slowing down and taking your time.

Not to edit (critical mind) or anything like that, but to be sure what you see in your head as the characters are conveying the story to you makes it out of your head and onto the page. Otherwise the readers can’t see, hear, smell, taste or feel it. So they can’t be involved.

After 90 novels, 9 novellas, and over 30 short stories, Take Your Time is still my mantra. Take Your Time is always in the back of my mind.

Soon taking your time becomes part of the cycling process. And it is invaluable.

For just one “live” example, as I was writing my current novel yesterday, I wrote the following passage. In this scene, a rookie female police officer has just witness a frail little old lady lying on a bed, her head turned to one side, a neat .38 caliber hole, a self-inflicted gunshot wound, burned into her temple.

Finally she stepped off the front of the porch and started toward the patrol car.

But she stopped. Sipes wasn’t in it.

She frowned. Something isn’t right.

The dim glow from the windows on the front of the house reflected on the back of Sipes’ light grey uniform. He was halfway toward the silos.

She ran to catch up with him.

After cycling back over the chapter, that passage now read like this:

Finally she stepped off the front of the porch and started toward the patrol car.

But she stopped. Sipes wasn’t in it.

She frowned. A chill trembled through her.

Something isn’t right.

Of course, she’d just seen a nice old grandmother with a hole burned into her temple.

But still.

The night was eerily silent. Absolutely still. She rested her right hand on her Glock.

She looked left.

Only the dark form of the old outhouse, leaning to the west. Nothing moving.

She looked right.

Only the slightly lighter ribbon of the road. Some brush, but nothing else.
She glanced at the cruiser again to verify Bill wasn’t there, then let her gaze sweep toward the silos.

The dim glow from the windows on the front of the house reflected on the back of Sipes’ light grey uniform. He was halfway toward the silos.

She ran to catch up with him.

There are only 86 additional words in the second excerpt. I think they enable the reader to see more of the setting and be absorbed more deeply into the story.

They also enable the reader to feel the officer’s unease, and that sort of thing cues the mental mechanism that causes the reader to root for the officer.

So is the passage and the story better?

That’s up to you. You’re the reader. But it’s the best I can do, so I’m leaving it as-is. (grin)

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

How To Choose the Right Kindle Keywords…

Focus Bundle to Learn Depth Good price. But the best way to learn depth is to write. And to take your time.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 920

Writing of When the Owl Calls (novel)

Day 10…. 2038 words. To date…… 23952
Day 11…. 1960 words. To date…… 25912

Fiction for June…………………….….… 63300
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 346927
Fiction since October 1………………… 649984
Nonfiction for June……………………… 3720
Nonfiction for 2024…………………… 187350
2024 consumable words……………… 534277

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 8
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)……………… 90
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……… 239
Short story collections…………………… 29

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 are lies, and they will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.