The Daily Journal, Friday, June 7

In today’s Journal

* So I don’t forget
* Those of you wno follow
* One commenter
* The Hovel and an ethernet switch
* Topic: An Admission
* Daily diary
* Of Interest
* The numbers

So I don’t forget to tell you, a buddy and I are going camping this coming Monday through Wednesday. If I have time between now and then I’ll write and pre-post something good with topics for those days. If not, well, I’ll be back. (grin) Maybe.

Those of you wno follow Pro Writers Writing might have noticed yesterday the wrong post (the one from the day before) went out. And this morning none went out.

As the admin of that site, I’m working on it.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll fix it. At this point, I’m chalking it up to gnomes.

One commenter on yesterday’s Journal (Thanks, Catherine) mentioned she enjoyed the Lee Child quote. To see and hear more from Lee Child, visit




And you can find his website at

As most of you know, I write in the Hovel, an adobe-like structure some 150 feet from my house. I do so mostly because it’s a separate office, so that when I’m at “work” I’m at work, and when I’m home, I’m home.

And yes, I also do so because I enjoy cigars, and I don’t like standing around in Arizona’s 100+ degree heat to do that. As you might imagine, the solitude of the Hovel is nice too. The thing is literally a man cave, as a few of you can attest. (grin)

But both the Hovel and the house are adobe-like rammed-earth structures with walls that are two to three feet thick, so WiFi from one to the other was spotty at best and mostly nonexistent.

So if I was writing and needed to do spot research (word spellings or translations, etc.), I had to trudge up to the house, conduct the few seconds of research, then trudge back to the Hovel, all while trying to remember what I’d learned and stay in the story.

A couple of months ago, my son (Thanks, Roy!) hard-wired a Cat 7 ethernet cable from the router in my house to my computer in the Hovel. So that solved the spotty WiFi problem.

And yesterday, I finally bought a little 5-port ethernet switch for the Hovel (my office). So now I have both my business computer and my writing ‘puter in the Hovel, both with incredibly fast internet.

Over time (as I develop new habits), having this ethernet switch should enable me to boost my productivity, maybe dramatically.

I’ll handle all email, write this Journal (the rough version), view any online workshops, etc. on the business computer where they belong. I’ll attend to those during breaks and/or non-writing time.

I’ll still have the internet on the writing ‘puter so I can pop online to conduct spot research as I write and so the two computers can talk via Dropbox. What I will NOT have on the writing ‘puter are those distracting little pop-up email notifications.

This will mean fewer distractions during my writing time, and that that alone is completely worth the $40 investment I made in buying the ethernet switch.

As I progress with tweaking this new arrangement, I won’t update the Journal (again, the rough version) through the day, so the boring time-framed stuff will probably go away. What remains will be rough approximations of when I did what (if that) and the good stuff. (grin)

Topic: An Admission

This is more for those of you who are more or less new to writing into the dark and still experimenting with getting into a personal rhythm with your writing.

If you’ve established a personal rhythm in your process, you might even want to skip this.

I often advise writers (especially those new to writing into the dark) that they can use 15- or 30-minute segments of free time to write.

This is based on having tested your day to see where your wasted time is. You can do that by creating a grid of your normal waking hours in 15-minute increments, then writing in the grids what you did during that time.

The idea is to write down everything you do during the entire day. (For example, if you cook supper and then do the dishes from 5 to 7 every day, you can automatically block out those two hours.)

Soon you’ll find that you have several 15- or 30- or even 60- minute increments during which you did nothing at all or that were otherwise wasted.

I recommend doing this for at least one normal weekday and one normal weekend day.

Then, having recognized those wasted time periods, you can seat yourself at the keyboard and write during those times.

It’s also a good idea to sit down and Just Write for 15 or 30 minutes to figure out about how many words per hour you write.

Most professional writers average around 1000 words per hour. That sounds fast, but it’s only 17 words per minute, which leaves a lot of time for staring off into space. How fast did you type in typing class in high school?

Even if you typed “only” 60 words per minute, if you could apply that to your WIP that would be 3600 words per hour. At that rate, you could finish writing a 60,000 word novel in about 17 hours. So three and a half hours per day for five days. Or two and a half hours per day for seven days.

But back to reality.

The 15-minute increment thing is absolutely valid advice that speaks to my personal mantra: Keep Coming Back. By writing during those otherwise wasted increments of time, you can accumulate larger word counts and make real progress on your WIP.

In my early days as a novelist (and sometimes even as a short story writer) I adhered to this advice. My days were much less structured then. I didn’t have a day job, but I tended to things as they came up.

So to the admission— Today, I don’t follow my own (and Dean Wesley Smith’s) advice to fill those shorter increments of free time with writing.

Mostly I attribute that to my writing speed. My average when I’m writing calmly, a few words or sentences at a time, is around 1200 words per hour.

But when I’m in the midst of a scene and it takes off, I hit closer to 1500 words per hour. (That’s still only a paltry 25 words per minute and leaves a lot of time for staring off into space.)

And because I write in bursts (scenes) of 800 to 1500 words, writing in those brief increments doesn’t work for me personally.

Now when I have an odd few minutes when I don’t want to get into the story yet (because I know it will run away with me and require more time than I have available), I do something stupid like play spider solitaire.

Yet I’m prolific because I keep coming back to those hour-long sessions and because I trust my readers to tell their own story and lead me through to the end.

An addendum—

Despite the fact that I no longer personally do it, writing in 15-minute or 30-minute increments is still sound advice from a “try it and see” standpoint. If it works for you, as it used to work for me, wonderful. If it doesn’t, let it go and do what works for you.

The key, though, is to honestly try it. Don’t let your critical voice tell you it doesn’t work or won’t work or isn’t working.

Give it an honest try and see what happens. Chances are your productivity will come alive. But either way, eventually you will find your niche, your personal space and speed.

A second addendum—

Now, if you believe 1000 words per hour is a blazing-fast rate and you can’t do it (critical mind) and you typically hit around 250 or 500 words per hour, DWS would say you need to “check in with yourself.”

However, I’m not that nice.

If you’re writing only 250 to 500 or whatever words per hour, no possible way are you in the story. You’re concentrating (critical mind) on words and/or sentences. And no matter how you write, you have to let that nonsense go and get into the story.

You can’t write into the dark until you learn to let go and just trust your subconscious. That is to say you have to trust your characters to tell their own story and that they will lead you through. Because they will.

Rolled out at 2, checked the internet, spent an hour in frustration with a client who was obsessed over the number of email subscribers to her blog (not the subscribers themselves), then another hour writing the stuff above, staring at the screen, etc. I also wrote a topic, deleted it, and wrote the one you see above.

Took a brief break up to the house at 5 to let the babies out and get another cup of coffee. As I write this, it’s almost 6 already and I’m headed out to feed the horses, then to the house to change clothes and grab breakfast. Then to the first fiction-writing session of the day.

Speaking of which, I feel like I’m approaching the end game of this novel. Not that I’m there yet, but that it’s coming. As I mentioned in an earlier Journal, I dragged my feet at times because I didn’t want this one to end.

On the other hand (there’s always another hand) I don’t remember the last time it took me 30 writing days or longer to write a novel. I feel a little like a slug.

Finally to the novel at 7:30.

My WIP seems to be running in starts and jerks and stops today. That tells me I’m getting close to the final bit for sure. As characters and situations culminate toward the end of the story, I always write more slowly as I move back and forth, letting the characters tie everything together.

Or maybe my subconscious still doesn’t want me to finish. Or maybe my subconscious wants me to finish this one while I’m in the field (that would be a first) on Monday through Wednesday camping with my buddy. Who knows.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See Robert J. Sadler’s “Letting The Cat Out Of The Bag” at

See “Expo Finished…” at

See PG’s take on “How Does Color Affect Your Potential Customers?” at VERY useful information in PG’s take.

See “Evidence Contamination: Sneezing, Coughing, and Talking” at I recommend scrolling down to “DNA Testing: The Process.”

See “RONE Award Finalist for Falcon’s Prey” at Get a free novel from a PWW contributor!

Fiction Words: 4301
Nonfiction Words: 1810 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 6111

Writing of In the Cantina at Noon (novel)

Day 29… 3397 words. Total words to date…… 58242
Day 30… 4301 words. Total words to date…… 62543

Total fiction words for the month……… 17908
Total fiction words for the year………… 324013
Total nonfiction words for the month… 10860
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 166420
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 490433

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 6
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 194
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

8 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Friday, June 7”

  1. Hi Harvey! Your whole section here in “A Second Addendum” is me. I drive myself absolutely crazy tweaking words and sentences. Ugh. I know my critical voice has me by the scruff of the neck because I’m not having much fun at all. It’s a real struggle.

    • Maggie, thanks for being brave enough to step forward and start battling that fear of finishing.

      Yep, I inow the sound of that voice. Tells you to focus on each word because “after all, you love words and sentence structure, etc, so it’s okay to write that way” or some such thing. That was EXACTLY me before I found Heinlein’s Rules and WITD and literally forced myself to try WITD.

      And all that voice is doing is keeping you from writing and finishing. The more tightly you focus on each word, the slower you write and the less chance you’ll finish and publish and there will be zero chance of people not liking what you’ve written. Because they’ll never see it.

      But you have to overcome that fear, Maggie. If you haven’t, read all of my How to Quiet the Critical Voice posts. They’re in their own tab on the website.

      And you have to overcome the notion that what you’re writing is important to the reader. It isn’t. It’s only a story. Words are only minor tools, like nails to a carpenter. And even your finished story is only a moment’s entertainment. Nothing more.

      So your job as a writer is to Just Tell a Story and then move on. Write it as well as you can at your current skill level, but Get It Out. (Readers are waiting.) Then write the next one.

      THAT should be your fear. How many potential readers are waiting to read the story you’re lalboring over? How many can’t buy it and read it each day because it isn’t out there yet? Have pity on them. Knock the story out so they can read it.

  2. (And you have to overcome the notion that what you’re writing is important to the reader. It isn’t. It’s only a story. Words are only minor tools, like nails to a carpenter. And even your finished story is only a moment’s entertainment. Nothing more.)

    Ouch! That one stung. My work isn’t important? Haha! But I like it when it stings. It tells me what I need to work on. So, thanks. That’s all REALLY good advice.

    Working slow– I’ve struggled with the same thing if I don’t dictate. But when I dictate, the story just flows out so much better. I’ve trained myself not to look at the words, I just glance to see if my green light is still on. I think my biggest struggle right now is starting, but I’m doing better there too. My goal right now is to make this a fun process! When it’s not, I usually find it’s because I’m listening to my critical voice. (You should outline to the end at this point and, this is boring, is it ending soon?, seem to be the loudest comments from that jerk at the moment)

    I did a search on trust in all your chapters in the book recently. You wrote some awesome advice. So good. Still struggling there a bit, but plowing through. I was wishing you’d addressed it in it’s own chapter, but after reading through, it was all there and more. I’m following your advice to just write the next sentence.

    Thanks again for the great thoughts/comments. Just what I needed today. =)

    • Thanks, Diane. Sounds to me like you have fun when you’re dictating (“the story just flows”). I envy you that. Doesn’t work for me. One of the old pulp writers (the one who wrote Perry Mason, I believe) dictated up to 10,000 words a day. (His secretary did the transcribing, typing.) I would LOVE to have production like that. I could tell so many more stories. 🙂

      But making our work “important” is what causes us to worry and fret over each word in an attempt to make the story “perfect.” And of course, that’s never going to happen because there are so many judges (readers). What 5 or 6 love, 2 or 3 will think is “all right” and one or two will think is garbage. And who cares?

      When writing into the dark (letting my characters tell their story) I’M the reader. I’M entertained (and “paid” in that way first), so I don’t worry about who else enjoys it. Of course, I hope others enjoy my work, and generally maybe 8 out of 10 will either love it or like it. As for those who don’t, well, maybe the next book. But in the meantime, I’m having a ball.

      To make writing fun, (as you know) I always emphasize that WHAT we write is not important, but THAT we write is.

      And you’re right. TRUST is the most important concept if you want to have fun with your writing (and write in your original voice). If you Trust your subconscious and Trust your characters to tell their own story (the one they’re living), then writing can’t help but be fun.

      For me personally, if I worried and fretted over every word and every sentence (like I used to) I would have written probably 5 novels at this point. Instead of being a day or so within finishing my 44th story (and sorry to see it end).

      Now for the toughie: I’m not sure what you mean by “my biggest struggle right now is starting.”

      If you mean starting a story, Girl do I ever have a great assignment for you!

      Carolyn, a woman in a business suit is holding a briefcase in her left hand. She’s just stepped through the front door of her house (or apartment). The door closes behind her and she notices something wrong with her shoe (untied shoelace, a small rock in the shoe, something).

      Change the name and gender if you want, pick the “problem,” but leave the rest intact. Write it in your own words (you might want to describe her clothing in greater detail, etc.), and when you’re through, go with whatever sentence pops into your head next. If it takes off, keep writing. Lemme know how it goes.

  3. Dictating is awesome, but it’s more about the speed the story comes to you, than how fast you can talk. It changes, but right now I get about 1200 words an hour. So about the same as you do? I do, however, walk while I dictate, so the exercise is a nice bonus. =)

    (What 5 or 6 love, 2 or 3 will think is “all right” and one or two will think is garbage. And who cares?)

    Who cares, indeed! Wonderful attitude. I’m trying to cultivate it as well.

    (I’M entertained (and “paid” in that way first), so I don’t worry about who else enjoys it)

    It’s true, I am finding myself a lot more entertained, and I like your way of seeing the writing itself as its own payout. Nice.

    Thanks for the story start! I’ll give this a try and let you know. How fun. =)

    • Thanks, Diane. I appreciate it. Y’know, if you think about it, you’re already a bestselling author too, so you already know at least three boatloads of readers enjoy your stories. I have a feeling once you make writing into the dark your own (so you retain more of your original voice) even more will enjoy them, and those who already do will enjoy them even more.

      I look forward to reading your take on the exercise. (grin)

  4. Thanks so much, Harvey. Your words give me hope! This whole thing with the critical voice has been such a struggle and I do it in other areas of my life (not just writing). By trade I’m a pet groomer and I used to drive myself crazy nitpicking at every little stray hair (we call them “stickey-outies” in the grooming industry, LOL). I even considered leaving grooming because it just wasn’t fun anymore beating up on myself like that. I finally forced myself to stop trying to be a perfectionist and remember why I became a groomer in the first place (because I love dogs). It felt so good to finally let go and just have fun and play again. My plan is to do the same with the writing. Thanks again, Harvey!

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