The Daily Journal, Monday, January 28

Hey Folks,

Some amazing stuff in “Of Interest” today, and maybe a topic on a new writing exercise you can try.

But first to the novel. I rolled out a little late this morning, and I’m anxious to get to it. (grin) Though I did take a brief side-trip to share an excerpt from it on Facebook this morning.

Topic A New Excercise to Try

A few years ago, when I first became convinced one of the most important components of a story is the opening, I designed an exercise for myself.

I wasn’t in the middle of a novel or a short story. In other words, I had no other fiction tugging at me.

First, I prepared my subconscious. I told it (yes, aloud),

“All right, today we’re going to write openings. We don’t even want to write a whole story from any of them, at least not today. For today, it’s openings only.

“In those openings, we’re going to ground the reader. That means we’re going to invoke all five of the POV character’s physical senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.

“We are also going to practice writing into the dark, in that we’re going to write an opening on whatever idea occurs to us at the time.”

And I sat down and came up with an idea. Then I wrote the opening. Then I came up with another idea, and I wrote another opening.

From there, my subconscious went nuts.

Remember, an idea is only a character with a problem (doesn’t have to be “the” problem of the story — it might be only an untied shoelace) dropped into a setting.

I wrote two openings in the first session, took a short break, then came back and wrote two more in the second session. Each was 400 to 600 words long.

Toward the end of writing the fourth opening, the characters in that one handed me characters and situation for the fifth. The protagonist in the fifth was a friend of one of the characters in the fourth.

And I was off and running. Most of the rest of the way through the exercise, that same thing kept happening. I had ideas coming at me from every direction.

Before I stopped, I’d written 11 openings in five sessions, scattered through the day. I stopped every hour or so for a break of at least a few minutes. Once, I was gone for a little over an hour to eat lunch.

But at the end of the day, by doing that exercie, I had shown my subconscious what it could do.

Grounding the reader in every opening is essential, not only at the beginning of the story, but at the beginning of each new major scene or chapter. It’s how you draw the reader into your story. It’s one way to cause the reader to feel he’s in the scene with the POV character and feel empathy for the character. And frankly, it isn’t that difficult.

This exercise also showed me (and my subconscious) that writing into the dark not only WORKS, but it actually leads you to write more and have more fun (no “work” involved) as you’re doing it.

I hope you’ll try this exercise for yourself. I welcome any comments or questions. But PLEASE don’t comment unless you try it. There’s little I dislike more than someone who says, “That will never work for me” when they haven’t tried it. (grin)

After all, what do you have to lose? And believe me, you have everything to gain.

As you have time, please let me know what you think of this new format, in a comment or via email. I’m not pleased that the excerpt is jammed together in one paragraph (a MailChimp thing) but otherwise it seems all right.

If you publish through Amazon Kindle, you are probably aware they’ve come up with a new “eBook Quality Dashboard.” I received the announcement on January 22.

If you didn’t get that notice, you can read about it at

This morning I received a “Kindle Quality Notice – Open Quality Warning or Suppression” email from Amazon. My breath caught in my throat.

Fortunately, the email read

Below is the weekly status of titles with quality issues in your eBook catalog as of 28 Jan 2019, 06:38:55 -0500.

Number of titles removed from sale: 0
Number of titles with quality warnings: 0
Number of titles with open issues: 0

Please address the quality issues Needing Your Review on the Quality Issues Dashboard by clicking here [link] or from the notification at the top of your KDP Bookshelf [link].

Whew! Guess I’m one of the lucky ones. At least so far.

I suppose this is a good thing, but don’t they check for “quality issues” (whatever those are) when you first publish your book?

This might be one more non-writing thing to keep an eye on. Like we needed more of those.

Well, in my first session, I cycled back and wrote only around 300 new words. Then a break. In the second session, I wrote about 800. Then a longer break, then one more session.

Then a break for a walk (only a mile). When I came back I wrote two more sessions, both about normal. A pretty good day today.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “Keeping Track – It’s in the Details” at Deja vu, eh? (grin)

See “2019 Goals Recap – Week #4” at Very interesting post.

See “Focus on the Words” at

See “Could Alexa Solve Murders?” at An amazing and universal story idea. Don’t miss this.

Fiction Words: 4218
Nonfiction Words: 950 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 5168

Writing of Blackwell Ops: Charles Claymore Task (novel)

Day 1…… 2405 words. Total words to date…… 2405
Day 2…… 2695 words. Total words to date…… 5100
Day 3…… 3016 words. Total words to date…… 8116
Day 4…… 3521 words. Total words to date…… 11637
Day 5…… 2478 words. Total words to date…… 14115
Day 6…… 4410 words. Total words to date…… 18525
Day 7…… 1252 words. Total words to date…… 19777
Day 8…… 2551 words. Total words to date…… 22328
Day 9…… 2929 words. Total words to date…… 25257
Day 10… 3860 words. Total words to date…… 29117
Day 11… 4218 words. Total words to date…… 33335

Total fiction words for the month……… 71322
Total fiction words for the year………… 71322
Total nonfiction words for the month… 22750
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 22750
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 94072

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date………………………… 1
Calenday Year 2019 Novellas to Date…………………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date……… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 38
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 193
Short story collections…………………………………………………… 31

8 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Monday, January 28”

  1. That is a nice exercise, Harvey. I’m going to practice it this week. Thanks for sharing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  2. Hi Harvey, Oddly I have yet to receive that email about the eBook quality dashboard. I like your exercise. I think this grounding the reader at scene openers is one of my strengths, but all skills need practice, and this sounds like great practice.

  3. Great exercise, Harvey! I’ve yet to do so many in a single day, which I think is a great way to do it–after awhile, I’d hope that critical voice would quiet down because you’re focused on just getting these openings done with only depth in mind, no fiddling with sentences, so that you can move on to the next one.

    Thanks for the great Of Interest links as well (not intending to toot my own horn, I meant the others ;)). Terry’s post definitely reminded me how badly I need to start a series bible.

    • Thanks, Phillip. It is a great way to quiet critical voice, though when I did the exercise, before I began each new session, I’d read back over the two I’d written in the previous session (as a reader in creative mind, cycling) and sometimes added more bits. Which also gave me practice in cycling while shutting out the critical mind.

  4. Dear Harvey,

    First, I did notice when we missed a Daily Journal entry, and next, this new format is quite nice. Furthermore, it makes a lot of sense and must be more efficient in many ways. Your suggested exercise is also spot on. It can be helpful for writers who struggle with distilling the essence of a story. Simply creating that one sentence (in medias res) can hint at so much that will enrich what follows. It will set all sorts of mental wheels a-whirring.

    BTW, hope you’re staying well.


    • Michaele, my beautiful friend! Thank you for checking in! I think of you often and wondered how you’re doing. Glad you enjoyed the post and like the new format. I only wish the excerpt would leave my blasted paragraphs alone. (grin)

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