The Daily Journal, Saturday, March 30

In today’s Journal

▪ Yesterday
▪ On the novel
▪ Topic: On Writing Series…
▪ Daily diary
▪ Of Interest
▪ The numbers

Yesterday I was thinking about going out into the desert behind my house for some target practice with my “new” 9mm. I realized the few rounds I fired at that old coyote the other day were the first ones I’d ever put through that piece.

But instead, nagged by the constant PHP warning on all the websites I managed, I decided to look into upgrading the PHP version. (Don’t ask me. All I really know about it is it’s called “PHP.”)

Anyway, I finally figured out how to do it, then opened my test site and did it. Easy peasy. So I did it on my other sites that affect no one but me. It worked on (meaning “did no harm”) on those too.

So I applied it on PWW and some client sites. Now every site is up to date, and the stupid warnings are gone.

Thank goodness.

On the novel, I’m in that space where I’m getting closer to the end and I don’t want it to be over. Man that’s annoying. But it happens pretty much every time.

I’ve talked about this before. I’m really excited to tell the stories, but I hate it when they end, so the subconscious and fingers that comprise my writing system tends to bog down. Sigh.

Anyway, I’m coming into the final big conflict of Blackwell Ops 5, so a few more chapters and it will be done. So probably a couple more good writing days (“good” being defined at 3000+ words).

Then I’ll get excited all over again about the next one. Sometimes I don’t know how much more of this I can take. (grin)

Topic: On Writing Series, and Series/Novel Structure

For awhile now, I’ve been casting about looking for a Jack Reacher type character, by which I mean one who would carry a series that was both interesting for readers and fun to write.

To that end, I’ve gone through several series:

Joseph “Joey Bones” Salerno, a Brooklyn mob-guy anti-hero, stood up and carried several short stories and a novella. But I had neither the chops nor the permission to write a Joey Bones series.

Then along came Nick Spalding in the exploratory Hemingway-esque novella Jobs Like That. Spalding was fun, and the novella led to the four-novel Nick Spalding action-adventure series.

But with that one I inadvertently limited Nick and his stories (and therefore myself as a writer) to the period between the Spanish Civil War and World War I.

Nick also found himself a woman, one who turned out to be a lot like my ex-wife. But she disappeared and later he found another one — a good one, Marie Delacroix — and soon after that he lost interest in being a mercenary.

Marie was a pretty capable mercenary herself, but she also was in love, wanted children, blah blah blah. Sigh. So Nick collected his pay and went off hand-in-hand to a new kind of adventure. One I will not put on the page.

After that, Stern Talbot came along. Stern is a classic detective turned PI. As I wrote, I even saw Bogie in the lead role. But there are only so many stories you (well, I) can write in that genre, and it’s mostly for a very niche audience. I’ll probably write more Stern Talbot books, but I’m not in a rush to do so.

Then I turned to the Blackwell Ops series. I thought for certain (in the early stages) that would be my Jack Reacher series. But the series characters (yeah, plural) themselves had other ideas.

Several POV characters popped up, each wanting to tell of his or her own experiences as an operative for TJ Blackwell. And who could blame them? All I could really do as the writer was sit down at the keyboard and hold on for the ride. (grin) I mean, you don’t want to cross these people.

I hasten to add that writing this series been a good ride so far and it will continue. But it isn’t the Reacher character I was looking for when I came through the door.

In the Blackwell Ops series, because of the necessary series-of-stories structure in each novel, the actual writing is like encountering an accordion effect in traffic on a major highway at rush hour.

You know. Like anywhere in southern California or Houston. You race along for awhile, then come to a crawl, then race along again. Eventually you get to your destination (the end of the book).

In Blackwell Ops, the POV character goes on an assignment and the story races along. But the assignment eventually ends. Then I’m obliged to write a short, quieter transition as the operative is between assignments. Then another assignment comes in. The story grinds to a standstill as I take an hour to a few hours to a day to research the new location so the setting is authentic. Then the story speeds up again, etc. Hence the accordion effect.

So in the back of my mind, even as I write Blackwell Ops, I still want to find that one character who carries a series on his or her own strong, capable shoulders.

But this morning I realized I’d already gotten that lucky once.

The Wes Crowley Saga, although it featured dozens of characters, remained focused on (was “about”) one character, Wes Crowley, from the beginning to the end around 600,000 words later.

And with one exception — as I neared the end of the third prequel in the saga, when I had to tie-in the prequels to my first novel (which would become Book 4 in the series) — the story raced along throughout. I love it when that happens. (grin)

I think that’s one of the reasons I keep looking for a new series to write. I want the endorphine rush (or “writer’s high” or whatever it is) to keep going, unabated by anything but my own happy fatigue at the end of the day. And certainly unabated by anything in the story iteself.

My next series will be a spin-off of Blackwell Ops (even as I continue the BO series). I’m thinking the structure will be a little different though, in an attempt to avoid that accordion effect.

My three main characters in that series will strike out on their own during their downtime from Blackwell Ops. I suspect (I won’t know until I write it) each novel will be about 1, 2, or all 3 of those characters and focused on one assignment. A lot the way Reacher focuses on one problem in each novel.

What about you? What does your ongoing learning look like? What do you want to write that you’ve never written before (or what do you want to write again)? Any input/help for me in finding that one character who will last through several hundred thousand words? Anything else?

We can all learn from each other. I appreciate you sharing your comments in the comment section below.

By the way, if anyone out there likes westerns, you can still download (free) the first prequel to the Wes Crowley saga at Scroll down to The Rise of a Warrior.

For anyone who might be interested in turning their story into a movie, see TaleFlick at

Jordan Dane of TKZ said she thinks this might be a good thing, meaning legitimate, “for indie authors.”

I’m sure what she meant was that the TaleFlick site itself offers its service to all writers, although those published through the tradpubs are more limited on what they can do, depending on the contract they signed.

Anyway, I signed up for the newsletter, and I probably will submit a book. What’s to lose?

Rolled out at 2:30 this morning, but I might not get any fiction writing done today. What’s the old saying about March? In like a lion, out like a lamb? Seems that way with my fiction this month too.

Anyway, that’s only for my fiction. I hit on the topic above and wanted to get it out.

Also, my son and his family came in late last night. Visiting will ensue. (grin)

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “Five Tips For Legal Thrillers” at Great advice, very informative, but he completely blows marketing his new book to at least half the population in his final paragraph.

See “How to Be a Writer and Still…” at Some excellent tips on Doing the Work to get “discovered.” I particularly like the last question.

See “The amateur sleuth…” at

See “How Do You Explain Consciousness?” at

See “Just Finished… The Lonely Silver Rain” at

For your leisurely perusal, see “50 Blogs for Mastering the Art, Craft, and Business of Writing” at I haven’t checked all of the sites they mention and am not recommeding this for anyone, but you might find something you like here. I did notice they didn’t mention Harvey Stanbrough, Dean Wesley Smith or Kristine Kathryn Rusch, so….(grin)

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1500 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 1500

Writing of Blackwell Ops 5: Georgette Tilden (novel)

Day 10… 4416 words. Total words to date…… 24564
Day 11… 2948 words. Total words to date…… 27512
Day 12… 2721 words. Total words to date…… 30233
Day 13… 2510 words. Total words to date…… 32743
Day 14… 1620 words. Total words to date…… 34363
Day 15… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 57443
Total fiction words for the year………… 216501
Total nonfiction words for the month… 24550
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 75770
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 292271

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 4
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 41
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 193
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

9 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Saturday, March 30”

  1. Wow Harvey, did you let that accounting of characters and novels and series really sink in? I’ve been reading along about all these books but it never added up quite like it did tonight. I suggest you wallow in that amazingness for a while. 😀

    • Thanks, Karen, but really nothing amazing about it. I just have a few hours’ fun everyday and it adds up.

  2. Being a fairly newbie writer with no series character as yet, I have no advice to give. But I do have a question. What was your process in developing Wes Crowley? Did you start with a character in a setting, with no real notion of how he was going to turn out, or did you have a pretty good idea about the kind of man you wanted to write about? I have a character I really like and plan on doing much more with him in a number of novels, but he came out of nowhere. He just had a voice that clicked with me. How much of this can be pre-planned and how much of it is just catching lightning in a bottle?

    • Hi Anderson. Thanks for the question.

      I write off into the dark, meaning I don’t outline or use any kind of roadmap whatsoever. And honestly, I wouldn’t dream of “developing” a character. Personally, I can’t think of anything more boring.

      Still, it isn’t so much “catching lightning in a bottle” as opening the top of the bottle and inviting the lightning in. Once you learn to Let Go and trust your subconscious to tell the stories it wants to tell, an exciting new world opens up to you.

      Wes Crowley, like every other character I’ve written, just popped into my head. He introduced himself one day as a Texas Ranger in the late 1800s. He had tons of personality, but he only revealed it bit by bit (like any other human I’ve ever met), through things he did and how he acted and reacted.

      So nope, I don’t “develop” characters, ever, at all. If you’d like to see what I mean about Wes and how he revealed his character to me, email me and I’ll send you a copy of the short story “Adobe Walls.”

      • Anderson, I should add that I started writing in earnest in 2014 AFTER I learned about “writing into the dark” and trusting my subconscious. I’ve written off and on for about 60 years, and during much of that time I bought into the same stuff you’re talking about: the need to develop characters, outline, etc. etc. ad nauseam.

        Over those 60 years I wrote thousands of poems but only a handful of short stories and zero novels or novellas. SINCE I learned to let go and take the top off that lightning jar, I’ve written almost 200 short stories and 40-some novels.

        So I’m just saying, I really wish someone had told me what I’m telling you now when I was younger. Enjoy your writing. Let the characters and their stories come, and just enjoy them while they’re in your life (again, like “real” people you encounter).

  3. Yep. Me neither. Never developed a character, never pre-planned. I said I was a newbie, and I still consider myself to be one, but I’ve been writing off and on since I was ten. But I got serious about it a couple of years back. I’ve always written into the dark, but I’d never heard anyone talk about it. It was just the way I always did it. I kept thinking I was ruining my works by doing that. Critical voice was a killer for me. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • You’re very welcome, Anderson. And thank you for the comment and the topic that ensued. That’s one thing that’s great about commenting on a post: both the comment and the post (and in this case, the ensuing topic) might help others as well.

  4. Character sketches. Ick. Hate those things with a passion. Rank right down in the slime pit with outlines, as far as I’m concerned. I tried doing that stuff. You know, writing the “right” way. Finally threw both into the gutter where they belonged, and just WROTE. Harvey’s so right. I find, as I write a story, characters reveal themselves in greater and greater detail. As I receive a piece of the puzzle that is them, I jot a note and keep going. Some months back, I wrote a scene that kept bugging me to get written, even though I wasn’t working on that project or character. When I read back over what I’d written, I was absolutely stunned at just how much the POV character had revealed about his back story, attitude, and personality in just a couple of pages, not to mention the nature of all of it. He’d been a secondary character in another book, and I suddenly understand a LOT of what I’d noticed about him then. Do I have a complete picture of him now? Nope. But I’m sure he’ll tell me lots more when I actually get around to writing his story in full.

    By the way, I don’t think I’ve had a single character yet that bothered to tell me what their favorite flavor of ice cream is (always seems to pop up on those character sketch sheets), and you know what? I honestly don’t care unless it’s relevant to their story.

Comments are closed.