The Daily Journal, Thursday, August 15

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* A Note on Dreams and Goals
* Topic: Writing Setting and Scene Descriptions
* Daily diary
* Of Interest
* The numbers

Quotes of the Day

“One advantage of being prolific is it reduces the importance of any one book.” Isaac Asimov

Invaluable, that. Write it, publish it, write the next one. It’s all practice, and practice makes better.

“Quantity and quality aren’t enemies.” Ryan J. Pelton

A Note on Dreams and Goals

Dreams are just that. Dreams. They’re things you would like to achieve or attain that are completely out of your control.

Goals are similar, but they are completely WITHIN your control. Which goals you set and whether you reach them is completely up to you.

But those roads converge. Setting and pursuing the right goals can greatly enhance the chance of achieving or attaining your dreams.

Just food for thought. Much more on this in a topic tomorrow.

Other future topics include the basic tenets of cover design, how (and why) to set up your own publishing entity, and more. But for today…

Topic: Writing Setting and Scene Descriptions

A couple of days ago, I had an excellent comment and question on my blog over at the big site.

Diedre wrote in part, “I’ve been warned about being too descriptive. Your thoughts?”

Here’s my updated and expanded response:

Each reader determines what is “too much” (or “too little”) description, though they don’t notice the latter. They just close the book. If they have a thought at all about why they stopped reading, they might utter that the story is “too thin.”

I’ve had readers say I add too much description. But they also say the action pulls them forward through the book anyway.

I’ve had many more readers not mention description specifically, but say they “feel like I’m right there with the character.” Which of course is a high compliment and goes to the POV character’s description of the setting and the events in the scene. That’s the only way to pull the reader into the scene with the POV character.

Here’s your rule of thumb, but really it’s more of a hard, fast rule:

If the description is coming from the writer, it’s too much. Period. Never describe a setting or scene yourself (even through the thinly veiled writer as a “narrator”).

Every Single Word of setting or scene description should be filtered through the POV character’s physical (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) and emotional (dread, fear, joy, etc.) senses.

If it is, then it CAN’T be too much because you’re only conveying what the POV character himself sees, hears, tastes, feels etc., and remember, he, not you, are the one who’s in the scene, living the story. Also, every description of setting or scene should contain the POV character’s OPINION of the setting.

For example, say the smell of pipe smoke lingers in a setting, say the library in a mansion.

If one POV character walks into that library, he might write, “I was practically overwhelmed by the stench of smoke.” (“Stench” is an opinion.) That POV character obviously doesn’t care for pipe smoke, or maybe any kind of tobacco smoke, and we can tell through his opinion. Maybe that’s the end of it, or maybe the “stench” also evoked a strong and unpleasant memory. Take your time. Go where the character leads you.

Another POV character who walks into the same library might write, “The faint aroma of cherry pipe smoke reminded me of my grandfather.” For that POV character, the smell obviously evoked a fond (or maybe not fond) memory.

Or to another POV character, “The scent of pipe smoke seemed to fill the air. I was surprised there weren’t clouds of the stuff.” This is more of a vague non-opinion. If it’s followed by something like, “I smiled. It made me think maybe my grandma was in the next room over baking cookies” maybe it’s a fond memory. Or maybe it’s followed by something like, “Wow. The smell alone cause me to taste the stink of alcohol and feel my father’s belt across my back.”

(As a side note, can you “taste” the “stink of alcohol”? Yes. Taste and smell are that closely related.)

BTW, any of those could have appeared in exactly the same story. Everything depends on the POV character and his/her opinions of the setting. And of course, those descriptions also tell the reader something about the POV character.

And there’s more. Maybe the lights are dim (sight). (To one POV the room is “dark” or “eerie.” To another, the lighting is “soft” or “gentle,” both opinions.)

Maybe seeing (sight) a row of old LP record albums on one shelf provides a clue but also transports the reader to another place in time (sound). Be sure to focus down to important details; but the POV character will do that if you take your time and let him.

As a final note, I recommend working all five physical senses (again, through the POV character) into every major scene, preferably near the beginning.

How warm (or cold) is the library? What’s the POV character’s opinion of that? How well (or not well) lighted is it (and the opinion)? Are there any sounds (and opinion)? Smells and tastes (or memories of smells and tastes, and the opinion)? Emotional senses, as described above?

This is how you ground the reader in the scene and keep him grounded and “with the character” in the story.

Rolled out way early before 1 a.m. I’ll get some writing done on the WIP this morning, then later in the day I get to register my new pickup. (grin)

Got the pickup registered, then decided to take the rest of the day to play.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “Business Musings: Expect Success” at Please Read This at least twice. This is excellent, and you need it.

See “5 Advantages for Being a Prolific Creator” at

See “Key Types of Conflict: Which One Best Fits Your Story?” at

See “Book Promotion: Do This, Not That – August 2019” at

See “Going A Bit Buggy” at

Fiction Words: 1952 (also the year I was born… sigh)
Nonfiction Words: 970 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 2922

Writing of Blackwell Ops 7: Glen Marco (novel)

Day 1…… 3222 words. Total words to date…… 3222
Day 2…… 1170 words. Total words to date…… 4392
Day 3…… 3191 words. Total words to date…… 7583
Day 4…… 1374 words. Total words to date…… 8957
Day 5…… 1952 words. Total words to date…… 10909

Total fiction words for the month……… 10909
Total fiction words for the year………… 369646
Total nonfiction words for the month… 16120
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 234190
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 603836

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 7
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 2
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 195
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31