The Daily Journal, Thursday, February 28

In today’s Journal

▪ Quote of the Day
▪ Topic: Words
▪ Daily diary
▪ Of Interest
▪ The numbers

Via the Passive Guy, the quote of the day:

“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Topic: Words

Words are our friends, writers.

There have been many bits of advice handed down over the years, sometimes from “on high” by writers who have Made It.

Like Stephen King famously writing “The path to hell is paved with adverbs” or Samuel Clemens’ admonition to hunt down every adverb and kill it.

Note that this borders closely on English teachers’ advice to never use sentence fragments (like the second paragraph above).

But I ask you, did the second paragraph upset or interrupt your reading of this post? Of did it flow naturally while emphasizing the point of the paragraph?

And did this sentence fragment and the fragment that ended the fourth paragraph mess you up?

But I digress. (grin)

Words are our friends. All words. They all have a place and they all communicate something, whether it be the actual denotation (dictionary meaning) of the word itself or a certain connotation that adds a certain “feel” to the sentence.

Take for example “beneath,” “below” and “under.”

All are at least very similar in their denotation, yet the connotation of each is a little different from the others. As differences in connotation go not only to the context on the page and the writer’s own personal baggage and taste, I’ll leave the connotations for you to figure out.

Some writers (and rightly so — I’m not arguing here) refuse to use or allow their characters to use “bad” words (or “bad language”) in their stories. That’s fine. I avoid what I consider bad language in mine too.

Unless it’s necessary, meaning unless it fits the scene and the situation and the character.

But as I explained to one writer several years ago, if you flatly refuse to use what many consider “bad” or “rough” language, you probably shouldn’t write scenes in which gangstas are talking about what they did to their last victim.

Seriously. You can go ahead and write it — I’m nothing if not anti-censorship — but it will come across as unrealistic, which means it will dismantle the reader’s sense of disbelief.

Again, I’ll let you come up with your own examples. You’re all adults and you’ve all heard what you consider to be “bad” or rough language, so you can fill in the blanks.

But it’s up to each writer to determine his or her own limits.

For example, no matter the characters and no matter the scene or the setting or the situation, there are two words (in all of the English language) that I will never commit to a page.

Those two words, even in the privacy of my unspoken thoughts, I call “the N word” and “the C word.”

Those two words are ugly to me and, in my opinion, should be banished from every reference (even “slang” references) and the memory of everyone on Earth in every language.

(Though I draw my personal line at purging the former from previous works in which it was already written at a time when its use was “acceptable.” I can’t think of a time when the latter was ever considered acceptable. Nor should it have been.)

I won’t even write those words here for purposes of instruction. I will, however, describe them for you and allow you to draw your own conclusions.

The former, as if you didn’t know, is a highly derogatory term for some members of a particular race. It has no place in contemporary writing, nor should it ever again.

The latter is an extremely derogatory term (to me) for a particular part of human female anatomy. It, too, has no place in contemporary writing, fiction or nonfiction.

Sadly, I occasionally see it used in stories in which the setting is always one of two places:

The first setting is a women’s locker room. In that setting the word is usually used in dialogue between two women who are talking derogitorily about another woman, which flat stymies me.

The second setting is usually a run-down house or mobile home (premanufactured home) in which some ugly, nasty, mean man uses it in dialogue to angrily berate his wife or significant other.

In both settings or situations, there are other equally vicious words that would get the point of the character across just as well without leaping off the page and slapping the reader (at least this reader) between the eyes.

But those are the only two words — again, out of the entire English language — that I would never use or allow my characters to use.

How about you? Other than the two above, are there any words that you absolutely will not use or allow your characters to use?

Please comment if you have time.

Note: On this particular topic, if you email me privately with words you wouldn’t use, I reserve the right to add a comment to this post myself listing those words or your descriptions of them. However, I will not mention your name.

Rolled out just after 2, which is okay since today is Thursday (a half-day).

I also have a doc appointment this afternoon that I’ve actually been looking forward to for about five months. Yet another reason writing is a good thing: It keeps me from obsessing about the appointment. (grin)

To the novel at 4. By 6 I had around 1700 words. Time for another break.

Back to the novel at 6:40. About another 400 words, then back to the house.

Back to the novel at 10.

Stopping a little early so I can get ready for my appointment.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “How to Write a Book Blurb: A Guide for Novelists” at

See “Business Musings: Priorities” at Great post. Also see “Related” at the bottom. I would order her book today if it were available for pre-order.

See “Let’s Talk with Terry Odell” at A great post, and I disagreed with only one sentence. See if you can figure out which one. (grin)

See “Introducing TRUE CRIME THURSDAY” at

See “A MurderCon Preview” at

See “Looking for Recommendations” at

See “Smashwords Introduces Global Coupons” at (Note: The link is correct without the http.)

Fiction Words: 3320
Nonfiction Words: 1070 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 4390

Writing of Blackwell Ops 4: Melanie Sloan (novel)

Day 1…… 2363 words. Total words to date…… 2363
Day 2…… 2233 words. Total words to date…… 4596
Day 3…… 3353 words. Total words to date…… 7949
Day 4…… 1330 words. Total words to date…… 9279
Day 5…… 2263 words. Total words to date…… 11542
Day 6…… 3345 words. Total words to date…… 14887
Day 7…… 3657 words. Total words to date…… 18544
Day 8…… 3581 words. Total words to date…… 22125
Day 9…… 3320 words. Total words to date…… 25445

Total fiction words for the month……… 75665
Total fiction words for the year………… 159058
Total nonfiction words for the month… 25810
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 51220
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 210278

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date………………………… 3
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date…………………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date……… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 40
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 193
Short story collections…………………………………………………… 31

2 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Thursday, February 28”

  1. Hi Harvey,

    I totally agree with the two “no-no” words you’ve mentioned. Those will never appear in any of my works. I don’t look for situations to use curse or generally considered bad words, but as I write a scene, if it comes across my mind as something the person would say in surprise, disgust or anger, I’ll throw it in there. It has to be in character, and it has to be something that rolls off the tongue naturally. Heck, I’ve seen the most gentle person I know get upset and let a curse word slip, so if it fits the situation, so be it. Thanks always for your enjoyable newsletter.

    • Thanks, Gerald. I agree wholeheartedly. Definitely no gratuitous use of any words that might possibly offend readers. On the other hand, I heard from one member of a reading group who was reading through my Wes Crowley series a year or two ago. She took great offense that a Texas Ranger used the word “damn.” Oh well. You win some, you lose some. (grin)

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