The Daily Journal, Tuesday, February 5

Hey Folks,

In today’s Journal

▪ First readers (revisited, briefly)
▪ Looking for experts
▪ On being a grouch
▪ Topic: How I Hit on What to Write Next
▪ I added the “Eight Tricks” link…
▪ The daily diary
▪ Of Interest
▪ The numbers

As usual, I overexplained about first readers. Let me try to fix it.

All it takes to be a good first reader is to read for pleasure, as if you aren’t supposed to give any feedback.

You aren’t a teacher reading an assignment. You’re a reader, reading for enjoyment. You aren’t editing or proofreading. You’re just reading a story.

If you’re unable to read for the pure pleasure of reading a story, if you go into a story “looking” for things to ding, you’ll make a lousy first reader but possibly a good proofreader.

See the difference?

That’s really all there is to it. Just read for pleasure and note anything that leaps out at you (like you always do when you read). Then tell the author instead of keeping it to yourself.

Fortunately, I made it out of bed early enough to update the Pro Writers post with some of the above information before it goes live at 8 a.m.

But unless lightning strikes from that post, I’m not personally looking for first readers anymore. I might rely on specific experts when I need someone to look over specific chapters or scenes to be sure I have the right details, but that’s it.

Everyone’s an expert at something. For example, I know a couple of great retired cops I can ask about police procedures. I might email John Gilstrap if I have a question about contemporary weapons, and so on.

So if you’d like me to add your name to my list as an expert, email me privately to let me know your field. If you’d rather not, that’s all right too.

Likewise, if any of you need help with knowledge about the Marine Corps, machine guns, “assault” rifles, handguns, the English language or writing, email me.

Yesterday I was in a horrible mood. It wasn’t so much about losing a first reader as it was about me not having hit on a story to write. I’m 66. Sometimes I get grouchy. (grin)

Now that I’m writing again, everything’s pretty much a dreamsicle.

Topic: How I Hit on What to Write Next

I decided to turn this into a topic because it was the first time I’d decided in this particular way.

That’s right. After I’d written 39 novels, something over 1000 poems, and almost 200 short stories, there was still a new way to figure out what to write next.

The easiest way to start a new story remains the same:

1. snatch up a character,
2. slap a problem on the character (any problem will do; doesn’t have to be “the” problem of the story), and
3. drop the character into a setting.
4. Bam. Sit down and write an opening.

▪ If the opening takes off, keep writing.
▪ If the opening doesn’t take off, repeat 1-4.

But I have three series going (Nick Spalding; Stern Talbot, PI; and Blackwell Ops) plus a couple of potential series (SF based on The Consensus, and magic realism based on Keeper of the Promise).

So my 2 year old crossed his arms over his chest and flatly refused the tried-and-true method of starting something brand new. He wanted to write in one of the series.

Naturally, I caved.

So instead of following 1-4 above, I spent two and a half of my three banked days trying to bring up the voices of the different characters in my series and the tone or flavor of the series themselves.

I liked the tone and flavor and odd-and-varied situations of Blackwell Ops. Nothing stagnant there.

Which left me with another problem. Each of the first two Blackwell Ops books featured a different main character.

So I had to come up with a new character.

So I opened my Blackwell Ops Bible folder and glanced over a list of potential operatives’ names I’d listed there.

Lo and behold, one name popped out at me. A woman. It was as if she was standing on tiptoe (she’s only 5’3″, around 110 pound) waving frantically at me.

So I picked her: Marie Arceneaux (AR-cen-o).

And guess what? That led me back to 1-4 above.

By the time I got my fingers on the keys, she was walking away from the security kiosk in an airport toward the gate for her flight. (So there’s the character and the setting.)

From somewhere behind her, a man called out her name, trying to get her attention. (There’s the initial problem.)

As I typed, I learned just before she’d disposed of her weapon, dropping three pieces into three different trash cans, and made her way through the long line at the security kiosk to catch her flight, she’d eliminated a target in the VIP lounge of the airport.

The opening flew by, and when I looked up I’d written almost 1700 words. Off goes the story.

As it turned out, Marie made the hit in Chicago. Her flight took her to Marseille, France. She lives in a little-known nearby town of Cassis, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

At the moment, that’s all I know. I have zero idea who called out Marie’s name, zero idea how she came to Blackwell Ops in the first place and so on.

But the characters will tell me more today. (grin)

And I’ve already told them they have 15 days maximum to tell me the story, starting today.

I added the “Eight Tricks” link in today’s “Of Interest” section because all writers are different.

But for my money, the author’s opening statement is way off the mark: “The goal is to open a channel between the conscious mind and the subconscious to allow free flow between them.”

Uhh, no. The goal is to shut-up the conscious mind and let the subconscious play. And yes, because I was invited, I added a comment. (grin)

Rolled out way late at almost 4 a.m. It’s been a stressful few days (not writing).

Let the pup out of his kennel early, then got to the Hovel and wrote all this stuff. Finally up to the house for a break at 6:30.

Finally at 8:30 to the novel to read over what I wrote yesterday. I added about 40 words, then moved to Chapter 2.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

For an ideal height/weight chart for your in-shape characters, see “Ideal Weight Chart” at

See “Eight Tricks to Tap Your Subconscious for Better Writing” at

See “Making the Victim Matter” at

Touted as “how to write crime fiction about violence and its aftermath with empathy and respect,” see “Is Fictionalizing Crimes Inherently Exploitative?” at

Fiction Words: 3766
Nonfiction Words: 1160 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 4926

Writing of Blackwell Ops 3: Marie Arceneaux (novel)

Day 1…… 1699 words. Total words to date…… 1699
Day 2…… 3766 words. Total words to date…… 5465

Total fiction words for the month……… 8587
Total fiction words for the year………… 91990
Total nonfiction words for the month… 5590
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 31000
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 122990

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date………………………… 2
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date…………………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date……… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 39
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 193
Short story collections…………………………………………………… 31

2 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Tuesday, February 5”

  1. Harvey, a bit late to this one as it’s been a busy couple of days…but wanted to let you know that if you need any IT/computer-tech related knowledge, please feel free to reach out–that’s been my day-job for the past 20 years, specifically computer networks.

    Thanks for your generous offer to help on your areas of expertise!

    • Gracias, Phillip. I suspect that would come in handy in anything from a techno thriller to a non-computer-savvy character attempting to access files and another character having to show him how to do it. 🙂

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