The Journal, Friday, June 22

Hey Folks,

Even when Dean Wesley Smith doesn’t write specifically about writing in his posts, I often glean something of value.

His short post today is about a practice poker tournament. At the end, he turns it into a brief analogy about writing.

That spurred my own thought process.

Topic: Practice Is Important

Part I — Rationale and a Harsh Truth About Hovering

As it is in all art, practice in writing is important. Without practice, the writing craft and the writing itself goes stale. And as it is in all art, practice in writing is fun, if uncomfortable.

Many writers still feel more comfortable “hovering” over a WIP. They write, then rewriting, then polish, etc. in an attempt to make every word perfect.

They might spend months or even years on the same novel.

But make no mistake — they hover because it’s easier, more comfortable, and less threatening to revise and rewrite the same piece over and over than it is to let it go and move on to the next story.

I get that. I used to do it myself. And I’ve experienced the same twinge in my gut that they experience when, in rewriting and revising and polishing, they spoil the story.

That’s a pretty harsh truth. Even when they won’t admit it aloud, they know it’s true.

Part II — Practice

So here we are, back to the basic premise: Practice Is Important.

Maybe the only thing that’s more important is persistence in practice. Of course, that’s tempered with doing what works for the individual writer.

We all have different lives with different requirements and different priorities. I can’t speak to yours, and I won’t try. I can only speak to my own.

For the first couple of years I was writing fiction, I had a daily word count goal: 3000 words per day. For me, with breaks, that’s about 4 hours.

I hit my goal most days, and I exceeded it often. When I missed, it was all right because the goal reset the next morning anyway. I wrote about 800,000 words of fiction in each of those years. For me, that was very good.

But once I settled into an easy rhythm with my writing, I thought I no longer needed the daily goal. I seemed to be writing 11-12 novels per year either way.

And I started reading advice from other pros I respect who advised taking a day or two “off” every week, etc.

So I dropped my daily goal. I just let it go.

Bad idea. My practice lapsed.

Now, as we near the midpoint of this year, I’ve written only 225,000 words of new fiction and just under 300,000 words of fiction and nonfiction.

So it’s time to adjust and reinstitute my daily goal.

With 31 novel and around 200 short stories in my belt, I’m going back to the basics. I want to get to the keyboard every day in the company of a character with a problem in a setting.

There’s no need to take a regular “day off” from doing what I love. What excites me and makes me happy. There are more than enough days when life intervenes.

Fortunately, a new year begins with each day. I’m not tied to the Jan 1 – Dec 31 time frame. None of us are.

But I do like to begin new things on the first day of a month. So beginning July 1, I’m setting a daily word count goal again. It will be adjusted to the priorities as they exist in my life today.

Some argue that a daily word count goal adds pressure.

That’s true. But it’s only pressure to get to the keyboard. After that it’s all fun.

How about you? The midpoint of the year is coming up. Do you need to reassess, adjust and reset your own writing goals?

Part III — Putting It All Together

Of course, setting a new daily word count goal is tantamount to setting a new challenge.

I’ll announce my new word-count goal/challenge later this month after I’ve given it time to percolate among my new priorities. I want to be sure I get it right.

For me, “right” means big enough to make me stretch in the long term. Not so easy that it’s a done deal, but not so big that it feels overwhelming.

July 1 is on a Sunday this year. I intend to meet my new daily word count goal that day so the “year” starts off well.

It feels good — freeing, in a way — to have made this decision. I wish the same for you.


Some guys are bringing electricity from a nearby pole to the Adobe Hovel. That will be nice, and free up my two 100-foot extension cords.

So this delay will give them plenty of time to finish that. Once they’re through (only another day or so, I hope), I’ll move back into the Hovel and write a story or two, something to practice getting back in the habit of practicing. (grin)

See you soon. ​

Of Interest

From my friend Robert Sadler, don’t miss the Lee Child/Stephen King interview and Q&A at It’s about 45 minutes long, and it’s wonderful.

See “Business Musings: Licensing Opportunities” at

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 870 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 870

Writing of ()

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 17859
Total fiction words for the year………… 224823
Total nonfiction words for the month… 12110
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 75620
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 300173

Calendar Year 2018 Novels to Date………………………… 5
Calenday Year 2018 Novellas to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2018 Short Stories to Date……… 11
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 31
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 5
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………………… 193