The Journal, Sunday, January 6

Hey Folks,

Well, I’ve decided I’m going to write another Blackwell Ops story. Not because I’m not interested in Nick and Marie anymore, or in Stern Talbot, or in the other ideas I listed yesterday.

I want to start the challenge with another Blackwell Ops book because I don’t want to take the time to read over the last Nick Spalding book to refresh my memory about the main characters. (grin) I’m just that lazy.

And if I start with another Stern Talbot book, I’ll have to include a new technique I re-learned recently. I’m not sure I want to do that at the beginning of a challenge.

As always, the writing, not specifically what I write, is what’s important.

As yesterday, a post I read online (see “Of Interest”) keyed a topic for today’s Journal. This topic is a revised version of my comment on Mr. Bell’s post.

Topic: Word-Count Goals

Hello. My name is Harvey Stanbrough, and I’m addicted to word-count goals and writing fiction. (grin)

My word-count goal is daily, but if I miss or fall short, the sun still comes up and the goal resets the next morning. (grin) I usually meet it, and I often go over. Sometimes way over.

When I’m writing a novel, I generally write every day. I also usually take a few days off between novels, but only until I’m jonesing to put words on the page again (like I am today).

During that lag time, I’m doing admin stuff (covers, making any changes my first reader recommends, publishing, etc.). I’m also usually involved in online workshops where I learn new (to me) techniques.

Though I’m happy to report that more and more often, as was the case with the most recent workshop, I’m finding I already know and use the techniques from the workshops. (grin) Sometimes the validation is worth the price of the workshop.

I keep track of my writing on a productivity spreadsheet one year at a time. (This takes about five minutes at the end of the day.)

My spreadsheet shows the titles in the left column with dates of the month across the top.

The first column to the right of the title is a Carried Forward column in case a book crosses from one month into the next.

At the bottom of each month are daily totals and the annual total, automatically updated each day for fiction.

At the far right are totals for each project (usually fiction, occasionally a nonfiction book), a total for my daily nonfiction (my Journal), plus the updating annual totals for fiction, nonfiction and overall words.

The screenshot below is of part of my 2018 productivity spreadsheet. (Click to enlarge image.)

This isn’t the only way of doing it, but it works for me. At a glance, it shows my daily, monthly and annual progress, and most importantly it keeps driving me back to the keyboard.

I rise very early to write so I don’t miss much family time, and my wife is very supportive.

In this way, I’ve written 37 novels, 7 novellas, almost 200 short stories and 17 nonfiction books. And I wrote all of that but two nonfiction books and a few short stories after I went full time in April 2014.

I’d be happy to send a copy of last year’s spreadsheet to anyone who might find it useful, either to copy and use (for the formulas) or to set up their own. Just email me at

Weird start to the day. I rolled out at 2 a.m., got dressed and started making coffee.

While standing at the coffee maker, I glanced up to see the clock on the wall of the kitchen showed it was 4 a.m.

So I went in to let the pup out of his kennel about an hour early, so I wouldn’t have to go to the Hovel and come right back.

After he went out and came in, I gave him his morning treat, then went back to retrieve my coffee and head out.

But I glanced at the clock again and noticed it was still 4 o’clock. The second hand was ticking at one spot, stuck.

So I went into my office to check the time. It was shortly after 2. I’d let the pup out a full 3 hours early. No wonder he was confused. Sigh.

But I had my two missing hours back, so I went to the Hovel to begin my day.

After doing the Internet stuff and writing most of the stuff for this edition of the Journal, I was searching through some old manuscripts (other novels) to find names I want to bring forward into the Blackwell Ops series. (Yes, you can do that.)

I also copied and pasted descriptions of the characters I might bring forward. I never do detailed character sketches, but I always write detailed character descriptions (height, weight, hair, eyes, body shape) so they remain the same no matter where the character appears.

During that process, I decided to change my protagonist’s name from Stern Richards (in one book) to Stern Talbot to bring it up to date. I had to make changes to two manuscripts (Smashwords and Everyone Else) then upload those documents.

By the way, Smashwords “meatgrinder” engine used to recognize numbers-only as chapter heads to create an automatic TOC. But they’ve changed it. Now it requires “Chapter” followed by the numbers. Sigh.

Anyway, it’s a little after 5 now. Maybe I can get in one good session on my 38th novel. After that, well, it’s Sunday, so for the rest of the day, we’ll see. (grin)

Well, the best-laid plans. I was all set to start writing a Blackwell Ops novel, but when I put my fingers on the keyboard a snippet of conversation from a few years ago popped into my head. Next thing I knew, my subconscious had created a few characters and I was knee-deep in my next Stern Talbot PI novel.

Today will be a short day as I’m on my way in to watch football, but not a bad day at all.

So the challenge begins today (writing 10 novels in 150 days). The last day of the challenge will be May 5.


Talk with you again soon. 21 weeks

Of Interest

See “On Setting Word Count Goals” at

If you enjoy Hemingway, see “Reconsidering Hemingway’s World War II Legacy” at

For more, see “Revisiting Paris: The Story Behind Ernest Hemingway’s Unpublished ‘A Room on the Garden Side'” at This short story is now published, by the way, and available at Strand Magazine.

See “10 Settings to Give you the Creeps” at

See “Five Ways to Begin Your Book” at

For more writing tips see “The Strand Magazine” at Take your salt shaker along. (grin)

Fiction Words: 2784
Nonfiction Words: 1130 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 3914

Writing of The Case of the Mourning Widow (novel)

Day 1…… 2784 words. Total words to date…… 2784

Total fiction words for the month……… 4412
Total fiction words for the year………… 4412
Total nonfiction words for the month… 6540
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 6540
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 10952

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date………………………… X
Calenday Year 2019 Novellas to Date…………………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date……… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 37
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 193
Short story collections…………………………………………………… 31