The Journal: The Writing: An Update and a Challenge

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Welcome
* The Writing: An Update and a Challenge
* Of Interest

Quote of the Day

“Writing is an on-going, self-sustaining compulsion….” Robert J. Sadler

Welcome to Daun and any others who have joined our little community recently. I hope you find the Journal interesting and a source of knowledge and inspiration for your writing. This Journal will always be a no-fluff zone.

The Writing: An Update and a Challenge

I usually finish a 35,000 to 50,000 word novel in about 14 days. In fact, the last few novels I wrote all came in at exactly 14 days.

So I’m kind of in different territory on this one going into Writing Day 17. I’m not worried at all, but that’s part of what made me realize this is kind of a practice novel.

I mean, it’s a good story and I’ll definitely publish it after my first reader has a look at it. But I’m using the writing of this novel to get back into the practice of writing fiction after my long, forced hiatus.

So I’m not too worried about the decreased daily word counts and the time it’s taking me to finish the thing. Actually, at the moment, I suspect I’m not quite halfway through the story. (Of course, I don’t have any way to gauge that except experience.) So this one might take a month or even a little longer to reach the end. And that’s fine.

The writing’s going all right. The daily numbers aren’t as big as I had hoped they’d be, but my restart is still in its early stages. And it’s a good idea to work your way up to spending more time in the chair. So I’m just saying, If you’re going through something similar, don’t let it get you down.

Every book writes differently, and in my case, every series writes differently too. The Blackwell Ops books take a little extra time because there are at least three or four pretty vibrant scenes that take place in locations I’ve never visited.

So at times, I have to do what I call “spot research.”

Whatever that term means to anyone else, to me it means from time to time I have to pop over to the business computer, go online, and look up, for example, an area in New York City, or a tiny town in the south of France an hour or so southeast of Marseilles, or Maputo, Mozambique. or whatever other area in which my operative is about to have to function.

I like to be as true as I can to the terrain and the people. I use Google Earth and Google Street to visit and get a feel for the landscape and terrain, the houses, etc. I even did a little research on the monarchy of Mozambique.

Of course, all of the Blackwell Ops operators are well-travelled and far more knowledgeable than I, so really all I have to do is sit back and watch and listen, and try not to miss too much.

But I don’t dive down a rabbit hole with this stuff. I just find what I need and go right back to the novel. Usually I’m away for only a few seconds. Still, doing even that much takes time and interrupts the process.

Of course, it requires a bit of an adjustment to go from from writing with the creative subconscious to researching with the conscious mind and then back. If the research dive is longer than a minute or two, I typically take a break and come back to the writing later.

So writing a Blackwell Ops story is a bit like stumbling from one tree root to another to another while traversing a wood in the dark. The forward momentum is always there and I never quite fall, but there seems always to be one more bit of spot research to be done. (grin)

Exiting The Bad Place and a Challenge

I have no idea what my next novel will be, but more than likely it won’t be a research-heavy Blackwell Ops book. I need to cut loose and really let the story run again.

Also, since this is the novel I’m using to drag myself up out of what I’ve come to loathe as The Bad Place, I’m going to start a new challenge with my next novel.

With that novel, I’ll challenge myself to a new daily word count goal of 3000 words of publisable fiction per day. That’s at approximately 1000 words per hour, so about 17 words per minute.

Also, whatever day I start that novel will start my personal 365-day calendar, during which I’ll strive to write and publish at least 1,000,000 words of fiction.

It shouldn’t be that difficult. If you divide 1,000,000 words by 365 days, you’ll find the average number of words you need to write every day. Surprise — it’s only a little over 2700 words per day. Yes, really.

How many novels and/or short stories will fall out of those million words and run off to readers? Who knows? And it really doesn’t matter as long as I get to have the fun of writing them. (grin)

Thank you all for being here. It’s great fun being on this journey again with all of you.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “Some More On Licensing Expo” at

See “Confessions Of A Blown Deadline” at

See “It’s Always the Time for Meter and Rhyme” at

See “A New Book Expo? Not By a Long Shot” at

See “How Writers Fail (Part 4): Aging Writer Edition” at

See “Licensing Expo 2022” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 940 words

Writing of Blackwell Ops 8 (tentative title, novel)

Day 10… 2303 words. Total words to date…… 20106
Day 11… 3134 words. Total words to date…… 23240
Day 12… 1257 words. Total words to date…… 24497
Day 13… 3078 words. Total words to date…… 27575
Day 14… 1597 words. Total words to date…… 29172
Day 15… 1901 words. Total words to date…… 31073
Day 16… 2569 words. Total words to date…… 33642

Total fiction words for June……… 27658
Total fiction words for the year………… 39435
Total nonfiction words for June… 10100
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 90710
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 130145

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. I’ve never said WITD is “the only way” to write, nor will I ever. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among other topics.

7 thoughts on “The Journal: The Writing: An Update and a Challenge”

  1. I block the internet to write, using either Anti-Social or Freedom on my Mac, if I’m having trouble focusing. It happens frequently with my particular kind of brain.

    I can always restart my computer and get rid of the blocking, but it takes a couple of minutes, and I rarely do it, so, whether I’m writing or not, I’m sitting in the right place, ready to.

    I use Siri on my iPhone for the quick research questions that would have led to wasting time – because I hate reading and typing on tiny screens. So I don’t dawdle – just get a quick answer and return to work. A business computer would be too much temptation for me.

    • I don’t use Apple, but my PC laptop has a button you can push to turn the internet off or on, no restart required. I keep it off on my writing ‘puter and keep it on on my business computer (the one I use for the Journal, to create covers, the internet, etc.).

      I’ve long advocated a separate computer just for writing. It can be any cheap little thing, even something you find at a garage sale as long as it will hold the word-processing program of your choice. Ideally it will have nothing else on it. When I sit down at my writing ‘puter, it’s a trigger. It tells my creative subconscious it’s time to play. (grin) It’s like throwing open the door for a crowd of five year olds.

      Of course, I understand that others use only one computer for everything, and that’s fine too.

  2. Hi Harvey, good to read that you’re on with writing a Blackwell Ops novel. (I haven’t read any of the series — but intend to at some future point.) You mentioned Maputo and Mozambique and it triggered memories of my uncle — who was a real-life special agent and who was tasked with a special operation in Malawi for two years. Having served as a Redcap (Brit Army Military Police) he joined Her Majesty’s Customs & Excise as a uniformed officer. He spent time at Heathrow during the mid-60s and busted a then well-known Brit female folk singer for smuggling LSD hidden among a consignment of yams. He also busted the pop group, The Animals for smuggling — no, not drugs — but camera lenses made in what was then the Democratic Republic of East Germany. He was transferred into the plainclothes Special Investigations Branch and, in 1969 did a two-month stint with the FBI in the States. Unusually for any Brit law enforcement officer at the time he was lincensed to carry a sidearm. He worked undercover and would disappear for months at a time. This, obviously put a huge strain on his young family and he divorced. He never spoke about any operational details (apart from a stakeout he took part in when attached to the FBI) but he did occasionally bitch about office politics and desk-jockeys. One spectacular catch was the Cambridge educated, Howard Marks (AKA Mr. Nice: who made fortune and became a cheeky chappy celebrity after his release from a book and stage tour, and a movie built around hogshit stories* as a drug lord. The family didn’t know of my uncle’s pivotal role in the case until long after he retired.
    Anyway, in the ’70s he was asked (not told) to head up a special unit based in Malawi to assist the Malawi government stem the distribution of Malawi Gold to Europe. My branch of the family looked after his two black labradors while he was in Malawi. He returned to the UK determined to retire at 50. Always remember him telling me that he would write and publish a novel before I did. He never did.
    He must have done a good job in Malawi because within a couple of months the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher wrote to him personally to ask him to go to India for three years and assist the Indian government. (He framed and hung the letter in his bathroom) He declined, as the assignment would have eaten into two years of his retirement. She was furious apparently, as she’d promised his services to the then Indian Prime Minister. She had him busted down to a uniformed customs officer working out of Cardiff Airport for the last 6 months of his career.
    Now, finally, the reason I mention all this: After his second wife died of the Big C he went down a few steps, and then, a few years later, his oldest son died completely out of the blue (suffered a heart attack while sat at his desk), and, a year later, his youngest, IT whizzkid, so wealthy he spent most of his time surfing or procreating (he had six, yes six, daughters), suffered a life-changing stroke. And then, not so long after his 70th birthday, my uncle was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and the family decided to install him in a care home. When packing up all his stuff for the move he said to my mother, “Have we got any writers in the family?” “Why?” my mom asked. “I’ve all these boxes packed with some very interesting material, stuff I could never tell anyone, not even the family, because of the Official Secrets Act. Always meant to write it up as fiction, but never got around to it.” And my mother said…”No.” And they dumped all the material at the municipal dump. When my sister told me this I was furious.
    He’s still alive, and my mother and her sister each call him once a week.
    Moral of the story, I suppose, is writers should make it clear to all members of their families that they are writers and that they are always looking for material. As you can see above — I’ve got most of the backstory but none of the primary material.
    *As part of his defence in court he claimed he was recruited as an MI5 informant to help break the IRA. Utter bullshit according to my uncle.
    Thanks for your patience. All the best.

    • Thanks for my patience? Are you kidding? Thank YOU for sharing the story of such a truly great man. I wish I could have met him. Y’know, you have the raw material there for at least what, five or six novels? I wish you’d been able to receive all that “research” they dumped (probably illegally due to the Official Secrets Act) but even if he’d written the stories he would have fictionalize large parts of it. And you write fiction, right? Get after it, my friend.

  3. A few corrections, the ‘well-known Brit female folk singer’ I refer to was actually a US citizen who moved to the UK in the early ’60s.
    I described Howard Marks as having attended Cambridge — wrong, he attended Oxford.

  4. Thanks Harvey. As you know I live in Barcelona. I’m scheduled to visit family in the UK in July. You’ve equipped me with the courage to go visit my uncle, Syd. Thank you. I won’t interrogate, just hang out, and gently prompt. He’s a killer bridge player (or was). He second wife, a lovely, very down to earth woman, was a very keen golf player. Should our meeting happen I’ll report back — maybe in the form of a guest post — if that’s OK with you. Think he’d be modestly proud to hear you call him a ‘truly great man’. All the best to you and yours.

  5. And, do you know what’s also absolutely true? I didn’t realise this for years, even though having a friend who lived in the same very small village, St. Buryan, (who now resides in a care home in Penzance) my uncle lived in the village at the same time as novelist David John Moore Cornwell, better known as John le Carré. I’m now thinking it was not a coincidence. Absolutely true. All the best.

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