The Journal, Tuesday, January 8

Hey Folks,

Numbers, numbers, numbers…

I just realized, since I adjusted my goal from writing 10 novels in 100 days to writing 10 novels in 150 days, I don’t really need the daily goal of 4000 words per day. (grin)

Most of my novels are in the 35,000 to 50,000 word range.

For example, if I write at least 3000 words per day (on average) for 150 days, that’s 450,000 words. More than enough.

But I’m gonna stay with the 4,000 words per day goal anyway because it stretches me a little. And if I can write 4,000 words per day (again, on average) for 150 days, that’s 600,000 words of new fiction I’ll have in the bank by May 5. Woohoo!

That’s 12 50,000-word novels on the high end of my normal range and 17 35,000 word novels on the short end.

Heck, even if I could live with characters long enough to write a series of 100,000-word novels, I’d write 6 in the first 4 months and 5 days of the year.

FYI, that isn’t going to happen. Just for discoverability alone, I’d much rather have 12 50,000-word novels out there than 6 100,000-word novels. (grin)

Topic 1: Cycling Is Valuable in Two Ways

I had an email question about cycling from a writer friend in France recently. (Thanks, Céline.) I thought I would elaborate further here.

Cycling, as you all know, is different from revising or editing. The main difference is that the former enables you to stay in your creative subconscious and the others invoke and involve your conscious, critical mind.

For more on that, see my earlier posts on cycling here and here. And there are others.

Cycling is valuable in two ways. Here’s the first way:

I generally write one scene (and one chapter) of about 1200 words per session. Then I take a break.

When I come back for the next session, I sit down, scroll back to the beginning of the previous session, and start reading.

I don’t read critically. I read as a reader, not “looking” for anything in particular. My fingers are poised on the keyboard.

As I read, I allow my subconscious (my POV character) to add whatever he or she wanted to add the first time through that I missed in my weak mortal efforts to record what was going on.

In this way, when I type “The End” the short story or novel is finished. I take a break, come back and cycle through the last session, then run a spell check and send the thing off to my first reader, usually within minutes of typing “The End.”

And here’s the second way:

As I’m writing along, I’m not telling the story. My characters are. They have full rein. After all, it’s their story, not mine.

As a result, often a character will suddenly do something completely unexpected. For example, say I’m in Chapter 28 (of around 45 chapters) when kindly old Aunt Marge pulls a .32 caliber revolver from the pocket of her pink robe and levels it at the man standing in her living room.

(Maybe he’s a burglar who just forced his way through her front door. Maybe he’s a detective whom she allowed admittance and who wants to ask her a few questions about a murder that happened down the block. Maybe it’s her nephew and he just asked her about Uncle Mort’s old .32 caliber revolver.)

Whoa! I didn’t see that coming! But the real problem with this is that I didn’t see Aunt Marge slip the revolver into her pocket in the first place. She can’t pull out what she doesn’t have.

Now if I were an outliner with the whole novel planned in advance, I’d probably get rid of the revolver and “find another way” (conscious mind) to write the scene.

But I’m not. I write into the dark, trusting my characters to tell their story.

(If this seems contra-indicated to you, consider: When a friend is telling you what happened along the highway during her last trip into the city, do you know in advance what happened?

Of course not. And when you’re writing into the dark, you don’t know in advance what your characters are going to do or say either.)

So when something happens that I wasn’t expecting, I just trust the characters.

I stop writing, cycle back to a previous scene (maybe Chapter 9 or Chapter 14 or even Chapter 27) and add a sentence that lets the reader see Aunt Marge slipping the revolver into the pocket of her robe.

Then I either read forward from there (still cycling) and fill in any other missing tidbits or I just go back to where I left off and continue the scene.

Which one I do depends on the story. I hope this helps clarify things. Any other questions or comments, please ask.

Topic 2: On Books with Baggage

Weird. I’ve talked here before about how timely Dean Wesley Smith’s posts are at times. It’s almost like the guy’s hiding in my closet.

The novel I started two days ago will be the 10th in my Stern Talbot series. It was inspired by a brief, eerie conversation I had with a widow after the funeral of her husband.

As a friend of the deceased, I’d been invited by his adult children to read a poem I’d written on the occasion of his passing. (The widow, who was not the mother of the children, had no problem with that, but she and I had never met.)

Toward the end of the writing day yesterday I hit a bump in writing that novel. I’m not “stuck” at all, but I am a little mired. There’s a section I have to work through by just writing the next sentence, wiping the mud off my boots, then repeating the process again and again.

In other words the writing on this one isn’t flowing at the moment, and of course I prefer the writing to flow.

But that’s fine. It happens. Most often it results in slower writing, meaning shorter sessions during which I write maybe 500 or 600 new words per hour instead of my usual 1000 to 1200.

Then Dean’s post appeared this morning and slapped me with the reason: The book has baggage. Duh.

I’ll stick with the book through today, but if I continue to slog through mud with every step, I’ll set this one aside, write another novel in another series, then return to this one later in the challenge.

To the Hovel at 3. I wrote everything above and most of what’s below by 4:20. Now for a brief break, then to the novel.

The novel picked up steam again, so I’m staying with it. But I have a feeling it’s going to be slow going for awhile. Stories like this have a lot of psychological stuff, and that takes care and a lot of cycling back. So for the coming days, my writing numbers will probably be all over the place as I slog through the soft middle ground of the novel.

Then again, that’s why the average, not the individual daily word count, is what’s important.

For today, I’m calling it at 2:45.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “The Book With Baggage” at Not long but a little enlightening.

See “When the web started” at

See “Hip Replacement: The Ins and Outs of It” at A hysterical piece, reflecting retired detective Lee Lofland’s refreshing sense of humor.

See “My Writing Process Start to Finish” at

For time-management, goal-setting and other productivity tools you might find useful, see NOTE: This is only an announcement, not an endorsement.

See “I Lost a Femur the Easy Way, She Did Not” at NOTE: This oost is graphic, both in textual description and photos.

Fiction Words: 2507
Nonfiction Words: 1330 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 3837

Writing of The Case of the Mourning Widow (novel)

Day 1…… 2784 words. Total words to date…… 2784
Day 2…… 3250 words. Total words to date…… 6034
Day 3…… 2507 words. Total words to date…… 8521

Total fiction words for the month……… 10169
Total fiction words for the year………… 10169
Total nonfiction words for the month… 8300
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 8300
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 18469

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