My Writing Month – February 2017

The Haunted Pen - Killed By DeathProgress on my latest short story, Killed by Death, has been a little slower than I had originally hoped. However, I do have a very good reason for this. I took a little time away from physically writing to refine the storyline, making a few changes here and there that, I believe, will improve the end product.

I have a couple more chapters left to write (the dramatic conclusion) and may have an alternate ending in mind that could set up a sequel. I’m going to be working on the story again after publishing this post and will be taking a long look at both potential endings. Overall, I’m extremely happy with the story and my progress.

One of my aims for 2017 was to write longer short stories and Killed by Death looks like it will be around 13,000 words when the first draft is finished – RESULT!

As writers, we all know the advice about always having a notebook with you to record ideas when inspiration strikes you in the most unlikely of places. I’ve been doing that a lot more this year and was so glad of a notebook a couple of weekends ago.

On the way home from a delightful Saturday lunch at a local pizzeria with my wife, Kathy, we made a detour so she could call into a couple of stores. As she’d mentioned this in advance, I had my latest writing text book – Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron – with me along with my trusty notepad.

As I took a reading break for a slurp of coffee, I started to watch the cars coming and going into the plaza parking lot. My attention fell on several cars that had parked but no-one left all the time I was watching.

The scenario playing out through the windshield had my imagination racing into overdrive and I had quickly written a scene of more than 1,000 words based on what was happening around me. Since then I’ve rewritten (by hand) the original scene and added an as-yet unnamed private investigator into the mix. I feel what I have has potential to be worked into a story. My next step is to create a character profile for my private investigator. A PI character – based on a very unlikely source – has been percolating in my head for a while, so I’m looking forward to working on this fun exercise.

When I’m not working at my day job or writing (or sitting in parking lots people watching), I’ve become a huge fan of the CBS TV show Hunted. The premise of the show is that nine, two-person teams attempt to disappear for 28 days – in a world where nearly everything is digitally tracked – while highly skilled investigators search for them. The experts are using state-of-the-art tracking methods alongside traditional tactics to pursue their targets and identify behavioral patterns and clues to potential hiding places. If a team of fugitives can evade capture for 28 days, they’ll win the $250,000 grand prize.


I’ve recently become a big fan of the Investigation Discovery TV channel and its vast array of true-crime shows. I’ve watched several of the programs a few times with my trusty notebook and pencil in hand as I’m finding them to be a great source of ideas.

I hope to be incorporating some of the prompts I have gathered from these shows into a story or two very soon.

2017 Writing Goals – Update

365 Challenge
As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m a member of the “365 Writing Challenge” Facebook user group. I set myself a daily target of 250 words. I figured that would be easily achievable on weekdays when I write during lunch breaks at my day job. That would leave the weekends for longer writing periods and higher word counts.

Here are my numbers so far:

  • January – 25,085 words @ 809 daily average – RESULT!
  • February – 33,797 words @ 1,207 daily average – RESULT!

I’m proud to say that over 59 days, I’ve written 58,882 words at an average of 998 words a day. I’ve been awarded another couple of badges for my efforts as well – RESULT!

The Haunted Pen - 365 Writing Challenge

Using my target goal of 250 words a day as a guide, I should have written 14,750 words after 59 days. My two-month total is 58,582 (+44,132) – RESULT!

Another benefit from my increased output is that I’ve already achieved my quarterly and half-yearly word-count goals – RESULT!

Blog Posts
For 2017, it’s my aim to post/write at least one new blog post every week. When this monthly roundup goes live (March 1st), it will be my 12th post of the year, so I’m ahead of the game – RESULT!

Another of my blog-posting goals for 2017 was to send out an invitation to my fellow writers for guest blog posts. This went out via the website on February 13th – RESULT!

I’m pleased to say that on February 20th, I shared a fascinating post from Colleen M. Story’s Writing and Wellness website entitled What You Need to Know About Potential Laptop Dangers. – RESULT!

Tam MayOn March 13th, I will be turning the blog-posting duties over to fiction writer and blogger, Tam May.

Tam writes “psychological fiction with magical realism elements” and just last month, she published her first work, a short story collection titled Gnarled Bones and Other Stories – RESULT!

Social Media
On January 1st, I stated that I wanted to double my Twitter and Facebook followers during the course of 2017. At that point, The Haunted Pen’s Facebook page had 268 followers, while the Twitter page had 1,250.

As of February 28th; The Haunted Pen has

  • 341 (+73) Facebook followers
  • 1,315 (+65) Twitter followers

Read More
Since my last progress report, I finished reading X by Sue Grafton. This was my first experience with this author’s work and I have to say I was disappointed. I felt there was too much elaboration of detail in a story that seemed to meander along. I own all the titles from J to X and will be reading J in the near future to see how (if any) changes in style have occurred during the series.

February was a good month. I enjoyed several lazy Saturday afternoons reading on the couch, plus a few Sunday (and a Thursday) bonus days as the snow fell. For the first time in my life I read three full-length novels and one writing text book (plus two short stories on the Kindle) in less than a month.

The Garbage Collector (Kindle) – Dan Ames
The Garbage Collector is an ex-cop turned hunter of people who don’t want to be found. In this short story, he is hired by a law firm to find and bring back an attorney who has made off with important info. The story delivers interesting characters and a fast-moving plot. I would like to see The Garbage Collector featured in a novel one day. Recommended.

The Crime Writer – Gregg Hurwitz
Crime writer Drew Danner, wakes up in the hospital after suffering a brain tumor. He also has his murdered ex-girlfriend’s blood all over him and no memory of what happened… I found it to be a fast-paced read that kept me guessing.

Orphan X, Buy A Bullet (Kindle) and The Nowhere Man – Gregg Hurwitz
I’m deliberately not giving anything away that could be remotely described as a spoiler.

Evan Smoak is the best new series protagonist since Jack Reacher in my opinion. Smoak could have easily been a stereotypical assassin-with-a-heart, but Hurwitz gave him complexity, which made him all the more fascinating.

All three of these titles hit the right note. They have fantastic action, more than a few twists and turns, excellent character development and some cool weaponry. The books will appeal to readers who enjoy fast paced action-filled thrillers. I’m really looking forward to following the further adventures of Evan Smoak.

The Haunted Pen - My Writing Month

Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel (2016 Revision) – Hallie Ephron
This book is excellent. It gives step-by-step guides for how to think through each element of a mystery novel. The book has a bunch of fantastic tips for writing a novel of any kind. Highly recommended.

Reading Now
I’ve just started Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich. This is the first Stephanie Plum mystery story I’ve read and if the first few pages are any indication, it will not be the last. I’ve also just started Creating Characters from Writer’s Digest Books. This has been on my reading list for a few months. It’s an excellent, as well as fascinating guide for developing all kinds of characters whatever your choice of genre.

The Haunted Pen - My Writing Month

It’s my intention to post monthly updates. Please feel free to check in and see what I’m working on, keep tabs on my writing goals and anything else I feel like telling you about!

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