A Short Blog Post about Description

I get the sense that Dan was a little angry when he wrote this.

It’s my birthday weekend, so this week’s blog post is a short one. Besides, I’m sure your time at the weekend, or whatever time of the day or week you’re reading this, feels equally important to you as the time I’m going to spend celebrating that I’ve made it to the age of thirty-two does to me.

And that’s kinda the point of this week’s blog post, that of being concise in your writing and not wasting readers’ time.

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Time, often referred to as being precious.

In my opinion, novels are too long. If you’ve read any of my Jake Hancock comedic mysteries, you might have noticed that they don’t take more than three hours to read. It isn’t because I’m lazy and unable to churn out a hundred-thousand-plus-word story. It’s because I don’t write a lot of description.

If someone came up to me in the street and said they have a story they want me to read, and that it takes between five and six hours to get through, I’d tell that lunatic to double the dosage of whatever medicine he’s been prescribed. My time’s too precious. I wouldn’t sit through a five-hour movie, so why do novelists expect readers to spend five hours reading their book?

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Something funny.

I know what you’re thinking: Why don’t I read novellas or short stories? Because I don’t think the lengths of those formats are long enough for most writers to tell a fulfilling story in, unless the writer cuts out all the unnecessary description.

I care about reading three things in novels: 1) What characters say, 2) what they do, and 3) what they’re thinking, as long as what they’re thinking, doing, or saying is entertaining and/or moves the story along.

If they’re saying stuff to another character in a busy city street, and you want to set the scene, then write “a busy city street.” Believe it or not, most people have experienced a busy city street. They can imagine it for themselves. Don’t tell them that there’s a building that’s twenty-two stories high, and what the building’s constructed out of, or what models of cars are whizzing past the character.

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More or less a busy city street.

Is it important that the buildings they imagine upon reading “busy city street” are only twenty-one stories high, or God forbid, only twenty stories high? Absolutely not. And crazily enough, when I read “busy city street” I imagined there were cars on the road. I’m good like that.

The same can be said for most descriptions in novels in most genres, with a few exceptions. Science fiction and fantasy, where worlds are constructed that we don’t live in already, can have at their descriptions, filling pages with it. Same goes for erotica, where reading descriptions of places and, err, characters is part and parcel of the experience.

For other fiction genres, keep the camera focused on what really matters: what the characters do, say, and think. And give readers back the time they were going to waste.

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I wonder what that section of fence or whatever behind them looks like

If reading about shit you can imagine all by yourself annoys the hell out of you, don’t forget to share this blog post with your friends by using the social media share buttons below.

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If want to find out if novels sparse with description can work, check out my books here.

If you want to wish me happy Birthday, the best way to do it is by heading on over to my Facebook page and pressing the like button.

Five Tips for Newbie Indie Authors

Dan went back in time and gave his thirty-year-old self some advice. Two years later, thirty-two-year-old Dan blogs about it. These are the resulting words and pictures.

This week, I started writing the eighth book I’ll publish—the seventh book in my Jake Hancock series. It might be immature by about twenty or so books, but I’m beginning to think of myself as a bit of a veteran indie author. I’ve at least made it past the three book mark, which I read is the mean number of books published by indie authors.

And as a seasoned indie author who needs topics to blog about, I feel like I should pass on the wisdom I’ve gained over the two years I’ve been doing this shit. Here are five tips to maximize productivity and creativity:

  1. Broccoli is your friend

Burgers and pizzas are great and everything, but I find that if I eat broccoli the night before the next morning’s thousand words fly onto the page, and not only that, I find that the quality increases to the point where, upon finishing the writing session, I don’t feel inclined to walk out onto my balcony to find out what it feels like to hurtle face first onto the asphalt below at roughly twenty-five percent of my terminal velocity.

You probably think I’m busting your balls, but I’ve accumulated enough anecdotal evidence to think there’s definitely something to it. Now that I think about it, I don’t eat broccoli on Friday evenings—because, well, it’s Friday—which is probably the reason why the two opening paragraphs in this blog post don’t quite gel, unless I fixed them in post, in which case you can forget you read these words.

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Broccoli and a bicycle
  1. Alcohol isn’t your friend

Sure, when you find out the book you thought was the best in the series turns out to be consistently the one readers tell you is the weakest, or when you check your sales for the month to see you won’t be able to buy that weapon-sharpened katana sword you’ve been longing to mount on your bedroom wall, it’s easy to turn to the bottle. Don’t.

Writer’s of legendary status, such as Ernest Hemmingway, may have gotten away with it, but I’d bet there are at least twenty low-functioning alcoholics to every lucky bastard who’s high-functioning while and after being shitfaced. Where do I fit in on the spectrum of alcoholism functionality? When hungover once, I queued on the wrong side of a cash register at a book store, meaning I was queuing behind the cashier. Yep, that wasn’t my finest moment, and clearly hammering the bottle the night before leaves me in no fit state to write comedy.

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This.
  1. Have no fear

You never fail at writing unless you don’t write. It’s easy to sit there all morning before work, poking away at your iPad, thinking you’re doing “research,” but that’s just fear fucking with you. If after I’d eaten breakfast every morning I went right to my office, sloshing green tea on my work clothes as I did, instead of doing the aforementioned activity, I really would be a veteran indie author. But then again, there’d only be four tips written for this blog post, which is a shitty number. Swings and roundabouts, I guess.

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Fear fucking with him.
  1. Moderate, break up, and stagger the ultimate goal of writing books

Your ultimate goal should be to sell enough books each year so you can tell your boss to go fuck himself, preferably in a resignation letter written in crayon. But that won’t happen right away, and it may never happen. To stay motivated, moderate that goal into smaller goals, and make them achievable within a short time frame, such as getting x number of five-star reviews, and make them specific and measurable. Listen to me, I sound just like Tony Robbins or some shit. But it’s important if you’re to avoid spiraling into a deep depression from which you’ll never escape (see point two).

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This athlete hasn’t decided to stack all the hurdles on top of each other and jump over them all at once. That would be stupid and dangerous.
  1. Have fucking fun

If you write for yourself, making yourself laugh as you spend that hour and a half in front of your computer every morning, it’ll be something you look forward to, not something that’s a chore. And if you can make yourself laugh, chances are there are a shitload of readers who’ll laugh too. That is, unless you’re some kind of psychopath with a sick sense of humor, in which case this probably isn’t the gig for you.

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Bears frolicking. Fun.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog post, don’t forget to feel mildly obligated to share it with your friends on social media. Those of you who already do—I’m looking at you, Alison—thanks a lot. You can also get notified via email every time there’s a new blog post by filling in the form at the top-right corner of the web page.


My books, which I had a ball writing, even the times I was hungover, can be checked out here.

Head on over to my Facebook page and say hi and don’t forget to like it. I’m starting to do Facebook live videos soon, where I’ll attempt to keep fans of Jake Hancock updated on my work in progress and attempt to make them laugh with topical humor. I feel like I might crash and burn, at least for the second aim, but that might make them more entertaining.

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