Coffee for WriMos: Day 17

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

November 18, 2014

I’m a writer, not a mathematician.

If you’ll notice, I missed counting a day in my Coffee for WriMos. Somehow numbers go missing from my calendar, the clock, the checkbook. I’m the buckaroo scratching my head, re-counting the herd three times and getting three different tallies of tails. It leaves me shouting minor or major grunts of frustration depending upon the importance of the missed numbers.

That means I need to apply myself to numbers because numbers do matter eventually to writers. Number of words, number of books published, number of reviews and number of sales. I’d like to wrap myself in a magic cloak that says, “Back off numbers.” Can’t I just write?

Why yes, Writer, you can “just write;” it’s called NaNoWriMo. And many do just that–just write. There’s nothing wrong with the writing goal to communicate the stories you want to write.

But if you’ve made writing your career, carved out space to write publishable novels and set up goals, the plan needs to include more than task number one: write. Numbers matter.

Which is how I came to read Stop Focusing on Book Reviews today. I know that reviews factor into the equation. While the points are worthy of noting and filing away (for when I have books to market), it was the thought of the day that I found on the importance of professional editing.

Editing is not what we are to concern ourselves with in November, but if you have goals beyond a first draft you’ll need to consider it. I have a professional editor and I heard back from her last night on my first novel ready to publish. It’s not ready. I agonized my way into a fitful sleep.

As I’ve said to others, including my adult children when facing a rough time, morning comes and it’s a new dawn, a new day. Attitude in check, I recommitted to writing. Better that my editor pointed out flaws before I distributed the manuscript. The following struck home.

Thought for Day 17:

An editor doesn’t tell you what you want to hear. A good editor tells you what needs fixing as difficult as it is for you to hear. ~BookTour.Tips

Yeah, it was difficult to hear. I wanted to hear–perfect! smashing! it’s ready! Numbers that matter most are the long-term ones and these are based on quality products. I have choices–I can quit or I can improve.

So I will write on, mindful of the numbers but focused on the words.

Tune for Day 17:

Word Count: 2,059

Excerpt From Rock Creek:

Cool autumn breeze tickled strands of loose hair at her neck. The earth smelled of hay and dirt. Dry grasses rattled seed pods and no two-year old boy responded with a giggle or, “Wat’s dat?” He was so curious, so healthy. How was it he took ill quickly, so violently?

The steady pounding of horse hooves indicated several riders in her direction.

“For your sake, old man, you had better not be a liar as much as you are a thief.” The rumbling voice was not one Nancy Jane recognized. She stayed low in case these were bandits.

“I left my daughter here to dig a hole, I swear to you, I’m not lying.” It was Pa.

Nancy Jane stood up and the horses spooked, the men reigning for control of the animals. She had dirty hands and her face was wet from her tears. Wind-blown hair probably didn’t add to her appearance, but at the moment she was more concerned about the wheezing she heard in her father’s voice. That his wrists were tethered behind a big brute of a man mounted on a tall buckskin explained why he sounded out of breath. “What are you doing,” she yelled at the riders.

The three men on horseback trotted toward her. “Are you his daughter?” It was the brute who spoke. Nancy Jane recognized him now. He was that southerner who bought the road ranch at Rock Creek and built a toll bridge.

“I’m his daughter, Nancy Jane Holmes.” She stood with balled fists on her hips, wanting to go to her Pa,  but decided it was best to sort out what was happening. A neighbor wouldn’t harm them. These were not bandits. In fact, one of the riders was Mr. Helvey from the next ranch over and she knew Irish John Hughes who sat smirking from the back of his fidgeting horse.

“Is that your child?” The large man pointed at the pine box next to her hollowed out hole in the ground.


“I’m sorry you lost your child. Sickness?”


“Helvey, Hughes give this woman a hand and finish digging the hole.”

Hughes looked at Nancy Jane, not moving from his saddle. “Let this slattern dig her her own hole for her bastard.”

Before Nancy Jane could spit out her words in response, the larger man backhanded Hughes out of his saddle and he tumbled backwards into the grass. Then, calm as cotton on a dandelion, he swung out of his saddle to untie her Pa’s wrists. Mr. Helvey dismounted without a word and picked up the shovel and resumed digging the hole.

“You’ll return that suit laundered and within two days, you hear?” The man spoke to her Pa who stood nearly a foot shorter. He hung his head and wisps of hair flagged when he nodded. Nancy Jane did not recognize the over-sized black suit that hung on her father’s frail frame with streaks of dirt that indicated her Pa did not stay on his feet while behind the buckskin horse.

Joseph walked over to her. He mumbled, booze reeking from his breath. “Sorry, Nancy Jane. I wanted to borrow a suit from Irish John Hughes, but he weren’t home so I borrowed it without asking.”

“He borrowed my whiskey, too.” Hughes shot Joseph a dark scowl and stood well away from the big man who was unbundling something from the back of his saddle.

It was a fiddle. He pointed the bow at Hughes. “He’ll return in two days time, clean. You needn’t take issue sharing a drink with a mourning man.”

Hughes frowned. So did Nancy Jane. What was this brute going to do, play a jig right here at her son’s burial? “You look ready to dance on the devil’s dance floor,” she said.

His brown eyes penetrated her own, but with surprise. “I was headed over to Hevley’s for a barn dance, but no I’m not going to play such here. I’ll play a tune for your child. I’m no preacher, but neither am I the devil.”

A soft, mournful strain rose from the fiddle. Nancy Jane had never heard the like in her life. The song continued and it bored into her aching heart like a prairie dog into a den. Once there it took hold and the man with huge hands continued to rake that bow over the strings until Nancy Jane fell to her knees sobbing. She sobbed for her brother William, for the mother she could not remember, for the baby brothers she didn’t know at all. She sobbed for her father who took solace in a bottle and for the woman who had to leave her china behind. She sobbed for the Russian who never knew he fathered a son. She sobbed hardest for her son. William. And still the song continued relentlessly.

When it ended, the box bearing her son was beneath the prairie and clods of dirt marked his grave. The three men got back on their horses and rode away toward Hevley’s ranch. The fiddle was bundled behind the big man but Nancy Jane could still hear the strains of the strings.

“That David McCanles, Mr. High and Mighty, thinks he’s the law and order around here. Near dragged me to death, he did.” Joseph spit on the ground.

Nancy Jane tugged at the sleeve of the borrowed suit. “What were you thinking, Pa?”


You May Also Like…

Coffee for WriMos: Last Call

Coffee for WriMos: Last Call

It is done... ...not really. 51,000 words and many more to go. What NaNoWriMo did for me this year is get me started...

Coffee for WriMos: Day 28

Coffee for WriMos: Day 28

Imagination fills the gaps. Sometimes I struggle because I want to be right. When writing history, it's easy to slip...

Coffee for WriMos: Day 24

Coffee for WriMos: Day 24

Trust your sense of taste. Cooking a book is a lot like kitchen cooking. We have recipes from the masters like Chef of...


  1. Sarah Brentyn

    If the outfit I’m wearing makes me look like an idiot, a good friend tells me BEFORE I go out on the town. The End. Your book will be brilliant.

    (That is one of my favorite scenes.)

    • Charli Mills

      Yes! My editor won’t let me look like an idiot out on the town! Thanks!

  2. lorilschafer

    I agree with Sarah. This is exactly why you hire an editor – to uncover the things that you can’t see because you’re too close to the work. At a CPA firm, several different staffers at various levels of expertise will typically review a tax return before it’s given the green light. Even a high-level partner isn’t above having his or her work examined by others – and even so, I’ve still found errors 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a great example, Lori! Thanks!

  3. TanGental

    Yes editing is crucial. Law, at least commercial law is all about the accuracy of contracts. No one ever in my experience got it right on their own and if they’re allowed to it generally went wrong later.
    These 2000 words are excellent. You have nailed 5 characters in those few words. I’m in awe.

    • Charli Mills

      There are so many levels of editing and revision. I had hoped I was at the end. In retrospect it is close, but more fixing. Yes, it is crucial.

      This scene is an important set up so I’m glad the characters are coming through. Thanks!

      • TanGental

        it’s great!

  4. Lisa Reiter

    Popping by for a quick coffee as I hope you sleep. And because I need one right now! ??
    Boy that editor must be GOOD if your book is still not ready, because we all suspect it’s already a brilliant. She’s just gonna make you polish up a best seller, so we love her and you can sleep easy! ????

    • Charli Mills

      She is a good editor and has worked in the book publishing industry so I trust her judgement. From last revision she advised me to strengthen my timeline as it weakened in spots and was not clear. So I went over the top and added seasons to my chapters. She said weather is a no-no and I mention the weather–a lot! Her point is that there are other more meaningful ways to communicate place and time. So much to learn, yet! Thanks for sharing coffee!

  5. Let's CUT the Crap!

    I’m reading as a reader. The characters are wonderful and the story keeps clipping along. I hate when I come to the end. <3

    • Charli Mills

      I so appreciate you reading as a reader! Thanks!

      • Let's CUT the Crap!

        Of course. I know the drill and am only interested in story. 🙂

      • Charli Mills


  6. Annecdotist

    So right, Charli, even though we know what we are paying an editor for it’s impossible to kill that bit of us that wants only validation. I’m sure it’s going to be great when you get there.
    Now, not that I’m a pedant or anything (;)) but I know I don’t need to remind you you can be a mathematician AND a writer. But I also like to point out whenever I get the opportunity (yawn yawn) that, although numeracy is related to arithmetic which is a branch of mathematics, it’s actually a separate skill set and you don’t have to be good at arithmetic to do advanced mathematics (I say this based on an untraceable radio programme and my own experience of still struggling with my times tables, not that I’m called upon to use them very often).
    Thanks for the space to ramble. Good to see that your NaNo project continues apace

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, that need for validation always seems strongest when it is least appropriate.

      As for mathematics, we could go on a good ramble! In literature, I could make big-picture connections that I never had to go back and explain. In math, I could make connections and get the answer, but be unable to explain my work. It’s in the details of numbers (and even letters) that I fumble–misspelling easy words or adding up 2+2 as something other than 4. I took a fabulous course in college called Math for Liberal Arts Majors and the professor was so excited to explain math in a way that made sense. It could have been called a math appreciation course. Still, my former colleagues will tease me about the time I presented my budget that added up to 90% not 100%.

      Thus concluding that need for an editor.

      Thanks reading and commenting!

  7. TLPoague

    I love it and think you are doing an amazing job. It sounds like you have a great editor that is going to make sure your book sells like wildfire. I’m looking forward to reading it.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks! I’m hoping for that kind of book burning (wildfire sales). 🙂

Discover more from Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading