Mar 312016

The short answer: almost done, but not quite.

As mentioned earlier, I was on-track to be done by the end of the month. Everything had started to align. Cody and I started churning through the polish pass; cleaning up wording, tossing unnecessary sentences, refining entire paragraphs to improve clarity and impact. After (once again) stressing over what I would do for the book’s cover, having a preconceived notion of what I wanted that cover to be, I stumbled across a stock photo1 that — though it didn’t fit the preconception — declared itself the perfect cover for this story, so I even had that part all set.

Then two things happened.

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  1. Ashes‘ cover is also a modified stock photo []
Mar 072016

I don’t know what happened yesterday, but I got up, went down to make coffee, started working on the book…and didn’t stop until I reached the end of the book.

The third draft is done!

What does that mean? The third draft is the final story- and character-revision pass. The next pass, generating the final draft, comes from an aloud read-through with Cody for phrasing, grammar gaffes, and general technical consistency. This will fill a few evenings and will also be Cody’s first actual exposure to the full text of the story, as opposed to just hearing me talk about it. Meanwhile, I’ll also be doing peripheral work: figuring out the cover, deciding what appendices to add, etc.

Most importantly, though, it means that the book is coming. Soon. Very soon.

As with Ashes, I’ll be releasing a few sample chapters here on the blog once they’re finalized. That could even be imminent, so stay tuned!

Jan 182016

Once again, I must thank you for your patience during the long update droughts this blog so often experiences. It’s not for lack of interest on my part, nor for lack of things to say, but rather due to feeling perpetually “behind” with everything and “Oh, hey, I should write a post about that” ideas succumbing to the maelstrom that manifests from being pulled in a million directions at once.

That said, I at least come bearing good news! The second draft of Ashes of Alour-Tan’s sequel is DONE, clocking in at just under 103,000 words. In point of fact, it’s been done for almost four weeks. The discerning and critical eyes of my Beta readers now prowl through it, assessing just how much work I’m in for when it comes time to hammer the second draft into the third (and final) draft. I’ve asked them to submit their feedback by the end of the month. My current goal is to publish the book by the end of Q1 2016 (i.e. sometime in March), a goal I very much aim to hit. Alour-Tan II1 has been with me for far too long; it needs to be out there with all of you.

In similar news, while Alour-Tan II is under review, I’ve started heavily preparing for Alour-Tan III‘s first draft. I’ve no desire to repeat the mistakes I seem to continue making by failing to properly and thoroughly outline before diving in. Every single time, thus far, starting the first any draft too early has ensnared me in some kind of mid-book plot conundrum that takes demoralizing quantities of writing time and work to resolve. I want to see those coming and fix them before they amass an umpty-thousand word juggernaut behind them. It’s also my hope and goal that this will streamline the writing process itself and, to that end, I’m presently aiming to outline, write, revise, and publish Alour-Tan III by the end of this year as well. We’ll see whether or not that actually happens.

As with the first draft, I thought it might be of interest to do something of a retrospective on the process of writing this one.

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  1. I don’t know if it’s smart or foolish to continue avoiding using the book’s actual name. Do I run any risks if I announce the name before the book’s up for sale? I don’t know. I also don’t know whether or not those risks are greater for a self-published author than they would be for a trad-pub author. []
May 272014

I suspect the rash of 3D modeling posts have left many of you wondering, “Yes, yes, that’s all well and good, but what about the writing?”

Last time I wrote about writing (hm…), I felt much more optimistic about how the science fiction novel — okay, fine, it’s code-named “Prime” — could be redrafted into something more to my liking based on the invaluable feedback from my beta readers. As I went along, though, I realized that the revision process felt perfunctory. Not that the story didn’t need revision — it did and does — but rather that none of the planned and effected changes were providing that revision. After a great deal of soul-searching (and about a third of a revised draft written), I realized that the idea of the story had simply gotten away from me. As I feared back in October, what I had written wasn’t what I wanted to have written. It wasn’t the story I sought to tell.

Coincident with this realization, my wife passed on a comment from one of her aunts who had finally gotten around to reading Ashes and loved it. Just like everyone else, she was eager for the sequel and wanted to know when it would come out.

The next day, I chose to shelve Prime for now.

Instead, I turned my attention to Ashes’ sequel, for which I now have a much more solid outline, timeline, list of character motivations, and over 10,000 words written. The third Alour-Tan book is also in the late-stage “back-of-my-mind” percolation stage and my plan is to segue directly into working on it as soon as Alour-Tan II goes out to betas, which I’m angling to happen by the end of June.

I’ll return to Prime at some point, probably starting from the ground up but with an eye to using the collapsed rubble as the bedrock for the new version. For now, though, finishing the Alour-Tan series feels like the right thing to do.

Aug 152012

Down six pounds so far.

Ate pizza for lunch at work today, and felt over-full after one slice, and stuffed after two. I used to comfortably eat three to four slices without a problem.

As (should be) usual, I spent the train ride this morning working on the book. However, I made no forward progress in word count. That’s not to say I didn’t make major progress, though. Let me ‘splain.

Right now, I have the book broken into three separate documents. One is the manuscript proper, and it’s from there that I’m taking my word counts that I’m posting on the novel progress page. Another is my “story treatment,” which I wrote to kick off this draft of the story and sort out the plot holes and pacing issues in the second draft.1 The third one is where I’ve been working for the last couple of days: the editing room.

The editing room, or the cut doc, contains everything I sliced out of draft two that didn’t (yet) get re-integrated or re-written for draft three. The bulk of it comprises the middle and end thirds of the book. As I progress through this draft, I’m pulling things out of the cut doc and putting them back into the manuscript, modifying or re-writing as-needed. Anything that doesn’t fit–be it through changed plot, story flow, tone, or pacing–gets highlighted in red with a note about why it was cut. Anything that does fit, but hasn’t been reincorporated yet gets highlighted in blue with a note about where it should go, or why it’s important or worth keeping.

It wasn’t until Monday that I decided to take a proactive approach to the cut doc, rather than the reactive one I was taking. Before, I was going through the story, picking pieces out of it chronologically, and putting them in the new draft. But because of the major retooling in the second half of the book, chronology has gone right out the window and certain major events that happened in draft two never occur in draft three. That means a lot of stuff goes away, and a lot of other stuff that’s still good and worth using needs to be retooled so that it can come back.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that I’ve been applying pretty colors to a document instead of making forward word-count progress. But it’s all for a purpose: organizing the content I mean to preserve, and identifying the content I need to generate anew. I’ve still got a fair amount of material to go through, but once I’ve finished, I should be able to make very rapid forward progress on completing this last major draft of the book. From there, it’ll need a verbiage pass and cover art, and then it’s live.

  1. Based on how incredibly useful this has been, and how many authors swear by them, I plan to outline far more on the future than I did with this one, which was not at all. []


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Mar 062012

I’ve had an urge to write a post on all of the various things I’ve learned about writing so far. However, it feels presumptuous and pretentious to think I’ve learned anything until I’ve finished–much less, sold–a book.

Got some more work done on Draft Three last night. About 1/5th of the way through the chapters at this point, though given the massive overhaul the middle of the book is getting, I have no idea what portion of the total work that actually represents.

I’ve largely been basking in the release excitement for Mass Effect 3 today. Cody and I ordered the collector’s edition, which should arrive on Thursday. With any luck, we’ll have a chance to play some come the weekend.

Other fun things on the agenda for this week/weekend include: finishing plans for a picket fence in the backyard, in preparation for puppies; doing taxes; and visiting car dealerships in advance of actually buying that new car we’ve been talking about buying since we got married. We recently inherited a second car from my grandmother, but it’s temperamental at the best of times. Coupled with my clocking 70 miles per day, getting a new and fuel-efficient car makes sense.

An explosion of words

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Mar 032012

My, oh my. Where does the time go?

My astonishing silence around these parts is due in large measure to two things. First, holidays happened. Second, SW:TOR happened. Third, and most important, writing happened. I’ve collected as much beta reader feedback as I can hope to at this point and have resumed putting fingers to keyboard. The third draft of Ashes is underway at full steam. I am planning to have it finished before the month is out, at which point it goes to my wife for meticulous line-editing. Once she is satisfied that my word choices won’t result in horrific embarrassment for all time, it’s time to publish.

One of the recent1 impediments to proceeding on Draft Three was a problem of structure. While the beginning and end of the book are right where I wanted them, the middle got aimless and dragged. There was no flow to the largest Act in the book. I took a few steps back from it and did something I should’ve done from the outset: I wrote down the whole story as a point-for-point treatment; a glorified outline, if you will. In such a pared-down form2, it was easy to see where the story flow faltered. Less easy was figuring out how to fix it. Sitting with Cody and throwing ideas at her, we managed to sort through the chaff and find a thread along which the story makes sense. It’s resulted in some larger changes than I anticipated making in this draft3, but they are all changes I am excited about. The thought of editing this draft is exhilarating rather than daunting.

I’ve also started using the trial of Scrivener, which a number of authors that I follow swear by. After playing with it for a few days, I can see why. Once my trial’s up, I am almost certainly going to spend the $40 to buy it.

Related to the above, I have made the decision to self-publish Ashes once it’s finished. I’ve been waffling over whether or not to self-publish through Kindle / Smashwords / et. al. or to query agents/publishers. I’ve read enough horror stories lately about the Big Six, and seen enough success stories from self-publishers, that I’d already been leaning in that direction. The entire face of publishing is changing because of the sudden explosion of eBooks. I think I’d be a fool to ignore it. Coupled with thinking about my writing not only as a creative endeavor, but also as a business/financial one, it’s the one that seems to make the most sense. True, it means I won’t see my book(s) in a bookstore, but it also means that I don’t have to jump through someone else’s hoops to tell my stories, nor deal with some of the uglier aspects of traditional publishing.

Following Ashes, I have my pick of next projects. I have two more books that finish out the story that Ashes begins. Like Star Wars, Ashes can be read as a complete experience unto itself. You don’t get the full story without the other two books, though. In addition, I have an idea for a series of indefinite length centering on a female paranormal/supernatural investigator. Think Dresden meets Buffy meets the Winchester brothers, with a heavy emphasis on her relationships with the people in her life, and you’ll have some idea of that one. I’ve also got another set of stories set in the same world as Ashes, but far removed from it geographically, centering on another female protagonist — Belle LaMairian. Moving away from fantasy, I have a ton of sci-fi story ideas I could develop, as well. I think I’ll let Ashes sit for a bit and start working on the Dresden+Buffy+Winchester+romance+investigation smorgasbord next, since that’s an idea I’m excited about right now. That’s not to say the others don’t excite me; my mind is just active with that one right now.

All in all, things have been going very well. I’m going to try to post more regularly4, maybe even get into a *gasp* daily cadence! We shall see.

  1. As in, in the last week []
  2. A mere four pages []
  3. I cut an entire major journey, a major location, and and encounter with a political power. In its stead, I elevated the importance of a main character, completely destroyed said location, destroyed another location while I was at it, increased the political goings-on that happen around the main characters, and amped up the stakes for the climax of the book. []
  4. Ha, have we heard that before? []

Welcome to December

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Dec 022010

November has come and gone, and with it so has another NaNo. This year, I didn’t “win.” In point of fact, I chose not to win after a pile-up of circumstances. I started the month without a clear idea of what I wanted to write. Then, I started writing about a half-formed idea that intrigued me. About 10,000 words in, I realized that the idea wasn’t sufficiently thought-out in its current form to sustain a novel, so I tabled it. Instead, I decided to try and write what amounted to fan fic in a genre wherein I would have no trouble at all going on for 50,000 or more words. I reached 10,000 words yet again, and then it was time to drive out of state for Thanksgiving. That’s when I forgot my laptop bag in the house. At that point, I decided that spending the holiday churning through 40,000 words that I would never actually try to publish wasn’t worth it and abandoned it.

I’m okay with that decision. The first NaNo novel I wrote is unpublishable (probably ever), but it proved to me that I could write that much of a single story in a short timeframe. I had the second NaNo novel’s concept in mind well before starting, and was excited about writing it. I’ve only just started the massive editing work required to make it something I feel is agent-worthy, but I continue to be excited about it. In other words, my second NaNo novel proved to me that I could write something I was proud of and thought worth publishing. That set a new bar for novel #3, and when it became clear that the things I was writing weren’t going to be at that level, it lost its worth. Besides, there’s always next year. There’s also every other month in the year.

So, there’s that.

In other news, the guild has been tackling ICC of late and we’ve been running smoothly until we hit Sindragosa, who we’ve been stuck on now for three weeks! However, we got very close the last time we attacked her1, so I’m confident that we’ll down her next time. Then it’s on to Arthas. We’re all hoping that we can take down both Sindragosa and Arthas this time2, because that’d mean we achieved the entire point of Wrath of the Lich King just before Cataclysm comes out this coming Tuesday.

NASA is set to announce something in a few hours that a lot of people are speculating is the discovery of bacteria here on Earth with DNA that differs from every other known lifeform on the planet. Namely, this bacteria has arsenic in its DNA rather than phosphorous. If this is true, it fundamentally changes our concept of DNA and means the possibilities for life are much broader than we’ve known until now. It also means that at least two distinct types of life evolved on this planet alone, which in turn dramatically increases the chances of it happening elsewhere. My favorite quote from the article is this:

To my mind, this is the one of the major differences between science and religion: scientists get wildly excited and happy when someone proves our basic dogma wrong.

To round out, I want to share this blog post. I haven’t mentioned it here before, but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were completely successful. I don’t mean in the sense of toppling the WTC towers, which were also obviously successful; I mean in the sense of defeating us. On 9/11, we were attacked by terrorists. We had, essentially, two paths to take on that day: we come together and continue living life as Americans, or we cave to the fear of another attack and throw away our way of life. The recent, absurd “security measures” implemented by the TSA are just another nail in the coffin that prove we caved. We lost. They won.

  1. Only 2% health remaining! []
  2. That’s a tall order. As hard a fight as Sindragosa is, Arthas is even worse. []
Sep 172010

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, we do things that provoke a predictable response that we then use to galvanize further action? Yeah, that’s a little vague. Let me clarify: the other day, Scalzi posted this. For the TL;DR crowd, the short version is:

Do you want to write or don’t you? If your answer is “yes, but,” then here’s a small editing tip: what you’re doing is using six letters and two words to say “no.” And that’s fine. Just don’t kid yourself as to what “yes, but” means.

I shared this article with Cody; that’s the “doing something to provoke” part. This morning, Cody asks me, “So, do you want to be a writer, or not?” Enter: “a predictable response” part. I knew, on seeing that article, she would needle me about the fact that I haven’t really exhibited much in the way of writer’s ambition since I finished the zeroth draft of the novel back in November. I’ve poked at the idea of editing it ever since, but haven’t really done much.

Anyway, this exchange dovetailed nicely with a growing urge to try to actually write something here every day, if for no other reason than to practice the work of stringing sentences together. I’ve entertained the idea of actually having a readership for this blog, and enjoy that notion. The trouble is that whole ‘building a readership’ part that has to come first. When the desired end state starts taking more time than my patience allots, I slack off on actually getting to that end state, thereby never attaining it. This has been true in my for-fun modeling (oh, Star Destroyer project, I shall one day finish you!), in the notion of getting more into costuming and crafting-type things, in learning to play guitar, drawing, and writing. It’s a bad habit and needs to die a horrible, painful death.

So, pursuant to that, I’m going to start trying to write something here every day, at least 250 meaningful words in length. Meaningful, mind you, does not get to be in the eye of the beholder!