Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Finished (Sort of)

Actual conversation with my wife:

Me: I finished my novel, it's the best one I've written so far.

Wife: Great, can I read it?

Me: No, not yet.

Wife: Why not?

Me: Because it sucks.

Wife: I thought you said it was the best one you've written?

Me: It is, it's just not done yet.

Wife: I thought you said it was finished?

The conversation quickly broke down with me making less and less sense.

There is nothing like the feeling of getting to the end of the rough draft. This is the 5th time I've done it and it still feels great. This rough draft is both rougher and more polished than any of my previous rough drafts. I realize that makes no sense to anyone who hasn't written a few novels.

With all my other novels I tried to write a novel, it seemed logical. But with this one I took everything I learned about editing my last novels and (hopefully) produced the raw materials for a novel.

I approached this one a little like the movie industry does. When shooting a movie they don't really make a movie, they shoot a lot of scenes. If you were to look at all the raw footage in the order they shot them, it would make no sense. I kind of, sort of, did that with my novel.

What I have is 64 scenes, some tied beautify together, some slam to halt and the next scene starts without warning. Some scenes the set dresser came in a did an excellent job, others were shot in front of a green screen so the action and emotion is there, but there is no setting.

My first chapter absolutely sucks, one main character suddenly picked up a strong mid-western accent 9 chapters in and it became the major focus of her character. At the end the bad guy refers to an event that I need to write into the fourth chapter. I've got a whole list of things that need to be changed, but I'm totally excited that it is done.

Now, it is time for the first major edit. On this one the only editing I did was to read the last chapter and do the obvious changes, at some point I didn't know what I meant the day before so the reader sure wouldn't, and major, major grammar issues. This time I have an actual plan for the edit.

When I write I make a separate document for each chapter, it helps me stay organized. I put the chapter number, page count, and word count in a spreadsheet.

This time I'm going read each chapter and sum it up in the spreadsheet, this way I can see in a glance how the story arc is going and condense or expand it where it needs it. Once that is done I can work on tying the chapters together properly so I can polish it up in to an actual book, as opposed to 64 scenes. Then I will look upon my masterpiece and say it can't possibly be improved.

Then I will unleash it on my beta readers who will point out all silly and glaring errors I made and I'll rewrite half of it.

Then I will put it aside for 6 months and look at it again and wonder what the hell was I thinking and rewrite it again.

And writers wonder why they get postpartum depression when they finish a book.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Finding my Muse

The creative writing side of being a writer is a funny thing, it is tough to control your output. In writing the first draft for my latest novel MIND THIEF my output has never been more uneven. I started out at a decent pace, about 1,000 words a day and was expecting to hash out my 50,000 word first draft by the end of October. I got to the 30,000 word mark and ground to a near halt. Half of October I wrote 0 words on it a day, either spending an hour writing three paragraphs, deleting them, rewriting the three paragraphs and deleting those as they were even worse, or being easily pulled away. At the end of October I was at the 40,000 word mark.

I set it aside in November, and wrote 20,000 words on a different novel. In December I worked on a third novel to see if my idea for a narrative would work, it did.

So then in the new year I committed myself to finishing MIND THIEF it was slow work, 500 - 800 words a day, or less. It took me two months to write the next 20,000.

Suddenly, My muse stopped by the other day and I wrote 12,000 words since Saturday. If I could do that every day I could write a novel a month and be my own book of the month club.

I realize writing will always be an uneven process, but hopefully this will be the extreme.

The bigger thing I learned is why I torture myself. It would have been easy to put this book aside at the 30,000 word mark or any other point but it is a good story.

I've got a understandable main character (Many editors have pointed out I don't do sympathetic main characters, so I shoot for understandable). I've got a heroine that my wife should be jealous of the time I spend thinking of her. I've got a bad guy who is up there with Stalin and Pol Pot as far as evilness. Most importantly the story revolves around their characters, if one of them were removed or replaced the story would fall apart.

So I have tortured myself with this novel, not because writing it is easy like it was with THE SETTING EARTH which I wrote in 6 weeks, but it is hard. It is a story in me that I needed to get out. Once I finish the rough draft which will be about 95,000 words I can use what I've learned in making these characters integral to the story in my other books.

I'm real proud of how the book is coming together and I've learned a lot about writing and myself in the process.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review: Downside to Cryogenics

Downside to Cryogenics
by: Amanda Lawrence Auverigne
Price: Free

Downside to Cryogenics is a quick twist on a familiar theme (at least to science fiction buffs) a terminally ill person is frozen and wakes up in the future and finds it's not as good as they hoped.

I normally don't like these stories, but I always read them. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment. The problem with most of them is they cover the same ground that the last hundred or so did. In DOWNSIDE TO CRYOGENICS Auverigne handled this nicely by keeping it brief at 741 words. I groaned a little as I started thinking it was just the same old thing I'd read many times before but by the time I got done groaning it was on to the story which was quite good.

If you like the waking up in the future stories, but are tried of them going over the same ground over and over again, you should read this one. It covers that ground in a sprint and is on to the story. If you've never read one I think she covers the basics well enough to fill you in to enjoy the story.

It is available here:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Putting Science in Science Fiction

In science fiction, books, TV shows, or films there are a few different types of “science” that the authors use. In good science fiction the authors know the difference between these types.


This is my favorite type of Science in Science Fiction. The author takes either a real piece of science that has been proven to work, or at least had a successful proof of concept and scales it up greatly.

In the first science fiction story that I sold, LONG TERM THINKING, that is what I did. I looked at Buckypaper, carbon nanotubes weaved together and placed in enamel to make a material stronger than steel but could cover a football field and weigh less than a gram, and scaled it up to a ridiculous size. I covered an entire red dwarf star with it having it change from being transparent to reflective so it could amplify the light on a planet making it habitable.

The nice thing thing about using real science and scaling it up is that first of all it is a challenge as the story has real physical rules that can't be changed on a whim. It also makes the technology almost a side character that responds in a realistic way. Also it will stand up through the years as the science behind it will still hold, now and a hundred years from now. Jules Verne was a master of using real science in his novels and they are still enjoyable as his science is still valid.


In the world of more advanced physics scientists come up with ideas that are supported with mathematics but we don't have the resources to test them yet. Like if you want your characters to travel to another star there are a few hypothetical ways. You can have a ship powered by a small black hole that uses Hawkin's Radiation to power it and it could reach the nearest star in 6 years. You can accelerate a mass that is the same size as your ship to speeds nearing the speed of light and it will create a wave of anti-gravity that will transfer its velocity to the your ship when it hits it, instantly making that ship and occupants travel at near the speed of light without feeling any acceleration. There are many more hypothetical ways to do this.

The problem with using hypothetical science in a science fiction story is that it is not proven. That means as technology advances some of the hypothetical science will be shown to work, others won't. Using hypothetical science in science fiction is tricky as you have to be prepared for it to be disproved. So an author using hypothetical science should make sure the story doesn't revolve around that science.


This is science that only exists within the universe that writer has made. Star Trek is the best example as they have had over a thirty year run making a universe that has its own physics.

The anti-matter powered warp drive that they use simply could not generate enough power to work, but they have made their own laws to govern it and sort of stick to it.

The Transporter, which was written in at the last minute because Roddenberry didn't have the budget to land them on a planet once a week without it looking cheesy, relies on the Heisenberg Compensator to make up for the fact that it would violate the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal.

When you start making up science to make your story work you are bordering on Fantasy, or in Star Wars just writing fantasy and putting space ships and stuff in your fantasy. There is nothing wrong with this but you must follow the rules of fantasy writing keep your made up physics consistent.


A good science fiction writer should know which type of science they are using in their story or their science will take away, rather than add to the story. If you're using Technobabble and one of your rules doesn't work to move your story, you can add another piece of technobabble to fix that problem. If you are using real science or even hypothetical science and something doesn't work, throwing in some tecnobabble will destroy the universe you've worked so hard to create.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Killed the Man That Wasn't There

I've decided to jump into the world of eBooks and that means doing all my own marketing. This leaves me at bit of a disadvantage as I have never bought a book from an unknown author. I've bought lots of books but when it comes to unknown authors I used to either find them by going to the library and checking out a book or reading magazines and looking up an author I really liked.

Now I've sold a few stories to magazines, but it is a long process. Looking at the stories I've sold it seems a crap shoot as well. In putting this eBook together I took two of the stories I sold, I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE and CURSED SHIP and dusted them off expecting to just put them in the eBook. Problem was when I put on my editor's cap, I decided that they weren't good enough for my book and I rejected myself.

After rewriting them, and getting some great suggestions from my friends at Scribophile I have four short stories that I am really proud of. The other two I NEVER MEANT TO HURT YOU and CONJUNCTION were held by several magazines through several rounds of publication only to be rejected after several months.

So in order to reach readers like myself that simply don't buy books from an author they haven't heard of I put these stories together and I'm giving them away free. I feel it is a win-win for everyone, readers get to read a few stories of mine and decide if they like my ideas and style enough to spend the $3 I'm asking for my novels. I wrote them for my own selfish reasons, I get an idea and I have to write it out, but I edited them so people could enjoy them. If it makes someone want to read more of my stuff that's even better.

So if you're looking for a few stories to entertain yourself with for a few hours please check out my free eBook, it's a bargain at twice the price.