Tag Archives: writing process

Novel number 1 completed

Ice Hunters.jpgAs I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m taking on Dean Wesley Smith’s challenge to complete three novels in three months. I’ve finished the first novel. 41,000 words.

A shorter novel for me (usually I hit around 60,000 words), but it’s still kept me busy. (Hence fewer posts).

The rules allow me to bank up to half the novel from the previous month (I wrote 12,500 words in May, so that was a good start). I’m now working on the second novel, banking words for July. It’s still fun, even if a bit intimidating.

The first novel turned out to be hard science fiction, a series book in the same universe as my book Asteroid Jumpers from earlier this year. The image is a draft cover for the new book – illustration by Algol | Dreamstime. I plan to have the book out later this year.

The second novel is looking like a thriller, in my Emily Jade series.

 

Writing what I love for the fun of it

gallostI’ve written a few books now. I write because I love to write. Sometimes there’s the temptation to write into current trends. Someone even suggested that I should write some romances because they sell really well.

Hmm. It would be nice to have have a book sell really well. Absolutely.

I doubt, though, that I could write a convincing romance. I don’t really read in the genre. I’m sure that would show. Chasing sales based on trends feels like hard work.

Lately I’ve been coming back to writing the kinds of books I loved to read while growing up. I could list a whole lot – The Godwhale, Ice and Iron, Icerigger – and I wondered to myself what if I just wrote some things along those lines? Would it be fun? Would the novels work?

One way to find out: give it a go.

Turns out writing like that is a blast. It’s more than that old adage of ‘write what you know’ and kind of ‘write what you love’.

My novel Astjewel of jeroid Jumpers comes from playing with the ideas and tone of Gregory Kern’s Cap Kennedy/F.A.T.E. novels. The Jewel of Jarhen was one of my favorites (though back in the eighties, I only had the first six and now, thanks to the Internet, I’ve discovered there were many more in the series). I also loved the Tim White covers, though many of the volumes sported covers that looked much more like 1950s SF

So, in Asteroid Jumpers I have an investigative crew, including an alien, battling through against impossible odds. I don’t know that my Captain Arlon Stoddard would quite measure up against virtual superhero Cap Kennedy, and the novel is unlikely to ever be mistaken for one of Kern’s (Gregory Kern was one several pen names used by prolific English author Edwin Charles Tubb – back in the day I read several Space 1999 novels by E.C. Tubb, fully unaware the authors were one and the same). Asteroid Jumpers is not intended as a pastiche, or even an homage, more just a ‘this is what the kid in me enjoyed reading, this is what the kid in me likes writing’.

And I had a whole lot of fun in the writing of it.

Should I write more about where my novels come from? What do you think?

Writing a novel while traveling, some thoughts

Later this year I’m heading away for a trip into the wilds. Well, with some touches of cities and towns.  The trip will involve thirteen flights. I’m taking carry-on luggage only. I might need a subtitle: ‘while traveling light’.

Dean Wesley Smith wrote a series of blog posts earlier this year about writing a novel in five days while traveling. Well, I won’t be managing a novel in five days. Much too much sightseeing to do-but it would be cool to get a whole novel through the trip.

Smith took his whole big writing computer, lugging it in the back seat of the car. On the basis that it’s easier to write with the same old regular writing set-up. I agree, but with air travel and boat travel and a whole lot of walking I’m leaving my hefty desktop behind. In fact, not even taking a laptop.

Instead I’m using a smartphone with a wordprocessing app, a bluetooth keyboard and a dinky little stand I designed and had 3D printed. The three pieces fit snugly into a kind of re-purposed travel wallet. I designed the stand to fit into the cavity in the keyboard – where the battery section forms sticks out. A couple of Velcro dots hold the pair together for packing.

Even with the charger, the whole package is way smaller than my laptop (as it turns out, smaller than my laptop charging brick and the cord combined).

Smith has some other good hints – be realistic, plan for the fiction writing and plan for the touristy stuff. To be honest I’m not sure that I’ll get through a novel in the time, but part of this is to keep up the momentum with the writing every day process. Even if I only get down a few hundred words in a day, I’ll know that I’m know that I’m on track with that.

Doubling on the packing light; that phone will also serve as my camera (I do have a nice camera which takes way better photos, but it’s kind of bulky; the phone will do). The phone also has an e-ink screen on the back, so I have reading material (without chewing through the battery), and, importantly, I’m taking a tiny OTG drive to back-up my work everyday. There’ll be some long stretches with no internet access, which is fine by me, but when I do get access I’ll back up through my email as well.

I’ve tried out the system to make sure it works for me – beyond just typing on the keys (given Smith’s point about writing on your regular set-up). I took a few days worth of writing time and wrote a short story – 6000 words – going to various places; home, other places at home, my lunchbreak space at work, Subway (where I’m sure I looked pretty geeky to other sandwich eaters and passersby). Completed the story. Got it backed up. Good to go.

Still, we’ll see how it all works out when I get underway to Easter Island and the Galapagos. I’ll keep you posted.

My schedule for LexiCon

Lexicon header

This year I’m attending two full days of the New Zealand Science Fiction Convention, LexiCon, in Taupo. I’m honored to have been asked to sit on two panels.

The State of Genre Publishing. Discussing the various publishing options for authors: traditional publishers, small presses, self publishing and more. With Marie Hodgkinson, Darian Smith, Sean Monaghan, and Leigh K Hunt.
Sat 9am in Hine-i-tīweka (Jupiter)

Hard SF – Where Engineers Go To Die… and how to open it up for the rest of us. With Art Protin, Sean Monaghan and Mark English.
Sun 5pm in Matawhero (Mars)

I’m looking forward to the convention and getting time to hang out with old friends.

 

 

A different kind of a year.

So my number of external publications is slowing. Down to a few factors.

First: I’m focusing on novels, so I’ll be writing fewer short stories and novellas. I may write a short story or two between bursts of novels. Inclination will be a big determinant on that 🙂

Second: I have a trip coming up later in the year. Six weeks. Latin America. I can’t guarantee my access to the internet to manage submissions and the business as a whole. So I’m putting submissions on hold from now through until I return. No sense in frustrating editors if by chance they want my story and they can’t get hold of me.

Third: I’m pursuing professional sales only. You would think that that’s an obvious strategy, but for many years I’ve undervalued my writing. That’s not to say that I’m not proud of my publications, or ungrateful to those editors who’ve honored me with publication.

Naturally this assumes that editors will take my stories. I have had numerous professional publications, and I generally get positive personal rejections from most for stories that don’t make the cut. Making it cut is always a long shot. I recall reading that Clarkesworld receives around 1000 submissions a month, all angling for one of five places in the magazine.

So, all that said, if I’m not here announcing more frequently, it’s because I have less to announce.

Naturally, I will be writing just as much 🙂

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Five years of writing every day.

keys.jpgFor a moment, I thought I’d wait until I hit 2000 consecutive days of writing every day, but I still feel like five years (1826 days) is a good round figure.

So, last December 31st, 2016 I made it through five years of writing every day. I counted the words written each day as I went (heading for annual targets). Some days I wrote a little (156 words for my lowest count), some days a whole lot more (over 8000 on my best day), most days around 1500.

Each year my total wordcount has crept up. From just over a half million in 2012 to well over 600,000 last year.

What did I learn?

Well, I hope I learned to be a better storyteller. Raymond Chandler is supposed to have said that every writer has “a million words of crap” in them before they start writing readable fiction. My five years has produced over 2.5 million. With the years before, I suspect I’m up well over three million words. I’m not convinced that I’m not still writing crap.

Dean Wesley Smith would say that a writer is the worst judge of his or her own writing. I’d agree there. Some of my stories I think are duds sell, and some I think are wonderful circulate and circulate without finding a home.

(Chandler also said “A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled” – I like that one).

Along with learning about writing, I’m learning about the business of writing. How to manage my time more effectively and how to worry less often. I guess another thing I’m learning is patience. Whether that be waiting for the response from a publisher, or waiting for my readership to grow. Getting there.

At the risk of getting myself in trouble, some NaNoWriMo thoughts for writers

National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo – is a celebration of writing, described on the website as “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing”. The idea is to write a whole novel during November.

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I think NaNoWriMo is a wonderful thing. It gets people writing. Gives focus and milestones and goals. Fabulous.

One little niggle though, and I may be wrong, so feel free to shout me down. It seems to me that participants are encouraged to write fast and sloppy. Get the words down and come back and fix them later.

As if ‘fast’ and ‘sloppy’ are irrevocably linked.

I’m not convinced that’s the best approach.

For a time I tutored in a university creative writing programme. I hold a Masters of Philosophy in creative writing. As part of my job I even run writing workshops for children. I’m not sure any of that really qualifies me to give NaNoWriMo advice (or any writing advice for that matter).

Nor have I ever participated in NaNoWriMo.

So, my thoughts are really just the opinion of a relative layman.

That said, I have written a novel in a month. It just happened to be June of this year, rather than November. I’ve written several other novels this year, mostly though, taking more than a month (forty days seems to be my around-about duration).

So, if I think ‘fast’ and ‘sloppy’ is not the best approach, what do I think?

Why not write fast and the best you possibly can? Those two can go hand in hand. Really, that’s how I strive to write. I can’t say if my writing’s any good or not (that’s up to the readers), but whenever I sit down to write, I don’t go sloppy. I write the best I can. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but I’m always working to write the best I can.

I think if you write sloppy, that might be how you’re training yourself to write. I doubt that Venus Williams plays sloppy when she’s practising. I hope the guys who put a new roof on my house didn’t hammer sloppy. I don’t do a sloppy job on my taxes and come back to fix it later.

Write the best you can. Every time you go write. Even if you’re aiming to write a novel in a month.

So, that’s my two cents on NaNoWriMo. Have a great month. Write a great novel. And as you write, do the best you can.