Tag Archives: writing process

The Quiet Year

 

 

I haven’t posted for a little while here. I’m looking at various things about why that might be. Few enough of you read this anyway (I like to think you’re a select group), that likely you don’t miss me when I’m gone. That’s fine, there are many many worthy blogs worth reading, and this one is more about my stream of thought, or else trying to sell you my books.

About that last one, that’s another thing I’m looking at; that my books sell few copies. There are some very obvious ones, such as the only place I mention that they’re for sale is here, that I don’t have a mailing list, I don’t send out for reviews, some of my covers are pretty lousy, as are some of my blurbs, and, yes, some of those early books are probably pretty lame too.

If I want to sell books I need to up my game. I’m competing in a very big competition here and there are many people way smarter than me at the contest.

So, I’m having a quieter year. Fewer publications, fewer blog posts here, fewer submissions. Perhaps it’s just a regathering of energy.

I am still writing about as much. Fifteen hundred words a day on average. And I have taken on writing a weekly blog post for the Professional Writers Writing site, which takes up some writing time. I would also say writing for that is giving me some reflection time too.

I’m writing there for other writers, about things that I see as good ways to pursue writing and publishing. I don’t know it all, by a long shot, but over the years I figure that I’ve learned some things that might help others along the road.

I am also making sketchy plans. Mostly for how I’m going to get this volume of work out to the public in a way that might garner me more than a few readers here and there. I am a slow learner, I guess, in terms of how to attract readers, but I figure I’ll get there.
One way is writing better books. And I’m feeling confident that my books are getting better. When I reflect on my early indie books – things like Rotations or The Tunnel – I really see the apprenticeship things I was doing. But also books from last year – The Map Maker of Morgenfeld or Raven Rising – still feel like steps along the way.
And I have so much more to learn.

A second good thing about participating in the Pro Writers Writing site is that there’s a collective camaraderie happening there (some might say, as my father used to mutter, ‘little more than a mutual admiration society’). I guess that being around other writers has got to be good, right?

You bet.

So yes, a quiet year. Tinkering away on big plans for next year. More books from my series. Maybe a new series. Maybe some new standalone books.

We’ll see.

Oh, speaking of standalone, I must say how much I enjoyed Alan Dean Foster’s novel Relic (not an affiliate link). Foster has been around for a long while now and I’ve read many of his books, both the media tie-ins and from his Commonwealth series, and others. For me this was a real treat. Clever, affecting and powerful. I recommend it.

One thing I am working on is the sequel to my middle-grade SF adventure novel Blue Defender. Red Alliance should be out in a month or two. I will update here when that happens.

 

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I’ll be contributing a weekly post on Professional Writers Writing

cropped-RJS-logo-1100x190I’m honored to have been invited by writer Harvey Stanbrough to join a group of Professional Writers in contributing to a daily blog post on aspects of the writing life.
Along with five other writers, I’ll write a weekly post on the trials and thrills of being a writer. As well as the six regulars, there’s a small group of others who will rotate posting on a Sunday.

Pro Writers Writing Blog

Now, I kind of feel like I ought to be holding my hand up for having imposter syndrome. I do have numerous professional publications to my name, but I’m still working to figure out how to actually do this writing thing for my livelihood. There are many out there so much more qualified than I to talk about being a professional writer.
Still, I hope that my posts might offer some pointers for younger writers still coming along. Perhaps even for some readers who might like some insights into my writing process.

My posts go out each Monday (effectively Tuesday here in New Zealand). You can read them here.

The other writers and days are:

And the Sunday crew will be:

It’s been fun writing the first few of the blogs (trying to make sure I’m ahead). I find myself writing differently to the way I do here. In a way I feel like I’m finding out my own writing process as I write about it.

Anyway, please stop by the site if you feel so inclined. There are free email subscriptions ready to go if that’s your thing too.

False starts and new beginnings

Blue Defender CoverWriting about a work in progress again here. Maybe that’s going to be my new thing for a while.

I’ve started work on Red Alliance, the sequel to Blue Defender. I got about seven or eight pages in, a couple of thousand words and into the second chapter, and wasn’t feeling it. It felt like hard work. Like I was trying too hard. Trying to get everything covered. After all, it’s a sequel; need to cover all that old ground in a general way. It got lumbering and dull.

Missing an important element there.

Story.

So, I started off again. Started with the story. Not with the old story, but with the new. Those critical details started working their way in piece by piece. And now it’s starting to feel like it’s taking on a life of its own.

That’s good.

For me, anyway. Because now it’s fun to write, rather than being an obligation.
And if something’s fun for me to write, I’m guessing it will be fun for readers to read.

Blue Defender – finally

Blue Defender CoverMy daughter has watched me writing up a storm for the last few years. Her question, why didn’t I write a story about her? Fair question. After all, shouldn’t she always be uppermost in my thoughts? How could I be writing about strangers?

A tricky thing that. How could it be done right?

Some writers I notice write real people into their stories. Clive Cussler mentions himself as a car collector or a marine archeologist in several books. One I recall the characters even had a conversation with Cussler. David Baldacci auctions off the privilege to have your name used as a character with the proceeds going to charity.

So, putting various concerns aside, I started writing. In secret. I did have one issue, being that I while I have a dedicated writing computer in a nook, I do spend some time writing on a laptop at the breakfast table.

Chances were, she would glimpse her name on the screen. So I changed her name in the manuscript for the duration of the writing of the book. Matti-Jay became “Bleu”, in part because I decided to title this secret manuscript “Blue Harvest“. Some of you may know that title as the secret working title of a well-known movie from last century.

So, in Blue Harvest, fifteen year old (yes I gave my daughter a few extra years – kids like reading about kids older than themselves) Bleu set about her adventures. When she was done, the magic of search-replace change Bleu to Matti-Jay.  The title became Blue Defender.

Next step: would she like it? To try it out, I formatted and uploaded it through my usual channels, and obtained a proof copy. When that arrived, it became our bedtime read for a couple of weeks.

I must have done a few things right, because the end of a chapter was frequently met with a “Keep going” (usually reserved for books like “Mortal Engines” or “Homeroom Diaries”), and the end of the book was met with “start writing the sequel now”.

That’s heartwarming for a dad, let me tell you. Better than any five star review.

Blue Defender is available as an ebook and in print through usual outlets. $5.99 for the ebooks. $14.99 for print.

Print

Amazon Kindle

Smashwords

Kobo

Barnes and Noble

Apple

 

 

New Interview for Sci-Fi July Redux

Barb Tarn, curator of the Sci-Fi July Redux bundle (ten books for $7.99 – a real deal), interviewed me for her website. Thanks Barb.

It’s great to promote the bundle (there are some bestsellers in there – with my little book sandwiched in between Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch – both major bestselling authors), and nice to talk about myself in a, hopefully, coherant way.

Book bundles are a great way for readers to pick up books by authors they love, and find some new authors along the way. It will be available for a limited time (I don’t know the end date, but there will be one), so grab it while it’s available.

My novel in the bundle, Raven Rising, usually retails for $5.99, so picking it up in the bundle is good value for money. The bundle is available directly from BundleRabbit, but also from Kobo, Amazon, B&N and Apple

The blurb for my novel goes like this: Light years from home, Starship Raven went down in an impossible blazing wreck. Crack investigator Angelie Gunnarson and her team love this kind of impossible mystery. But the Raven might have more secrets than even Angelie can handle. An action-packed short sci-fi novel from the award-winning author of The City Builders.

It was a fun novel to write, and I hope to read. It’s great to get it out there in the bundle for a bit more exposure.

And thanks for the interview Barb, and for selecting my book for the bundle.

Bad Advice and knowing what’s coming next

blogtriteim1Seems to me that I’m spending all my writing time working to get over and unlearn all the bad advice from years (decades) of well-intentioned suggestions, poorly considered courses and lengthy apparently learned blog posts.
One thing that I just remembered was a piece of advice which went something like “Finish a writing session at a point where you know what comes next” and associated with that was one like “Stop halfway through a sentence. That way when you sit down again, you just carry on with that sentence”. The reason I remembered was because I finished up a writing session knowing absolutely nothing about what was going to come next.
Not a thing.
I realize that I’ve been doing this for awhile now. Stopping the writing session when I don’t know what comes next. Frankly, my writing is a whole lot more fun too. I remind myself that it’s no special jewel or flower. It’s just a story. Entertainment. And the first person I’m entertaining is myself.
Looking back, I’ve tried the ‘knowing what comes next’ thing and just found myself actually struggling to remember what it was I’d thought of when I sit down at the next session. What was it? She was running toward something, and what’s-his-name was doing that other thing, but what was the whole point? Or something like that.
And a half a sentence? Sheesh. I’ve always ended up just deleting the half and starting a new sentence.
Somehow, after years of angst with this, I’ve finally reached a point of just stopping. Stopping when I don’t know what next. Often times that ends up being the end of a chapter. I might type in “Chapter Twenty Three” ready to go for the next session.
Not one idea what that’s going to be.
I also realize that this does not exist in isolation. It’s paired with a whole lot of other things I’ve been learning, as I fill those gaps of unlearning.
One is cycling. I read back through the work as I go. That’s enough for a post of its own.
Another is ‘being there’. I spotted this in a short essay by James Patterson (at least that’s where I thought I’d seen it, looking back now, the essay I was thinking of doesn’t mention this). Reading through, that is, cycling back, I play at putting myself in my character’s situation. Attempting to ‘be there’. What’s her experience of the place? What’s his reaction to that last thing?
It turns out my subconscious is ready and raring to go. Those next lines and next events show up. I get out of my own way, entertain myself and let the story grow.
I don’t know what’s coming next, and the writing is a whole lot more fun.

Learning to trust my sub-conscious

Deuterium Shine POD cover3I’m deep in the heart of a writing a novel at the moment. Tritium Blaze, book two of The Jupiter Files series (Deuterium Shine, the first book should be out later in the year, then book two sometime next year. Cover image by Philcold | Dreamstime).

I write into the dark, as in, I have no outline (see Dean Wesley Smith’s take on this).

Smith talks about how the sub-conscious, having been exposed to ‘story’ since childhood, knows how story works. If a writer lets the sub-conscious out to play, it knows where the story is going. Even if the conscious mind doesn’t.

It seems, even, that it’s useful to get the conscious mind well out of the way. It can be a know-nothing spoiler. Even a saboteur.

I’ve written into the dark for many years now. Sometimes that means I have to go back in earlier in the story and add something. You know, if a character knows how to fly a jet, but it hasn’t been mentioned yet. A sentence or two in an earlier chapter can do wonders.

Now with this novel I’ve had to smile. Without giving too many spoilers, my character’s spacehip has been in dry-dock getting refurbished from the outset. Now that’s kind of odd, since this is hard science-fiction and my characters need their ship to, you know, do space stuff.

And then, last night, as I’m writing–40,000 words into something that will probably be about 60,000–the reason became apparent and clear and absolutely serving the story.

I am so looking forward to writing the next chapters.

My sub-conscious set it up from the very outset. It’s taken years of training my conscious mind to keep out of the way and last night I really felt like I’d made another little step toward that.