Making of a Novel, Part 10


This is a continuing series of posts about the writing of my novel, Starveyors. You can start at the beginning and catch up at your own pace, or just read on and try to figure it all out on your own. There’s a link list for these posts on the blog’s sidebar to your right.

Chapter One, Scene One, Draft One

I thought I’d put some of this together for you so you can see what a first draft of mine looks like. Remember, this is an unedited, first pass at the novel. It’s not pretty and it’s not finished.

I’ll let you read the first scene and then talk about what I was trying to accomplish with it.

Chapter One

 “No! We will not stand here and be insulted,” the Votainion ambassador shouted. His wrinkled brow heavily shadowed from the harsh key lighting. Dark black eyes were open wide, nostrils flaring like a wild lerra.

The junior attendant to the ambassador’s immediate right squeezed the hilt of his falchion until his blue fingers were nearly white. His face was flushed and contorted in repressed anger. They faced two Alliance diplomats in a circle of honor aboard the flag ship of the Emperor’s Homeland Defense Forces.

The Alliance diplomats, unarmed and wearing civilian clothes, looked blankly at one another. Their confused faces seemed to further annoy their hosts. The lead Votainion ambassador jammed a blue finger at the humans who completely missed the insult.

“You come to this circle with weak platitudes and double-talk and you expect us to capitulate? We’re a proud and noble race and we will not submit so easily to the hand of our sworn enemy.”

The lead Alliance diplomat bowed slightly in a sign of acquiescence. “Please accept our apologies, Ambassador Krone. We know not how we have offended you.”

The younger Votainion exploded with an anguished howl that startled even his master. He pulled his falchion free and lunged with it into the breast of the senior Alliance diplomat. The human fell backwards to the deck with the young warrior on his chest. Blood spilled onto the metal deck under his torso. His hapless aide stepped backwards in utter shock and dismay as the Votainion screamed again, this time in celebration of his killing.

Two armed Votainion guards moved in and pulled the young man off the human. Both guards drew their blades and stabbed the murderous Votainion diplomat in his chest simultaneously. They dragged the aide away unceremoniously, a look of shock upon his dying face.

The remaining Alliance diplomat looked from his dead partner to Ambassador Krone. Krone’s gray bearded face was nearly white from dishonor. He locked eyes with the human and lowered his head out of respect for the dead.

“Please excuse the rash behavior of my young aide. He has dishonored his Kastra and the Empire. These talks are suspended until further notice.”

Krone turned away from the remaining human diplomat and walked swiftly out of the Circle of Honor.

Breaking it Down

This is the first page of the novel and so it can’t be boring. I decided to start with the moment when the first round of peace negotiations falls apart. This scene sets up the story for the reader by putting him right in the thick of things. It has some action and some tension.

We are introduced to Krone, who is the lead ambassador for the Votainions. We see that he’s upset with how the Alliance diplomats are behaving, but we also see that he has compassion when his aide kills the senior diplomat.There is more going on here than just a mindless bad guy. This gives the reader some hope that maybe the heroes will be able to work with this man. It also demonstrates that the Votainions have some degree of honor and respect for the Alliance.

The failure of the Alliance diplomats to respond in a fashion that the Votainions respect will be an important first step for our heroes to overcome. This particular diplomat didn’t get it and paid a stiff price.

We learn that negotiations happen on board the Votainion’s starship and in a Circle of Honor. This is all important stuff that the reader will see again. I’m passing the reader information without making it boring.

There is violence, which helps set the tension that will come later. The reader’s not entirely sure that the Votainions won’t kill the heroes once they get into this same situation.

The purpose of a first draft is to get your ideas down in a somewhat readable fashion. This scene can be improved and will be in the second draft. But for now, I have something to work with.

Next time I’ll show you scene two, in which we meet one of the principle good guys.


Making of a Novel, Part 9


This is a continuing series of posts about the writing of my novel, Starveyors. You can start at the beginning and catch up at your own pace, or just read on and try to figure it all out on your own. There’s a link list for these posts on the blog’s sidebar to your right.

Novel Outline

The one go-to tool that I have as a novel writer is my outline. I use a spreadsheet for my outline. If you’d rather use Word or Scrivener, than by all means use them. My outline starts out pretty sparse. It’s just a crude, chapter-by-chapter romp through the story as best as I can make it, following the story engineering concepts as described by Larry Brooks. I than save that outline in its own tab and copy it into a new tab that includes the latest date it was modified as part of the title.

I dothis to have a saved and handy first draft of the story. Because as I write, the outline changes and morphs into what will become the final story. That initial version does not include individual scenes. But subsequent versions do have the scenes added. Before I start writing a chapter, I fill in what I hope to include as far as scenes. Sometimes I stick to that plan, other times I modify it, which is why the outline is considered a living document. I rarely change the big picture order of events, but the scene level stuff and sometimes the chapters themselves are subject to reordering and completely new approaches.

The screenshot above shows the second draft of the outline with the first two chapters fleshed out with scene data and some meta data about flow and word counts. I’ve added the scenes and given a brief description of them along with a more detailed set of notes about the action. One more set of meta data that I need to add is a timeline. How many days between each chapter and or scene needs to be recorded.

Sometimes, how many days or hours occur between scenes is critical and needs to be tracked. In Space Opera, you can jump all around a galaxy and from one time period to another or even change dimensions. All of that can get very confusing for the reader especially if the writer is also confused. So pay attention to it now to avoid costly rewrites later.

I always have my outline open and ready to update, as I finish a scene or a chapter. Otherwise I’ll get lazy and it will not get updated. Ideally, after the novel is finished, you will have a scene-by-scene, chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the whole book. This can help you write your synopsis when you are ready to submit it to agents or publishers.


Making of a Novel, Part 8


This is a continuing series of posts about the writing of my novel, Starveyors. You can start at the beginning and catch up at your own pace, or just read on and try to figure it all out on your own. There’s a link list for these posts on the blog’s sidebar to your right.

Writing and Production Schedule 

This time I thought I’d take a break and talk about my proposed writing schedule for this novel. I know from the logs of my last novel that I can write the bulk of a novel in about three to four months without having it completely take over my life. So the my goal for writing Starveyors is to finish the first draft in four months, starting this January.

I don’t have a daily word count and you probably won’t see me posting how many words I write each day on Twitter or G+. I find that kind of annoying anyway. But you will be able to track my progress on this blog by looking at the progress bar in the right hand margin.

I will disclose the time of day that I plan to write. I write best after a cup of coffee or a can of Mt. Dew. Who doesn’t right? So that means I will try and write briefly in the morning after coffee and before getting ready for work. But I anticipate being more productive during my lunch hours. I expect to write at least four days a week over my lunch time. This means less eating out, which should help me drop some weight. Nice bonus. Sometimes I may be able to sneak in an hour or two during the weekends, if I’m able to sneak away from the family long enough to get into a groove. No guarantees there.

When I’m writing a novel I can usually muster about 500-1000 words per hour. Sometimes more, usually not less as that would mean I were interrupted. I’m able to maintain this flow by sticking to my outline and planning each day’s writing ahead of time, usually during my commute to the day job or during my morning swim workouts.

If I’m able to complete the first draft by the end of April, I will avoid interfering with baseball season. Both of my boys are on teams and I’m an assistant coach for one and volunteer as an Umpire for the other. So my days and nights are that much more busy during the Spring.

Beyond the First Draft

So what happens after the first draft is complete? I combine the chapters into one rtf document and I send it off to my core beta readers. My beta readers number about four or five and I usually give them a month to read and comment on the manuscript. Because I stick to my outline, they rarely find structural errors in the story. So that means they focus on characters and action and everything from grammar to voice. Most of the readers have been reading all my novels and are pretty familiar with my universe. They usually spot when I stray off course when it comes to continuity. I usually try and and invite at least one person who had never read my SF books. This lets me ensure that the story makes sense to the reader who is new to my universe.

When I start getting the feedback in from my beta readers, I have to sort through the comments and make changes to the master chapters as needed. This process usually takes me about a month to complete. Then I read the manuscript over from start to finish to make sure it stil makes sense to me. After that, it goes to my editor.

Cover Art

About this time I’m also in constant contact with my cover designer. I need to give him a couple month’s lead way on the project to ensure that he has time to create the cover art. For the Star Trilogy, I’ve been using my graphics designer brother, Byron McConnell to create my cover art. We’ve spent quite a bit of time coming up with the covers for all three books and by now we already know what needs to be done for Starveyors. So he should be able to crank out this last cover pretty quickly.


This will be a new addition to my process this year and one that I will be paying more attention to. I can’t say exactly what I’ll be doing but I do know that the process will start about the time I finish the first draft. I’ll be looking for blogs to guest post on, podcasts to make appearances on and anything else to get my name out there. This will be the third and final book of the trilogy, so I’ll be making sure that everyone knows they can now read the whole thing and not have to wait.


I usually give my editor a month or more to work her magic on the manuscript. Since the story has been read by a half dozen people before she gets it, she usually doesn’t have to worry about structural errors and focuses on the little details like POV changes and sentence flow.

The editing stage is the first time money is exchanged. You must use a professional editor  here and that involves spending money. I’m not going to reveal what I pay my editor, if you want to use her services you can contact her directly.

Final Draft

After the editor has corrected my manuscript, I must then go through the master and address her suggestions and make the required changes. This also takes me about a month on average. When this is completed there are usually typos and other data input errors in the manuscript. So I read the whole novel over again, looking for obvious errors. Then I get another set of eyes on it, while I read it from back to front. Reading it backwards as it were, lets you spot obvious formatting errors.

By this time I’m completely sick of the damn book. I’ve written it, read it and corrected to death for about five to six months. When I get it to where it’s as perfect as it can be, I send it off to my ebook publisher.

Ebook Creation

In the past I’ve done all my own ebook creation. I’m fairly technical and I have the skill set to make this happen. But my efforts are not perfect in this regard. I could get much more fancy and produce cleaner ebooks, but that would take longer and we are already getting close to a full year on the book already. So I’m handing off that task to a capable programmer and someone who has the time to make the ebook look great.

Second outlay of money. If you want a decent ebook created, find yourself a programmer that specializes in ebooks. The person I’m using is Nate McIntyre from Black Label Press. He happens to be someone I work with at the day job and I can personally vouch for his abilities and knowledge.


When the ebook conversion is finished and the cover is finished, I then start posting it to the various ebook selling venues at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. As a self publisher, I handle all of that myself. I usually have my books ready to hit the markets in the late fall. So barring any unforeseen circumstances, I should be launching in October or November of 2012.

Next time it’s back to showing you how I outline the novel.




Making of a Novel, Part 7


This is a continuing series of posts about the writing of my novel, Starveyors. You can start at the beginning and catch up at your own pace, or just read on and try to figure it all out on your own. There’s a link list for these posts on the blog’s sidebar to your right.

The Silicants

Silicants are the sentient androids first introduced in the Space Western short stories in Tales From Ocherva and again in the Starforgers novel. There were no references to the Silicants in Starstrikers. That’s because near the start of the Great War, they rebelled against their human creators and were banished to a far away world where they were largely forgotten in light of fighting the war. There were still robots in the Alliance, but they were not sentient.

I will be writing a planetary novel about the Silicant world in a few years and it will deal with what happened to the Silicants. It is set in the time of Starstrikers and will feature some of the characters from that novel. It will be called XiniX.

Suffice it to say, that the Silicants have evolved and when they re-enter the Alliance as members in good standing, they look and act much differently than they did in the early days of the Alliance. Starveyors takes place a thousand years after Starforgers and in that time, most of it in exile, the Silicants have changed.

They are no longer the metal androids they once were. They are more fluid and alive than hard and lifeless. They are also more complex as characters. Their personalities are more developed and are not exactly like their human creators. They are truly their own species of sentient silicon.


Vomisa is the diplomat from XiniX. She represents the Silicant interests in the Alliance and she is an accomplished politician. She makes her presence known at the end of the first quatrain when the second diplomat team heads to Voton. Vomisa has a red tint to her eyes and hair. She looks vaguely like a human female, but the similarities end the closer you get to her. She has silvery skin that seems to flow like a fluid and she is dressed in flowing, silken robes. Silicants look very different now. They seem to be alive, yet they are still capable of that hollow, doll-like stare that makes you wonder if they have a soul.

Vomisa is under orders to ensure that the peace talks do not fail. She following directions from the Silicant leader himself – Seventy-three.


Seventy-three is the spiritual and political leader of XiniX. He is part savior, part ruler and somewhat God-like. We don’t see him much until the final act, but we see how the other Silicants adore and respect him. I haven’t fully fleshed him out yet, no pun intended, so expect this character to morph in ways that I need during the writing. I don’t want to imply that the Silicants view him as a god, but sometimes their behavior will make the reader wonder.

Seventy-three is white or clear in color. His eyes are white, his hair is white and he wears white robes and tunics. I know, I’m really messing with religious icons here. ;-) But he’s not a god, I swear.


Saibot was first introduced as a sympathetic Silicant in service of President Constantine in Starforgers. He returns in this novel and it still someone that the audience can relate to and root for. He’s an archeologist and he’s gathering clues to the existence of the super intelligent race that inhabited the galaxy before humans. Saibot has spent his life trying to understand the Ancients and he had been to many worlds in and out of the Alliance and Empire, in his travels.

Saibot finds clues that lead him to believe that the planetary moon of Ocherva is somehow more important to the Ancients than any other planet. Ocherva is where the silicant is mined that gives Silicants a consciousness. It transforms non-alive circuits into living beings. Nobody is quite sure how this happens, even after hundreds of years of studying the phenomena.

Saibot has blue tones in his hair, eyes and skin. Not quite Votainion blue, but close enough to let him move about in Votainion space without being bothered.


Eighty-eight stands in Saibot’s way on Ocherva. He is in charge of making sure the mining  continued without interruptions. Eighty-eight has been on Ocherva longer than anyone, Silicant or human. He’s all black, with red eyes and he’s more than a bit of a bad ass. Eighty-eight is like my Pepper character. Someone who we rarely get to know personally, but always seems to be instigating trouble. In this case, he’s opposing Saibot’s search for clues on Ocherva.

All the Silicants seem to defer to the will of Seventy-three, except for Eighty-eight. He pretty much does whatever he wants to do. He’s the only truly gray Silicant character. Sometimes his needs line up with the good guys, sometimes they don’t.

That’s all the Silicant characters I have in this novel. There may be a need to create others, but I doubt it. Next time I’ll show you parts of my outline.



Making of a Novel, Part 6


This is a continuing series of posts about the writing of my novel, Starveyors. You can start at the beginning and catch up at your own pace, or just read on and try to figure it all out on your own. There’s a link list for these posts on the blog’s sidebar to your right.

Character Motivations and Backgrounds Part 2

Admiral Alba Mayer

Head of the Starveyors and the man who founded the organization to help merge elements of the Alliance Fleet with free elements of the Votainion Armada. Mayer was part of the peace negotiations for the planet Khara. Khara was the first planet to leave the Empire and join the Alliance. While there he became close friends with Pentos, an up and coming politician in the capital city.

Mayer has lived on Khara and many other Votainion worlds in his long, military career. He knows more about how the Votainions think and act than most Alliance military officers. Part of the core principles of the Starveyors is to mend relations and work together with their former enemy to peacefully explore the galaxy. He knows that the peaceful exploration part may not come in his lifetime. There are so many screwed up planets in the Empire that it will be a long time before they are all mended and the unit can focus on exploration.

He wants the war to be over as quickly as possible. He no longer fears or hates his enemy and sees the Votainion people as worthy citizens of the galaxy who were mistreated and misguided by their leaders. This puts him at odds with his fellow military leaders. Many of whom have led long and bloody lives fighting the Votainions and would like nothing better than to exterminate them all from the galaxy.

Mayer is a dignified and compassionate man who believes in the peace process and knows that a healing between the races must happen, eventually. He has lighter, black skin and a tightly trimmed mustache. His intellect and attention to the people under his command let him see things that others miss and allow him insight that can help create a lasting peace. It was his idea to team up a young officer with a talent for negotiating with a timid, intellectual historian to lead the peace talks that could end the war.

Opposite Mayer in the Alliance Fleet is the Admiral of the Fleet, Dal Richter.

Admiral of the Fleet, Dal Richter

Richter is a composite character of all the hardened military leaders of the past. His life is one long, bloody struggle against the Votainions.  He represents the war and the bitter distaste many feel towards the enemy. He wants nothing more than for the peace talks to fail, so that he can completely destroy the enemy’s home world. Richter has amassed the largest interstellar fleet ever at Voton.

Richter is like a ticking clock on a huge pile of dynamite. He has an itchy trigger finger and wants nothing more than to pull the trigger on his invasion force. Richter is a tall, imposing figure with short, white hair that stands on end and dark, beady eyes that seem to bore holes through lead. He has a back story that connects him to the Chief Architect of the Votainion Armada – Verhom. Suffice it to say, that both men equally hate each other in epic fashion. The challenge when writing each of these characters will be to make them less of a stereotype and more of an archetype. That is a fine line to walk. I’m hoping that their back story helps make them more interesting rather than just plane silly.

Chief Architect – Verhom

This is the Votainion in charge of the remaining Empire forces. He was physically wounded by Richter in battle and it has left him with plenty of external and internal scars. Typically the Chief Architect is the main villain in these Star Trilogy books. But in this book Verhom is just one of two possible villains. The other of course is Dal Richter the leader of the Alliance military. Both of them would rather have one final battle to end the war, winner takes all then muck about in lengthy peace negotiations. This is of course directly counter to ending the war peacefully, which is what the heros are trying to accomplish.

Verhom is short and stocky, with dark blue skin tones and a heavy, traditionally Votainion brow.  He’s missing an arm, from a duel with Richter years ago. He’s never had it repaired or replaced with a mechanical arm. His face is scared with former lacerations from countless duels. He’s pretty frightening to look at.

President Jem Hargrove

President Hargrove is the civilian leader in charge of the Alliance during this time period.   We don’t get too involved in his character, but we do know that he see’s ending the war during his administration to be his paramount duty. The President is now ruling from the planet Prahran, which is quite different than what it was in Starforgers and in Starstrikers. Selene was the original seat of power for the old Federation and the new Alliance. But late in the war, as more and more Votainion planets joined the Alliance, the seat of power was moved to Prahran, because it was more central to the newly aquired Alliance controlled space.

Hargrove is a native of Prahran and he believes that his planet was long wronged by the Federation and deserves to be the sight of the surrender. But the military prefers to keep things at Voton, safely away from civilians. Still, Hargrove has his fingers in the process as much as he can. Hargrove is of average hight and build, with wavy blond hair and dark, blue eyes. He has the practiced smile of a career politician.

Emperor Krey-Nykostra

The last Emperor of Voton, Krey-Nykostyra is a direct blood relative of Empress Nykostra, the one who started the Great War. The current leader of the remaining Empire forces is of sound mind and able body. He is well loved by his staff and the remaining Kastra who had stood with him until the very end.

But Krey is not going to let his Empire crumble in a final battle. He is interested in preserving the history of the Empire and he’s even more interested in righting his good family name. Empress Nykostra has been blamed for having started the war that eventually has led to the destruction of the Empire. The war has raged for a thousand years and consumed the resources of dozens of planets. Most of those planets were left bare and wasted, their life forms forced into slavery or made extinct by environmental destruction and over hunting.

Krey is a student of history and he wants to bring the seat of power for the Empire back to where the race originated – Selene. But the current Alliance President doesn’t want to allow them to occupy ground on the home world of the humans. So the talks have stalled as the diplomats try and resolve this thorny issue. Krey is a tall, studious man with flowing robes and a graying beard. His skin is a lighter blue than most and his brow is less pronounced, giving him a less barbaric look.

Khiden – Soothsayer

The traditional guides to the royal bloodline on Voton are the Soothsayers. Khiden is an old, Soothsayer that offers guidance to the Emperor. He knows the Empire will soon reach its end and wants to make sure Krey obtains some sacred ground on Selene. Khiden is the voice for peace in the Emperor’s court. But he is not liked by the warriors like Verhom. The Soothsayers are blamed for sending the Armada into Alliance space and starting the war. Most of the high command in the Fleet despise them.

Next time I’ll talk about the Silicants and then we can move on to the outline.



Making of a Novel, Part 4


This is a continuing series of posts about the writing of my novel, Starveyors. You can start at the beginning and catch up at your own pace, or just read on and try to figure it all out on your own.


The hero of Starveyors is a young woman of mixed race. She’s half human and half Votainion. She also has a talent for solving differences. Whether its because she was raised an orphan and is looking to please those around her, or the fact that she looks enough like both races to win their trust; she’s got a proven track record for bringing former Empire planets over to the Alliance. The Votainions know her as the Peace Maker, but her Alliance commanders simply know her as Commander Cryse. She’s a member of a mixed race, Votainion warship serving in the Starveyors, a new combined unit of the Alliance Fleet.

She’s ordered to come to the Peace Talks with the Votainion Empire, after the talks become stalled. A second person joins her at the request of Admiral Alba Mayer the person in charge of the talks. That person is a civilian Historian who has been writing the definitive history of the Great War – Rachael Kelley. She’s bookish and much older than Cryse but she has a very deep understanding of the war and of Votainion society.

The third member of the team arrives late and is a Silicant or sentient android. Vomisa was first introduced in Starforgers. Vomisa is representing the Silicants and their leader, Seventy-three. The Silicants have an interest in ending the war too. But there are other things that interest them. Like just exactly who the Ancients were and why archaeological expeditions around the galaxy are finding evidence of an advanced race of people who colonized many worlds millions of years before the humans and the Votainions.

There are two opposing Admirals that face each other at Voton. Admiral of the Fleet Dal Richter for the Alliance and Commodore Khidan for the Votainion Empire. Khidan and Richter are longtime adversaries in the war. Each has been trying to kill the other for over twenty years. Now they must find a way to set aside their personal vendettas and bring peace to the galaxy.

One of those Silicant archaeologists is Saibot, also first introduced in Starforgers. Saibot is searching for evidence of the Ancients on the dessert moon of Ocherva. The moon has been mined to an extreme condition by the Silicants because semiconductors made with the silicate from that moon, allows androids to become sentient. They don’t know why. But there is a Silicant who opposes any digs by Saibot, its name is Eighty-eight and it is in charge of finding more silicate. The two Silicants come to odds over a stretch of land that is sacred to the humans who still live on Ocherva. Saibot receives permission to stop the mining in order to excavate a site deep inside Ocherva that was sacred to the Ancients.

Those are the principle players of the novel.

Primary – Cryse, Kelley and Vomisa

Secondary – Mayer, Richter and Khidan

Secondary – Eighty-eight, Saibot and Seventy-Three

I didn’t plan on there being three sets of three, but that’s how it ended up. There are lots of other characters intermixed; President, Emperor, diplomats, soldiers and other bit players. These nine are the most important.

These characters didn’t all just spring from my head fully formed and realized. Some of them changed names, origins and even sex before I settle on them. At one point Cyril, the daughter of Szeredy, from Tyrmia was to be the hero. That was until I realized that there were multiple references to the war being over in Tyrmia. So I had to change her name and where she came from. But in the end, I wound up with a much better character for this novel. There would have been a nice tie-in with Tyrmia, but it was not critical. This way the universe is opened up a bit and new characters deepen the experience for the reader.

The other character that has changed a bit is Rachael Kelley. She’s been in every book of the series as quotes from her seminal history book. But I had her being in the Starveyors as a commander and at one point she had Admiral Richter’s back story. Finally I realized that I needed her to be a bookish expert and definitely a civilian. This way she could contrast with Cryse who is more strong tempered and military. Her Ambassador title comes at the close of this novel.

The Silicants are all the same characters from Starforgers, but they’ve evolved in the past thousand years. So they will no longer be treated as machines, more like living entities. This will let me imbue them with interesting quirks and personalities than the cold, calculating machines they were in the first novel.

Next time I’ll talk more about character motivations and other details.




Making of a Novel, Part 3


This is a continuing series of posts about the writing of my novel, Starveyors. You can start at the beginning and catch up at your own pace, or just read on and try to figure it all out on your own.

Story Structure

Starforgers is the final book in a trilogy. Typically this is where you have to answer all the remaining big questions asked in the first two books. Tie up any plot threads and offer a satisfying end to the whole story. My trilogy is a bit different. Each book has its own cast of characters, level of technology and period in time. The only thread that is in all three novels is the Great War.

In the first book we see how the war is started, in the second book we see how the war is fought about midway through its thousand year history and in the third book we see how the war ends. So the war is the only common element for the reader to identify with all the way through the trilogy. But that does not mean that how the war ends is the only major plot thread to the third book. Far from it.

In the first book we see why the Votainions invaded Alliance space. They were looking for their missing home world. Turns out it’s the same home world where the humans originated. This was not a coincidence. The Votainions are nearly identical to the humans in terms of their DNA. I don’t really delve into this in the first two books, but if the reader is paying attention, I drop hints to it; not only in the Star Trilogy books but also in Tyrmia.

In this third book I had to lay out the facts and disclose why they are so closely related. The ending of this book will be a grand reveal where everything is explained. So when I began plotting Starveyors, I knew exactly where I needed to wind up. I needed a scene or series of scenes that would end the war and explain how the humans and Votainions are related.

So then how do I get to this grand finale?


The central plot of the book is how the Great War ends. When wars end they usually have  some kind of peace talks. One side usually wins but both sides are interested in ending the conflict and mending relations. So much of this book will focus on the people who negotiate the peace treaty and the commanders who have the courage to stop fighting each other.

As you can imagine, a war that wages for over a thousand years can result in bitter feelings between the combatants. Billions of people have died and many worlds have been negatively affected by the fighting. So tensions will be high and cooler heads will need to prevail in order to ensure a lasting peace.

You can’t really map out your plot without first knowing your main characters. Before I plotted out this novel, I already had a pretty good idea of who the main characters would be. In the next post, I’ll go over these characters and explain how and why I created them.

If we follow the quartine structure that Larry Brooks so eloquently outlines in his book, Story Engineering this is what our structure will look like:

First Part – Set up the stakes. The peace talks are stalled a new team is formed to get the talks going again. We meet the three main players and see the environment they each come from. It ends with the first Plot Point. In this case, the diplomats begin to engage the enemy in peace talks.

Second Part – The talks don’t go so well, the heros are taken to the enemy’s home planet and are out of their element. They have to scramble to make sense of the situation. We meet the Emperor.

Third Part – New information is brought to the talks and the stakes are raised for the diplomats. Things are looking bad as the heros fail in their efforts to secure peace. Second Plot Point happens.

Fourth Part – The hero figures out the the mystery of how they are related and acts to secure peace and end the war. This leads to the resolution.

Of course you can’t go much further until you create your main characters and find out what makes them tick.

In the next post I’ll go over the main characters and how they fit into the plot and the overall theme – Reconciliation.



Making of a Novel Part 2


This is a continuing series of posts about the writing of my novel, Starveyors. You can start at the beginning and catch up at your own pace, or just read on and try to figure it all out on your own. (Click on images to enlarge)

Folder Structure

File Manager and Focus Writer on the MacBook
File Manager and Focus Writer on Ubuntu

I’m writing this novel with the goal of making it platform independent. This is so that I can use any operating system and or computer to work on it. With that in mind, the folder structure of the novel as it resides in my DropBox account is revealed below.

— Drafts
— Edits
— Images
— Notes
— Outline

I’ll break down each folder as we go but I just wanted to show you this structure in case you cared to replicate it for your next novel. Everything I do that is related to this novel is kept in these folders. Sometimes I use Evernote on my phone to create notes and when I have a moment, I copy them to the Notes folder. But for the most part, I keep everything in these five folders.


— First Draft
—- Prologue.rtf
—- Chapter1.rtf
—- Chapter2.rtf

I’m going to write each chapter of this novel in separate rtf files. This is because when it goes to print or ebook, the result is often separate files. The only time they are all combined into one document is after the initial draft and before going out to the Beta Readers or Editors.


— Edits
—- Starveyors_Edits_1.doc

When I get the completed manuscript back from my editor, it has all of her corrections and suggestions and is in the form of a single Word doc. Chapter by chapter I go through the whole document and make changes that become the Second Draft.


— Images
—- Characters
——– Good Guys
——– Bad Guys
——– Grays
——– Silicants
—- Planets
—- Maps
—- Starships

This folder and the Notes folder mirror each other. I like to keep pictures of people and things and places that I’m writing about. Most of the time I find these on the web, sometimes I draw them out and take pictures of my sketches. The Characters folder is further broken down into Good, Bad and Gray characters and of course Silicants, which are my sentient androids. Grays are characters that are not easily defined as either Good or Bad.


— Notes
—- Characters
——– Good Guys
———- Kryse
———— kryse.txt
——– Bad Guys
——– Grays
——– Silicants
—- Planets
—- Plot
—- Starships

This folder is broken down just like the others. I expanded the Good Guys out to show my heroine, Kryse. There is a simple txt file in her folder with her complete character sketch.

File Structure Example

I think that’s all I have to say about file structure. It’s pretty simple stuff. Just stick to the structure and you won’t lose anything.

Making of a Novel Part 1


Lately I’ve been preparing to write my next Sci-Fi novel and I thought I’d use this opportunity to show you the process of how I go about doing this. Herein will be a series of posts dedicated to showing you the nuts and bolts of how I write a novel. There will be serious spoilers. So if you are coming across these posts and have not read any of my Star Trilogy novels, you may want to skip them. I’ll try and figure out some kind of spoiler warning to put on them above the fold. I don’t get much traffic to this site, so I really doubt too many readers will be freaked out by learning the secrets revealed in these novels.

Back Story

The novel I will be writing is the third book in the Star Trilogy, Starveyors. This trilogy consists of three books, each set at a different point in time in relation to a thousand year long war between the Western Alliance and the Votainion Empire. Book One – Starforgers is about the events that lead up to the start of the Great War. Book Two – Starstrikers is about a Special Operations team and is set in the middle of the war. Book Three – Starveyors is about how the war finally ends. There are about 500 years between each book, meaning an entirely new cast of characters for each. That’s really all the back story you need.


I’ll start with hardware. I’m a nerd so this kind of thing interests me. If you don’t care about such things maybe you should skip to the next post.

My primary writing tool will be my aged, white MacBook. At least until it croaks. To prepare for its slow but inevitable death, I will be using non-proprietary programs and saving everything to DropBox. When this laptop does die, it will be replaced by an HP laptop running Ubuntu. Hence the reason I’m not using Scrivener or Pages or any other Mac only software.


The backup writing tool will be my HP Mini netbook. It’s running an older version of Ubuntu – 10.10. I don’t anticipate using the Mini much, but you never know. Sometimes the small form factor is handy for writing. I wrote all of Starforgers on the Mini and it worked out just fine.

HP Mini

Because I’m writing this novel using software tools that are cross platform, I can use either my MacBook, the Mini or the family’s new Windows 7 HP laptop. I won’t say when I’m using a particular platform unless something tragic happens and one or the other dies during the writing process.


My primary writing tool will be Focus Writer. The backup will be LibreOffice Writer. Both of these writing programs are cross platform, meaning I can use them on Mac, Linux and Windows. Again, flexibility is my primary motive here. The last novel I wrote was done entirely in one long file using LibreOffice Writer. It worked out fine. In the past I’ve used Microsoft Word and Scrivener.

Focus Writer

This time I aim to give Focus Writer (FW) the starting position. It has the ability to become a full screen composer or to write in a regular window. I chose FW because it offers RTF and TXT formats and the QT framework allows for a nice, easy on the eyes editor. I could have used a regular text editor or a programmer’s IDE, but many of those are not cross platform.

LibreOffice Suite

The second piece of software I will be using is LibreOffice Calc, a spreadsheet program that works just like Excel. I use a spreadsheet to outline my novels. Not much to say about this, it works like Excel and is cross platform.

The final piece of software that I’ll be using is the native file manager for whichever platform I’m on. As you will see in another post, I use the heck out of the lowly file manager. This is because everything I write for the novel is neatly stowed away in nested project folders or directories.

Finally, there is DropBox. In case you are unaware of this handy program; just know that it creates a folder in your home directory and that folder backs up to an identical folder in the cloud, i.e. a web based server. The advantage of this is that your files are constantly backed up and available for any major OS platform. You can work off-line and then when you come on-line, the files are updated to the web. Oh, and DropBox is free for all the space you’ll need to write several novels.

The next post will be about how I organize the novel in those nested folders.