Writing Update August, 2016

It’s been a while since I posted around here. Sorry about that. Summer is when I tend to stay inside and write and not venture into the furnace of my garage. So not much modelling gets done. Right now we have 90+ degree days and lots of smoke from nearby fires. So breathing is a challenge some days too.

I have, however, been working on my current novel, Corvette. I’ve left the Atom editor and migrated just the manuscript to Google Docs. I still use Atom for all my notes and outline, but all my writing is now linear in one GDoc. I’ve set up the writing scripts of Jamie Todd Rubin to help with word counts. I refer back to my outline open on another desktop, as I write. Currently I’m about a hundred pages into the draft and I’ve already added a few chapters to the outline. Actually, I don’t change the outline, I just add things to the manuscript. The outline is just a blueprint for the author and no reader ever sees it, so I don’t make it match the manuscript. That’s just wasting time and effort.

AtomOutlineCorvette

In the above screenshot of my outline, chapter 11 does not match up with where I’m at in the story or the actual draft. Pictured above in the manuscript is the last paragraph of chapter 12. Looking at the Google Doc above, you’ll notice I am using a chapter outline. This makes jumping from chapter to chapter easier. Each scene in the chapter is separated by three stars. One oddity is chapter 9 witch is one long scene.

I’m well into the second act of the story and I’ve realized that there might not be enough story to make a three hundred word novel. So I’m drifting a bit and adding character related materiel that might normally only be added in a second draft. I’m also considering whether this might be more of a novella. Normally you shouldn’t worry about all that on a first draft. Just write the story and then analyze it after you’re done. In many ways though, until you write about 20K words of a novel, you’re just not sure if you really know the characters as well as you need to. So sometimes a good examination of characters is needed to keep the reader engaged and story moving forward. And that’s where I’m at right now.

I’d like to be done with this novel before October, so I need to keep churning word counts on a daily basis to make that goal.

 

Trilogy Cover Art

Over the weekend my brother put the finishing touches on the cover for the first Star Saga trilogy. As soon as I can get the time I’ll stitch books 1-3 together and put them up for sale on Kobo, Nook and Kindle. Eventually, I’ll do a boxed set that includes all six books in the Starforgers Trilogy. Which is to say you’d get the Tales From Ocherva anthology and two novellas, Devon’s Blade and The Blood Empress. Not sure on the pricing of that one yet.

Workflow Update

GDocStructure

 

Recently I posted about my writing workflow. In that post I exported my first draft from Plume Creator to OpenOffice for editing. The problem with using Write or Word to edit is that you wind up with multiple version files and comments or changes can be lost or not backed up. So for my current WIP (Counterattack), I’m going to use Google Docs. I’ll export from Plume Creator as usual and then upload it to GDocs and label it Draft Two. Do all my editing in GDocs and then when done, let my Beta Readers read directly from the document and add their comments to it all at once. Then I’ll stop sharing it and either take or reject their comments and clean up the document again. Rename it Draft 3 and then invite my editor to edit the document. When he’s done, I’ll make his changes and then clean it up again. This will continue until the Copy Editor is finished. When the document is all done, I’ll use Jutoh to create the ebook and break out the chapters to RTF to send to my Graphics Designer for the paperback layout.

At this point in time I only have a few chapters left to write on Counterattack. Then I need to self-edit Draft Two so that it’s readable by the Betas. I’d like to be to the Beta Reader stage by December. Somewhere in there I’ll be starting to write Devon’s Blade with an eye to getting that one out next year too. We’ll see if this new change to GDocs speeds up the post production flow for a novel and if it works for Counterattack, I’ll probably make it my default workflow.

Cover Art Search

I somehow got behind the ball on choosing cover art for my novel, The Blood Empress. So now I’m searching through DeviantArt for a suitable piece of cover art. So far, I’ve found two beautiful paintings that could work, but the artists are not returning my messages, so I’ll have to change plans again and do something with my models. Maybe one of these two artists will catch this post and return my queries.

Here is the first one. I’ve added titles to both just to see how they would look. These are nothing more than sketches to see how they might look. I’ve taken liberties with some of the art and framed them as needed.

TheBloodEmpressCover

This is the first one by Ula Mos, an artist from Poland.

TBE3

This piece was done by Kris Cooper an artist from the US.

If I can’t get in touch with either of these fine artists this month, I’ll have to use my own work. Not idea for this one. There’s not enough time to commission a piece before I’d like to go to press on this novel.

In the meantime, I’m working on a two seat KIV-3 for use on this novel’s cover should the above artists not reply. This weekend I constructed the wings and started mounting the fuselages to the center section. My new 1/4 20 mounting system arrived and now I’m using it to complete the build on. The mount is from PanaVise, model 883-T.

My backup cover art plan is to use this model and the smaller KIV-3 model along with some NASA images of Mars to portray a desert world featured in the novel. Not as awesome as original art featuring the main character, but we go with what we have.

 

 

Starship Model Photo Essay

  I thought it would be fun to put all my Star Saga models in one post.

  

GCU Sokol coming at you, from the novel Starstrikers.

SS Sokol from the novel Starforgers.

An Alliance Skimmer model done in poster board from the novel Starstrikers.*

Gull winged Vickers A-12 from the novel Starforgers. Made from cardboard.*

KIV-5 Votainion starfighter. Made from cardboard. From the Starforgers novel.

Votainion Reemer fighter from the novel Starstrikers. Made from poster board.*

Renoke, featured in the short story The Renoke. Made from poster board.*

Votainion Interceptor, from the novel Starstrikers. Made from plastic.

*Photo’s courtesy of Bill Blohm

Star Series Notes – Chapter Quotes

While I’ve been working through Katie’s edits on Starveyors, she brought to my attention the importance of the pre-chapter quotes that I have been using in these books. Here is what she said about the one I used for Chapter 17 (Click to Enlarge):

The idea to include these realistic quotes from fictional works came from a friend of mine who reads much more Fantasy than I do. He suggested that they would help the reader become more involved in the story by adding to the world building. He was right. Thanks Scott!

As Katie indicated in her comment, they can also convey a bunch of useful information in a way that doesn’t feel like an info dump. But more than that, they also let me the writer, more fully develop certain POV characters by sampling what they had to say about the events that were taking place in the chapter.

The keys to doing this effectively are to keep the quote relevant to the action in the chapter and to keep it short. Also, you can’t reveal to the reader any surprises that may have not come yet. That can be a challenge.

One thing that I have not been able to pull off yet is to add to the narrative in a substantial way with each chapter quote.  The idea would be to tell a subplot with Twitter-like sound bites. If the novel was told from a single POV, that might be possible. Similar to journal entries by the protagonist. As cool as that might be to pull off from a nerdy writer perspective, I don’t think it would work in this particular Space Opera series. Having different points of view in the quotes really does add to the world building. Or in this case, the universe building.

STARVEYORS – by Ken McConnell, available this December, from GB Press.

Taking Stock

The Home Row las – initially via Compfight

Today I didn’t write during my lunch hour. Instead, I read everything that I have written so far on my WIP. Sometimes its good to do that and see if you are achieving the tone that you are going for. Based on today’s read, I’d say that I’m  right on target.

This is the second book in the Starforgers trilogy. It’s called The Rising. The title refers to the humans rising up against the Silicants. The action is confined to a single planet for the most part. There’s some parts set in space, but this is not about the Great War, its about the Silicants and humans. So the war is there, and it’s ramping up, but it’s not the focus.

This novel is more character focused than space battle focused. The tone is darker and more human. The crazy, space opera feel of the first book is only there on the fringes. But this one reads like a dark mystery. Part of that gritty, real life feel is due to the technology in this trilogy being closer to present day than say, Star Trek.

Also, I’ve got some real characters in this one that are fun to write. Including a retired lawyer who lives in the woods and eschews technology. This guy will of course defend the Silicants in a murder trial. A semi-corrupt police chief, a young federal investigator who is naive but quite clever and of course, nearly the entire cast of the first book.

I’m about 10,000 words into the novel so far. I know this month is NaNoWriMo and all that, but I write all year round with the same moderate intensity.  So that means I write a book and a half and publish one every year. My goal is to get to two books published per year.

Stepping on the Gas

BTCC Thruxton Barry_Adams via Compfight

You can’t get to the finish line without burning some gas. You can’t finish your novel without burning some midnight oil. Or in my case, some lunch hours. Yesterday I spent my lunch hour writing my novel. I wrote about seven hundred words. That metric probably means nothing to you if you’re not a writer. Just know that it was a decent output for an hour’s worth of typing.

But that’s not enough to get me to the finish line. The end of the first draft. So I’ve got to find a way to write more each day. To somehow boost my productivity to something on the order of a couple thousand words per day. That’s a tall order for someone who holds a full-time job and has two kids. But making sacrifices for your art, is part of moving from an artist to a business person. Artists create but professionals ship. I need to finish this draft in the next month to keep on my publishing schedule.

My plan is to write for an hour before the coffee has even been consumed in the morning. No more leisurely reading email and news over coffee. Lunch hours are all about writing and then, in the evening after the kids are in bed, I need to squeeze in a few more hundred words.

With a little hard work and perseverance, I should be able to knock out another forty thousand words and finish the first draft. Then I can rest. If by rest you mean begin outlining the next novel. Sometime in later July, I need to start hacking into the second draft. You can follow my progress in the Work In Progress meter to the right. –>

The Origins of My Protagonists

240lisbokt via Compfight

The protagonist of my novel Tyrmia is a white, human female. The protagonist of Starforgers is also a white, human female. The protagonist of Starstrikers is a white, human male. The protagonist of Starveyors is a blue/black, human/Votainion mixed female.

The origins of my protagonists are pretty different. Szeredy, the hero of Tyrmia was very consciously created as a white human female. I needed her to be a woman because I wanted her character to naturally be more protective of life and I believe that’s a very positive female attribute. I needed her to be white because I wanted to contrast her to the primitive and colored alien natives. I wanted her to stand out and be completely different to the green skinned Tyrmians and the blue skinned Votains. I could have gone with a black woman, but I chose to make her white so that she would appear more other-worldly to the primitive natives. I also chose to put the white human in a position where her skin color would not be an advantage. White really stands out in a green jungle.

The hero of Starforgers, Devon Ardel, was my attempt to feminize Starbuck from the original Battlestar Galactica. I wanted a rough and tumble woman who was also beautiful. Unfortunately, Ronald Moore came along and did the same thing with his remake of that classic TV show. There are still many similarities between Devon Ardel and Kara Thrace. Both are physically strong and have scars, physical and mental that cause them to falter.

The hero of Starstrikers, Centar Havic, is a white male with a black beard. Starstrikers was based on a story my buddies and I filmed when we were in Junior High School. We animated twelve inch G.I. Joe’s in an epic ten minute silent 8mm film. So naturally, Centar Havic looks just like my G.I. Joe doll. Go figure. A stunning lack of creativity that I didn’t change as I wrote the story for my first novel.

G.I. Joe 02Chris Murphy via Compfight

The hero of Starveyors, Cryse, is a blue-black human/Votainion female. This character was originally supposed to be the daughter of Szeredy from Tyrmia. But I soon realized that the story had to have happened before Tyrmia. So I recast her as a human/Votainion half breed. She then became just another mixed breed working in a combined, human and Votainion branch of the military. But then I had another realization and she crystallized as a black human woman and blue Votainion mix. I can’t say why without causing spoilers.

Perusi .craig via Compfight

The heroes of my next two novels will be a human male and a female Silicant – The Rising, and a blue Votainion male – Voton.

As a writer, I’m more inclined to have female heroes in my novels. I just find them more interesting then males. But what it comes down to in the end is story. My characters are usually created after the story is conceived. I just insert who I feel best serves a particular story. I don’t have a hidden political or racial agenda. At least not that I’m aware of. The challenge is always the same: come up with interesting, flawed and likable characters that people can relate to and then set to work causing havoc in their fictional lives.

 

WIP – Mid Novel Doldrums

I spent some time this weekend adjusting my outline for the next four chapters. I need to do it all again in a few weeks to stay on course. Outlines are living documents that change as you write your novel. The basic structure is often set in stone, but the details are fluid and can vary wildly.

I’ve been kind of writing without much luster or joy for the paste couple of weeks. I felt disinterested in the story and eventually the writing quality followed. I needed a shot in the arm of adrenaline. I needed longer than ten minutes to think about chapters and scenes and string them together so that I moved the story forward. It was a bad case of the mid-novel doldrums.

I’m entering the middle portion of the novel and usually this is the hardest part to write. Especially if your novel is not as gonzo or exciting as previous ones. The story is good, there is tension and conflict but it’s more subtle and mental than the other two books. But that’s as it should be. I’m writing about the conclusion of a great war. By definition that requires less blowing stuff up and more contemplating abut why things were getting blown up so much in the past.

In the next few weeks I will be moving into the third act where the big reveal happens and conflicts are resolved or maybe not resolved. If I can just slug my way through these slower chapters, things will get easier and more interesting to write. Wish me luck!