Building the GCU Sokol Model, Part 6

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 |Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

Part 11 | Part 12

I’ve been in modeling hiatus during the summer months as my garage is not air conditioned. But now with Fall here and the temps lower, I can venture back into my garage and start up the model factory. I left off work on the Sokol last Spring with completing the first major superstructure and finding parts for the engine nozzles.

These pics were taken in low-light conditions as I was shutting down for the night. I’ll try and update them at a later time. I’m probably going to focus on getting the back side of the model built up first, so I can use it in some pictures that will be used on the back cover of the Starveyors book.

So I’ll be building up the superstructure and then only detailing the back side of it. Ignoring for now the head and all other surfaces. That’s kinda unusual, but only the rear of the model will be used for these pictures. I’ll also be building some extremely small scale versions of other Alliance starships and once again, only detailing the back sides.

When I get some of the smaller starships built up I’ll record their construction in this same, rather long series of posts.

In the above photo you can get a sense of the scale, as it actually fits on my desk. The model is about two feet long.

Neanderthals and Votainions

When I was casting about for the origins of my evil galactic empire, I decided to make them human or at least partially human. What I based them on was a hominid species that had gone extinct on Earth long ago. In this way they would retain bits of the same DNA that we modern humans had. Which would make interbreeding, however unlikely, at least a possibility.

I’m a writer, not a geneticist or evolutionary biologist. I probably had things all kinds of out of whack when I imagined the early Votainions as being transplanted Neanderthals. Someone happened upon the Earth in ancient times and picked a dying branch of the human tree and took it hundreds of light years away and plopped them down on an alien world. These transplanted people eventually evolved into modern Votainions and started to viciously conquer the galaxy.

Time passed and I wrote two books in the Star Series. I added bits and pieces of the Votainion story in these books but when it came time to write the final book in the series, Starveyors, I had to ensure that the humans and the Votainions were genetically compatible. This is where modern scientists have helped me by their findings about Neanderthals.

It seems that while primitive human tribes were committing genocide against the Neanderthals they were also interbreeding with them. So modern humans with lineages that come out of Europe actually have some Neanderthal DNA in them. Fascinating. This fit into my plans perfectly. (Hands writhing, evil cackling.)

You can read some of the latest news on Neanderthals in this National Geographic article where they have once again created a sculpture of a lovely Neanderthal woman out hunting.

Beta Reader Findings

Reader in train Erre via Compfight

The best way to find the big picture flaws of your novel is to let people read it. Not everyone, but a small, subset of everyone. Try and find folks who are not familiar with your work and are not afraid to tell you when they find things they didn’t understand. Some of them should be writers and some of them should be just regular readers. Among them should be at least one person who is not a fan of your genre.

This small sampling of readers, should then be debriefed after they have read your manuscript. Sometimes this is in the form of a lengthy conversation – in which you take good notes. More frequently, you have them fill out a questionnaire. You can find some decent questionnaires out there on the web and then tailor them to your own needs.

After you have your feedback, it’s a pretty simple matter to compare and contrast the answers. When three or more readers tell you that your hero was not who you thought it was, you definitely have a problem that should be addressed. For my latest WIP, Starveyors, that is what has happened.

The problem arose while I was writing the novel. I realized halfway through it that the hero was not who I thought it was. That’s okay. I just plowed on through it and didn’t attempt to rethink what I had already written, because otherwise the first draft would have stalled. The end result is that my current draft bounces around between two possible protagonists and never really settles on making it clear which person actually is the protagonist. So the Beta Readers were split on who it actually was.

I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to fix this problem, but I’m sure it will involve some POV changes and possibly a few new scenes. If I hadn’t let a variety of readers read the manuscript, I might not have found this error before it got to my editor. That would have wasted her time in having to tell me to go back to the drawing board.

So that’s where I am with Starveyors. I still expect to get this novel to the e-presses in late November if not by December.

Writing Update

no denial Don via Compfight

Things are moving right along on the current WIP – The Rising. This will be the second book in the Starforgers Trilogy. Every time I get a lunch break free, I manage to sink at least a thousand words into it. Had to stop last week and map out the coming scenes and chapters. Just a reminder: I don’t brag about word counts, so to keep up with my novel writing progress, please keep an eye on the progress bars to your right. —>

Meanwhile, Starveyors is still out to Beta Readers. I should get some more feedback during the week from them. Then it’s off to the editor’s desk. Still aiming for a late November release of the ebook.

I’m still using Plume Creator for my primary writing program and loving it. If you are a novelist using Linux, you should give it a try.



Weekly Writing Update

Reading in a Cafe - BangkokRonn aka “Blue” Aldaman via Compfight

This week I’ve started sending out copies of my second draft of Starforgers to Beta Readers. Beta Readers are an important part of the writing process for me. Not only do they catch some of the little errors in a manuscript, they also point out where I lose the reader and whether the story is any good at all. If their feedback is good, it makes my Editor’s job that much easier.

I usually pick a mix of different folks to be my Beta Readers, from fellow writers to ordinary readers. Sometimes I even get readers who don’t ordinarily read SF to get an idea how much of the story stands apart from the conventions of the genre. I always get at least one fan to read the manuscript, because they are familiar enough with my novels to spot where I stray from established canon.

I’ve also started hacking on the first draft of The Rising, book two in what will become the Starforgers Trilogy. The Rising takes place a few years after Starforgers and deals with the Silicant uprising. If you loved Starforgers, this book will carry on with some of your favorite characters, both human and Silicant.

For the writer nerds out there, The Rising is my sixth book and the first to be written in the new writer program that I’m testing called Plume Creator.

Second Draft Time for Starveyors

iDrink Roland Peschetz via Compfight

The third and final book of the Star Trilogy, Starveyors is about to go into the Second Draft stage. I’m supposed to start it Saturday, but I might dive in a week early in an effort to get it through the grinder faster. Second drafts are where things get polished and typically for me, that means more words added, some scene shifts and technical details get corrected.

I’m giving myself a few weeks to do this. After that the manuscript is off to my Beta readers. When I compile their comments and adjust D2 to reflect that, it’s off to the editor in  mid-October. Still shooting for a late November release for the ebook. Also, I’ll be reissuing the first two ebooks with fresh new edits and layouts at the same time.

I’m also planning on making a three-in-one book featuring extras that will include some art and a few short stories. Not sure what the pricing will be on this omnibus edition, but I doubt it will be up in  time for Christmas.

In the Spring of next year, I’ll hopefully have some paperback versions of all three novels. I’d like to see them on my shelf together. The cover art might make more sense to readers when they see them all together. There is a method to my madness regarding cover design.


First Draft of Starveyors Complete

Yesterday I finally finished the first draft of Starveyors. It feels like I’ve been writing this one forever, probably because I started it in January. I will now let it sit for a few weeks before hammering on the second draft. First drafts of my novels tend to be fluid and disorganized and the prose is sparse. I’m just getting the story down in the best, fastest way that I can. The manuscript becomes more interesting in the second draft, where I focus on scene order, continuity and the minutia of description and emotion.

The second draft is usually the one that my Beta readers get to read. After they rip it apart, I rebuild it and that becomes the final version that the editor sees. My editor usually doesn’t have to focus on form and structure, more on grammar and word choice. Once I get her changes made, it goes to the copy editor and he/she then finds the mistakes I entered while I was making the editorial changes. The process takes about three to four months until I get the manuscript into a releasable form.

So for my readers out there, what all that means is that you can expect to have Starveyors in your ebook readers this Christmas. I know that sounds like forever from now, but that’s the way it is.

Meanwhile, I’m starting to outline the next novel. Which is called The Rising and is set a year or two after Starforgers. This will be a smaller novel with only a handful of characters. Hopefully I can get it out sooner than this time next year.

P.S. For the writer geeks out there, here are the stats of the finished first draft.(64,227 words and 290 pages in Standard Manuscript Format.)

Moving the Goal Posts

NY Jets - Philadelphia Eagles, Sep 2009 - 01Creative Commons License Ed Yourdon via Compfight

If you’ve been following along on my Work In Progress meter for Starveyors you might have wondered why I’m suddenly almost finished. If you look at the end goal, you’ll see that I in fact shortened the goal to 65K words.

I did this because after having written past my outline and into uncharted territory at about 58K words, it became apparent to me that this was not going to be an 80K word story. No matter how badly I milked it. So my new goal is to just get it out to 65K or at least close enough to call it good.

I doubt any major publisher will ever want to print this novel, and most people will read it as an ebook only. So sweating over the established normal length for novels is not really helping the book any. The story I wanted to tell is or is about to be told and it looks like it will be about 65K words long. I don’t feel any pressure at all to make it 80K or 100K words long. I just feel pressure to finish it. My goal is to get this draft over with by the time I leave TN on Tuesday.

I have another novel to write and other things pressuring my writing time and this first draft needs to sit for at least a few weeks to a month. So if you’ll excuse me, I have to wrap this puppy up and put it to bed.

Five Thousand Words to Go

DragonCon Anna Fischer via Compfight

I’ve got about 5K words to write to get to the end of Starveyors. I’d like to finish it here in Middle Tennessee and come home with a completed first draft. That may or may not happen. I got through my outline and realized I was about ten thousand words short of the ideal length for the novel. But somehow I must have realized I would be short and buried in my prose were pointers for where I needed to take the story to create the ending that would do it justice.

I love when that happens. You realize in the end that your outline was insufficient but low and behold, you already have the plot threads and character definitions needed to create a viable new ending. The ending is not terribly different than what I had planned. I’m not veering wide into something completely bizarre and new. Just tying known plot threads and wrapping up the story in what I hope will be a more interesting fashion.

There will be more explosions and fighting before the final sentence. Oh, yeah!

Ebook Novel Length

Comment bien partir la journée!Creative Commons License Benoît Meunier via Compfight

I’m currently writing my fifth novel, Starveyors. It will primarily be an ebook only novel. There will eventually be a paperback version, but most readers will read it and purchase it as an ebook. So it doesn’t have to be a certain length to look hefty enough on a book shelf. One of the reasons that most novels are around 100 thousand words long, is because that length makes for a hefty enough book for the reader to feel like he’s getting a decent story.

But if you can’t really heft a book, does it matter how long it is? I think price and length will be less associated in ebook sales. All of my ebooks are now priced at $2.99. That’s less than a good coffee at Starbucks. You can get two of my ebooks for the price of a paperback and three for the price of a hardback book. Most of my novels are over 60K words long. One is even over 100K words and they’re all priced the same – $2.99. Personally, I think that’s a great value. For my money, ebooks should always cost less than a paperback version of whatever book you are buying.

So now back to the length of a book. As I write this post, Starveyors is around 51K words in length. The goal I’m shooting for is 80K for the first draft. I usually write pretty sparse first drafts, so I expect that number to increase with the second draft. But what happens if I only make it to 50K? Do I panic? Nope. I just proceed with the second draft and know that I will probably add more words before it’s finished. I don’t think the reader really notices that a novel is only 65K words and not 100K words. As long as the story is complete and fulfilling, they really don’t care. I know that as a reader myself, I never worry about how long a book is. Unless I’m reading a huge Epic Fantasy. Then I pretty much know going in that it will take me longer to read.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that when you are writing your novel you should have a goal for end length. But unless you fall shorter than 60K, you shouldn’t worry about the length too much. Unless your SF novel is sitting at 200K words. Then you’d have to consider breaking it into two or more books, if only to keep your reader happy.

As a reminder, you can follow along with my word count in the sidebar on this blog. Now that I’m in the final stretch, that number should change daily.