Tag Archives: writing process

I’m Teaching Classes on Novel Writing and Self-Publishing

I’m teaching a six-week class on the basics of novel writing at the Gig Harbor Campus of Tacoma Community College starting October fifth. It’s Novel Writing 101 with a focus on writer craft and editing.

I’m also doing a half-day class on self-publishing on October 14th for Poulsbo Parks and Recreation. This class will go step-by-step through the process of publishing an ebook and print book on Amazon.

If you know anyone who might be interested in either of these, please mention it to them.


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My First Take on the Pros and Cons of Scrivener

There’s more to writing a book than putting simply putting words into digital memory. Most novels have characters, plots, settings. Nonfiction books often have even more things to juggle. In the past for me, that’s meant each work-in-progress folder contains separate Word, Excel, and other documents. That’s cumbersome. If I forget the color of my Otto’s eyes, I have to leave my manuscript and search for the Otto character sheet, which slows down the writing process. This has become more important to me now that I have multiple books in the same science fiction universe.

Scrivener solves this organization problem by “binding” together your manuscript and various source documents so you can complete that “awkward first draft.” One, not multiple, mouse clicks will bring up any document you want.

I’ve now worked a bit with Scrivener and have a preliminary assessment.

Pros: The one click organization is a huge plus, although it takes some effort to get everything into the Scrivener software. The software also helps in the organization of your manuscript and makes it easy to move chapters around. This will probably be of more use to seat-of-the-pants writers as opposed to writers, like myself, who plot out their novels beforehand. It’d also be very useful to non-fiction writers.

Another pro is the cost. Scrivener regularly goes on sale, and with a little persistence you should be able to buy it for around $20.

Cons: There is no editor and I miss it. I personally try to write a reasonably clean first draft and appreciate Word flagging my misspellings, passive sentences, and grammatical monstrosities. However, for writers who focus on simply getting words to paper in the first draft, the lack of an editor may not bother you.

How I plan on using Scrivener? I think I’ll still do my manuscripts in Word. However, I’ll use Scrivener to organize all my background information. I’ll bring up Scrivener before I start to write, so then my character sheets etc will be at most two clicks away for reference. If I were writing a nonfiction book, I’d probably try doing the manuscript in Scrivener.

However you use it, Scrivener is well worth the money.




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NaNoWriMo and tearing words out and rewriting them

While many writers are working furiously to meet their word count goals for NaNoWriMo, I continue to plug away at Mindfield. NaNoWriMo for the uninitiated is where writers vow to complete at least a 50,000 word draft novella in the month of November. That means a very ambitious 1667 words per day. Good luck all NaNoWriMo writers.

Mindfield is nearing the completion of its second draft. When editing I attempt to still do a net 500 words per day, and usually I can do it. Yesterday was very productive…but I did a net minus 200 words for the day. That was despite writing well over a thousand new words. I hate tearing out decent existing writing, but it was for the best. This is one of the climactic chapters and the original version didn’t have enough tension. It does now. Today I did a more normal net addition of 500 words. Now on to the final chapters.

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New (for me) Editing Technique Pays Off

clip art of pen

The final final copy editing of a book is my least favorite part of publishing. No matter how many times I go over, my wife goes over, and fellow writers go over a manuscript, little typos, mostly dropped words, leak into the final product until they’re finally laboriously bludgeoned out.

BUT NOW THERE IS HOPE. Several months ago, someone in a writing group mentioned having my Kindle read my manuscript back to me. Yesterday, after a few misfires, I uploaded Magellan’s Navigator to my Kindle and started listening. I wouldn’t want to experience a book this way. The Kindle runs together sentences and uses no inflection, but for editing this technique WORKS! I’m finding minor typos that eluded myself and three other editors. In a day or two, this edit will be done and I graduate to other fun things, like writing a query letter and summary.

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Another record and a little road block

I keyed 2,358 words yesterday on Mindfield, which makes for 15,225 words in the last fifteen days. Yeah! Both numbers are records for me. Even when I’m not sitting at my keyboard, electrifying dialogue and action sequences dance in my mind. Too bad they aren’t as electrifying when I get around to punching them into words. Nonetheless, writing a new book is an exciting experience for me.

I did have a few slow days where I barely logged a few hundred words. Writer’s block? You might call it that, but the problem was I had a good outline for the first two-thirds of the book, while the last third was sketchy. To a degree, this was unavoidable. More so than most space operas, Mindfield is about its protagonist’s self-discovery. I had to write the first two-thirds of the book to fully understand Cam and where he wanted to head. That done, the remainder of the book plotted out in quick order.writing clipart

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BLOG HOP: My Writing Process


Today’s blog is my contribution to an ongoing blog hop. Last Monday Ute Carbone wrote about her writing process at http://ute-carbone.blogspot.com and passed the blog hop torch to me. 

Why do I write and what am I working on? I write because I enjoy creating and telling stories. My books go through several phases: idea, outline, first draft, finished draft, and then edit, edit, and edit. I’m doing the first draft of the third book in my Truth-Teller series. My meticulous wife is doing the final proofreading of Goldbach’s Conjecture. I wrote this thriller about a National Security Agency geek and high-frequency trading four years ago. I’m also in the outline phase of Magellan’s Pilot, which is a complete rewrite of my first (unpublished) novel. Usually I work on one project at a time, but I want to clear out some old manuscripts. 

How does my work differ from others in its genre? I strive to be different through setting, characterization, and writing style. The worlds of most sci fi novels have limitless energy. Cary and Krin in Truth-Teller Rebellion have only solar, wind, and hydro energy, while an ice age grips their world. As to writing style, many have commented on my vivid descriptions. 

How does my writing process work? A work starts with an idea. I come up with these all the time. Some percolate in my mind for years. Before they graduate from idea to book, I must love the idea, be willing to spend six months writing the book, and even more months editing it. I also ask if the book is marketable and does it fit with my existing works. Ultimately, my passion for the book is the deciding factor. 

Upon deciding I will pursue a premise, one of my first decisions is whether to write the book in first or third person and from whose point-of-view(s). Then I do a rough chapter-by-chapter outline. Outlining is essential for me. It’s when I work out all the kinks in the plot, which helps me avoid excessive rewriting. Without an outline, I’ve seen writers back themselves into a literary corner, and have to use unrealistic shenanigans to get their novel moving forward. 

Once the outline is set, I write. The actual act of writing I liken to doing a painting. A painter doesn’t start in one corner of the canvas and expand from there. Similarly, I don’t attempt to do write an entire scene with exposition and dialog at once. First, I write down the main events of the scene and any reveals I want to make. Then I write dialog along with a few key actions. Dialog is the backbone of my books. Readers rarely skip dialog, although they may skip exposition. I know I skip over the menus in the Game of Thrones series. Conflict between characters is the key to a story, and dialog unlocks that conflict. 

I don’t typically write scenes sequentially. When writing I place myself in the head of the point-of-view character in each scene. For me skipping from one character’s head to another is too schizophrenic. For example, in the TTR series Cary is my main protagonist, although his sister Krin also has a major role. For continuity, I’ll write a series of Cary scenes and then write a series of Krin scenes even though these scenes or chapters are interspersed in the final product. 

I’m goal oriented, so I keep a log of words written. I shoot for a thousand a day, but actually average around five hundred while writing a first draft. I want to get the first draft finished while everything is fresh in my head. Once the first draft is finished, I edit, edit, edit. My objective is to finish the novel. It’s easy to start a novel, but a lot of work to finish one. 

The writing process blog hop jumps to Audra Middleton next Friday, April 25th. I’m looking forward to learning about her writing process at http://www.audramiddleton.com. Audra Middleton is the mother of three boys and the author of three books: WatcherHitchhiker, and Abomination. Her Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/AudraMiddletonAuthor. I recently read Audra’s Hitchhiker and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll be posting a review of it later this week.

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