Tools for Writers

September 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

My Gonzo DaysI’m still working my way through the first rewrite, which is mostly cosmetic: correcting typos, fixing little things here and there, and only occasionally rewriting entire scenes. I haven’t begun the heavy lifting yet (I’m calling that the second rewrite), but I keep thinking about ways to change the structure, ideas for characters’ backgrounds, etc. Most days, I maintain a high level of enthusiasm and optimism for what this book can be. Most days.

The process of porting the book from Word to Scrivener wasn’t as painless as it probably could have been. Supposedly, Scrivener can import a Word doc and automatically split it into chapters and sections. In order for that feature to work, however, each section must be separated from its predecessor by a hash mark (i.e., #). I used three asterisks, so it didn’t work. I ended up copying and pasting a section at a time, but I’ll know better next time. (And yes, I could have done a search/replace, but I didn’t think of it at the time. D’oh!) « Read the rest of this entry »

The First Draft: The Ugly Duckling

August 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Ugly02So I’ve read through the first draft. It stinks … but that’s what a first draft is supposed to do. Right?

Okay, so it stinks a little more than I expected it to. Okay, I didn’t expect it really to stink at all. But it does.

The good news is, my writing definitely improved over the course of the book. The better news is, it improved late in the book because I began incorporating changes and new points of view that I’d planned to go back and add to the beginning of the book. That gives me hope that the second draft will be much better.

The best news of all, though, is that I’ve had idea after idea come flooding in as I read the first draft. An epiphany for restructuring the book (goodbye, overcomplicated narrative structure!). Insights into my characters’ backgrounds and motivations. New plots twists and subplots.

Yes, it’s an ugly duckling right now, but I can see that it might be a swan with the right care and feeding.

The next step is to pull the first draft apart and reorganize it, then start rewriting. I’m currently learning to use Scrivener (I wrote the first draft in Word), and I think it will make the process easier. Here’s hoping, anyway!

6 Things I Learned While Writing the First Draft

July 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

writers tearsAccording to the date stamp on the first outline I created for my novel, I began writing it on December 13, 2012. I began writing the first draft the following February. And on July 6 (i.e., about a week and a half ago), I finished the first draft. It’s 78,403 words (according to Word) and 406 pages typed, double-spaced. I think that’s a pretty good length for a first draft; previous first drafts have weighed in around the 50,000-word mark, so this one feels beefy.

Anyway, if we take December 13, 2012 as the start date, that means I’ve been working on this for a year and a half. I didn’t think it would take that long, to be honest. At the beginning of last December, I thought I’d finish before the end of the year. At the beginning of February, I thought I’d finish it by the end of that month. And here we are. Best laid plans, and all that. I learned a few things along the way—some of it from others, some from the experience of doing it. I thought I’d share in case any of it helps you, but if I’m being honest, it’s really so I can come back and remind myself of all this before I begin my next book. « Read the rest of this entry »

Writing about Reading: The Miernik Dossier

June 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

I read this book after it received high praise from Olen Steinhauer, whose spy novels I love. I did not love the Miernik Dossier, however.

The Miernik Dossier, by Charles McCarry, purports to be a collection of documents describing a “typical operation” for the CIA. The subject of this operation is Tadeusz Miernik, a Polish national who has been called back to his home country from Geneva (where he works for the WRO) and fears he will be imprisoned by the secret police if he returns. (The novel is set in the “in the middle years of the Cold War,” although no firm year is given.) He has requested his assignment with the WRO be extended, which has raised suspicions among the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Miernik is actually a Soviet spy. The novel follows the events of the investigation into Miernik and the surveillance of his activities.

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Writing about Reading Double Feature: The Martian and Saga

May 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

It’s fitting that I’m cramming two book reviews into one post because I read both The Martian and Saga at the same time. I started The Martian first, then got Volume 1 of Saga, so I paused and devoured it in an hour. And I was hooked, so I got Volumes 2 and 3, devouring them as they arrived and going back to The Martian in between.

That pretty much tells you how awesome both are.

I’m a one-book-at-a-time kinda guy. I get too confused if I try to read more than one at a time, but since Saga is a graphic novel and The Martian is a traditional novel, I figured I could keep them straight. What I didn’t count on is that they would both be some freakin’ amazing that I couldn’t get enough of either one.

Let’s start with The Martian, by newcomer Andy Weir. Weir is a software engineer and has been professionally since he was fifteen. He’s also “a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight.” You know, normal everyday hobbies. So yeah, Andy Weir is a genius.

But he’s also a damned good storyteller. Combine the two, and it makes for one very compelling novel.

The book is, in a nutshell, about Mark Watney, an astronaut who is left for dead when his crew bugs out during a storm on Mars. Problem is, he’s not dead, and they’ve left him with no way to call for help. But he does have a) a working habitat, b) enough food and supplies to survive for a while (but not until the next Mars mission arrives), c) a very good brain, and d) enough time to figure out how to stay alive until the next mission arrives in four years. Oh, and he also has a wickedly sardonic sense of humor.

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Joss Whedon talks about being prolific, and you should listen

April 23, 2014 § 1 Comment

joss-whedon-spReal quick: This popped up today and I read it and think it’s very much worth sharing. So go read HOW TO BE PROLIFIC: GUIDELINES FOR GETTING IT DONE FROM JOSS WHEDON, because it’s worth it. 

I have thoughts on this, and I also have a post brewing on what it’s really like to complete your novel’s first draft (spoiler: it’s HARD), but right now I’m focusing on getting the damn book finished.

In the meantime, listen to Joss. He’s way smarter than me, anyway.

Writing about Reading: Red Phone Box

April 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

“Too many cooks spoil the broth,” the old saying goes, and for the most part, that’s true—especially when you’re writing a novel-length story. Novels are usually written best by one or two authors; more than that, and it tends to turn into a jumbled mess.

That is precisely why Red Phone Box is so impressive. Edited by Salome Jones, Red Phone Box is a “darkly magical story cycle” written by 29 different authors—and for the most part, it works.

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