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2014-09-21

Are Writer Groups Necessary?

Yesterday, I attended (for the second time) a writer's group. Prior to the meeting, the group's leader handed out a prompted writing assignment. I did not do it because I was finishing up with Peacekeeper 2. At the meeting each of the attendees who did the writing prompt read their work and received feedback. I then handed out the final chapter of Peacekeeper 2 for feedback. Some of it was quite good. I got my papers back and when I got home I flipped through them to see what people had said. A couple had taken the time to make punctuation changes. My wife is my grammarian. She worked at a newspaper for 27 years and has a good grasp of how things should be written. I showed her the one copy with a bunch of suggested punctuation changes and she disagreed with quite a number of them. So did I.

It was interesting to compare the notes from all the other attendees with one another. A couple simply wrote 'Nice article' or 'Good world-building' at the top with little to no comments in the body. Others wrote great feedback while another attempted to proof the entire handout for punctuation.

So here's the point. I attend two writer's groups mainly so I can interact with other writers and be exposed to different styles of writing as well as receive feedback and suggestions on my own works. But you must also consider who is providing the feedback. One member of both groups holds a master's degree in creative writing. Her feedback carries more weight than the others. I am unsure of the background of the other members and so I listen to their feedback but I don't always necessarily follow their advice. Each writer has a style of their own and one person may not agree with how a paragraph is written or even if it needs to be there.

I also pay particular attention to how the group reacts to someone's comment. If the entire group seems to agree to a particular statement then it carries more weight. If there's a discussion or a disagreement, I'll listen and then chose what I feel is correct. Even something as mundane as punctuation has some leeway in how it is used. Do I put a comma here or not? Do I use a colon or a semicolon? Long sentence or short? Obvious errors in the use of punctuation are easy to spot. The more subtle ways of using a comma are a matter of personal choice. Some strict grammarians may disagree with me on this but English is a flexible and changing language. Writers can shape it to produce anything they want as long as the readers enjoy the story.

Bottom line: Yes -- I strongly believe writer groups are something every writer should be a part of. Don't think you are an expert on every subject and your writing is the best in the world. Listen to what others have to say and accept their comments as a way to improve your writing.

I am working on a prologue for Peacekeeper 2. My wife is making good progress and is about 50% complete. I hope to have the prologue done today and then I start putting her changes into the book. The cover is nearing completion. Looks like I am all systems go for a publication launch next month. I will post the cover on Google+, Facebook, my website, and on Twitter as soon as it is complete.

So what's next? I haven't decided for sure yet. As always, I'm going to take some time off writing before starting my next project. I have books to read and other things to do that get put aside while I'm working on a project. I'm leaning toward a YA novel about a boy and a dragon. I know this sort of thing has been done before but I think my take on it is unique. I also have a desire to do a third Dragonverse book. It will require making some minor changes to the first two in the series. Dragonverse needs a bit of a rewrite to stretch out the timeline or at least better identify how long it takes for the main character to develop his powers (feedback from a reader). I have possible stories for a sequel to Off Course as well. At the moment, I do not have any ideas for a sequel to When Ships Mutiny which is also a reader request. I am open to ideas from my readers though.

2014-09-14

PK2 - Final rewrite complete

At long last, the final rewrite of Peacekeeper 2 is complete. I am now waiting on my wife to complete her grammatical review, then it's on to a final review by another grammarian, and then the book will be published. There is a cover in the works but it's far from being close to a reveal. I am also working on a line to gain access to another photo that would be perfect for the book's background but so far I've not heard back from the photo's owner.

Readers of the GA series will remember the race called the Kyrra. The Kyrra first appeared in my mind back in 1977 when I was drawing science-fiction scenes and pretending I could be a writer. Recently, I picked up a book by Stanley Schmidt titled 'Aliens and Alien Societies'. My jaw threatened to disengage from my face when I read a passage where he mentions an alien race he created called--of all things--the Kyyra. The spelling is different, but the name of the race is the same. As best as I can determine, the book this is from (The Sins of the Fathers) was published in 2009. What are the odds of two authors creating an alien race with nearly the same name? I know there's no possibility he heard it from me and I've never read any of his books. Now that's a head scratcher.

A friend of mine, author Linda Nagata, has been working on a sequel to her award-nominated book The Red: First Light. I've been waiting for it for quite some time and assumed she was having a problem finding the time to finish it. I patiently waited. In a recent announcement she explained the delay. Her books are going to be picked up by a major publisher. I must admit, I am a bit jealous but I'm also a little concerned. Linda has been with a publisher in the past and some time ago decided to go indie. She's familiar with how publishers work and she's also familiar with the indie side of publishing. She's also a very smart person. If she believes going with a publisher is a good thing then I can only conclude that it is indeed the right thing to do. Only time will tell.

How would I react if an agent asked to promote my books to a publisher? I honestly don't know. I would most likely give Linda Nagata a call and ask her opinion. I have mixed feelings about going with a publisher which I've voiced in this blog in the past. Right now, sales are doing okay and I get a good royalty from them. If the books continue to sell then I might have a steady income for decades. Book rights are also a property and can be passed on to my kids. A publisher might sound like a wonderful idea especially when they dangle a large advance in front of you and make promises that the book will be well promoted. Most will follow through. But after a few years when sales begin to slump, then what? I have another friend who sold two books to a very large publisher. He received a good advance and then nothing - that was 10 years ago. He has tried and failed to get the digital rights for these books. Retaining ownership is very important because steady low sales will bring in a nice steady (although low) additional income. Once sales fall below a certain number with a large publisher, your book is shelved. The only way to make a living writing for a large publisher is to crank out more books. I've been averaging one a year so I could do that: it would be a tough choice. I do wish Linda all the luck in the world and I will stay in touch with her to see how this pans out.

That's it from my little world. Time to start putting some grammar changes in Peacekeeper 2.

2014-09-07

PK2 - Almost done!

I almost forgot to write this post. I've been adding new and exciting stuff to the book and almost forgot today was Sunday . Right now, I'm at 87% complete with my final editing pass. I am adding one more large chapter and also a prologue that will add to the final word count. That currently stands at 88,665. My editing will be done next week. My wife is making good progress on her proofing even though she does not like scifi. My biggest concern right now is having a cover for the book.

I've also decided to send the book to my dad's wife. She has been quite good at catching small mistakes that seem to slip by everyone else. It helps to have several people look at the manuscript before calling it complete. I am now a firm believer in having access to a good copy editor as well as a proofreader or two. While my oatmeal is cooking, I will give you a very quick run-down on my new and improved writing process:

The project starts with Scrivener. The first draft is done in Scrivener because of it's ability to display all the information I need to track in a single location. It can also move chapters around with ease. After the first draft is complete - roughly 6 months - it gets moved into an ODT file so I can finish it with LibreOffice. I could use Word but I'm running a 2003 version which does not remember where I left off. I don't see the need to pay for a new word processor when I can use a free one that works just as good.

Next, I make a full editing pass, making changes to get the story to fit together into a coherent whole and doing general editing. Then its off to my beta readers and copy editor. When I get all the feedback, I make a final major editing pass to create the finished manuscript. As I finish each chapter, I print it out and hand it to my wife who does her grammatical magic. I enter these changes last. for PK2, I'm printing it out again and sending it to my dad. He and his wife will have a final chance to fix any mistakes that were missed. Then, it's time to publish.

My oatmeal is done and that means it's time to eat. I must set the book aside for now to mow the lawn which I have neglected for far too long. The next time you hear from he, my editing will be done and I hope so will my wife's.