2012-08-24

Scrivener update

Quite some time ago I mentioned that I was going to give Scrivener a good try by using it to write Peacekeeper.  I used to use OpenOffice primarily because it could output directly to PDF, it was free, and it always returned me to where I was working in the document when I last closed it.  I also had a tiny netbook that ran Linux and OpenOffice ran on it quite nicely.  Now I have all Windows machines and I recently switched to using Word.  There are advantages to that program as well: it highlights possible grammatical errors, everyone can read the files it produces, and all my publishers require it for submissions.

But I kept hearing such good things about Scrivener - so good I had to give it a try.  My initial response was "this won't work for me".  It lacks some essential features (I'm using the Windows version - the Mac version is an entire version number ahead).  It won't do mirror margins, page numbering and header/footer formatting are tricky, and the native file format is incompatible with every other word processor out there.  Despite these issues, I went ahead and started using it for Peacekeeper.  I'm now a fan!

Scrivener has some unique features that I've come to love.  The ability to keep notes for each chapter as well as for the document as a whole is the one I love the best.  I also use the dual editor feature which allows me to keep all of my reference material handy at the bottom of my screen.  I have reference documents for characters, general notes, alien life forms, and planets.  The program also keeps track of where I was in each document (chapter or reference document in my case) so when I reopen it I just start typing.  It's a VERY handy program.  I accidentally left Scrivener open on my desktop last day when I went to the bookstore.  I added 4 chapters and edited another one while there.  I was surprised to find that Scrivener didn't complain and the changes were picked up without issue on the desktop machine.  There is a warning in the manual not to do this sort of thing but the program handled it without any problems.

So what about the issues I mentioned?  No problem.  After compiling the final document (Scrivener's word for generating a final output file) in Word format, I can open it in Word and do my final editing, pagination, margination, and all that stuff.  But, for actually writing - Scrivener is now my chosen application.  It's inexpensive too and the owner is very receptive to feedback.  If you're interested you can try the program for free.  Their website is:  http://literatureandlatte.com/trial.php

Peacekeeper is being written by scavenging chapters from an unpublished novel I wrote back in the 80's titled "The Elite of the Alliance".  This should make writing the story faster than generating it from scratch.  Still, there's a lot of editing to be done.  So, if you see a quote like I made above that said I added 4 chapters in a single day, that does not mean I actually wrote them.  I moved them into the book and they need to be edited.  Still working on the issue of the AOH but I think I'm closing in on a possible solution or two.  In the meantime - the writing continues.

2012-08-21

Odd computer problems

I've been having some odd little computer problems over the past week.  Not sure what the deal is.  The Google Chrome browser has a strange glitch now when I open up a site in a new tab.  I have to move to another tab and then move back before things start to work properly.  I've had to reboot a couple of times because my quad-tuner card is no longer recognized by Media Center, and downloads seem to be running slow even though speedtest shows I have a 35 MBPS download connection.  Just before writing this, Google+ wouldn't let me enter a post - kept saying "Opening".  I might have to switch back to Internet Explorer if things keep up.

Today's APOD article is a fascinating video of DNA.  If you like science of any sort this is one video you've got to see.  You can find the video on YouTube as well at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjPcT1uUZiE&feature=player_embedded

I've finished "Obsessed With Life" and have had it reviewed by my copy-editor (my wife) and my dad (thanks Dad!).  So far the comments have been good.

I got some more work done on Peacekeeper over the weekend.  I'm still unsure how the meat of the story is going to play out.  I've got this little issue with the Army of Humanity and why they are building modern warships, who is supplying them with the weapons, and where are they hiding the ships.  Plus, there's always the question of what are they planning to use them for?  This wouldn't be the first time I've started a story and not known what I would do once things got rolling.

2012-08-17

Short story writing is difficult!

Early last week I was off to a quick start on my first ever short story 'Obsessed With Life'.  I hammered out over 1,700 words in about 3 hours.  I thought I would have no problem getting the rest done during my 30 minute lunch breaks at work - Wrong!  When I started this I had two possible endings in mind.  After my writer's group meeting I discarded one.  I am now about to start on my 4th attempt to finish this little story.  The first three endings just didn't cut it.  Wrong pace, wrong perspective, just didn't work.  But, I think I have a good ending ready to type and I hope to have it done by the end of the day.  Writing a short story is a little more difficult than I first thought.

I have finished 'The Bohr Maker' by Linda Nagata.  It's an excellent read.  She just published a short story in Lightspeed magazine.  Although I'm not into the slash and gash fantasy stories I read hers anyway - more for an insight into her writing style than for the story itself.  Stephen King said there are two things a writer must do to become a better writer: Read and Write.  Recently, I've started reading not just for the story but to see how other writers write.  Everyone's style is different but that doesn't mean you can't learn from reading.

Next up on my self-study reading is a book by Orson Scott Card titled 'Characters & Viewpoint'.  It's part of the Elements of Fiction Writing series put out by Writer's Digest Books.  I've just started it so I will withhold comments for now.  There are several books in this series and I went ahead and bought all of them.

One final note.  Linda Nagata's daughter took an awesome picture while visiting a volcano in Hawaii. In case you've forgotten, Linda was one of the authors at Launchpad with me.  You've got to check out this photo:  http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/traveler-magazine/photo-contest/2012/entries/144977/view/

2012-08-12

Obsessed with Life

After a week of working nights (which leaves virtually no time to write) I've managed to find the time to get some writing done over the weekend.  I temporarily put Peacekeeper aside to work on a short story called Obsessed With Life.  I was up early both Saturday and Sunday and the story is nearly complete.  I hope to have it finished by next week.  My wife will then look it over and do her proofing magic and then I'll have my dad take a gander at it.  Once all the changes from those two readers are incorporated into the story I will have one of the Launchpad folks look it over.  I hope to get it published in a magazine both in the US and abroad.  I'll let you know what happens.

I've been reading 'The Bohr Maker' by Linda Nagata (another indie author I met at Launchpad).  So far I'm enjoying it very much.  I'm about 65% complete.  I plan on giving it a good 5-star review once I'm done.  Nice job Linda!

2012-08-09

Stephen King : On Writing

I just finished reading Stephen King's "On Writing".  This book was recommended by several of the people from Launchpad.  It was a good read and provided a window into the mind of a very good writer.  He does point out that every writer has his/her own distinct method of writing.  Some use outlines, some develop detailed plots, and others (like him and, interestingly enough, myself) simply let the story evolve on its own.  Like me, Mr. King starts off with an idea for a story and then just starts writing.

I have requested permission from the publisher to use a quote from the book in all my future novels:

"Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes.  The object of fiction isn't grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story … to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all."

In other news, as soon as I have time to write, I will be working on a short story.  Peacekeeper is coming along nicely but the short story will have priority.  Don't worry, it won't take me long at all to write it.  I have the entire story in my head complete with two possible endings.  One of my new friends from Launchpad will be reviewing it (and choosing the best ending) and then I'm going to submit it to several magazines starting with Lightspeed.  This will help promote my other books.

Finally, I had another stellar review on Amazon.co.uk (the UK version of Amazon.com) of "Honor Thy Enemy" which included a mention of the entire Galactic Alliance series.  Five stars: "I've just finished the trilogy from the Kindle store, took about a week as I have to work. As an ageing, lifelong fan of Space Opera (but I prefer 'hard') science fiction this is great stuff! It's reads as well as Asimov and Niven, has twists like Heinlein and engages like Bear and Bova.

Really looking forward to Peacekeeper and much, much more.!" 

It's reviews like the above that will keep me writing!  Thank you Garrath Earnshaw "Country Boy" (W. Yorks United Kingdom) and everyone else who have commented.