2013-02-25

02-24-2013: Peacekeeper update

I'm working on the final battle scene in Peacekeeper.  Added about 700 words this weekend.  I've been transitioning to night shift so my normal morning writing sessions over the weekend just didn't happen.  I still think I will be able to have the first draft of Peacekeeper complete by the time I start working 12-hour days but in order to do so I will have to get my butt in gear.

I was thinking about my up-coming schedule where I'll be working 12-hour days, 6 days a week and I came to an interesting conclusion:  I might be able to actually get some writing done.  I will be working days which means on my one day off (Tuesday) I will be maintaining my day-shift schedule.  This means I will be getting up early (my wife is a bit of a night owl) and I will have a few hours to write.  This means I might be able to finish the second draft of Peacekeeper by the time the outage is over.

I thought I would update you on Scrivener.  I've been using it long enough now to offer a conclusive recommendation to use this product if you are a serious writer.  If you have a Mac you will find the version of Scrivener for that platform to be full of cool features.  The Windows version (the one I've been using) is behind the Mac in features but is still a handy program.  The cost is very reasonable as well.  Here are my pros and cons--bear in mind these are for the Windows version:

Pros:

  • Returns to the last location you were at when you reopen the project even if you reopen it on another computer.
  • Compiles the document into many formats.
  • Can automatically generate chapter headings and number them.
  • Built-in name generator is handy.
  • Split-screen dual editors are a very handy way to keep track of notes, characters, things to do, etc.
  • Can be used to outline the entire novel either as you work (if your a SOP writer like me) or before you get moving.
  • Works very well with Drop-Box.
Cons:

  • Windows version lacks many of the nicer features found in the Mac version.  These are mostly associated with the output formatting options.
  • Document generation options are limited but can be overcome by making editing changes in the final output.  For example: I have a few places where there is a break in the action or a scene shift and I use a blank line followed by five centered asterisks and then another blank line.  Scrivener can easily handle this as a sub-document but cannot automatically generate the centered set of asterisks.  I have to resort to putting it in manually but during the outputting process (called Compile) the center formatting of the asterisks is stripped.
  • Every once in a long while a huge section of text seems to vanish as I type.  This is easily reversed with CTRL+Z but it represents a strange bug in the program.

All in all I really like Scrivener and I highly recommend it.

2013-02-18

02-18-2013: Peacekeeper update

Peacekeeper now at 80,515 words.  Closing in on the end.  I did do what I said I wouldn't--I went back and revised the story to make the timeline fit.  I'm very glad I did it too!  If I had kept writing, the story line would have been very hard to fix.  I also didn't know what to write since the timeline was all messed up.  I created a spreadsheet and laid the major events down.  I had to add quite a bit of new material to bring the timeline into alignment with what I was trying to accomplish.  It actually made the book much better.  There is a lesson to be learned here - take the time to write a lot of notes about your book as you go along and make a timeline of major events.

I've said in the past that I'm not the kind of author who creates an outline and then writes the story.  Can't do it.  The story unfolds as I write it.  But, there's something to be said about having an outline.  So here's another lesson to be learned - if you don't start with an outline, take the time to build one as the story is written.

One more lesson, one that I thought I had learned but fell back and didn't follow while I wrote Peacekeeper - Always, always, keep detailed descriptions of your characters, no matter how minor, in another file.  I didn't do that with quite a few characters and now I'm regretting it.  I did well with the major players but I didn't bother with the minor ones because, well, they're minor.  Here's why you should keep those descriptions:  Let's say you have a minor character, a waitress for example.  She has a brief mention and says two sentences early in the book.  You describe her as having red hair and a squeaky voice.  Later in the book, you return to the restaurant and the waitress says, "I remember you, how have you been?"  You decide at that moment to give her a slightly more prominent role and they have a short conversation.  But, during the conversation you mention she runs her hand through her blonde hair and has a deep laugh.  You miss this during the first draft because months may have passed.  You miss it in the second revision because you have so many things in your head already that the discrepancy is overlooked.  You catch it in the third revision because you're reading a lot faster and you remember what she looked like.  Now you have to stop and make sure you fix all the references to her especially if she shows up again.  What happens if you miss one?  You look like a total dolt.

As a reminder - I will be at Millennicon in Cincinnati March 15 to March 17.  I'm not going as an author though.  If you happen to run into me, stop me and say hi.  Immediately thereafter I will be working 12 hour days, 6 days a week for the next couple of months.  I most likely will not update this blog during that time.  I will also be at Dragon*Con from 8-29 until 9-2.

Back to writing...

2013-02-09

02-09-13: Peacekeeper update

Peacekeeper is now at 76,000 plus words and I am now working on the final few chapters.  Unfortunately, there's a LOT of editing left to do.  The problem with trying to write a long novel on weekends only is that the details of the story tend to fade a bit in between times spent on the computer.  As things are starting to come together, I've taken to adding to my todo list instead of going back and actually doing the editing.  This way, I can actually finish the book and then go back and edit it.

Many of the problems involve character development and a few have to do with the timeline.  I recently discovered that a fairly major character suddenly vanished toward the end of the story.  Now, I'm a fan of the cult scifi classic "Plan 9 From Outer Space" where Bella Lugosi dies before finishing the movie so the director just drops his character, but that sort of thing won't fly in my books.  I think the first editing pass is going to be a lot of work.

One of the other things involves the main character and how I would like the reader to get to know him very well.  As I approach the end of the first draft I realize that I have not accomplished my goal.  More things to add to the list of corrections.

In other news, I have to admit that I've recently learned a huge lesson about writing.  I've read a number of books about writing and the knowledge of how to write a good story is there.  I just have to learn how to apply it.  Example:  I submitted a short story that will be published as part of an anthology.  Jody Nye and Mike Brotherton are editing it.  Jody is a fantastic editor and she gave me some good tips on how to turn my otherwise good short story into a great story.  Everything she said was something I'd read about and thought I had learned.  Reading and applying that knowledge are two very different entities.  In writing, the only way to apply your knowledge is to write and have someone point out where you didn't apply that knowledge.  She has been very patient and the end result is a very good story.

Writers need to learn from each other.  The more experienced ones should help those who are starting on that path find the right road.  If you are new to writing, find yourself a good writers group with some experienced members and join.  Bring what you are working on to the meeting and LISTEN to the advice.  If you can't take criticism then you shouldn't be a writer.  Anyone who has ever learned how to ski knows you can't learn unless you fall down a few times.  Learn from the fall, get back up, and try again.  Eventually, you will be writing great stories.