2014-05-25

Update and Mailing List

Peacekeeper 2 Update
The manuscript currently stands at 64,868 words. Yesterday at B&N I wrote the final battle scene. I have the concluding chapters to write and a little surprise at the end which I will also be posting to my web page once it's done - an interview with the two main characters.

I hope to finish the first draft of Peacekeeper this week while I'm on vacation. I will take a very short break to read Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice and then I will begin my first editing pass. I plan on making quite a few changes to what has already been written. Once that second pass is done I'll have to set the book aside for awhile to let things congeal and then the second pass begins. If all goes well, that should be done by the time I get back from Launch Pad in Laramie, WY. I will print it out and give it to my wife for her magic.

My wife is my grammatical proofreader. She is not a fan of science fiction but she does know how to catch poor grammar. A few items have slipped by and that might have been due to how I enter her changes. In making the changes I might have introduced a few errors myself. She's proofed the last 3 or 4 books I've written.

I will keep everyone informed as to my progress.

Mailing List
I sent out an email to everyone on my mailing list asking if they wanted to be informed via email when I post a blog. I did this because most people are so overwhelmed with the amount of stuff in their social media feeds that reading all of it is a nearly impossible task. That's one reason I don't follow many people on Twitter. I rarely look at my Facebook page and I look at Google+ even less. I work long hours and spending even 30 minutes on social network sites cuts down my time with my wife as well as my writing time.

I was informed that I forgot to put a subject in the subject line which might explain the low number of replies. Sorry about that. I'm going to resend the email with a link to this blog post attached to make sure everyone gets a chance to comment. The main question is - do you want a weekly email reminding you of my weekly blog post?

If you are not on my mailing list and you would like to be on it please send me a request at author@dougfarren.com.

Work Related
I've been doing a lot of Microsoft Access programming recently. I did that sort of work for 6 years until our company decided that my group no longer had a purpose. I ended up moving back to the Instrument and Control shop in 2004. But things have now gone full circle again. If you recall, I recently took a position as a planner at the plant. Shortly after that, I was asked to become part of a special project to reduce the number of maintenance items we are performing. I was specifically brought on board because of my programming talents. I got the database the group is using up and running and then found other things to do.

I'd forgotten how much I love programming. It's mostly just VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) but when used properly it's a powerful tool. I would prefer to program in C# or VB.net but that platform is not something others at the plant would know how to use. I build database applications that can be maintained for years by people who do not have tons of programming experience. The problem we have at the plant is there are a large number of Access databases built by people who have little knowledge of how to build a database that is easy to maintain and extensible. It takes more up-front work, but it pays for itself in the long run.

2014-05-18

Writer's Retreat

Peacekeeper Update
63,526 words -- final battle is in progress -- the ending is in sight -- much editing to do once the first draft is complete. I don't know if I will meet my self-imposed and ambitious goal of getting the first draft done by the end of the month but I'm sure going to give it a try. Stay tuned...

Writer's Retreat
After working 12-hour days all week I've spent the weekend at a writer's retreat. This was held in Geneva-On-The-Lake which is a ten-minute drive from my house. I elected to commute instead of getting a room. I've met another great group of writers, learned some things, and wrote a bunch of words. Today is the last day and I'm going to make this post short so I can get back to the group.

One of the best speakers was a man named Don Brun. He knows many famous authors and is a very well-connected down to earth type of person. What encouraged me the most was his opening statements. He said he's heard the other speakers talk about the technicalities of writing and the techniques to be used. He said (and this is not a direct quote); "I don't know any of that stuff. I don't really know what I'm doing but I do know that what I've been doing is working. I've written 13 books and I've been paid for them all. So I'm just going to stand up here and tell you my story." And that's the way it went. I think I would have said the same thing had I been standing in front of the group (although my book count is not quite that high).

The point here is that you don't need an award, you don't need a degree, you don't even need a terrible amount of education in order to become a successful writer. What you do need is an ear for words and the ability to tell a story. As Don points out, a writer is nothing more than a storyteller able to put the story into written form. Your success as a writer should not be judged on how many awards you've been nominated for because out of the tens of thousands of writers who are out there very very few even get nominated. Your success as a writer should be based on how your story is received. I get letters from fans and people asking me when my next book is coming out -- that's enough for me.

Don't get me wrong -- being nominated for an award is a great honor and it does help book sales. But not being nominated does not mean you are a terrible writer destined to be forgotten. My heart-felt congratulations goes out to this years winners and nominees of the annual SFWA Nebula awards. I will be meeting one of them later this year at Launch Pad. I am looking forward to meeting her as well as all the other talented writers.

Now - I must head back to the writer's retreat where I hope to crank out some more words.

2014-05-11

Never Stop Learning

Peacekeeper Update
I managed to get quite a bit of writing done last week and the word count now stands at 57,854. All of the story snags have been resolved and the only thing standing in my way now is time to get the book finished. This is, of course, only the first draft. I will set the book aside for a short time to take a break and then begin work on the first editing pass. I have lots of editing to do.

Education
We had our monthly writer's group meeting yesterday. I walked away from it wondering how I've managed to sell any books at all. We have a fairly new member of the group who writes Gothic fiction. When he first appeared in the group we had quite a number of critical feedback for him. He's been with us now for several months and yesterday he blew us away with how much he has improved. This guy is going to go far! He has an entire set of worlds as well as a large series of books planned out. He has a very descriptive writing style that immediately puts you into his world and refuses to let you step back out. He's obviously been learning how to write.

I also read something at the meeting and received some very useful feedback. Comparing what I wrote and what the other guy read was like a slap on the side of the head. His writing digs deeply into the meat of a scene, explaining things in a way that puts the reader there with the characters. My style is a little more distant, putting the reader near the scene but leaving enough to the imagination for each person to be able to conjure up their own scene in their head. Which style is better? His I believe -- and I'm going to try to make Peacekeeper a better book by learning how to be more descriptive.

If a reader has to think about creating a scene then he or she is having to devote a part of their brain to do so. If a writer's words are so descriptive and done so in a skillful manner, the reader is immersed in the world of the writer without even realizing it. Time passes as the reader is swept off into a distant land, the world around her fading away into nothing. I am hoping to learn how to write like that and the only way for that to happen is to keep on learning.

Writers must be able to accept feedback and they must realize that like any other occupation writing is a never-ending process of learning. If someone has a comment about what you've written, listen to them! They are telling you something you need to know. Don't become defensive. Think about the feedback and try to learn something from it. A writer should never stop learning.

In today's hectic world, finding time to learn can be difficult. A friend of mine (Jamie Todd Rubin) is a very good writer who also holds down a job. He 'reads' using audio books. I think I'm going to look into this because I spend about an hour a day in my car. That's enough time to listen to a lot of books every year. Instead of listening to NPR news or music, I think I'm going to check into listening to audio books.

Upcoming Events
Next weekend I will be attending a writer's retreat. This one's a bit unique in that I will be returning home each day. It's being held at a local B&B where most of the writers who are attending will be renting rooms. Since I live so close I'll just drive there every day. I hope to get quite a bit of writing done as well as socializing.

July is fast approaching and I will be leaving for Launch Pad. I won't be doing daily blogs this time as it would only be a repeat of what happened last year. I will keep everyone up-to-date on interesting activities though. I am looking forward to meeting another group of fine writers.

Dream Job
I have officially turned down the chance to change positions at the power plant and to work in what could have been my dream job. I love to program and I'm very good with Microsoft Access. When a planning position opened up a few months ago I applied for it. During the supervisory / managerial review process of the applicants  my supervisor brought up the fact that I have quite a bit of experience writing database programs. A manager in the room heard this and wanted to hire me as a DBA (DataBase Administrator) -- a position that had been empty for some time. I got the planner job and then he approached me about the DBA job.

On the surface, it sounded like my dream job. I would be working with databases and mostly MS Access. It would involve a lot of programming as well. But, after digging deeper there were other duties and issues which I won't get into here. In the end, I turned down the job. The manager was very disappointed. But, I don't like to burn bridges so I asked this manager to have his group put together a top 3 wish list of things a future DBA would be expected to work on. I've already solved the first issue and I'm working on the next two. Everyone seems happy and I'm having fun as well.

2014-05-04

Timelines

It's Sunday and I almost forgot I needed to put out a blog post.

Peacekeeper Update
I've managed to find a way to get some writing done while at work. I have been involved in a special project now for about 2 weeks. I was selected for this project because of my database programming abilities. As such, when I'm not actively doing that work, I'm free to do whatever suits my fancy. Of course, I spend most of the time working on my other assigned work but when I need a break or I'm eating lunch, I'm writing. I've managed to get quite a bit of work done this last week. Peacekeeper 2 now stands at 52,529 words. I'm hoping to have the first draft finished by the end of this month.

Timelines
Yesterday, I was forced to put the writing on hold so I could build a timeline of activities that take place throughout the book. Normally, I'm quite good at holding all this information in my head but I was beginning to have doubts if things actually fit together in a logical sequence. I used an Excel spreadsheet to build a Gantt chart of major events. Surprisingly, everything seems to work out. What was surprising was that the story takes place over a 90 day period. Much shorter than I had imagined. Things might easily get stretched out some more as I work on the second draft but now at least I have a workable timeline to refer to.

The point I would like to make is simple - make a timeline as you write. If you look at my past blog posts you might run across some advice I gave concerning this and--yes--I did not follow my own advice. I do write down some basic notes about things as the novel progresses but I am not as detailed about it as I should be. I failed to keep a timeline from the start and I failed to record essential details I would need later on. Live and learn. Perhaps I'll remember this when I start my next project.

Pivotal Events
This topic is a bit off from my normal writing stuff but I've been thinking about this for a long time. I'm sure everyone out there can relate as well. There are certain events in our lives that are pivotal and it is those events that seem to change the course we take through life. I used to believe that these events happen for a reason -- now I'm not so sure. They happen because they happened. Our brain tries to make sense of these things and it comes to the conclusion that the events that change our lives happen for a reason. It's the way we all think. For some unknown reason, we can't accept the fact that our lives are very much affected by random events.

For example: Back in 2012, sales of Translight took off for no particular reason. That giant spike in sales is what got me accepted into the Launch Pad Workshop. It was there that I met a wonderful group of people and my life has not been the same since. If that spike in sales had not occurred, I would not have gone to Launch Pad and I would not know the people I know now. I would not have been published in an anthology and I most likely would never have gone to DragonCon.

Another example: I went to a local writer's conference and had some negative feedback for the administrator of the event. I sent her an email detailing my concerns. She replied, explained why things were the way they were, and told me about an annual writer's retreat that is held only a few miles from here. I'm going at the end of this month. Had I kept my opinion to myself or had I not gone to the conference I would never have known about the retreat. I hope to meet some local writers and perhaps forge some friendships.