2015-06-28

Content

It has been a busy week at our house. Despite all my other activities, I've been continuing to write. Dragonverse Origins now stands at 47,152 words out of a projected 85,000. I've been dividing my free time between reading up on WordPress, reading a very well-written book titled why does E=mc^2, and writing. My copy of Showing & Telling is at work and I read it during lunch and bathroom breaks.

I've been thinking about the content of this blog. The subjects have always focused on writing and keeping you posted on my progress. I have not settled on a single main theme because writing requires a broad set of skills and knowledge. But, I'm wondering if I should narrow my focus a bit. If you are a regular reader of this blog please comment if you have any suggestions along these lines.

As an indie author who is doing well with book sales (note I did not include the word "very") I have been invited to sit on several panels at this year's WorldCon. The panels I've accepted are:

  • Self Publishing - How to do it; Finance for Writers
  • The Future of "Back to the Future" or, Just Where is my flying skateboard?
  • The New Space Opera
  • Self Publishing - How to Market Your Work.
The official schedule will be released toward the end of July.

I read an interesting tweet yesterday with a link to another writer's blog concerning the formatting of books. The types of books I write don't require a great deal of formatting because virtually all of my sales are in the form of e-books. I do, however, have printed versions of my books. I have often thought about going back and redoing the formatting of all my books. Createspace has quite a bit of information on their site. If you search, you can find all sorts of information. Formatting a book is not an easy process. For myself, I'm not too concerned. Perhaps I will reformat if sales pick up and I start selling more hard-copies.

One more thing before I close this week's post. If you find yourself in Northern Ohio in the Cleveland area or East of that city, drop me a line if you would like to meet. I'm always interested in getting to know the people who read my books and I would like to hear your feedback. I prefer if you are open and honest about your comments as well -- that's how I learn.

2015-06-21

In the Zone

If you're a writer, you know what I'm talking about--that floating feeling you get when you're 'in the zone'. It happens to me when I write code as well. Being interrupted when you're in the zone is like stopping a race-car driver in the middle of the final lap to ask him for an interview. I had been at an impasse and pretty well stuck all week. Following my own advice, I let the story sit but I continually brought it up in my head. This alerted my subconscious to the fact that this was important and needed to be solved.

Yesterday morning I was still unsure of how to proceed but I sat down to write anyway. I re-read the last couple of pages, came to the end and- - -nothing. I deleted the hanging paragraph I'd started then went back and edited a few paragraphs I'd written a few weeks ago to fix an issue I knew wouldn't work. When I went back to where I left off, I stared at the screen, fingers poised over the keyboard but nothing happened. I walked away, ate breakfast, caught up on Twitter, fed the cats and sat back down. This time, an idea popped into my head and I started typing.

At first, it was a bit rough. I went back and fixed a few things, deleted several paragraphs, and moved on. By the time my wife got up, the problem was solved and I was hammering away at the keyboard. I added a few more lines and hit save. We went to Barnes & Noble and after playing a round of Scrabble I popped open the laptop. Dividing my time between my wife and my writing I managed to squeak out another 278 words. Later that evening, my wife went to visit her mother and sister leaving me alone in the house. Not wanting to waste any time I opened the netbook and started typing away. The zone formed and I banged out 748 words in just over an hour.

Dragonverse Origins now stands at 45,647 words which is over the half-way point. I believe I have a clear path from here to the end.

I did, however, get my first comments back from Lee Dilkie, my content-editor and overall fan-based adviser. He honestly pointed out the fact that the first chapter started out great but the next 3 or 4 were boring. I'm not sure if I can fix this or not because I need to do a lot of set-up at the start of this book. I'll noodle on it and see what happens. No matter what though, I will be doing some massive editing once the first draft is done. Having someone who isn't afraid to tell you the truth is like having a stack of gold bullion in your safe deposit box.

I have created a test website hosted by biz.nfhttp://www.biz.nf/free-wordpress-hosting.php. I've started along the path of learning WordPress. So far, I've not spent much time at it but it does not appear to be too difficult. I will have to be learning PHP, HTML, CSS, and a few other internet technologies. I did look into night or weekend classes offered at our local community college but didn't find anything. So, for now, I'm on my own.

Now comes the hard part: what do I do this morning? Do I write more, learn about WordPress, or read a fascinating book I picked up at B&N called "Why Does E=MC^2"? I want to read, but I need to write and learn WordPress. Time for breakfast so the subconscious can decide for me.

2015-06-14

WordPress

The other week, while at Launch Pad, I made a commitment to help keep the Launch Pad website updated. In order to meet this commitment, I will have to learn WordPress. This is both a good and a bad thing for me. The bad part is that it will take away the time I have for writing. The good part is that I will be learning a skill that can help me move my author website to a better platform and it will give me a skill I can leverage later on when I decide to retire from FirstEnergy. I've been wanting to learn how to build web pages for a very long time and this commitment makes it pretty much mandatory that I finally follow through on this desire.

My plan is to set up a free WordPress site called DougLearnsWordPress and use it to play around with building and maintaining a site. This will be a subdomain since I'm going to be throughing it away after I have learned enough to be comfortable with it. My author website is currently hosted on Webs.com. I started out with a free account but went to the paid version when I exceeded the number of pages allowed on the free account. Webs is easy to use because they have their own proprietary website builder. It does limit you to what you can do. I'm seriously thinking of moving to HostGator.

I chatted with a HostGator rep and he informed me that they are unable to move a website from Webs.com to HostGator. This means I will have to build my site from scratch when I do the move. This can also be a good thing as it is also another learning experience. My current contract with Webs expires in May of 2016 giving me plenty of time to learn WordPress.

I've hit a stall in Dragonverse Origins. I need to move forward in time about 2 months but doing so would make the book exceptionally long and insert a long boring section. I will need to use summary to move ahead but I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to include in this summary. Too little detail and the reader will be lost. Too much detail and the reader will become bored. I've been noodling on this for 4 days now. This is not the first time this has happened and I'm sure it will not be the last. I will eventually find a way around the problem and the writing will continue.

I've also been doing a review of Grammarly thanks to a free professional account provided by the company. I am still doing an evaluation but here are my initial thoughts:

  • The online version is severely limited in the amount of text it can check. Uploaded a partial document, making the changes, downloading the changes, and then merging everything back together into a full document is too difficult. I don't see a use for the online version by anyone.
  • The Word extension works well but it does disable the automatic backup feature of Word. This is not stated up front on the Grammarly website but there are good warnings provided after you install the extension.
  • I (along with a large number of my author friends) use Scrivener to write their initial draft. Although Grammarly does not integrate with Scrivener, this should not be a problem as most writers output their work to Word and do their final editing there.
  • Grammarly seems to excel at finding comma errors. It is also quite good at pointing out a variety of other grammatical mistakes. As with any automated grammar checker, there will be times when the program finds things that it thinks are mistakes but really are not. This is to be expected.
  • Grammarly is much better than Word when it comes to grammar checking.
  • The interface seems a bit slow but that could be because I am using an older netbook with a slower internet connection. Bear in mind that Grammarly does work over the internet and if you are hooked to a slow connection you will experience a bit of frustration. I used it in an airport and I could tell it was running quite slow.
  • The cost is what bothers me the most. Grammarly is a subscription-based service, like Microsoft Office is now. As a writer, I don't care much about grammar while I'm doing my first, second, or even third draft. I begin to look at grammar very closely in my final draft. This might be a year or more since I started a project. I also have an editor who checks my work. If the company offered an inexpensive way to check a single document then this would be a great way to double-check an editor's work.
Is Grammarly worth it? I'm still doing my evaluation and the jury-in my case-is still out. For those writers who crank out a short story once a month I think Grammarly would be a wise investment. If you do a lot of writing and you need to have your work grammatically correct all the time, then Grammarly is again a good choice. If you are a writer who works in Scrivener most of the year and then uses Word to perform your final editing, Grammarly may or may not work for you. You will have to weigh the benefits of the program against the cost. If you have an editor, then perhaps you don't need the program. If you don't have an editor, I would seriously consider spending the money on Grammarly.

I will be doing a final review in a couple of weeks. If my position has not changed, I will just reference this post. Otherwise, I will be posting my final comments on the product at that time.

2015-06-07

A Week at Launch Pad

Thanks to my time at Launch Pad, Dragonverse Origins now stands at 42,242 words. I’m sitting in the Denver airport writing this post and then I will return to working on Origins.

I had a great time at Launch Pad this year—my fourth time. I know I will always have a great time every year. If you’re a writer, editor, or work in the entertainment industry, I urge you to apply for acceptance into next year’s Launch Pad. There is room for about 18 applicants each year. Even if you are positive you will not be accepted, please apply anyway. The number of applicants can be used to help secure funding for future sessions.

Since this is my fourth time through the course, I spent most of my time writing. Although I’ve been returning to this event every year since 2012, I’m actually not part of the ‘official’ staff. That honor is reserved for the instructors:  Founders Professor Mike Brotherton and Professor Jim Verley, and returning instructors Andria Schwartz and Christian Ready. I am a returning alumni who helps out by being one of the drivers. Having someone who has been through the course before has worked out for Mike and my invitation to return each year is still in effect.

I spent a considerable amount of time discussing my self-publishing success with some the traditionally published writers. Indie authors like myself are gaining ground in acceptance among the traditional writers. Provided indies continue to adhere to high standards, this trend should continue. The big disappointment this year was the last-minute cancelation of Kameron Hurley. Based on the tweets I’ve been reading from her I was really looking forward to meeting her. I am hoping she will reapply next year.

I also spent quite a bit of time talking to Steve Davidson, publisher of Amazing Stories. I will be sending him an email concerning my upcoming appearance on a panel at WorldCon. When it’s all over, I will be writing an article about my experience that will appear in his quickly-growing magazine. He will not be attending WorldCon.

One of my ongoing complaints with Launch Pad has been the outdated quality of their website. After discussing this with Mike Brotherton and Christian Ready, they've agreed to give me admin access to the site so I can try to bring it up-to-date. I have no plans to change the overall look and feel of the website, but I do intend on trying to keep it up-to-date. My first task, when I arrive back home, will be to learn WordPress. As soon as I'm comfortable with it, I will begin updating the Launch Pad website.

In other news, Grammarly has given me a free account to evaluate their product. My initial experience has been mixed, but I'm still learning my way around the product. I will present my honest views of this program from an indie author’s perspective in the near future.