Biography

First Draft Complete

For the past few months, I’ve tried to do my best impression of a hermit. I’ve cut back on doing some things, like the internet (I’m looking at you Facebook/movie sites/music sites/comic sites/fun sites in general),  going to not-quite must-see movies, posting here on my blog, and a few other things. It freed up an alarming amount of time—time that I guess I had been wasting before. ‘Wasting’ may be too harsh a word, but in any case, instead of doing all that, I focused on writing. The end result of which is that the first draft of the sequel to Dragonlinked is complete. (/cheer)

As I think I’ve mentioned before, creating an outline was a great help. I worked out the major and minor plot lines, switched them around, threw some out, etc, ahead of time. While writing, I only had to fill in details and flesh out character actions/reactions. I did alter some things slightly in the writing, as I found better flows as I went a long. But draft one is now complete.

On to the editing, the tweaking or revising, designing a cover, and last, but not least, coming up with a title!

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Dragonlinked Available as Trade Paperback

It’s been a while coming, but Dragonlinked is now available as a Trade Paperback from CreateSpace.com at the link HERE. So, if you’ve thought about picking it up, but didn’t have an eBook reader, now’s your chance! The production quality is very nice too; I showed one of the proofs to my critique group and it wowed them.

The process of getting it set up on CreateSpace.com was fairly simple too. Well, aside from the formatting changes I had to make. In the eBook world, there are no such things as ‘pages,’ per-se. They are more like web pages than anything, in that you sort of just scroll through the document. So, my manuscript didn’t have page numbers, nor headers in which to place page numbers. And what should the headers look like anyway? I went to my room and pulled a few dozen books off the bookcase and took a sampling of their page layouts. The majority of layouts seemed to have the page numbers at the tops of the pages, on the outside edge, and the headers on the odd pages had the book title centered, with the even-numbered pages having the author’s name centered. So I saved my manuscript as a new document and made all the formatting changes in there. I also noticed that on the first page of a new chapter, there were no headers. I had to Google how to do that (in OpenOffice, place your cursor somewhere on the page and select the page style “First Page”). There were a few other minor adjustments, like adding the ISBNs to the copyright page, and I also added an About the Author page, which I had not included in the eBook version.

Once I completed all the formatting, I printed it to a PDF printer (exporting as PDF would probably work as well) which creates a PDF document as its output. I had to make sure I selected one of the predefined PDF formats that included the fonts in the PDF document. CreateSpace.com requires that because they do not have every font. This allows the author to use whatever font or fonts they want in their book, and CreateSpace.com can still print it. I then uploaded the PDF to CreateSpace.com. Next, I had to tweak the cover image.

The cover that CreateSpace.com needs is the entire outside cover of the book: back, spine and front. The cover is actually what took the longest to get right. Because it can vary so much from book to book, due to page counts and book dimensions chosen, they can’t give you a prefect template for the cover. If you think about it, you’ll realize why. A book with 100 pages will have a much thinner spine than a book with 500 pages. As such, the overall width of the cover will also be different. At any rate, I sent a cover with my best guess based on their template. It took about 24 hours for CreateSpace.com to do their own checking of the documents. When they were done, they let me know the book was ready for proofing. I ordered a physical proof (they print and send you and actual book as it will be printed for customers, with only the word “Proof” added on the last page) and made adjustments based on the proof I got. It took me four proofs, but it finally got to the point I was satisfied.

It’s a great feeling to hold a physical copy of it in my hand. 🙂

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Moonflower Submitted for Kindle Singles Consideration

I finally got Moonflower and its companion story, Brilliant Points of Light, to the point where I am happy with them, so today, I  submitted Moonflower to Amazon for consideration as a Kindle Singles offering. Here’s hoping they like it enough to accept it. Even if it isn’t accepted, however, I will still publish it as a normal Kindle eBook.

Next on my to-do list is getting Dragonlinked ready for CreateSpace as a trade paperback. That shouldn’t take too long. Then I will finish outlining Dragonlinked 2 (title to be decided later) and continue writing it. There is so much I have learned in my writing group that I was able to apply as I wrote the two short stories. Knowledge I will be able to use going forward with DL2 and everything else I write. I’ve also read comments and reviews and find that I tend to agree with those talking about length and amount of detail. Working on the short stories, tweaking and rewriting based on critiques, showed me power of trimming the fat, so to speak. But finding the right balance is key. Cut out all the fat and your burger is dry and tasteless.

Ah well. Life is a learning process, and so is writing. It’s part of what makes it so much fun. 🙂

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Tension and Immediacy. Don’t Make This Mistake.

I’ve said before that a writing group is a great thing. And though last week I posted a link to another blogger’s tip about avoiding writing groups gone bad, good writing groups can help immensely.

Case in point. I have been struggling with a scene in my mini-story for nearly a month. I’d gotten a few notes that the scene didn’t have the punch that it could, the reader wasn’t feeling the drama, that kind of thing. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I read the scene over and over and over, even tweaked it a few times. But it didn’t quite grab like I wanted it to. It was close, but still not there. This past week, however, one of the men in the group phrased his thinking of what was wrong in a way that finally clicked for me. And once I heard it, it was the most obvious thing in the world. But I hadn’t realized it until then. I’ll use a television or movie metaphor for what was wrong with my scene.

In a show or movie, when the action heats up between two characters, the camera tends to zoom in on them. This gives you a better view of their expressions, gives more punch to their words (they’re clearer, and you can hear a hissed whisper) and allows you to see all the details and the subtle interplay between them. This gets the viewer more involved in what’s going on. Writers use the same technique. This part I knew. It’s related, in a way, to deep point of view. The kicker is there is a corollary to this. Don’t  zoom out from the close-up too many times during the tense exchanges. It’s distracting and keeps the viewer from getting into the action.

In my scene I had been cutting between close-ups and wide shots, back and forth, instead of staying close-up longer. That was a big part of why the scene wasn’t as dramatic as it could be. It’s fine to occasionally pull out to a wide shot to give some detail of surroundings, but not in the middle of a dramatic moment or as you are trying to build up the tension. Wait until a lull between exciting parts or maybe slip it in before the action gets going. After looking over the scene with this in mind, I made some adjustments. I was more careful of where the narrator intruded and watched where (and how) I described surroundings. I think it worked. The scene seems snappier and more tense.

So, if you are having trouble getting a scene to ‘pop,’ check if you are making too many switches between close-ups and wide shots. Stay with the close-up longer!

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Participate in a Writing/Critique Group

The internet and books can provide you with a wide range of information to help you improve your writing, true. But, as far as the internet, I have found that the majority of what you find are the ‘rules,’ such as grammar. And sure, there are some sites—and many books—where you can find general information about plot, pacing, conflict and the like. But for detailed information, information about your book/poem/short story, there’s no place like a writing group to get good, honest criticism to help make it better.

In both books and on the internet, I’d read authors who said that joining a writing group/critique group had helped them improve as writers. I was leery of the idea, however. But seeing the same advice over and over, I thought I should at least see what all the fuss was about. So, gathering my courage, I attended one. I had joined the Facebook group for the San Antonio Writer’s Guild, and I saw a post there about free critique sessions that were starting up. I read up how it would work, printed out copies of the first few pages of chapter one of my next book, and on the meeting day, drove over, terrified. You see, I had just put up my first book on Amazon the night before, and, while my test readers all loved it, they are not ‘professionals,’ so I was not sure how my writing would be received by other authors. It went shockingly well. Well, shocking to me—I had no idea what to expect. Everyone there was a writer, and the genres represented were wildly diverse, which in itself was valuable to me, allowing me to see and hear how plot, pacing, etc, works in varying types of writing. The one thing you need to remember, though, is to not take the criticisms personally. Use them. They are inside information, valuable insights. Do keep in mind that it is your work, your writing, so pick and choose what suggestions you want to incorporate. But even those you don’t use can help you see things in a new light.

I have learned a great deal about writing that I did not know before. Some of the things I have learned so far I had never even read or heard hints about. Others, bits I had read about, I finally ‘got’ when explained in practical terms. I find that the aspect of writing that I need to work on most right now is point of view. I tend to have a wider point of view than is customary, so I am trying to refine it, to tighten it up a bit in my writing. And that is the value of these groups. You learn about the art of writing, the craft.

Anyone can look up the definition of ‘past tense’ on the internet, but I had never found any talk about how to handle a large section in your book that takes place in the past, how to transition into that section and how to transition out, except in my group. And it works. The tip: Use a had or two to lead into the section and one or two to lead out. The rest of the time, use whatever your normal tense is (I write in past tense, though some write in present). This way had doesn’t appear a million times in the section. I also try to throw in a now (or some other mechanic) at the end beyond just going back to the normal tense to let the reader know that we’ve returned to the present.

Though it is terrifying, I highly recommend finding a writing/critique group in your area and get into it. You can’t put a price on the things you will learn.

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It’s a Quiet Heart, Like a Car Alarm

I’d listened to True Loves by Hooray For Earth several times before those lyrics finally hit me. They made me think about the first time I fell in love and all the times I’ve been deeply in love since, and I had to agree: that’s kinda how it feels. I also realized that it was the same feeling I had as this writing bug made its presence fully known.

I’m kind of odd, or maybe not. I’m not completely sure. You see, it takes me a while to realize when someone or something has won over my heart. A failing of mine that I lament. But about this writing thing—I’ve crafted tales, made up elaborate stories, since I was a young child. My mother has reel-to-reel audio tapes of me going on and on about monkeys feasting on tortillas and other happenings that are perfectly logical to a child of six or seven (you younger people scratching your heads can google reel-to-reel audio). And in high-school, I crafted several beginnings of tales, some science fiction, some fantasy, though I don’t believe I actually finished any of them. The first taste of ‘real’ writing didn’t come until college, or university, depending on your country of origin. I had been going for a BS in computer science and had convinced the dean of the department to allow me to minor in English (English is now one of the standard subjects in which a CS student can  minor, but at that time, I had to get permission). I left college having acquired the degree and several good friends. At any rate, one of the electives I took was Creative Writing. Most of the assignments were short stories. The mid-term and final were longer stories, perhaps twenty pages. What a joy that class was. But even so, it took me eighteen years to consider writing as a serious pursuit. One day I decided to give it a go.

There was no method at first. I was essentially puking words out onto paper. Which is perfectly okay. Corrections can come after. Well, those first pages eventually got scrapped. But the process had begun! And as I continued to write, it got easier. The story started filling out in my mind. Links started forming between characters, events, actions, and reactions. As I continued to write, I also took some time to formally plan the world: social and political structures, the rules of the magic system, character histories, etc. I kept track of things in several documents, almost appendices. And I created a timeline in a spreadsheet for easier reference (It’s  surprising  how often characters had occasion to reference events, and I needed to know how many days, months, etc, previous they had happened). It was exciting, frightening, and crazy fun. And somewhere along the way, the quiet passion became a blaring claxon echoing through the parking garage of my life.

 

P.S. The writing became my debut novel, Dragonlinked, which is currently available in eBook format for Kindle at Amazon.com. I’m going to see about using Amazon’s subsidiary, CreateSpace, to release it in Trade Paperback format as well.

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