Writing Redux

I’d like to go off on a slight tangent with this post. I’ve been working madly on book 2 of Legion, and I am pausing to think about how the process has evolved for me.

When I started writing Outland, end of May 2014, I basically just fired up WORD and started typing. But I’m realistic enough to know that there’s craft involved, so I also started buying books, reading articles, and joining forums.

I ended up on absolutewrite.com, which is a huge site traffic-wise. It has a lot of good information, although it’s relatively hard to find. Most of it is in threads with hundreds of entries, and the only way to glean the information you want is to start at post 1…

I also initially joined critiquecircle.com, and learned a lot from getting my work publicly flayed. However, I found the need to post submissions several weeks in advance to be a pain, and I eventually moved to scribophile. For the record, the paid memberhip is worth getting.

On scrib, I joined the Uber critting group. The advantage of this is that you end up in a sub-group of 4-6 people, and you crit each other’s work week after week. So you get consistent crits from the same people. And I find the level of skill to be very high amongst the members.

I also joined the Beta Readers group. Same idea– you are organized into a small group of 4-6 people, and you swap manuscripts on a schedule. Again, consistent betas and good quality results.

With all this input, my writing has been improving constantly. I’ve been able to identify my weak spots and specifically target them in my work. Multiple edit passes, using what I learn in each Uber crit, combined with feedback from beta readers, allow me to make significant strides in a relatively short time. I honestly can’t see how writers managed to get anywhere before the interwebz.

As of this writing, book 1 is being produced at Audible, book 2 is going through final edits, and book 3 is about a third written. The main plot points are in place in book 3, just needing fleshing out. The question of a print publisher for Legion is still up in the air. If we don’t get a bite by September, we’ll just put the e-book up under the agent’s imprint and hope for better traction down the road.

My agent has asked me for a list of ideas for future books, and we’ll be discussing that at some point. My Ideas List has 113 entries at the moment, so I had to trim it down to a dozen or so of the ideas that I like best. We’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, the journey continues, and I’m still nervous.

Audible is Moving Right Along

It took very little time between when I sent the completed manuscript in, and Audible’s production department got back to me. My wife and I had been discussing who would be a good narrator for the novel, and I was chagrined when the email from Audible indicated that they’d already assigned a voice actor.

But I looked up a couple of books that he had done, and bought one with a store credit, and I’m pleasantly surprised. He manages to make different character voices distinct, and even makes female voices believable.

So I am very much looking forward to this. They’ve given me a tentative publication date of Sept 20th. If I end up going through my agent’s press for publication, we’ll aim for the same date. If I get a print publisher between now and then, who knows?


Editing Done. Fer shur.

I just sent off the final version of my manuscript to the publisher. Wow, nerves, much? And it doesn’t matter how many times you look it over before hitting send, you’re still positive that you’ve forgotten something.

I’ve also asked my agent about narrator’s voices. I have an opinion or two on that subject, as it turns out. 🙂

Well, anyway, it’s done. I’m working away on book 2, For We Are Many. I have a couple of small chapters to fill out, but by and large, the writing is done, and it’s editing time.

Editing Done. Maybe.

Today, I sent my edited manuscript back to the editor. She was surprised that it was so fast.

And there’s another source of anxiety. I know that I have fast turnaround. When I was doing my query on absolutewrite, there were comments made about how fast I was turning around the versions. And I don’t mean in a good way.

I don’t really have any metric with which to measure my turnover. No prior experience in the industry, no other writers that I’ve worked with. I don’t think that I’m doing a slap-dash edit. I think the issue may be that a lifetime of software development and unreasonable deadlines have taught me to do heads-down cramming.

I hope that’s what it is.

I guess I’ll find out soon enough. If the editor sends it back with some variation of “scrap and redo”, then I’ll have to re-evaluate. If she’s good with my changes, then, well, I’m just fast.

Stay tuned.

I Have an Edit!

I received the completed edit yesterday, a week early. And it’s not bad. There were the expected spelling and syntax corrections, and some suggestions for wording changes, of course. She indicated where things were vague or confusing and needed further explanation. There were a couple of suggestions for putting in more backstory–those were a little aggravating because I took that out at the suggestion of critters (grrr!).

But nothing Earth-shattering. No wholesale ripping out of subplots or savaging of characters; no indications of systemic writing flaws; no suggestions to redo whole chapters. My expected ass-whuppin’ has turned out to be nothing more than a light thwapping. Huh. Go figger.

There was one change, where she suggested I remove VEHEMENT entirely, that I simply can’t follow. VEHEMENT is a minor ‘character’ in book 1, but in book 2 they cause some pretty significant damage, so they have to stay. But, hey, minor stuff, right?

So, yeah. I’m feeling validated. 🙂


I Have an Editor!

I found an email in my inbox yesterday, from the editor that Audible has acquired for Legion.

You know how, when you come home after a few days away, your dog runs around in circles and jumps all over you? Well, that’s how I felt. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long, long time. I am about to have my darlings savaged by a professional.

Yes, you might say, but it’s not as exciting as when you actually publish. Sure, okay, but this is still way up there. I expect to come out of the experience with a black eye, arm in a sling, and little cartoon cross-shaped bandaids all over my body. But I’ll learn. I’ll learn what a professional wants to see in a marketable work.

I’ve recently come to realize that you can only really get so far with free crit sites and volunteer beta readers. I spent some time on critiquecircle, and did private beta swaps with a couple of people. I’ve done public and group-based chapter submissions on scribophile, and participated in a couple of beta swaps. I’ve sent my first chapter into a couple of editors to get a sample edit done.

What has amazed me is the lack of consistency. Understand, I’m completely convinced that every single person I’ve interacted with has worked entirely in good faith– as have I, when critting other’s work. But it’s very hard to get a clear indication of what needs to be fixed. What one person likes, another might hate. I’ve gotten complaints both that I have too much description and too little. Some want more scene-setting, some want less. I went through several crits and beta-swaps before the Uber group crits on scribophile finally convinced me that my scenes often lack tension. Once I received that message, I was happy to go back and correct it. But before you can correct it, you have to see it. And before you can see it, you have to have it pointed out.

And this brings us to the root of my incoherent ramble (I blame the incoherence on lack of coffee. It’s early on a Saturday A.M.). When you’re starting out in writing, the learning curve is huge. As you get better, your rate of education slows down. Eventually, I think you reach a point where the informal educational tactics become ineffective for the amount of time they require. At that point, it starts to become a slog. I am very, very lucky that I’ve found myself in a situation where the next level of learnin’ is being handed to me. Along with, I expect, a thorough ass-whupping.


Contract Signed

Yeah, I’m still a little boggled. I have just finished signing a publishing contract with Audible.com for We are Legion. Wait, is it a publishing contract if it’s audio? Hmm, is there money involved? Yep. Then, yes.

Excuse me, must take time to happy-dance.

And, I’m back.

The agreement with Audible includes access to a professional editor, which I believe will be invaluable. For all that people say they like my writing style, I don’t kid myself that I’m a pro, yet. Some substantive pointers and perhaps a beating or two from someone who knows whereof they speak should help kick me in the right direction. Plus, it might just put the manuscript over the hump in terms of getting a print publisher– something that, so far, eludes me.

Meanwhile, it’s Friday night, I’m feeling a post-sushi glow to go with my post-signed-the-contract glow, and I have an evening with no commitments.



Housekeeping and Updates

Yeah, nothing to see here. Move along. Move along. 🙂

I’ve just been doing some rearranging of the web site. If you’re one of the three people who has ever visited, you may be momentarily confused.

I haven’t been posting much lately, so here are some updates.

As mentioned elsewhere, I have an agent: Ethan Ellenberg. He signed me for my current WIP, We are Legion. There’s a separate section on this site with details. He is currently subbing the novel to the major publishers. Meanwhile, I started on book two of the Legion series. It’s at about 52K words, and moving along. The series will be a trilogy.

The sequel to Outland is at about 25k words, and stalled, because of Legion. However, once I get Legion 2 wrapped up, I’ll get back to Outland 2. There’s a bit of a complication, though. Outland is self-published, but Outland 2 will be repped by my agent, at least in theory. I wonder how that works? I’ll probably want to do a partial re-work on Outland anyway, given that I’ve had a lot more practice with writing.

Anyway, Outland will probably be an open-ended series, as there’s no specific ‘ending’ to it. Think 1632. More stuff just keeps happening.

Meanwhile, my ideas file keeps growing. I’ll probably be writing for the rest of my life, and never catch up. Oh, well.


Progress Update

My agent and I have gone through several iterations of editing. I’m just finishing what I think is probably the final revision. I’ll be emailing it to him by the end of the weekend, then it’s fingers-crossed time.

I was feeling a little bummed about this process, but after reading some other peoples’ experiences on absolutewrite, I got over it. A couple of months is no big thing.

Anyway, Legion is now at 87K words or so. I’ve trimmed down some of the excess Bobs, spent more time giving original Bob a backstory, and beefed up the main subplots. Good to go, I think.

Progress Report

Things have been moving along, albeit not as quickly or in quite the direction that I’d have liked.

On the Legion front, my agent got back some constructive criticisms from an editor. Good points, and to be honest, not really surprises. I spent a good portion of the last couple of weeks editing and revising Legion to suit. The book is now in more chronological order, even if that makes some of the sub-plots a little clumpy. In addition, the Sol System war sub-plot now ends in book one with colonists settling in Omicron(2) Eridani. For the trek-nerds among us, that’s the home system of the Vulcans. One benefit of the extra work is that the book now tops out at 84K words, which is a little more reasonable than the former 75K.

So Ethan will resubmit, I guess, and we’ll see what happens. Funny, as hard as it is to get an agent, it seems that’s actually the easy part. Getting the publishers to pay attention is the toughie.

Meanwhile, I’ve started back up on my sequel to Outland. It was originally about 1/3 written. I’ve just been going through all my files, making sure everything is synchronized and that I’m working with the latest versions of everything. I don’t think I’ll have it done by the end of the summer, unless you count summer as lasting until Sept 22nd 🙂 .

I’m not sure if I’ll be doing any more work on my Blender space ship, at least for a while. Since I’m no longer in charge of producing my cover, it seems like a bit of a time hole. My focus will have to be getting the Outland sequel out, then getting the Legion sequel going.

Legion will be a trilogy, at least for the immediate story lines. The universe that I’ve created for it is good for many more standalone novels.

Well, back to work…