Hey guys, just a heads up about this month’s free and 99¢ books. If you’re looking for a way to get into my books, this is a great place to start!
So I finished rereading Genesis Earth, in preparation for writing the sequel, and I have to say it was not what I expected.
It wasn’t disappointing. There were some annoying ticks that I noticed, like too many said bookisms or turns of phrase that I wouldn’t have written today. Also, the book was a little wordy or slow in parts, compared to my more recent writing. But those were relatively minor issues. The story was quite solid. I’d actually forgotten some of the plot twists, so it was fun to watch them unfold. A bit like reading the book for the first time.
But one thing above all else struck home: the person who wrote Genesis Earth is not the person I am today. I doubt that that person would have been able to write Gunslinger to the Stars. And if I were to go back and write Genesis Earth from scratch, it would be a completely different book in every meaningful way.
It’s bizarre. When you’re caught up in day-to-day life, you never really get a sense that you’re changing. And yet, the truth is that we’re always changing, hopefully for the best, but not always. It’s impossible to experience life and still remain unchanged.
I also got a sense of this when I finished the 2.0 draft for The Sword Keeper. Perhaps it was just me reliving my own memories from the times when I wrote it, but the first half of the book seemed very different from the second half. I wrote the first half while living abroad in Georgia, and the second half years later here in Utah.
There’s a couple of things I’ve taken away from this experience.
First, it’s not always a good idea to put a WIP on the back burner. By the time you come back to it, you may not be capable of writing it exactly the way you first envisioned it. Better to push through whatever’s blocking you and strike while the iron is hot.
Second, at anything you want to do well, it’s important to always strive to improve. Even when you’re at the top of your game (and I’m certainly not at the top of mine—not yet anyway), if you’re not always trying to do better, to learn and to grow, you’ll fall off really fast.
In reality, there is no “top,” because nothing is ever static. Improvement is a lifelong process, because the moment you stop improving is the moment you start getting worse.
One thing I really need to work on is writing every day. In the past, when I’ve been working on revisions, or prewriting, or getting a book ready for publication, I’ve slacked off on this. But the truth is that writing new words is the best way to sharpen your writing skills, and that writing every day is the best way to always keep them sharp. And there’s always something to write, even if it’s just a short story. If I could write a short story every week for a year…
So yeah, lots to think on. And I’ve got a few ideas for Edenfall as well. But first, before I move to Iowa next week, I need to get Gunslinger to the Stars ready for publication. Harder, better, faster, stronger—our work is never over!
It’s done! Draft 2.0 of The Sword Keeper is finished. Still need to run it by some test readers, but it’s looking very good for a release this year.
In other news, the power cable for my laptop decided to die. I’ll replace it eventually, but in the meantime, I’m going to try turning my phone into a writing device. Just got a K480 bluetooth keyboard and I’m excited to try it out. My phone is a device I’ve always got with me, so adapting it for writing could be really great.
I’m also going to try a new writing technique that should hopefully lead to cleaner (perhaps even publishable) first drafts. If it works, this could significantly increase my writing output. It involves cycling through yesterday’s words before writing any new ones, getting into the flow and making any changes as necessary. This is actually very close to how I used to write back in high school, before all those college English classes. I also get the sense that this is how Dean Wesley Smith writes.
All sorts of experimental new things going on with my next WIP, which is Edenfall. Yes, it’s time to complete the trilogy. But before I jump into it, I’m going to take some time to do some serious prewriting, in the hopes (again) of writing a clean first draft. Which, if it works, means that the book will be published that much sooner.
In the meantime, Gunslinger to the Stars is almost ready for publication. My editor is working on it now, the cover art is just about finished, and besides that all that’s really left is crafting the book description and metadata. If all goes well, it should be up for pre-order on iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, and Nook before the end of the month.
Also, new short story!
Killing Mister Wilson
Every time traveler wants to kill Hitler. Only one actually stopped him.
EVERY TIME TRAVELER WANTS TO KILL HITLER. ONLY ONE ACTUALLY STOPPED HIM.
The event was an open air parade, my vantage point, an abandoned building. I arrived in the early morning, and set up for the gruesome deed just as the crowds were starting to gather. With the patience of a man who literally has all the time in the world, I cocked my weapon and steadied my aim.
This book is rated T according to the AO3 content rating system.
I’m making good progress on The Sword Keeper, but I keep having to push it back to help a friend remodel his basement. His wife is having a baby in a couple of weeks, and he needs to get things finished before his mother-in-law comes over. There have been a ton of setbacks and delays, mostly having to do with the shoddy construction work done by the guys who built the place, but we seem to have passed the biggest hurdle which is to install the bathtub. Now, it’s mostly a matter of installing insulation and putting up drywall.
There’s this really fantastic game that I’ve been looking at called Stellaris. It seems like a combination of Masters of Orion and Europa Universalis. Really really tempted to play it, but as of right now, I’m holding back. When I finish this WIP, though, I may just treat myself.
Also, I recently signed up for a 30 day trial of Instafreebie, a site that (among other things) lets authors do ebook giveaways in exchange for readers’ email addresses. I’m running a giveaway for Genesis Earth, which you can pick up here if you haven’t already gotten a copy. Depending on how things go, I may sign up and run a few more campaigns in the future.
I’m really, really itching to get back to work on Gunslinger to the Stars. That will probably be the next full-length novel that I publish. In the meantime, I’ve got a bunch of short stories that should be coming out soon, starting with a Sad Puppies related piece that is sure to make a lot of people smile. Look for that one in June.
That’s pretty much it for now. Thanks for reading!
I came to a realization about productivity just recently. It’s one that I’ve known for a while now, but never really applied to my own quirks and strengths.
In order to accomplish a massive, multi-stage task (like writing a novel), you have to break it down into manageable chunks first. Otherwise, you’ll just get overwhelmed. If you try to eat an elephant in one sitting, you won’t be able to do it, but if you process the ground elephant meat into meal-sized tupperware containers, put some recipes together, set a meal schedule, and freeze the meat until you need it, then eating an elephant becomes much more doable.
The question is, what’s the best way to break down the elephant? The answer, of course, is that it depends on the person.
Some writers break their WIPs down into chapters. Others prefer raw word count as a measure of progress. Others use story beats, or a timer, or a hard and fast deadline. A lot of writers don’t use much of a system at all, which is probably why so many of them fall behind.
The hardest part of writing is often just getting yourself to sit down and do it. The blank page really is the most intimidating part of the job. If I had to guess, I’d say that about 50% of writer’s block is not having a good way of breaking down the elephant. And by “good system,” I mean one that is personalized to work for you.
I’ve tried out a lot of systems that didn’t really work—for me, that is. I’m sure they work just fine for other people.
For a long time, I used raw word count, but then I found myself cutting corners by dropping a project and going back to revise a half-finished one, just to get a higher word count boost. After that, I started tracking hours worked per day, but again the quality of my work fell as I started looking for busywork just to feel like I’d accomplished something.
I bounced back and forth between unfinished projects, sometimes starting new ones, sometimes making progress on old ones. Every once and a while, the story would hit me in just the right way to compel me to finish it, which is how I’ve finished probably 80% of the books I’ve written over the past three years. But that’s a very unreliable way to write books.
Then I started using a timer to break my work down into short, measurable writing sessions. The main reason I did this was to work my way up to hitting 10k words in a day (something I’m still working on). The idea was to develop more focus and train myself to write faster. What I didn’t realize until now was that this is a great way to break down the elephant.
Before, I would wake up in the morning and think “how am I going to write X,XXX words before the end of the day?” Understandably, this was a bit intimidating, and over time it tended to grind me down. But now when I wake up, the question is “am I ready for the day’s first writing session? Why not—it’s only 20 minutes.” And then I’m off.
Now, I’m not completely in that mindset yet. I still tend to think in terms of daily word count, which can make me fall back into the old habits of procrstination. And if the day starts off with something non-writing related, it can really throw me off. But using this method, I was able to get through 66% of Gunslinger to the Stars in about six weeks. And if I keep working on it, I’ll bet I can accomplish much more.
I do not consider myself a fast writer. Some of my professional writing friends think that I’m fast, but there are tons of indies out there who write much faster (and better) than me. But a lot of it really just comes down to the psychology of breaking down the elephant. And now that I’ve got a system, I just need to be better about using it.
If you guys are interested in keeping track of my writing progress, I’ll go back to using the WIP progress bars. I took them down in order to keep the sidebar from getting too cluttered, but that is a major reason why readers come to an author blog (to see the ongoing progress on the author’s next book), so I’ll redesign things a bit and figure it out. It would certainly help me to get back on the horse, knowing that people are following this sort of thing.
Right now, I’m about 35k words from finishing The Sword Keeper, a project I’ve been working on and off on for the last four years. It’s a fantastic book, perhaps even the best I’ve ever written, and getting it done is going to be huge.
After that, I’ll probably finish Gunslinger to the Stars. Put it on the back burner after LTUE, but it shouldn’t be too hard to finish it up. It’s a rip-roaring adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I could frankly use the break.
And then? I think it may be time to finish the Genesis Earth trilogy. Book two, Edenfall, has been on the back burner for a looong time (almost five years), but there seems to be a lot more interest in it now, with sales of Genesis Earth increasing and readers posting reviews that say “can’t wait for the next book!” When you guys speak, I listen.
So that’s the plan for the next couple of months. Beyond that, I have a couple of short stories coming out soon, so be sure to keep an eye out for those.
Thanks for reading!