Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Survey Results: What did you think when you sent your first book off for epublication?

Fly away and propagate.
I was curious what other first-time authors thought when they sent off a book for publication.  Mine was about the grammar errors I might have overlooked.  I am an English teacher: what else would cross my mind? So I asked via GoodReads, Twitter and Google+.  These are the results.
  • Marcy Peska, Hashtags and Head Buckets:  "Ooops!"  It was when I published Head Buckets & Hashtags, and I accidentally pushed the publish button before I'd finished formatting photos. ;-)
  • Kevis Hendrickson, The Legend of Witch Bane: I published my first ebook when the Kindle still had fresh paint on it. My thoughts at the time were more along the lines of Megatron's famous words: "Their defenses are broken. Let the slaughter begin."
  • Rinelle Grey, Reckless Rescue:  With the ebook, it was "Well, that doesn't feel any different", but the print book, which I only hit publish on yesterday, it was "What if I missed something?" 
  • Micah R. Sisk, PleshaCore:  But if I were to describe the moment after pushing the button as a sound, it sounded like nanometer-sized needle dropping into a galactic-sized haystack.
  • Adam Osterkamp, book in process, Minnesota Writer blog:  Having just ordered the "proof" copy for my print version, my first thought was along these lines. "What if it prints terribly?"
  • Jason Letts, Powerless: The Synthesis:   It was unbelievably exciting. A lot of times I was checking my sales at work, and I was so much more concerned with the dollar or two I was making a day from the story and gaining potential fans than everything I had to do at my job. 
  • Debra McKnight, Of Dreams and Shadow:  Mine ran along the lines of, "Oh no, I forgot to fix the type-o on page three."
  • Jennifer Priester, Mortal Realm Witch: Learning about Magic: Sadly my first thought was more money related. I was thinking something like this: When will the books be available for purchase online and how long until my copies arrive so that I can start selling them? And my second one, although you aren't asking for it, I just find it interesting, was about whether or not they would sell and if people would like it as much as I do or not.
  • Philip G. HenleyTo the Survivors: My KDP book launch felt unreal and disconnected, although I enjoyed seeing the free downloads happen along with the first reviews. Print was a different surreal experience. There was my name on a physical book. What followed was even more odd, giving the copies to friends and family and then being asked to sign them. All very odd, embarrassing even.
 I wish more people had responded.  I enjoyed finding others who remembered that moment of final decision.  It is one of those firsts that will stay with us whether we felt fulfilled, let down, frantic with worry or ready to battle bears. 

Now the second time I sent off a book into the eather of e-publication, I wondered why I felt no elation, no panic, no heart thrusting wildly against my ribs.  I wasn't blase, but I hadn't been rocked by an overwhelming run of sales on book 1, so I had less uncertainty about what would happen next: Only I would celebrate by dancing in the kitchen, making my daughter blush and my husband shake his head.  Since I now have four books published and my fifth in R&D&R (research and development and redraft), I do feel rather moved peering at the list when I check on Amazon and Smashwords for updates. I think come this July 2014, I may discover a few thrills running up my spine to see book 3 of the Students of Jump hitting the road.

Anyone want to add to the list of first reactions at the cry of "Engage" catapulting off their coddled canary? Post a comment, and I'll update the list above (this week) and enjoy hearing from you.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Advice: yWriter Details and Goals section for defining purpose

Setting up a strong structure with yWriter
I mentioned yWriter way back in the beginnings of writing this blog.  I was explaining a feature in the program that makes it possible to keep track of various facts about characters, such as appearance, relationships, motivations, bio, even alternate names.  It helped me to learn more about a character I thought was not especially important.  I found she had much greater influence and dimension than I originally thought while filling out the character breakdown.

But that is not why I am posting about this program now.  yWriter offers numerous ways for a writer to develop his/her story, but the two features I want to focus on this time is in the Details and Goals sections of each scene. Once you have opened up a scene window, clicking on the Details tab opens up the plotting break down of that particular scene.  Here you note (or plan out) if the event is based on action or reaction, and if it is plot or subplot, and you can assign any tags and determine the time constraints of the scene (character experiences two minutes, four hours or thirty days, what have you).  When combined with the information in the Goals tab, the purpose or lack of it, of the scene become obvious.  And if the scene has no purpose, it is wasted writing.  I love these two features because they make sure that I am keeping the story moving: characters grow, tension mounts, connection exists, i.e., purpose.

The Goals tab is directly connected to the items in the Details tab.  If I selected reaction for the type of scene, then the Goals tab supplies three questions I must answer:  reaction, dilemma, choice.  And if I selected action, then I must respond to goal, conflict, outcome.  I find myself facing the purpose of the scene and the character's (s') reasoning.  If I find that my only reason for the scene is to get information out, then I am not making good use of my writing or my reader's time. All writing should be moving the plot no matter what.  So that necessary information needs to be part of movement not sedentary info dumping.

It is easy to fall into writing about the character learning something or meeting someone because it is essential to events later in the story but not moving forward in the story.  Having to fill out the underlying bones of a scene helps avoid this.  What was my character's reaction to what happened?  How did this create a problem and what choice did my character find he had to make?  That's all based on reaction.  What my character's goal is, what is stopping her from reaching it and what came of her efforts to reach that goal is action based.

yWriter doesn't write the story, but it sure helps me tell the story better.  When I have to redraft, looking back at what I wanted the scene to accomplish and seeing what actually happened helps me realign the plot or take advantage of that unconscious working of the writing mind.  A scene that seemed to have no purpose gets one as the redraft rolls along and having these features in this program forces me to examine the scene and its relation to the rest of the story.

Some scenes support the main plot while others are subplot events and that is just as important as determining purpose.  Designating a scene as tying my main arc together or developing undercurrent through subplots helps me keep my writing moving in the right direction and makes it so I don't have to keep it all in my head.  That's yWriter for you.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Technology must be logical and progressive in a sci-fi novel

Nerg Box
As a writer of science fiction now working on my third book in the series, I have been practicing to maintain a consistency in my technology.  The last thing I wanted to do was bring up a handy dandy techno tool that is used once and never seen again.  In producing a society or group that has depth and character, it is important that there be logic in the ideas and connectiveness in their use.  So my unique technology must develop and grow with my characters and their experiences.

Here are some examples of what I mean.

Nerg Box turned Time Travel box
In Book 1 In Times Passed, Brent stumbles upon a means to travel in time.  He alters a standard issue Nerg Box which results in a machine that can jump a person back in time.  This is all very well, but to have staying power, this device needs to evolve, develop in use, performance and even appearance.  It starts out as a rather non-descript gray box (Nerg [eN ER Gy]) which provides a temporary means to increase stamina and attention span and is nonnarcotic.  With some modifications in frequency and duration of the "effect," Brent finds he has created a means to travel in time.

But Brent and his friends are tinkerers, and they have access to a computer with extensive abilities to improve this early model.  And Brent is not one to have a means to travel in time and leave it sitting in a closet.

Time Travel box turned Jump Stage
With Ismar's help, Brent, Jove and Quixote build a stage that has the same "effect" and can be used to concentrate the time jumping abilities to more than one individual or thing.  This stage makes its debut in In Times Passed, and shows up again in No-Time Like the Present (Book 2) where it evolves over the course of the novel.

Jump Stage turned Jump Pack
In the third book, currently in redraft, Next Time We Meet, Mick and Emily find they can go anywhere or when for a second honeymoon by use of the individual, portable Jump Pack.  It has somewhat limited capabilities in that the jump calculations must occur in the lab still, but once downloaded to the pack, those calculations are available no matter where the jumper is.  This is important as they are on a honeymoon which is serving double duty.  Mick has determined he is going to be a detective, with his wife Emily's assistance, of course.  Every man, even one who can travel in time, cannot manage without a good woman by his side or ahead of him.

Jump Pack evolves some more
Book 4, with the working title of Testing Time, is in draft and makes extensive use of a more advanced model of  the Jump Pack as it is able to calculate new jumps without returning to the lab.  When things aren't going according to plan, such an improved model has tremendous advantage even if all it can offer is moving to another site to provide a few more seconds to make a dash for safety.

Another example:

This item shows up for the first time in Book 2.  It is a device that offers environmental as well as background information to its possessor.  It is referred to and used once, but the question of its further use is asked and answered.  It is appears again but as an embedded tool, one casually in use.

Schemslide turned essential time travel resource
In Book 3, Mick and Emily cannot manage without it.  Now called the noter, it provides historical information, a filing system for notes, is the transfer unit for calculated jumps, records environmental features, and is a time-delayed communications device.  Emily gets quite proficient at accessing its valuable capabilities as the travelers stretch their ability to understand the intricacies of moving about in time while tracking down a possible kidnap victim.

Readers complain about those "in the nick of time" devices or theories that save the day.  I don't want that kind of situation in my books cropping up.  What fiction devices, good or bad, have caught your attention?

Book 1, In Times Passed at Smashwords and Amazon
Book 2, No-Time like the Present at Smashwords and Amazon

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

There are stories everywhere

Yeah, it's a horse, but why is it in my front yard?
There is a road I drive down every day to get to work.  It is not a popular part of the highway system, so there are few businesses along the way.  One site has changed renters numerous times.  It has been a restaurant half a dozen times, a used clothing store, seamstress business and is currently a donut shop.

Usually, at about a year and a half, the business just closes up and goes up for rent again.  The donut shop hit its one year mark back in May.  So I expect soon to see cars in the parking lot one day and the next the day find it as empty as an old shoe box, tissue crumpled and little packets of granular stuff maintaining a dry but useless environment.

That is a story just waiting for the telling. Why does that store never hold a business long even though they seem to be thriving?  Who owns it?  Are they nothing but trouble to their renters?  Is the highway itself unwilling to take so much traffic for too long and has its own agenda to push through despite human desires to succeed?

There are stories everywhere waiting to be told.
  • Why is that little girl sitting in bored meditation on her porch stairs, chin balanced on her hands?
  • Why did that family throw out a perfectly good couch?  It hasn't any tears, slumping of cushions, or broken frame and is still in style.
  • Why is that fellow standing behind the tree talking on his phone and swatting at the bugs clearly annoying him?
  • Why is that horse wearing a blue cover over its face when the horse beside it isn't?
You don't have to beat bushes to find stories.  Write about the bush.

Where did you find your last story or did it find you?