The Danger of The Not Quite Complete Outline

As I’ve mentioned in these pages before, when it comes to the ‘plotting vs. pantsing‘ debate I fall firmly into the former camp. I wouldn’t dream of starting the first draft of a book without having a well-defined outline of the high level plot, chapters to get from A to Z, and even the scenes that make up those chapters. I just don’t know where I’m going otherwise.

So when it came to starting work on my current WIP–Causal Nexus, which will be the third book in the Unity Sequence–the first thing I did was build that outline. Start to finish, all the characters, all the arcs, all done and ready to draft.

Or so I thought.

I started writing, and the first few chapters came with ease. Then, as I neared the end of part one (of three) I started to slow down. The words weren’t coming so easily, and I found I just wasn’t sitting down to write as much as I should be. For a while I assumed it was just life getting in the way; work being busy, too much other ‘stuff’ that needed doing, etc.

But then a couple of weeks ago I went to a work conference, where several colleagues who have read my first two books accosted me–in a friendly way–and demanded to know when the third one was coming out, because they were tired of waiting for it. Which is obviously a very nice thing to hear, and gave me a kick up the backside.

The day after I got home I fired up Scrivener and spent an hour poring over what I’d written so far, the character bios, the outline, the– wait, the outline. I realised that what I’d thought was a very well-defined incident at the start of act two, which kicks off the sequence of events that drives the story through to the end of the book, was in fact not very well-defined at all. Was damn near woolly, in fact. Vague.

I’m not sure how that happened; I can only assume I was in a rush to get down all the other exciting stuff that happens after that point. But regardless, I rolled up my sleeves and fixed it. Nailed those few scenes down so they made sense, flowed, and tied into other plot points both earlier and later in the story.

And what do you know? Now I’m back to full speed again. Seems that my being sub- or unconsciously aware that I didn’t-quite-100-per-cent-totally know where I was going next was making me tentative about getting to that point. Once I did–boom. Away I went.

The moral of the story here, my plotter friends, is that if you ever find your writing trundling along at less than your normal place, or worse, stalling entirely, take a good hard look at your outline. It might be a bit more… ‘pantsy’, shall we say, than you thought.

GODZILLAAAAAAAAAA! Etc.

Bryan Cranston? Check. Guy from Kick Ass? Check. Really, really big lizard? Check.

But a lizard so big that repeatedly being hit by nuclear detonations back in the 50s didn’t kill it? Really? I can get behind the idea of a thousand foot tall monster laying waste to Tokyo, but let’s be realistic.

In other news, NASA reported that they found a bunch of new planets. A big bunch. 715 more on top of the 1000 we already knew about. Only four are in the so-called Goldilocks zone–not too hot, not too cold, just right for us finicky humans–but that’s still quite a find. Now we just need a vast amount of money, resources and political will to go and investigate them, and we’ll be colonising the stars in no time!

Over at the Wertzone there’s a great list of female fantasy authors, who apparently Waterstones have never heard of despite being a major bookseller.

And there’s an interesting and well-written article on Tor comparing Sherlock, which I love, with Elementary, which I’ve never seen. Some really good points.

Last up: BATMAN VS. THE TERMINATOR.

30 years have passed since Bruce Wayne survived Skynet’s nuclear blasts in August of ’97. Iron demons now roam the planet, and without the requirement to defend the innocent against crime and injustice, Wayne has seeked refuge in the bomb shelter that saved his life; the Batcave.

Having scavenged the wasteland for resources, he discovers the radio of a dead soldier. There is static over a frequency. Flesh and blood is rising up to the west. With The Stinger; a riot control vehicular unit built before the apocalypse along with a refitted bomb blast vest, Batman makes his way across what remains of the United States to join forces with the man determined to neutralize the electronic menace – John Connor.

Fantastic.

REALLIFE, WRITERLIFE and Tom Hiddleston

Hey, look – I’m really nailing this one-post-every-seven-weeks plan. Keep ’em keen, that’s what I always say.

It’s not, of course. It’s just that WRITERLIFE has been frustratingly derailed by REALLIFE for the last few months. A lot of it’s been good stuff, like moving from Brazil to D.C. and settling into our sweet new apartment, but a fair chunk has been being stupidly busy at the day job. (Which has even been a night job sometimes over the last month. The telecoms software game isn’t all champagne and supermodels, I tells ya.)

But that’s enough of my grumbling. You’re here for superhero movie trailers and sweet, sweet hyperlinkage to stuff wot you should read. Some of you even care about when my next book is going to be out! Thanks to everyone who’s pestered me about that. It’s wonderful that you’re keen to read it, even as I apologetically mumble that no, it’s not going to be this year, but I’m damn sure going to try to get it out before the one-year anniversary of Venus Rising. If I can’t knock out a book a year, then something’s gone wrong. I’m not Fran Lebowitz, here.

So. Let’s get it on.

Continue reading “REALLIFE, WRITERLIFE and Tom Hiddleston”

More Profane, Wonderful Advice from Mr. Chuck Wendig

I’m back from vacation, sporting a charming ‘tan’ in my classic shade, which I like to call ‘subtle lobster’. While catching up on what I’d missed from my usual writing and publishing blogs, I came across this gem from Chuck Wendig, ‘50 RANTYPANTS SNIDBITS OF RANDOM WRITING & STORYTELLING ADVICE‘.

1. SNAP YOUR TRAP AND WRITE SOME SHIT

Stop talking about writing. Stop reading about writing. Stop dreaming about writing. Stop doing things that don’t qualify as writing. The thing that defines a writer is that the writer writes.

14. YOU’RE YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY

If you’re not writing, that’s your fault. It’s not anybody else’s. It’s not your wife’s fault. Not your Mom’s fault. Not your kid’s fault. It isn’t because of a job, or Big Six publishing, or Amazon, or a Muse, or Writer’s Block. You might as well blame a Yeti (who acted in collusion with a cabal of randy leprechauns). It’s all on you. Accept responsibility. Stop complaining. Fix your shit.

29. SLOW YOUR ROLL, SPEEDY MCGEE

Embody patience. The worst thing you can do for your story is pull it out of the oven before it’s done cooking. Don’t quit early. Don’t publish thirty seconds after you typed the last word. Don’t query a stinker. Stories — like wine, brisket, romance and bondage games — need time.

Writer types: Go read the other forty-seven.

So I’m Not Writing Much at the Moment

In case you were wondering. I do have a complete outline of my next book, the third in The Unity Sequence, and I’ve drafted the first four chapters. But a combination of the tendinitis in my left wrist flaring up a few weeks back, and the fact that Mrs. Dan and I preparing to relocate from Brazil to the US at the start of July–with all of the visa getting, flight planning, and shipping organising that this entails–has meant I haven’t put any words to digital paper in the last few weeks.

Not pictured: Me grimacing.

But never fear. I’m still confident I can get a first draft done by about October, and edits complete ready for publication before the end of the year. That’ll keep me on the two-books-a-year plan which should make me rich and famous by about 2024.

It’s good to have attainable goals.

Author Interview – Dan Harris : Part 1

Last week I was interviewed by Tim Flanagan, a fellow SF author and an indie publishing enthusiast. Tim likes to share the stories of other indie authors on his very popular blog, and I was delighted to be featured. Check out this installment for my thoughts on the writing process. Parts two and three will be out later this week.

TIM FLANAGAN

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWithin the Indie Author Hub, you can learn about other authors, their thoughts and opinions, what makes them tick and how their writing process works for them.

All this week I will be releasing segments of an interview I conducted with fellow author, Dan Harris, an inspirational Sci-Fi writer. Have a look at his profile and books here.

Part 1 : Dan’s Writing Process

What inspired you to become an author? I’m honestly not sure. I’ve been devouring books since I was about four years old, and writing stories on and off since I was twelve. But it was another fifteen years before I said to myself ‘look, you’ve got no excuse for just talking about writing a novel, instead of actually writing one’. Which did the trick, as I sat myself down and, over the course of a year, banged out Ascension Point. If I wasn’t an author I…

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New Release: Venus Rising is Out Now!

It’s been edited, re-edited, and polished until shiny, and now Venus Rising–the second book in The Unity Sequence, and the follow up to the occasionally critically acclaimed Ascension Point–is available from all good online bookstores. Here’s the blurb:

_________________

A year has passed since the events of ASCENSION POINT, and the galaxy shifts uncomfortably as the opposing forces of progress and tradition threaten the new and fragile peace. Titan society teeters on the brink of civil war, the Commonwealth bristles with hostility towards the returning Seryn, while the Collective remains silent in the spaces between the stars, watching. And waiting.

VR-smallAgainst this backdrop of turmoil and unrest, the Peacetrooper brother of Commonwealth Senator Neela Kane has gone missing. Intelligence places him on Karak, an Independent desert world, and Operative Dante Zo is dispatched to bring him home—or confirm his demise. Quinn, employee of the shadowy Seryn Agency, is also headed to Karak, where rumours abound of a fierce and sudden tribal war centred on a mysterious woman with uncanny power: Venus, the Seryn’s most dangerous rogue agent.

Meanwhile, on Karak itself, other forces bring their pieces into play. Tasha, a young but mercurial assassin, is unleashed to kill the foreign witch and bring peace back to her home. But with a renegade Titan mercenary at her side, Venus will let nothing stand in the way of her plan—and the conquest of Karak is just the beginning. With a world in the firing line, and the fate of the entire galaxy at stake, only one question remains:

In the name of duty, is there anything that can’t be sacrificed?

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I’m also delighted to be able to say that, like its predecessor, Venus Rising has been awarded ‘Outstanding in Genre’ status by Red Adept Select.

It’s available from Amazon.com in Kindle and paperback, and from Amazon.co.uk (Kindlepaperback). Those of you with other e-readers or iDevices can grab it from KoboBarnes and Noble or iTunes.

Thanks to all who’ve followed me on another journey from vague idea to publication–and happy reading!

Les meilleures ventes en Space Operas

Ascension Point has stormed into the top ten of the Amazon.fr English-language Space Opera bestsellers’ list, and is rubbing shoulders with Iain M. Banks’ Hydrogen Sonata and Orson Scott Card’s Enders’ Game!

frtopten

 

(And a novel called WARPAINT, which I’ve not heard of before, but find oddly compelling for some reason.)

And what glut of sales do I have to thank for this new-found popularity, I hear you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

I sold one copy.

In five months.

So… I guess they’re not reading a lot of English space opera in France.

…And Back to Normal

Just a quick update as promised: it looks like the sales bump from Book of the Day ad has now ended. The final tally was eighty-two sales on the day of the ad, twenty-two the day after, and just the one today. 105 total, which is 30 more than I needed to break even. Yay!

Here’s hoping a few more readers take the plunge over the next few days and grab a copy while Ascension Point loiters near the top of the Amazon Space Opera bestseller list, and that I get a nice big tranche of new customer reviews from all of these lovely sales. All in all, well worth it.

Edit The Second One, Sell The First One: Rinse, Repeat, Profit

Bit of a status update, this post. My wonderful editor–Misti from RedAdept–finished her initial edit of Venus Rising at the end of last week, and we had our edit kickoff call this Tuesday. Some of you might remember this post from the same point during the writing of Ascension Point. Highlights included an hour and a half on the phone to talk through all of the things that needed fixing, and a mammoth 619 comments from Misti on my first draft, as well as all of the inline edits she’d suggested. This time?

Twenty five minutes on the phone. 90 comments on the draft. (Fewer than on the first chapter alone of that draft of Ascension Point.)

So, yeah–it certainly seems like I’m improving as a writer. Hurrah! I’d thought so, but it’s nice to have something approaching quantitative evidence.

Anyway. Lovely wife is away at a conference this week, giving me a certain amount of spare time to fill. There are only so many back episodes of Chuck that I can watch in one evening, so I spent quite a lot of time on my edits, and sent Misti a new draft last night. It’s looking really good, and I’m confident the final draft of Venus Rising that I release in April is going to be great. Exciting times!

In other news (the ‘sell the first one’ part of the headline) today Ascension Point is Ereader News Today’s Book of the Day. This is far and away the biggest promo I’ve ever done. Greg at ENT gets thousands of applicants in January for the 240 BotD slots available for the coming year, so I was thrilled that he deemed Ascension Point worthy of one.

It’s $150 for the promo, and as you’ll have seen from my post a couple of days back I chopped the ebook price down to $2.99 to make it even more enticing to the ENT subscribers. 75 sales will see me break even, which would be a lovely goal to achieve; mainly I’m after some word of mouth and a few more reviews. After eleven hours–and with folks on the west coast of the U.S. just now getting home from work and checking their email–I’ve sold 49 copies and the book’s Amazon rank has gone from 673,000 to 11,000, so it’s looking pretty promising!

I’ll post final numbers in a few days once the bump is over, for the interest of the more writerly readers out there.

G’night!