• Writing

    July Writing Accomplishments

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    I will try to keep it brief this month, though we all know that’s hard for me. As far as writing goes, it’s a shorter list of accomplishments than last month, but I’m okay with that. I’ve been spending a little more time on the to do list and a little less writing, and the stuff I got done made me happy.

    Writing accomplishments:

    1. Smog Alert 1st Draft. Star Trek fanfic. Kirk and Spock are at a tactical conference while Sulu, in command, ferries some scientists to New Aberdeen.
    2. Tholian Rescue 1st Draft. The Enterprise picks up a distress call from a Tholian ship.
    3. Time Travel Sucks 1st Draft. Why even 1986 might get tiring after a while.
    4. An Ethical Debate 1st Draft in progress. A short-ish science fiction tale about an alien species wanting to strike a deal with a woman who lives alone. I thought I’d actually be done this but keep leaving it in favour of other items. That should tell me something about the story.
    5. Fallen Heroes Final Draft. Which means I can get ready to slot the third volume in the Citizen Trilogy into the queue for publication.
    6. Warforge 1 – Harold’s Story 3rd Draft, bringing all three Caledonia novels to a third draft status.
    7. A total of 22 blog posts published, giving me a weekly average of 5 for July.

    After not doing a very good job on the publishing side last month, I managed a few things in July.

    1. The Undead: More Than Just Brains and Hauntings – talked about this one a lot last month, I think, so I don’t feel the need for more at the moment, but it’s finally out.
    2. Haiku – the collection. Still needs a tpb formatted, but available as an ebook.
    3. “Common Ground” – in the void between the stars, there are lenty of things that have been lost over the millennia. Sometimes finding them is profitable, and sometimes it’s dangerous.
    4. “Career Aspirations” – while on vacation, Lieutenant Commander Sulu has some doubts about his career path.
    5. “Footprints in the Dust” – scheduled to drop on August 8th, it’s done, uploaded, and ready to go.

    Overall, a good month. While the total word count didn’t quite reach 26k, I’m happy with the progress I made and look forward to August being at least as productive. I won’t share specific word count goals, but I will say that there should be a novel and two shorts hitting the ebook list during the month. Looking ahead to the fall, well, as a wise Muppet once said, always in motion is the future. I have plans, but I’ll reforecast every month based on reality at the time.

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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  • Writing

    July Writing Trends

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    While I’m not quite ready to call totals on July word counts yet, they’re going to be substantively lower than June and even May, probably closer to April levels. There are a variety of reasons for this, including some real-world ones. From a writing perspective, though, it’s more editing, less drafting, and fewer blog posts. The average word count per day for July is running at a little under 850, well off of May’s 1600 and the over 2600 I managed for June, but still a bit above April’s 840.

    And I’m entirely okay with that. June was, by all measures, a spectacular month. In the entire time I’ve been taking my writing seriously, I’ve only had three better, and two of those only just. My average month over the last year and a half is just shy of 41,000 words, though. July isn’t going to make that but, like I said, there’s not a lot of drafting going on. That may change in the last week of the month, but we’ll see.

    I’ve also made some progress on the publishing side of things that makes me happy. That, combined with the raw work I have been getting done means that, overall, I’m having a good creative month. That’s what really counts.

    Looking back at this post, though, it almost seems like it’s a sort of reporting that there’s nothing to report kind of post, which isn’t what I intended when I started typing.

    I suppose the best way to change that is to put something a little more meaningful in. So, here goes:

    1. I’ve finished the first drafts of the second batch of TOS short fanfiction
    2. I’m within spitting distance of finishing the final draft of the third Heroes Inc book.
    3. Two ebooks have published this month and a third is set up to drop on Saturday.

    And thus, I spoil some of what will be in the monthly writing report a week from Saturday. So be it.

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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  • Reading,  Writing

    Genre Preferences

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    I don’t intend to argue (or even give) definitions in this post, but as I look at the world of fiction, there are 11 genres. Yes, if you include sub-genres and genre-mixings you can get that number an awful lot higher, but I’m just looking at the broad buckets here.

    And I’m going to express preferences. Remembering that your preferences are not mine, you should disagree as much as you like. Those preferences and favourites, both for reading and writing, will become apparent in the short comments that follow. I will say in advance that I have a strong preference for speculative genres and frequently only read in most of the others if they’re mixed in.

    I present the 11 genres in alphabetical order.

    1. Adventure (or you could say Thriller if you like).
    2. Crime (includes things like Detective, Police Procedurals, Noir).
    3. Fantasy
    4. Historical
    5. Horror
    6. Literary
    7. Mystery
    8. Romance
    9. Science Fiction.
    10. Suspense
    11. Western.

    For reading preferences, Science Fiction is where I live most of the time. SF offers endless possibilities for exploring ideas, concepts, possibilities, and what it means to be human. In any given year, SF makes up at least 75% of my fiction reading.

    Fantasy is where I spend the second largest amount of time. The SF/F split used to be a lot closer to 50/50 and I know that there’s plenty of awesome and creative stuff being done, but too much of it seems to be just exploring this neat world/magic system/character the author has created. I say ‘just’ like that’s a bad thing, but it isn’t. These can be great stories, they’re just mostly not what I want anymore. I want stuff to make me think, stuff to make me consider big questions. For me, the best Fantasy does that, but most of it doesn’t look in that direction. And that’s entirely fine. It’s just not for me right now.

    Third most popular genre for ready for me would probably be historical. I have general preferences for ancient Greeks and Romans, Medieval, and Napoleonic Wars, though it feels like I haven’t read a lot of any of these for a long time. Long enough that I feel like I should go and have a look for what’s published in the last few years.

    I think I’ve read exactly one Crime novel, two Mysteries, and three Thrillers in my life. Any literary fiction was for an English class. Romance, Suspense, and Westerns don’t hit the reading list on their own. Any and all of these genres are fine as elements in a story in one of my preferred genres, but I’ve never developed a taste for any of them as genres in their own right. I do sometimes wonder if it’s been a mistake not to try. Whole multiverses full of stories that I just never consider. Something to think about.

    You’ll notice the absence of Horror in everything I’ve written so far in this post. I don’t really do Horror. I tend to express that as finding aspects of reality disturbing enough and I’m not really looking for that in my entertainment. I have tried. As part of my ongoing quest to read all of the books, I keep encountering Horror novels in the World Fantasy Award group. Every one of these I’ve tried has been a DNF (Did Not Finish). More have been DNR (Did Not Read). I’ve never really understood the desire to get in touch with the dark side of things, the fear, the things that cost you sleep at night. I understand that some people do like that in their fiction, but I don’t share it.

    Horror aside, other things that I hate in fiction for the same reason:

    • Pointless gore and violence.
    • Killing/torturing/abusing children as a plot device. I abandon TV shows for that, why would I read it? There are authors whose work I’ve never gone back to because of this.
    • Torture/sexual violence. I leave the room when that happens on TV. I’ve shut off movies because of it. Not high on the list of things I want to see in fiction.
    • The bad guy winning. Happens too often in the real world, thanks.

    Am I squeamish? Over-sensitive? A wimp? Pick the word you like. I prefer to think of it as knowing myself well and being able to empathize with the character on the receiving end. And really, I get enough of these things while consuming media about reality.

    Writing preferences match up fairly well with my reading preferences at the genre level, which shouldn’t surprise anyone too much. But if I get Excel to do the work for me, I come up with the following basic percentages:

    • Science Fiction       47%
    • Fantasy                 39%
    • Horror                   10%
    • Historical              1%
    • Contemporary        3%

    Most of the Horror is probably more like Dark Fantasy, but most of then were also written with either specific anthology calls in mind or to see if I could write to a specific theme. And not one of them is particularly horrific.

    Most of the ‘Contemporary’ probably should go in the Adventure bucket. The super short stuff that doesn’t, well, I guess I’d have to mark them down as Literary, even though that feels weird.

    If I only look at what I’ve written since the beginning of 2019, the numbers turn out very different, with SF being almost 75% of all the stories in that time, counting only first drafts. One Historical Fiction novel, one short that has to be called Literary, and the rest Fantasy. Comes much closer to the reading mix, doesn’t it?

    So, reading and writing both, I’m a speculative fiction guy. Broadly speaking, just about everything I write is either Science Fiction or Fantasy, but I have some plans to branch out a little more over the next year or so.

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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  • Writing

    The 3rd Draft of the 2nd book in the Caledonia Triad Is Finished!

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    How’s that for a longwinded post title?

    It is a bit of a milestone, though, and means that I have one more 3rd draft to do in the set before moving to final. (I am planning to do the final draft of Big Hair Day first, though.)

    Captain Pedersen’s story (this part of it, at least) now stands at 48,263 words. And while only 2/3 of the complete group is at a third draft status, I’m projecting the overall project to run up close to 150k words by the time it’s through the final draft.

    As important to note, this whole set languished for a few years while I drafted other things and never had time to do any significant editing, like with so many other projects. Years as in the original first drafts of these stories were complete just before the end of 2012. I made some revision notes in 2013 and then a much bigger set of them in 2018, but I didn’t get around to the actual second draft until just after my place of work got shut down in late March. I’m very pleased with progress since then, and not just on this set of stories.

    Whatever the other results and changes from the pandemic, I need to stay on the editing track to catch up. If I can find the time, I think I can do that. An hour a day would be a huge impact, but will still probably be most or all of my writing year after I’m finally back at work.

    And that will mean that post-COVID will need to look a lot different for me than pre-COVID when it comes to creative pursuits.

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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  • Writing

    My New Writing Idol

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    It’s possible that Dean Wesley Smith might be my new writing idol.

    I’ve mentioned him before talking about the concept of Pulp Speed, but he doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.

    • He’s published, traditionally, more than 100 novels, and hundreds of short stories, in multiple genres.
    • He’s published more than that going the indie route, in multiple genres.
    • For 4 years, he produced Smith’s Monthly, each month containing 50-55k of new fiction, usually either a novel and a couple of short stories or a bunch of short stories and a serialized novel. And he’s getting back to that with a few issues on the go at once so he can start producing regularly again.
    • He’s blogged every day since 01 August 2012. Closing in on 8 years.
    • Not to mention the various writing seminars, courses, and workshops he teaches.

    The consummate writer. One of the most prolific writers in modern publishing. A writer’s writer.

    And he enjoys it, seeming like he’s having a good time telling stories and talking to people about telling stories and telling more stories. In multiple genres (I know, I keep saying that. Maybe I’m jealous or envious, or maybe I should think about expanding my own writing horizons.) plus some non-fiction.

    And he keeps at it.

    Goals, he still has them.

    Goals, I’m still setting them, still working towards the most basic ones. And it’s cool to have someone to watch who’s making it work and liking it.

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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  • Publishing,  Writing

    What if I Change My Mind?

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    I’m not sure when it became a bad thing for people to change their minds in the light of new information or an evolving situation. If you look back at things, are you likely to hold the same views on everything at forty as you did at twenty? Seems unlikely. The world is different, the things that surround you are different, and you’ve had twice as much life experience so you’re different.

    So what have I changed my mind on today?

    Pursuing traditional publishing at novel-length as a productive use of my time.

    I had been working on the route where I’m pursuing both routes, independent and traditional, but the work/reward ratio doesn’t look like it’s worthwhile anymore on the traditional side.

    Yes, it can still be done, and I think that I can probably do it, given time, energy, and persistence, but I’ve slowly come to the realization, watching as successful traditional authors slowly (or quickly) divorce themselves from traditional publishing, and as some authors never take that route in the first place, that I don’t think it’s worth the time commitment for me.

    There are a lot of arguments, a lot of things you can look at that have brought me to this decision. The way advances are done. The rewrite process at major publishers (yes, I’m going with anecdotal horror stories here, but they’re fairly widespread). The contraction of the publishing industry and slow gathering of power into a small handful of big companies who are all struggling with severely outdated business models. The way authors’ contracts are frequently written. That it’s somehow more cost effective for big publishers to sign someone to a 1-3 book contract and then replace them with someone else signed to a 1-3 book contract if they aren’t instantly as popular as Stephen King. The length of time, and number of editing passes, between your final draft and actual publication. That you can only write what they want for what they think the market (that they force the shape of) wants right now.

    It all comes down to one thing, though: the traditional publishing industry is about publishers, not authors.

    Seems kind of obvious when it’s put that bluntly.

    So the question becomes, why should I expend the effort to break into an industry that isn’t going to work for me no matter how hard I work for it?

    It’s not all that way, of course. I’m talking about Big Publishing. But there aren’t that many publishers at that second tier, that middle level anymore and it’s a hard market for them. They’re also getting the same level of submissions as big publishing houses and so get to publish only the best of what they like, which is good, but the level of competition means there are a lot of great stories that should get published and don’t.

    The short-fiction side of the industry is bubbling and thriving and expanding. Sure, there are a lot of short-lived publications, but there’s also never a lack of great short fiction available. I’m not abandoning short fiction submissions, but it hasn’t been a focus of mine for several years. I’m turning back towards it in the second half of this year, though, because I’ve never lost my love of short fiction, reading or writing.

    But I’m really talking about novel-length work here, where the indie route means I have complete creative control over the entire process from the initial scribbled idea to the final release of the e-book and even paperback design.

    And sure, that means I’ve had to learn how to design my own covers and do my own layouts and learn new software and build a social media presence and blog effectively. Sure, it means I have to keep learning and relearning all of those things, over and over again so I keep getting better at them. So what? Learning stuff makes me happy, too. I’m investing the time into bettering myself and my skills instead of rewriting the same book over and over again until it bears only a passing resemblance to what I originally committed to the keyboard and is ready for publication by someone’s definition who’s never even met me.

    The ultimate result is probably that I get to write a lot more stories, and that’s kind of an important part of things for me, too. I have a lot of stories I want to tell. For 2020, I’m in catch up mode for revising and editing. Honestly, that will probably stretch into 2021, too, since I have a lot of stuff I’ve drafted in the last few years and not edited, and I have a lot of stuff I have edited that I haven’t done anything with. If everything I currently have at between 1st and final draft that I haven’t published were to release at the rate of 1 book per month (not even looking at short fiction), I can get to Spring 2022 before things that I’m currently drafting get to the front of the line. And then there are all the things I have planned.

    I have a lot of stories to tell, and I’ve figured out that it really isn’t that important to me to get them published traditionally. I don’t think I can live long enough for that to happen, anyway.

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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  • Writing

    Writing Day #2

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    I took less time from chores and household projects today, but it was still a productive day for me. Just for fun, a quick update on what today’s writing focus brought me:

    • “Drifting” finished at 4,167 words. And yes, that made me a seven hundred or a thousand words wrong on how long I thought the story would be, but I was enjoying the AI annoying my protagonist.
    • 10 Chapters (out of 45) of third pass editing on Fallen Heroes, taking me to that pass being just over 60% complete.
    • A couple of short reviews.
    • Very basic plotting on a Fantasy (probably) story where I’m totally ripping off a plot from a Shakespearean play. At 1435 words, the ripping off part is done and the twisting of things has begun. Then comes the fleshing out. I have no idea why I started this, but it seemed like a fun idea at the time.
    • And this short blog post.

    So not precisely what I originally planned, but I enjoyed the time spent at the keyboard. Total word accumulation for the day = 4715. Granted, that’s much lower than yesterday’s 8,138, but a day with a lot of drafting will always be a bigger day than a day with a lot of editing.

    It’s also a 2-day total of 12,875.

    And brings June so far to 18,223.

    And the last day I missed doing any writing was the 19th of March, making 77 days in a row and a word total of 99,940 in that time. Which means I should probably find a couple more minutes to write tonight to break 100k for the streak. (The year as a whole is about 114.2k for me so far, which tells you how much I got done in the first couple of months of 2020.)

    Not that I’m counting, or anything. Oh, wait. Actually, I’m always counting. And I’m always counting just about everything.

    Stay safe, and be well, everyone.

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  • Writing

    Writing Day

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    I’ve had a week or so of heavy manual labour cutting trees down and cutting them up, building raised garden beds, and hauling umpteen wheelbarrows full of soil (plus bags of peat and compost) around to fill them all, and doing a ton of other yard work that’s been neglected or on the ‘To Do’ list for a while. In some cases, a long while.

    I’m happy with the progress but, frankly, I’ve made this much progress by spending less time than I’ve wanted to on creative stuff and a couple of other important things in my life.

    So I decided to have a ‘weekend’ where I do only proper maintenance housework (dishes, laundry, cooking, vacuuming sort of stuff) and schedule only minor items otherwise so I can spend some of that extra time on creative work, not necessarily catching up to where I would have been, but putting in a few extra hours so I can feel good about my productivity.

    I’ve kind of stuck to that today, squeezing in a little more yard work since it hasn’t rained like the weather forecast promised, and further made myself the deal that I’d get as much as I could get done on one thing.

    7,104 words later, the first draft of Pride of Andor is finished at 24,419 words, remarkably close to my projection of 24,200. The math (because how else would you project a numerical total) did briefly put that project up over 26k at the midpoint when I had four out of a string of six scenes need more words than I expected to convert from pure dialogue to readable prose, two of which were big and made a serious impact on the projection, but it settled out in the 24-24.5k range for the rest of the time after that.

    Sorry. I’m an Excel geek and I track everything. I love spreadsheets

    Anyway, I think the 24.4k words in question are mostly good words. Sure, I expect some tweaking in the third draft as I make sure everything says what I want it to, but the second draft, when it gets to the top of the list, I think is going to go fast because I don’t feel like there’s that much that needs fixing. It probably helps that I wrote the draft in exactly two weeks so I may have been able to have the whole story in my head every time I sat down to type. It probably helped even more that this was technically a conversion from an audio script and I could fix the things I didn’t quite like or that were problems while doing the conversion. Realistically, this is probably already a second draft in terms of my normal process. And while the story is substantively the same, there are some significant differences, too, and quite a bit of new dialogue that isn’t in the audio scripts. Such is writing.

    But I’m thrilled with what I’ve gotten done today and hope to spend an hour or two on the editing side of things before it’s time for bed.

    For day two of my writing tomorrow, the basic plan is to finish the first draft of “Drifting” (working title, probably not the final one), currently about ¾ complete and likely to come in at 3200-3500 words when that’s done, and then move on to making a whole bunch of progress (hopefully) on the third draft of Fallen Heroes. After that, back to something like a “COVID Normal” schedule that involves a lot more chores and household projects.

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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  • Writing

    A Quick Note On May Writing Accomplishments

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    Very quick. May was a solid month, and in no small part because I haven’t been at work, but I’ve decided I’m only doing major goal updates in the form of a blog post once per quarter. And since we’re still a month short of closing out Q2 of 2020, this isn’t that post. I’m very happy with how May went, though, so I think it should be good for a quick list.

    In completion order:

    1. The revision notes draft of Fallen Heroes, third (and probably final) book of the Citizen trilogy.
    2. Third draft (make it pretty) of Big Hair Day, my historical fiction story set in the 1980s that’s part history, part memoir, part miserable time for the hero, and part rose-coloured glasses, also for the hero. Coming in at just a little over 60,000 words.
    3. Second draft of Fallen Heroes. Now coming in at a little shy of 58,000 words. The shortest of the three, but the story is complete and while I expect to add a couple of thousand words in the next draft as I make sure everything says exactly what I want it to say, I very much doubt it will get much past 60k.
    4. Final Draft of A Matter of Honour, a now 46.5k-word novel set in the Star Trek prime universe and starring, among others, a young Lt. Chekov.
    5. Third Draft of the first of the Warforge: Caledonia trio. Each of those three needs a title of its own, but I need to make them all work together, too. Coming in at 49.2k as of this draft and that won’t change by a whole lot between now and completion.
    6. And I’m just shy of a third done the third draft of Fallen Heroes.
    7. 18k words of first draft fiction, including
      • Pride of Andor = 13,771 words and just over half-way through the plot. I’m converting this from an audio drama I don’t expect to ever produce, though and my projection currently says a touch over 26k for the finished first draft – there’s a scene absent from the script that I think really needs to be included. I should probably go back and put it in the audio drama script when I get there.
      • Working title “Psychic Drug” = 1329 words, 1st draft complete
      • Working title “Memory Core” = 1283 words, 1st draft complete
      • Working title “Drifting” = 1850 words, and I think I’m about half-way through this one, too. Maybe a little more. It should come in somewhere around 3500 words, I think.
    8. A total of 19 blog posts, breaking my target of 3 per week for the second month in a row (and the first month that was the actual target in 2020), which would only have needed 14 for the month of May (for June, it will technically only need 13, 10 of which I’ve already flagged topics for, so things I want to talk about on the fly should get me there with no issues, right?).

    On the publishing side:

    1. “Natural Order” = released into the wild on May 4th.
    2. “For Whom the Gnome Tolls” = released on May 18th.
    3. The Undead: More Than Just Brains and Hauntings = fully prepped and slotted for release at the end of the week. Files were uploaded this morning to Amazon for the ebook and paperback.

    A solid month, I think. And because I started this post by saying it would be short, it’s probably time to keep that promise.

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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  • Writing

    Drafting Fiction

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    About six weeks earlier than I planned, I’ve started drafting fiction again. It’s not, so far as I can tell, affecting the editing progress I’ve planned to make in the same period, which probably means I’m neglecting something else slightly, so I’m going to keep at it.

    It’s only been going on about a week so far, and I’m not dedicating a huge amount of time for it, but it’s making me happy. There’s a particular kind of pleasure in crafting new words that’s different than the pleasure I get from polishing and rearranging existing ones. Yes, I’ve still got a lot (A LOT) of catch up to do on the editing side, but I’ve made a lot of inroads this year, especially since COVID, and I feel like I never want to get to the point where I’ve completely caught up. What fun would that be?

    To offset the Star Trek novella I’m working on (based on an audio drama script that I’m not likely to ever produce as an audio drama) that will probably come in at somewhere between 25 and 30,000 words when fully edited (6k into the first draft so far), I’m trying my hand at flash length for the first time in quite a while.

    I missed on the first one at a little over 1300 words and tentatively titled “Psychic Drugs”. It should also probably be several hundred words longer than it is since I deliberately scaled back to almost nothing but conversation in the last quarter of the story trying to finish it in one session. Reminder: don’t rush yourself. The story would have worked better if I’d taken the time to flesh it out in the first draft. Now I have to fix it in post.

    The second attempted flash piece, “Computer Core”, is probably also not going to squeak in under the 1000-word mark that traditionally marks flash fiction. By the time this posts, I’ll know that for sure, but as I write this, “Computer Core” is the next thing in the keyboard queue, and my rough idea of how long it’s going to take to finish the story is a little more space than the almost 600 words I’ve already put into it. Which, based on past history, means it will probably come close to 1500 words by the time it’s done.

    Time for more typing.

    Stay safe, and be well, everyone.

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