Monday, June 29, 2015

Alpha

Well, I managed to reach what I'll call the "Alpha" version of Tin's story. I'm sure there are still a few typos in there (though I've spent several passes tidying up) and the story is in no way "Finished" but it's at a good enough point that I'm ready to get some additional eyes on it.

The initial feedback I've received has been consistent:

 - story and chars are ok to interesting
 - opening is a drag
 - some questions not answered or expectations not met in the ending

I can work with that.

The opening scene, in which a grizzled old prospector talks of "siftin' dust" was so much fun to write that I made it about 10 pages long, instead of the 1 page it should have been. I know that needs to change as readers won't be patient enough to dig through all that exposition.

As for unmet expectations or unanswered questions, that's a bit more tricky. In some ways, I don't ever think that a novel needs to answer every question or tie up every odd loose end. I _do_ believe that you owe the reader a good story and a conclusion of sorts. And I think I delivered on those. Now I just need flesh out the rest of the story and see if it's still interesting enough.

What I don't want to do, and haven't yet done, is chase a specific genre or demographic. This is not a "Young Adult" novel. Even if the world it's set in is "post apocalyptic" it's just not that kind of novel. But it does pose some much larger issues (class warfare, for example) and right now, those questions are not addressed. Can I save them for another book? Or do I have to tackle them now?

So, I'll rev the novel again and call it beta and look for more victe-- er, I mean, volunteers to read it through.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Motivation

It's no secret: I've been having a really hard time with this latest novel. Every time I fix an issue and start to build momentum, it only lasts a short while. Then I'm right back at the "it's broken" phase and I want to quit.

Being honest with myself, I've known the real issue for a while. I "put a bandaid" on it with a quick writing fix a few months ago and then pushed onward. But I knew... I knew it wasn't the right fix, and honestly, I didn't know what the right fix was.

The issue stems around the main character's motivation. She's stuck in a town, working as a slave mechanic and existing at the whim of others. Sure, she's treated slightly better than some of the other classes in the city, but she has no real freedom. She not held captive, either.

It's just that the city is in the middle of a kind of badlands/desert, and she would not survive long out there. Plus there really isn't another safe town to run to even if she had the opportunity.

But she needs to leave the city in order for there to even be a story, and I know where she has to end up.

But her motivation seemed fake, forced. She was going to leave with no real hope of making it out alive. And that just didn't ring true. She isn't the kind of person who would willingly march to her death out in the wasteland.

But I felt almost like having her decide otherwise would be a lie as well.

Then today, I realized the _real_ reason I was stuck. I had written the scene one way, and didn't want to have to do the hard work of rewriting the chapter from the beginning. The minute I decided to give it a try, I felt better.

So I deleted the old chapter and rewrote it from the top. She is young, our main character, and so she would never be brave enough to march off to her doom without any chance of survival.

I won't spoil the key plot point, but I really, really, like the way it played out in the new chapter.

I think her motivation is rubbing off on me!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Miscellany

The blog's been really quiet, but I've actually be fairly busy.

I built the second raised bed/bench thingy, a perfect clone of the first. They're in place now and that part of the yard looks much better. Of course, now the compost zone looks like a disaster so maybe I'll find a way to clean that up next.

I made an adirondack chair from some free plans I found on the internet. Despite really taking my time, the chair turned out to be a disaster. I tore it apart and threw most of it away.

I did save a few boards because I'm going to take an old chair I found in Tahoe, disassemble it (done), and then trace all the pieces and recreate it. I'm working on that now.

California's in the middle of a terrible drought so we're saving shower water to use in the garden. Our garden is much smaller than usual this year, as we're trying to balance wanting to grow food and having to water it. Hope the drought lets up soon.

Of our three chickens, TWO are broody at the moment, making for some hilarious scenes in and around the egg box. Firefly, our red sexlink/comet, is laying daily though.

And finally, the novel. I've been off and on editing the novel from nanowrimo last November. I found some fairly serious issues that ruined the story for me, but I managed to stick it out and find viable, fixes for each of them. In fact, I'm back in love with the story, and feel it's much stronger now. I've been working toward a beta draft to send out to folks who want to help give it a read and hope to have that done in a month or so...

Once that's finished and a few folks have read it, I'll be ready to make a version for editing/proofing and then I'll publish. I sincerely hope to have it out by November. It's taking much longer than I wanted, but it's definitely a better story now than it was at any time in the last 6 months.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Raised Bed Potting Bench

We built some raised beds about 12 or so years ago, and they've done well for us other the years. When they started falling apart, we moved them and repurposed them.  But they finally got so rotten that it was time to tear them out completely.



In this picture you can see what's left of the right-hand box. The left one is already torn out (it fell apart in my hands, no need for tools). The compost area is at the top of the picture, spilling over into the box zone. And though it's hard to see in the picture, the boxes are riddled with tree roots from the neighbor's yard, rendering them useless for planting..

And it's because of those roots that we're trying this type of raised bed:


I built it this morning. Didn't use as much scrap lumber as I wanted to, but if/when I build the second one, I'll be able to build the whole thing without buying any more lumber...

It's 32" high, 21" deep, and 48" wide. It weighs way too much...

I still need to get some lag screws for the sides to help keep it together, but that's about it. We probably won't even bother treating the outside. It's made out of the same stuff as the original boxes, and those lasted more than a decade.


Monday, December 29, 2014

2015

I'm really looking forward to 2015. Not that 2014 wasn't great -- it was fantastic.

But I have so much optimism for this year, so much enthusiasm.

I've talked before about "making no small plans" -- this year I'm going to be embracing change. I'm keeping my options open, career-wise. Whether I stay where I'm currently working or move along to a new job, I'll look to do something new, maybe get slightly out of my comfort zone.

I'd like to also focus on collaboration. I know so many talented and intelligent people. They inspire me creatively and they motivate me. I want to work more with those people. I want to surround myself with them.

I'm hoping to do some collaborative writing or other projects. I want to work with the people I know and trust and respect.

Maybe it's just the 5th day of vacation talking, but I sense so much potential headed my way, it's hard to not be excited.

What about you? Looking forward to this year? Got a project you want help with? Feeling inspired? What do you hope to accomplish or get out of this year?

Writing Updates

I've been working on Tin here and there over the last few weeks, but I haven't made a ton of progress yet. I feel I know what the story needs; now I just have to sit down and make it happen. Will have to order a new keyboard for home as this little one hurts my wrists too much to do sustained writing.

For the Jute series, I put the first book up for free on Amazon kindle and thanks to the kind folks at BookSends, about 1400 people downloaded a copy.

I put the other two books in the series on sale as well, and have sold a handful of copies as a result. That's fantastic, as the sales had all but dried up. No, still not making any actual money, but I like knowing that I wrote something that people out there actually read, even if it didn't make me rich.



Monday, December 15, 2014

Project Tin: New Tool

As I mentioned before, I'll be using a new toolset this time around. For the Jute books, I used a combination of:

  • TextPad (wrote in textpad for nanowrimo)
  • MS Word (for the CreateSpace template)
  • Calibre (ebook conversion)
  • Hired out the cover art
This time, I'm replacing MS Word and Calibre with Scrivner. Or at least, that's the plan.

The chapters and scenes entered into Scrivner
Nanowrimo is a fairly large event and various companies offering software and services try to capitalize on its popularity by offering discounts and trials. I used the trial version of Scrivner and then decided to buy it via the 40% discount code "awarded" to nanowrimo entrants. (and probably everyone else on the planet).

I'm still going to need to hire out the cover work, but I'm hoping to just use one tool for creating the print and ebook formats. I wrote the original 50k word draft in TextPad for nanowrimo again, but I immediately put it into Scrivner.

I've only just begun with Scrivner. I've gone through the onboard tutorial and got my story in the tool (though I'm sure I'm already doing things wrong!). I'm not bothering with "character" sheets at the moment, but I might later on. This version of the novel is rough --there's a lot to do and fix.

And I'll outline some of those next time!