This Time Travel Stuff is Hard!

Writing is hard. Any writer will tell you that. We intentionally make it harder (also known as ‘challenging’) on ourselves to see what we’re really made of. I did that with Spirit Hackers in the ways of creating a full outline and structure before writing. I also ditched MS Word and Apple’s Pages for a still relatively-unknown app called Scrivener. With Loopback, I’ve done it again by working on a plot involving time travel. This is a subject that can get you in trouble easily if you don’t dot your T’s and cross your I’s.

The odds of hitting a paradox are high and plot-holes aren’t just issues that can be patched. They can completely derail the entire book. Add in the fact that I’m inventing technology as I go and this is a perfect storm of screwing up that I’m trying to avoid.

I’ve taken organization to the next level and created a dedicated document in my Scrivener binder for all technology I’m inventing and also the time travel rules I’m laying down. By having a reference that’s never more than a click away (and if I jump into split-screen view, it’s not even that!) I can keep my head on straight when referencing something down the line in chapter 20 that I invented in chapter 2. So far, it’s working great for me.

Finally, my word count is progressing with Loopback clocking in at 13,754 words. My current goal is to write about 3k a week to keep my original promise of having this book done by the middle of the year.

So what keeps you organized with your writing? How do you challenge yourself in new projects? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Entering A New World

I don’t know if there’s a saying or phrase one utters when starting work on a new book but if there is one, let it be said here. Writing on Loopback has officially begun and while it’s been a little slow-going (my available time to write has been extremely limited) progress has still been made.

The world building took a little longer than I thought but in discussing key plot points with my wife, I found what worked and what needed tweaking. She’s a stickler for time travel inconsistencies so this is something I know needs to be perfect. Luckily Back to the Future is my favorite movie of all time and I consider it one of the most consistent and accurate time travel stories told. Being a student of Marty McFly and Doc Brown, I believe, gives me an advantage in knowing what to do and not do with this book. If I keep close to my outline and not get ‘cute’ with time travel tricks, I think Loopback can be really successful as a novel.

Interestingly enough, the book has had some false starts and sticking points in this early stage. For starters, I don’t have complete character descriptions for most of the people in the book. I’ve decided to just ‘go with it’ and add things in as I find them necessary whereas a personality and good dialogue can supplement descriptors that may mean nothing to some readers. This is quite a departure from Spirit Hackers where I had each person not only described in a one-sheet but I also had reference pictures for their profiles. Of course if this doesn’t work out, I can always fix these issues in editing.

Finally, my first chapter was half-written and then scrapped. I envisioned Loopback to be told in first-person but I quickly saw it was not working. Perhaps it’s from never writing a full-length book in first POV or something else but each sentence was a struggle to format and there was no flow. After working on it for an hour, I moved it to the side and started again. Thirty minutes later, chapter 1 was complete.

There’s plenty more to say and report on with Loopback, even in its infancy but I’m going to keep its debut post here on Copious Notes (relatively) short and sweet. Plus it gives more more to blog about later on. 😉

Loopback Progress: 6,641 words, chapter 4 half-way complete

The Benefits of Self-Publishing

The writing and publishing world has blown up the past week mostly due to the break-out news of writer Amanda Hocking and her incredible publishing story. The amazing part isn’t that she got her books into the hands of millions of readers but the fact that she’s NOT published in the traditional sense. You can read more about Amanda’s story from the link above but the gist is that she went down the ‘correct’ path and after getting one-too-many rejections on her umpteenth book she decided to go the self-publishing route. She now holds multiple spots in the Amazon Kindle top 100 sales and one of her books has already been optioned for a movie. Incredible.

This of course is another wakeup call that I’ve been hearing a lot lately about self-publishing. J.A. Konrath talks a lot about self-publishing and how he makes more from eBooks than anything in print. The biggest fault people find in his argument is that he’s an established writer and he has a fan-base already in place to buy those books. This theory has been blown out of the water by Amanda’s success.

So where does this leave us? Most of us are trying very hard to get our best work written and then queried out to agents in the hopes we are picked up. There’s always the chance but we all know the reality that it’s very difficult. You also can’t just give up and place your work online for self-publishing because that is a disqualifier for most agents and publishers when looking at a book. They want work that’s never been published in any form. I would LOVE to put Spirit Hackers into Kindle and all other stores out there, podcast it via podiobooks.com and do anything else to get ‘out there’ but then I’ve shot myself in the foot on a book that’s taken me over 2-years to complete. Setting Spirit Hackers free isn’t the answer, at least not until after it’s been queried everywhere and then rejected. If I’ve explored all avenues and can’t get it sold, then I will seriously consider putting it online myself.

Can we have our cake and eat it too? That’s what I am going to try. Amanda’s story has pushed me to the realization that self-publishing CAN work if the story is good. So this is my plan to have the best of both worlds: I’m writing two books. You all know Loopback is my new WIP. That book will be written for the traditional route of writing and querying. As with Spirit Hackers, if I exhaust all publishing options I’ll consider putting it online. In addition to Loopback, I plan to develop and write books that I’ve decided will be self-published from the get-go. I don’t know if it will be a short story, novella or novel but there will be work out there and available for everyone. I’m throwing some ideas around and figuring out how to do this but it’s going to be a lot of fun. I plan on working out some of those ideas later today. In addition, if I’m able to write quick enough, I may release it chapter-by-chapter as the book is getting written to make it even more exciting.

Of course this puts a lot more on my plate but I’m focusing on the big picture: getting published one way or another while preserving certain works for a shot at the traditional market. I figure if my self-published work takes off, it may sell to a publisher anyway. It worked for Nathan Lowell, so it can work for me.

Rinse & Repeat

Writing seems to be a cycle that repeats itself: brainstorm, outline, write, edit, beta, edit, edit, submit. While waiting on edits and submissions other works begin their lives and today is no exception. I’m beginning work on a new book.

Spirit Hackers took me over two years to write and this time I’m determined to finish this one in record (for me) time: 6-months maximum. Can this be done? Perhaps. Life always gets in the way along with a drive that isn’t consistently there but I think setting a goal is always helpful. For the past four or five months I’ve thrown around the idea of writing a time travel story, which in itself is difficult. Only a handful of books and movies have done it well and it’s a minefield of plot holes. I consider myself a student of time travel (Back to the Future being my favorite movie of all time) and it’s a challenge I’m up for. Hell, I may even write a great book in the genre!

This past week I broke out my good ‘ol lefty notebook and began outlining & brainstorming this time travel beast. It’s coming together pretty well but there’s still plot points and world-building that needs to be done before I get behind my keyboard. This is the most exciting time with a new WIP. It’s the most creative and the world is my oyster.

So with that said, I welcome into my writing universe my new time travel book: Loopback. Let the games begin.

Beta Blocker

Last week I completed the edits to Spirit Hackers which brought my long and inconsistent writing process with this WIP to another milestone: Second Draft. I’ve talked a lot lately about how long it’s taken me to get to this point but boy am I glad I got here! Any time I complete a stage of this project I am filled with a huge sense of accomplishment and confidence. If you include my Robert book, I have now written two full-length novels.

So what do I do now? Continue the process of course. In the months leading up to the completion of my initial draft, I began lining up some beta readers. I’m not an active member of the Absolute Write forums (haven’t even visited the site in years) and so it was a little tougher of a process finding people I was comfortable in approaching. In the end, I think I made some good choices. My first beta and I tossed a few preliminary e-mails around setting the stage for what I was looking for and in just a few hours my baby, my sacred story, was shuttled through the internet at light speed hurdling towards an inbox. Now the hard part for me: I wait for the impending feedback. Patience has never been my strong suit so I’m doing my best to not tweet or e-mail this person so I’m not a pest. I think I’ll be fine.

With Spirit Hackers off my plate (for now) I can turn my attention to another project. “Another project?! What other project?” you may be asking yourself. Stay tuned to Copious Notes to find out soon.

Back Up or Suffer the Consequences

Being a techie guy, sometimes I assume things I do are things everyone does. In my time working in the IT field, it’s been made very clear to me that even in this digital age people do not take basic precautions to ensure their data is safe. Us nerds all shout from the mountaintop but until it happens to you, you’ll continue to ignore the warning: Back up your data.

I think about data backup every once in a while but it was an event that took place on Saturday that drove a point home to one writer’s social circle. My friend Melanie posted on Facebook that she was on the home stretch of her edits and she was showing the last 80 pages of her WIP who’s boss. We cheered and encouraged her to make it to the end. Shortly thereafter a post came up that would strike fear in the hearts of any writer:

I’ve edited 80 pages… and FINISHED this draft, then… my anti-virus software deleted my files.

A collective “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” was heard across the interwebs as we all experienced something no one should go through: the loss of data into the ether of nothingness. Now Melanie’s a smart cookie because she backs up her files but those were gone too. She also syncs to Dropbox where the files were gone as well. What’s a writer to do? Luckily Dropbox is awesome and THEY also back up files. Using their handy dandy website, Melanie was able to recover a very-recent version of her manuscript and get almost everything back. An insurmountable 80-page loss turned into a completely doable 17-page recreation. With the edits fresh in her mind, 30-minutes was all she needed to reach the end again.

What’s the moral of the story? You guessed it: Back up your data. This is something I’ve been obsessed with for years and ever since I began writing a few years ago, I’ve become more diligent to ensure I lose nothing. When I write in Scrivener, it auto-saves every 3 seconds of idle time after any change has been made to my WIP. It also has a built-in ‘Snapshots’ feature that keeps versions of each part of the document. I try to take a snapshot every few writing sessions. Once I’m done for the day, my Mac has Time Machine running to take care of the rest. In less than 60-minutes, it’s hourly backup runs and copies the file to my spare drive. That’s not enough for me though. I also use OS X’s Backup program to back up my entire ‘Writing’ folder daily at 1AM. Finally, every once in a while I will also completely duplicate my WIP file into a backup file in case the master version is ever corrupted beyond repair.

Between all these methods, it would take a catastrophic failure of epic proportions (or someone really messing with me) to cause my WIP to be lost forever. Luckily for me Time Machine also backs up my entire Mac so my music, movies and irreplaceable photos are also safe. Remember we live in a digital world where data is erased forever as easily as it’s created. If you do ANYTHING creative backing up is not an option. It’s required.

PS- Help Melanie out!! Dropbox is a fantastic and FREE service and gives you extra space if your friends sign up. Since I don’t even use half of my space, the Dropbox link in paragraph 3 is Melanie’s referral. Sign up through that link to toss her some extra space while you get 2Gb!

Getting Cozy With Editing

October 6th seems like so long ago. One reason for that is that’s the day I completed my first draft of Spirit Hackers. Since then my life has been busy with the holidays and other events but my mind has never been far from the dreaded next step: editing.

I’ll give you all a moment to calm your churning stomachs.

I know nothing makes me feel dreadful about writing like editing does. It’s something I look at as a non-creative process meant solely for fixing and improving. Not that I think it’s unnecessary but I’ll be the first to admit I’m slogging through it all.

So Spirit Hackers has been going through the first round of edits and I’ve been making corrections, clarifications and general sprucing-up of the WIP. The overall story and progression has remained intact which helps avoid the ‘ripple effect’ of making a major change in the story and needing to update the story everywhere else.

At times it’s been slow going and other times I get only a few minutes in but progress is progress. Right now I’m about 50% through my round of edits and then I’ll be shipping it out to a few beta readers. I know the book will need a bunch of changes and tweaks after those people present their notes along with the error of my ways.

Lately I’ve been poking my head into the world of agents and querying. I’ve seen agents posting to twitter and I even signed up for Querytracker.com. Of course it’s getting ahead of myself a little but knowing that these are people I’ll be communicating with in not-so-short of a time helps keep the motivation going.

Finally, my other motivation (aside from giving this book a fighting chance in the world) is to take the time my beta readers will use to do their thing and begin work on my next project. I have a new novel idea baking in my mind along as well as taking a strange dream I had last year that I think will make a good short story. Both are in the scifi / fantasy realm so I think my genre is just getting further reinforced. The dream was something I wrote down as soon as I woke up and will be interesting. It could also be a bust. We shall see.

For now I’ll continue making word changes and fixes to Spirit Hackers and slowly bring this novel closer to the reality of being a real book one day.

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