When the Writing is Finished

I’m excited to be finished writing and editing my science fiction novel titled ‘Claymore’. I have both of the appendix short stories completed by my guest authors, Siriano Lambert and Gavin Parish. I am waiting for the last one of the ten illustrations then I can send all the interior to createspace.com for them to format into the 6″ x 9″ page size. I will then put my illustrator to work on the cover. In the meantime I can take a break and do something with my spare time other than write.

Siriano

My guest authors each wrote a short story about a different minor character. Siriano chose the minor character Jak, a police officer caught selling confidential police information to an alleged journalist. Siriano is my nephew, and as far as I know, this will be his first work published in a book. He does have writing samples available on different web sites. Here the first paragraph of his short story for Claymore:

Rain tapped softly on the hood of the air car. Jak sat motionless in the driver’s seat, eyes glued to the dash-screen video feed. It had taken so long to get approval for this stakeout that he was afraid the suspect would have moved on before he could get the cam-bot installed. Of course, he’d had to pay for the cam-bot out of his own pocket. That had been difficult to get Melysa to understand, but in the end they had agreed the risk would be worth it.

I was excited to involve Siriano and he came through with a nice story that I feel will enhance my book. Siriano focuses successfully on emotions and relationships. There is action here also. After reading Siriano’s story about Jak and his family, you understand why Jak felt justified in his later actions, even though Claymore wasn’t sympathetic.

Gavin

I had hired Gavin Parish in the past with my novel ‘Baktu’ and enjoyed his results. He chose the minor character ‘Lucy’, a person of a race known for their intellect but physically comparable to cephalopods (octopuses). He went the extra mile and read my other novels for more background information. Here is his first paragraph:

Lucy was in deep water, and wouldn’t have had it any other way. The plajoni home world was mostly ocean, but here on Regalia she had grown accustomed to spending much of her time on dry ground of late. Even so, it felt good to get her tentacles properly wet once in a while, though the level of toxicity in the water was an ever-present concern. Strict antipollution laws had long been in place across the planet, but busy traffic around a major spaceport posed a heightened risk she would be foolish to ignore. Nevertheless, she would only use the breathing filter Scod had given her as a last resort. It went against her instincts to swim with any kind of aid, and she had not liked the fit and feel of the thing when she tried it on for a test run before setting out.

He made blatant and subtle references to several other characters in the Claymore novel and my other novels (in the same universe), including the Baskin Shipping Yards, Death Ray, and others. At the end the amnesia that he gave Lucy subtly explains how she ended up a homeless tramp when she first appears in the main novel. It’s Interesting story of suspense and action.

Tiziana

The featured picture this week is the one Tiziana made for chapter 29. Here Claymore is poses as a customer in a hanger for spaceships. He is actually spying on the bad guy’s ships. Claymore ends up leasing a spot even though he has no space ship. The picture shows the environment, the open ceiling, and the general busyness of the place.

Chapter29final

Sequels as Standalone Novels

Some of the feedback that I got back from an editor on my sequel sci-fi manuscript was that I did not explain particular things, such as various sentient races and what they looked like. This is a sequel, and I did go over those details in my previous books. That means readers of my previous books would not need those explanations again. So it did not occur to me to explain them again. Right?

I suppose the decision is whether the author wants to require the reader to read each book in the series, and in order. I’ve read some first-of-a-series books that ended on a cliffhanger such that none of the major plot lines were resolved. You had to buy the next book to get any resolution. I decided against this. I did design in a series plot line that would require reading all five books to resolve. However, I wanted each book to be a satisfying novel all by itself. So I made special efforts to have a special plot for each book, with the series plot being secondary. This may be an old concept to experienced writers.

Anyway, since I want the Claymore novel to be good and satisfying without reading the previous ones, I took the editors concerns seriously. But then I was still concerned about boring the readers that already know what the races (or other things) look like. So I tried to either be concise, or to explain it in a way that added insight that previous readers wouldn’t already know, or “show, not tell” in a way that was an important to moving the scene or story forward or to show the particular character’s unique personality compared to others of her race. I think I was able to address most of the issues that the editor brought up in a good way.

On another front, the appendix short story for the minor character Jak is almost finished. The guest author just needs to review some editing that was done to his story. It is a backstory that explains some of Jak’s motives and dilemmas. I am excited to include it in my novel.

Tiziana created the illustration below for chapter 23. Here, Claymore, the lawyer accustomed to wealth and power, is penniless and homeless. With help, he has escaped from prison. But the bad guys are monitoring all his accounts. If he spends anything, they will know where he is. The picture shows this scary new experience as he and Phee try to find a place to sleep in a strange city.

Chapter 23 Final version

Short Story Writers

I wanted to update you on the three short story writers I recruited. I had hired three writers to write a short story each about some minor character in my science fiction manuscript for $250 each. For a peek at the formal invitation with requirements and details click ‘Short Story Invitation‘.

So far two of them have picked characters (tentatively). They picked Jak and Lucy. They had been busy with other things when I contacted about this and just recently have been able to turn more of their attention to the project.

I had my manuscript edited by http://www.scribendi.com using their proofreading package (with query letter, etc). It was my first time with scribendi.com for editing, and it was a positive experience. The editor went beyond proofreading and pointed out some important inconsistencies in the story that I intend to follow up on. A great edit even though I was hoping it would be my last one. Below are the comments from the anonymous editor who did the work (not counting the comments in the actual documents). They were glowing and made me feel good.

This is really an outstanding work, well written and well edited. Naturally, I have made grammatical and other editorial changes, but since the text was already in good shape, I’ve focused most of my efforts on spotting inconsistencies, discontinuities, loose ends, and things of that nature. I’ve made copious notes throughout the revised copies of your manuscript, and have also summarized some overall things I noted about the novel at the end of the TRACKED version of the document.

I think I read on your blog that you were looking for short stories from other authors aiming to develop some of the minor characters. This is a great idea and I would love to contribute, though you’re probably looking to finalize content at this point rather than add new material. Nevertheless, reading this novel has really made me curious about the backstories of some characters, and I’d love to help you fill in the blanks.

The attached TRACKED_REVISED version of your manuscript shows all changes and comments. The CLEAN_REVISED version shows just the comments (apart from my overall comments at the end of the work, which I’ve retained in the TRACKED version only). In addition, the query letter aims to pitch your work to your prospects. The synopsis is a concise one-page summary of your novel, highlighting the major points. The outline provides a more detailed summary on a chapter-by-chapter basis, laying out the plot, characters, action points, and ideas in the novel.

It’s been a pleasure to review your novel, and I mean that as fact–it really is an interesting story. Feel free to contact us again for any additional help. You can request me specifically by entering EM1229 in the Editor Code field after uploading your order. If you make further edits to your manuscript and you want us to proofread them, you can just highlight the new/edited sections and include only those in the word count. Thanks for using our services. I wish you success with your novel, and I look forward to seeing it in print.

The editor was wanting to do a short story for me. I was flattered and intrigued. The problem is, scribendi.com enforces the anonymity of their editors. Customers have no way of contacting the editor directly. I am not complaining about their business choices, I am just sad about it in this case. However, once he (she?) saw my meager $250 price tag, he may have changed his mind anyway.

The next illustration I am presenting from Tiziana is chapter 17. Here Claymore is imprisoned by the bad guys. Tiziana went for mood here, capturing the hopelessness of Claymore’s tiny isolated world for the next indefinite amount of time, with death the most probable resolution.

Chapter17 Final

Telling the Same Story Twice

Recently, writing my novel in progress, I needed to write the same scene from my previous book for my current one. Both books are in the same series. I felt this needed to be handled carefully because I didn’t want my previous readers to feel like I was recycling the same material.

The important difference was this time it was a different protagonist. That same party the “Tomek” was at in a previous book was an important event for Claymore’s story as well. The timelines of the two novels overlap. I decided this could be a good thing if I handled it right.

First of all, I focused heavily on Claymore’s perspective of the scene, leaving out all elements that Claymore did not experience, and telling things that happened to Claymore there that were not in Tomek’s story. I did include the moment they both talked to each other but still made it different by filtering it through Claymore’s mind and assumptions.

Also, I had Claymore wondering and guessing about Tomek’s reason for being there, just as Tomek wondered why Claymore was there in the previous story.

But Claymore and his ‘Trident’ crime investigation was the theme of the scene this time around. I used the chapter to move Claymore’s plot forward. Claymore finds an important clue there that propels him into a web of danger soon after.

I expect and hope readers that recognize the party from the earlier novel will enjoy the nostalgia and finally knowing why Claymore was there.

Chapter13 final

Here is the illustration of the scene that Tiziana made for the chapter (chapter 13). Tomek and his girlfriend are looking on as Claymore tries to get someone to dance with him. Can you tell how well he’s doing? (It’s a formal party on Zimvia where gowns were required regardless of gender.)

Introducing Supporting Characters

Supporting characters are important in most stories. Chapter seven of my work in progress introduces Phee, the green girl in the picture who is the major character besides Claymore himself (the other green species). I didn’t just want her to show up for no reason. Her existence on the same planet as Claymore changes the whole story.

Chapter seven was originally the first chapter until I found I needed introduce Claymore and establish his personal conflicts first. Then Phee’s appearance could be all about her, and the significant twist she presents to Claymore’s goals and hopes. Phee represents mystery, and evidence that the criminals Claymore is trying to hunt down are way bigger than a few street hoodlums. He still won’t know how big until later.

Introducing Phee properly was so important to me that chapter seven is probably the most carefully crafted chapter in the book. (Though, I’m still an amateur no matter how hard I craft.)

This illustration for the chapter is another by tizianafruiu of freelancer.com. Here Claymore is trying to research the strange planet Phee came from. I think Tiziana did a good job making research look intense.

chapter-7-final

Short Stories in the Appendices are Fun

I have recruited two authors to write short stories for my next novel ‘Claymore’ (one of them is a maybe). I also sent an invitation to Gavin Parish but it is too soon to know if he accepts.

With my last novel ‘Baktu’, I had three short stories added to the book’s appendices, written by independent authors. These stories focused on back stories for minor characters. I gave the credit to the author at the top of each story. It was a lot of fun for me and I thought the stories were great and added a valuable dimension to the book. So I decided to do the same with ‘Claymore’.

I expect it to take four to six weeks for all my planned illustrations and short stories to be done (by freelancers). The novel itself is done except for grammar edits. In parallel, I need to start planning the book cover.

The second chapter to have an illustration is Chapter five. I plan to post on this blog each Monday or Tuesday until Claymore is published and include a chapter illustration with each post.

chapter-5

In this illustration, Claymore is presenting his bill to the legislature of the Azten Empire. He is pushing for more resources for government law enforcement agencies to take the pressure off citizen vigilante work and to create reliable justice. Good luck with that Claymore.

Navinos and Claymore

I am on my last rounds of editing my next book ‘Claymore’ (except for purely grammar edits). I am focusing on minor details like plot details, characterization and descriptions.

While I am at it, I hired tizianafruiu from Freelancer.com to illustrate some of the chapters. I am not illustrating all 49 chapters, just one-fifth of them. I already have three of the planned ten completed. Here is the illustration for chapter one: chapter1

Claymore is the one wearing blue (or is it purple?). His race is ‘navino’. Claymore is eating with his niece and her friend.

Claymore has had subtle connections with Tomek in the Negative Zero and Baktu novels and now he gets his own book.  The novel, Claymore, will start before the Negative Zero novel and end after the Baktu novel and investigate some background mysteries from both of those books.

Below is a previous illustration I had drawn for the same chapter one, except a misunderstanding made it a landscape orientation instead of the portrait orientation I wanted. This was a different artist and you will see her opinion on the chapter 1 meal and what a navino looks like.navito-7

Just for another opinion on what navinos are from another artist, below is the published illustration from my first novel ‘Negative Zero’ of a navino:

Navino 1b Tint z

Claymore and Content Editing

Hello. It has been a while since my last blog post. I have been working on my next novel, tentatively titled Claymore.

A preliminary bit of news is that my published book ‘Baktu’ is now available in audio format.

In my last post I claimed that my last book in the Tomek series was all planned. Well, things change. I decided the plans were too big to fit comfortably in one book, so I planned three books. With the current plan there will be a total of five novels in the series. I have finished the first (sharable) draft of Claymore last Saturday. That does not mean I am ready to publish it. However I am excited by this milestone because it means I can start dragging in help in the form of content editors.

I have been noticing fiverr.com, and decided to try a sample of the service from two specific content editors that are sellers there. For a sample I submitted my first chapter of Claymore to each of them.  The chapter is between 1500 and 2000 words. One cost me $10 and the other was $20. Both of the editors turned out to be good. I want to share one of the results here, in case you want to see what a good content editor does to your draft. Click here: ClaymoreChapter1_developmental_edit_CateHogan

Now I want to sent in my full manuscript for content editing, but I need to fix my chapter 1 first, based on the editor’s input.

When I send in one of my precious documents for editing, I usually go through stages. I don’t know if these stages are typical of all authors (who use content or developmental editing) but I will list mine anyway:

  1. Almost immediately after I submit it, I am impatient to get the results. I monitor my email  several times a day. I am tempted to contact the neighbor girl (when I hire her) or check guru.com, freelancer.com or fiverr.com (if I hired services from there) several time a day, and sometimes I give in to the temptation.
  2. I get the manuscript back and read all the comments and notes the editor made, with feverish anticipation.
  3. And then I feel crushed, deflated. The evil editor found flaws. They have implied that my precious words, that I worked so many months on, of are  defective. You won’t feel that when you read mine because you haven’t given birth those darling  words. I even start feeling rebellious. What to editors know anyway? What is so special about their opinion? I am exaggerating. The editor is usually polite about it, and they do sprinkle in compliments.
  4. I think about it. For a full book manuscript I ponder a whole day on it. I start to understand what they are talking about, and understand why those flaws weaken the story. I start seeing how the book could be so much better if I make specific adjustments to address the various issues they pointed out.
  5. And now I am excited. I can’t want to add all those improvements.

In the specific content editor’s notes attached to this blog, some things you will see are where the editor simply misunderstood. And that is good information too. I don’t want the reader to misunderstand. For example, the editor complained that I had Ramos (the human) looked down to talk to Claymore. Since Claymore has four arms he should be taller, right? No. Navinos have always been shorter than humans in the series. So I need to clarify that somehow in chapter 1. There was another item that was a simple misunderstanding.

Another specific item, and this one is a big deal, is that Claymore is not properly motivated. The reader does not have a sense of why Claymore would take risks, or why helping Phee would interest him enough to make sacrifices. This, I decided was deadly important. Sure Claymore wants law and justice for all (like I do in real life, so I automatically assume the reader has the same feelings). But is that enough? Even if is  a valid motivation, it is not specific enough. (Like she pointed out, there are lots of injustices in the news. What is so special about Phee’s situation?) And even that were his only motivation, I have not properly shown enough of Claymore’s background to show why. I am not sure all of this motivation needs to be established in chapter one, but I think I will try to do it in a prologue + chapter 1.

In any case I am planning on giving this serious attention. I now have planned something very specific about Claymore’s background that I want to write as an exciting prologue, where he loses someone dear to him. And it’s something that not only motivates him to help Phee, but goes beyond that and has specific repercussions in the remainder of the book and the plot. I won’t tell you the specifics of my plan, but I am excited to implement this new idea. The bad news is now I have to write a prologue, rewrite chapter 1, and make adjustments throughout the book. Probably before I submit the whole book for content editing. My schedule slides again, but that’s normal.

Final Tomek Novel Planned

Last week I created an outline for the final novel in the Tomek series. I created an outline of each chapter even. I even wrote a polished draft of two chapters. I will now start writing in earnest. It may take a year to finish the manuscript, and a another couple months to get illustrations and a final round of grammar checking.

The story usually changes from the plan by the time I finish the manuscript, so I don’t want to give too many details about it since they may not happen as originally planned. I have planned three intertwining plots that resolve the dangling series issues:

  • The Golantan Invasion: What happens when the big Golantan fleet arrives at Baktu? Does Baktu recover from local civil unrest in time to be prepared?  Are the Azten forces successful at repelling them? Does the homespun Baktu navy make any difference at all? Does Baktu survive the new overlords?
  • Claymore: What has Claymore been up to all this time? Does he solve the case of  of Tomek’s parents’ murder? How did he get special insight about Baktu? Does Trident kill him? Does he save the Trident kazimons? Does he survive the Trident kazimons? How does he find Trident’s secrets?
  • The Trident Conspiracy: Does Trident survive the Golantans? Do they take over Azten? Do they ever kill or recapture Tomek? Do they attack Baktu? Can they be stopped? Can the planet Zimvia survive their backlash?

I currently hope to make each of the three threads a worthwhile story on their own and make them combine in a way to create a spectacular novel. I am excited about this. I just hope I can make it all work.