One Quarter Done

This is an update to my last post. I am rewriting a short story that lost in a science fiction contest. Above is another illustration I hired someone to make for the story.

I am an estimated one quarter done with the first draft of my longer version of my short story that I am excited about. At 8,272 words for the first fourth, it is still going to be a shorter than a novel, but probably three times as long as it was before.

I usually plan my stories in quarters, where in the first quarter I introduce the setting, the situation, the protagonist, and some of the other important characters and try to build up interest. It ends at a decision point or event that sets the story in a new, riskier direction. Hopefully that is accomplished in this new first quarter of the story or will be in later adjustments.

Calling this ‘One Quarter Done‘ is deceptive because even for people who preplan before they write, the first draft is not the last draft. I had a busy couple of weeks with relatives visiting, my real job, and other interruptions. And next week I will be helping at a week long boy scout camp in a wilderness where the internet is not available. But after that I should be able to make good progress.

I want to share the first part of the story here which is currently the first scene of chapter 1. This may become the prologue or the whole chapter 1. This scene was not in the original short story.

Originally I started the story on the alien planet with Robert newly arrived. That seemed to beg much explaining and exposition. To exaggerate how bad it was, it went something like this:

I looked out my window from my hotel suite in the human spaceport on the planet Sonik and saw all that alien landscape… etc. etc. I had arrived yesterday from Earth … took 13 years to travel here …. woke up from hibernation … in the Procyon star system … outer space, outer space, outer space, etc. Oh yeah, and now I am here.

So I made this new scene where Robert can experience his arrival in a spaceship at the same time the reader is reading about it. This is intended to make the information more a part of the story than being just information. This is my official first draft of the new first scene:

The blurry face resolved to that of the hibernation technician, Uzoma, who had been trying to put me into an induced hibernation for the last fifteen minutes.

“I’m still conscious,” I complained.

“Incorrect wording,” said Uzoma. “You are conscious again.”

I felt cold, foggy headed and miserable still. The intravenous tubes and other cables were still attached to me, but the fluid in the tank I was submersed in was at a lower level. My face was above the fluid and I was  breathing air. Did that mean I would have to acclimate to breathing liquid all over again?

How much torture did I have to go through before I could be launched into space, escape Earth, and be on my way to the star Procyon A, my first interstellar trip. I decided to be patient a little while longer. I didn’t have the energy to do anything else.

“Your blood will be warmed to a normal temperature in six minutes.” Uzoma said. I can then disconnect you and you will be free to go.”

That was alarming. “You mean the flight is canceled? What’s wrong.”

Uzoma rolled her eyes and smiled. “You’re here. On Sonik.”

I was on the planet Sonik? Already? The gravity did feel a little heavier, I think. It was hard to tell. “What’s the date?” I asked.

Uzoma looked at a display panel. “UTC Earth time is 2:52pm, August eight, 2198. Local native time is the second hour of the afternoon, the 9th day of the 7th week of the 17th month, of the 2806th year since people were created.”

That meant I was unconscious for about thirteen years by Earth time. Space ships that traveled at near-light speeds made travel to Procyon possible, but not quite practical. My girlfriend on Earth, Fiona, would be thirty four years old now. My age would be complicated considering near light speed time dilation. And according to medical theory with the stasis of artificial hibernation, I had only aged about one month during the trip. I wasn’t feeling particularly young at the moment.

After a long wait, I had the strength to sit up, and Uzoma helped me out of the tank to a chair. She dried me off and helped me put on underpants and a gown.

“Robert, you’ll continue to feel foggy and weak for the remainder of the day,” Uzoma said. “Your hotel room is ready, your suitcase is already there, and your cargo trunks are in the luggage office by the settlement foyer. After a night’s sleep you should feel fine. Are you ready to be wheeled to your suite?”

I nodded, eager to lay down wherever there was peace and quiet.

There you have it. If you have never seen a first draft before, here is one. Comments and suggestions are welcome. I don’t guarantee that I will obey them all, but I do want to read your insight.

Experimented with Twine.fm

ProcyonB

I commissioned an illustration from an illustrator at Twine for a short story I am planning to self-publish. The guy I hired made me the beautiful piece above.

The Twine experience was a little different than the freelancer sites I have used before. I am still trying to figure out if I will use it more.

Fiverr.com is great for quick typical needs, but if you want something a little more custom or special, they don’t seem adaptable. You would often need to change your project to better match the definition of the job the creator advertises as his/her specialty. You cannot post a job and have creators give you bids.

Freelancer.com is great because you can post exactly what the job is that you want to have done, and the creators will search you out and give a bid, sometimes too many bids to review. This is perfect for me because most of the illustrations or other art I need are custom situations. However, this process can be a little burdensome if you just want a quick little thing. Also, Freelancer pesters you with several small fees during the process so you never know exactly how much the project will cost in advance.

Twine.fm is more similar to Freelancer.com. You post a job, and the creators submit bids. Twine seems more casual and the personnel seems more eager to give you their personal attention to help you through the project. Besides the bid price you agree to with the artist you choose, to pay exactly 20% extra to Twine. I think that is better than a bunch of little fees, but it does seem a little more than I expected. On Freelancer.com they charge the hired artists fees also. As far as I can tell, Twine does not charge the artists any fee, except an annual subscription if they want to enjoy premium perks. Also, Twine specializes in visual arts like videos and illustration, not in writing or other tasks.

I will probably give Twine some more business. I still expect to revert to Freelancer and Fiverr on occasions.

Waiting for the Author’s Proof

I submitted my book cover and interior to createspace.com. They will send me the printed author’s proof (first copy of the book for my review). I already know it will be perfect (from the electronic proof) so I expect to click the “Publish” button. My book should be on Amazon in a couple weeks. It’s exciting.

Last week I told you I would include the first chapter page from the interior of an earlier book (Baktu in this case) which I formatted myself using default Microsoft fonts and styles (BaktuInterior6x9.paperBW.FirstPage), and the first chapter of this new one that I paid to have it professionally formatted (Claymore_Proof_Interior_FirstPage). I am real happy with the professional one. It is clean and stylish.

As I mentioned, the cover is done (by Tiziana of Freelancer.com) and I will feature it in another blog. It’s beautiful.

It’s always a relief to me to have finished a novel. But getting it on Amazon is when it will really be finished. However, in this case, I still need to submit the color version to createspace.com, so it won’t really really be finished until that one is also on Amazon. Color is so expensive on createspace.com that it is hard to recommend buying the color version of a book to friends with a straight face. But Tiziana’s color illustrations are so beautiful that I must publish it.

The featured picture this week is the illustration for chapter 49, the last illustration. This is a moment of suspense when Claymore is injured and fading. One of is nemeses is about to kill his friends that are chained to the wheelchairs.

Chapter 49

 

Book Interior Formatting

I sent my final manuscript to the createspace.com “custom interior” service. This service includes formatting the document to the book’s 6″ x 9″ page size, selecting the ideal fonts and style for my story (influenced by my selected preferences) and placing my 10 illustrations.

I usually do this myself. It’s not that hard, especially since I tend to keep Microsoft Word’s default fonts and header styles. This time my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to try the mysterious service. It costs about $349, so I am hoping for a noticeable improvement from my own simple format. I will show a sample of my chapter one page from a previous novel to their chapter one page after they finish.

Meanwhile, it was a bit of a rocky start since they rejected my manuscript a couple of times for things I thought were trivial, and that they should of been capable of fixing. First, there was a change left from the Microsoft track changes feature, and their rule is all track changes must be accepted or rejected and turned off. It took me a while to find that a space had been added or deleted, or some invisible thing I am still not sure of, and I had not accepted it. Sigh.

The second time they sent it back, they said the title page had a subtitle: “Book Three in the Tomek Universe”, while in the form I filled out I indicated there was no subtitle. In the createspace.com requirements, it listed all the things that could be on the title page, including a subtitle and the book number in the series, which I assumed were two different things. Sigh.

I found it annoying at the time because it delayed the project two days. But I’m still optimistic and excited to see the result. It is due April 26. I will report on the results in two weeks.

This week’s featured illustration is for chapter 41. Here Tiziana shows almost the whole crew of the significant characters. On the wall screen is Tomek and Spri telecommuting to the conference. Tomek and Spri can’t be there in person because they are busy making my next book’s plot happen. The plots overlap. I was hoping for a scene that showed them all, even the tentacled Scod, and Tiziana made it happen. I see paper is still used in the far future, but it’s probably electronic paper, like a flexible and superthin Kindle tablet.

Chapter 45

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