Trains, Aliens and Radar Guns

Recently, we got stuck… we were discussing where to take a certain character in a certain scene, and one of us had a mind blowing idea. “What if we did this…!” Oh man, it was awesome! We started discussing twists, turns, and scenarios, talking over each other, each eager to share the newest thought. It was fun and energizing…for a while.

All kinds of ideas started flying out of our heads and onto the computer screen. Antagonists in our story went from humans, to mutants, to actual aliens from a dying planet. We talked about radar guns, human fertility prisons, trains, you name it.

It seemed the more we added and changed our original vision, the more complex the story became. We had more questions than answers, and were having to come up with more twisted ideas to explain the curvy ones.

Ultimately, we figured out the best thing to do was go back to our original vision, our dream, our story. It worked. We came up with an easy explanation to a really not-so-difficult question. Long story short, we stopped trying to make our story and our characters something they weren’t. Maybe down the road we’ll rethink the trains, aliens and radar guns – not that they won’t be in there somewhere. Or maybe we’ll get even crazier.

Heavy Breathing and Panic Attacks

The whole process of writing and publishing a book is hard. No, seriously. When someone says “I’m writing a book,” you might think, “Yeah, and?”

It’s not easy. It’s very fucking hard. Sure, anyone can write a book. You can, your mom can, your best friend can. Hell even the creepy neighbor next door can write a book. But then what?

Being this close to publication has really thrown us off a little. I mean, we’re this close! We’re super stoked, but at the same time wondering “now what?” Um, we go to publication. So when do we publish? Oh, the by the end of the year of course. Seems simple enough. We’ve still got two months. Wait…two months…? TWO MONTHS? Ok, we won’t panic. That’s not cool.

So heavy breathing and panic attacks aside, we’ll turn to our Handy, Dandy Google! (Admit it, you thought Notebook. Blue’s Clues really sticks with you.)

So for the next month, while one of us is editing, rewriting, and editing and rewriting some more, the other (me) will be researching. Asking questions like:

  • How to find the perfect book editor.
  • What’s an ISBN, and how do I get one of those?
  • What’s a book launch campaign?
  • Do I have to come up with the book cover?
  • Do we have any more 805 by Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, California?

You know, all the important stuff that needs to be answered. We’ve found some cool resources, guides, forums and mentors we’ll be telling you about in future posts. In the meantime, if you’ve got any tips, tricks or 805, let us know.

Reality Check Number 1

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reality check

We originally started this website to document our experiences in writing a book. It’s a way to share with anyone who wants to know, anyone who’s curious, and/or anyone who may be on the same journey. We also wanted to have a nice place to show off our talents, our personalities and a small part of our lives.

So it’s reality check time.We decided to send our – what turned out to be second-to-the-last – draft to some people that seemed genuinely interested in taking a look at our manuscript and giving us an outsider’s view of what we had created. We determined early on we wouldn’t bug these people with things like, “…so…what do you think…how far have you gotten…did you like the part where…what do you think about…”, etc. We delivered our book electronically to a few beta readers. After almost a month, we have heard not one word. From anyone. Not. One. Word.

Maybe it’s the book. Maybe it’s the story. We’ll keep looking for readers. A little better diligence and vetting next time around. We have to know what outsiders think about it.

In the meantime, editing continues.

 

 

Beta Readers

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beta readers

Yay, we found some beta readers and sent out semi-final drafts of Changers. And we’re still looking for more. Calling people beta readers, or beta testers – or beta anything – brings to mind a room full of people sitting around a huge table, all reading the book, taking notes, making red marks, and tapping on their tablets. Or a bunch of robots lined up in a row, all perched in front of computer screens with the words of the book scrolling upwards a la The Matrix.

There were a few instructions we gave to the readers. 1) We welcome feedback, and 2) It’s a Young Adult novel. We don’t want anyone to be shy about telling us what they think, or how the book makes them feel. We’re pretty sure we snagged most, if not all the typos. We’re looking for things like pacing, whether things make sense, timing and timeline issues, etc.

Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” We put a lot of effort into trying to know what we’re talking about. Facts are important, even in fiction – we didn’t want to distract the reader by playing loose with facts. For example, we have a scene where someone is going through a candidate diffusion. In this scene, the Changers wanted to erase the character’s short term memory, but they didn’t want to eliminate (kill) her. So they went through this process to erase her short term memory. To make it credible, we researched how that would be possible. One of our beta readers has both a bachelors degree and masters degree in nursing. If our research is wrong – if we used the wrong drugs, if our character didn’t act appropriately in the moment – hopefully our nurse beta reader will let us know.

We also don’t want beta readers from our immediate family, for obvious reasons. So far, we have six readers. They look like this:

  • A 17 year-old male high school student with a 4.5 GPA.
  • A 17 year-old female high school student who excels in sports.
  • A 21 year-old female college student majoring in medicine.
  • A 28 year-old married woman in the mortgage industry.
  • A 40 year-old married nurse with bachelors and masters degrees.
  • A 41 year-old male telecommunications engineer with a bachelors degree.

Yes, Changers is YA, but people of many ages still like YA novels. It’s all in the story. We’re still anticipating more readers – we need all the feedback we can get. We’ll post the comments and feedback when received. This is getting exciting!

Novel Writing Software

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UPDATE, 9/2/17: We switched to using Scrivener. It has many more options and is better suited to our writing style. That said, we take nothing away from the good review we posted about yWriter below.

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It was kind of a pain in the butt trying to write a book using Microsoft Word. It took about 20 minutes of writing to figure out that wasn’t the way to go. We figured there must be some book-writing software out there somewhere.

So yeah, we looked around on the internet – how else? There are a few to choose from that we’re pretty sure must be badass. We found some that cost money to buy. We even found some that make you pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee to use. You can find them by surfing the web, or just do the usual google search. But this isn’t about reviewing, comparing or rating novel writing software. There are plenty of articles on the web that rate and rank that stuff. We’re just saying we found a book writing software program that we use and like.

yWriter5, by Spacejock (Simon Haynes) is cool. It’s what we use. One of the biggest benefits is it’s free to download and use. It gets updated regularly, so we know it’s not a piece of software someone wrote and abandoned.

The ‘pros’ include:

  • Awesome editing and structuring capabilities.
  • The ability to drag and drop scenes and chapters.
    • This helps when you’re putting your story in order.
  • Create as many chapters as you want.
    • Merge/combine chapters if you decide two chapters would be better as one.
  • Create scenes within the chapters.
    • This also includes the ability to merge/combine scenes.
  • Global search and replace.
    • This came in handy when we changed character names.
  • Daily word count.
    • You can even set daily goals for word count.
    • Word count reports.
    • Set up a work schedule.
    • Set goals for completion, outline, drafts and edits.
  • You can include images in your story/book.

yWriter5 allows you to export your project to html, RTF, text, LaTeX, ebook, Nanowrimo obfuscated text. You can also export chapters, scenes, characters, etc. There is so much more we could say about this software. But once you click on the link below, you’ll find out all you need to know.

The main ‘con’ we’ve found is the spellchecker isn’t really all that. It finds misspelled words, so it’s good for that. But if you click on your misspelled word to get the proper spelling, it opens your web browser to dictionary.com.

We like yWriter5 a lot – enough to have sent a donation (that makes our version ‘registered’). We also recommend it. If you’re looking for a novel-writing software program that’s easy to use, up to date and free, yWriter5 is the way to go.

Here’s the link –> yWriter5 by Spacejock

In case you’re wondering, this is not a ‘paid for’ review. None of our reviews or recommendations are.

 

 

Editing the Manuscript

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manuscript layout issues

The manuscript – printing, reading and editing some more.

Printing the manuscript was a task, to say the least. At almost 300 8 1/2 x 11 pages, not double-spaced, we had to stand by and wait for what seemed like eternity.

When it was finally done, I thought I was holding gold in my hands. I was so proud… until I started turning the pages. Turns out, the spacing doesn’t transfer from the writing program we’re using to Microsoft Word as flawlessly as we had hoped.

The deeper I go, the more errors I find. Not grammatical, but spacing, indenting, italics… the list goes on, and on, and on. And on.

So now, in addition to editing grammar and punctuation (Les edits nonsense bullshit words), I’ll be editing layout. We’re both confident a professional editing service is in our future.

 

 

Problem Words?

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Bad word

As, ly, ing, turned, glanced, muttered, suddenly, looked, then.

Bad, bad, BAD!

It’s amazing how many problem words can creep into a super-awesome story.

I asked, “Do you want to tighten things up?”

“Of course,” they say.

“Then stop resisting. Resistance is futile.” (Did I just say ‘then’?)

It all depends on how a word is used, and how often. You don’t have to swear off certain words – except words like ‘turd’. I don’t like ‘turd’. But make every word count. And don’t overuse any word. It gets boring and sometimes seems lazy.

We did a word count and I won this one. Tone down the “looked”s, the “glanced”s, the “then”s. And the “as”s! Holy cow, enough “AS”s already!

We’re getting there! Tighten, tighten, tighten! And then tighten some more.

 

 

Time is on Our Side

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Time

“He heard the knock on his bedroom door on Sunday morning. His parents didn’t care that he stumbled into bed at four-twenty or so Saturday morning.” Uh what? I thought we were talking about Sunday…

We need a timeline. A physical, drawn out, organized timeline of the happenings in Changers. Too much happens in the two-and-a-half-ish months of this story to not have some kind of timeline.

When you have a story with as many elements as this one has, the days must be correct, the events must happen in the right order, and most of all, THE TIMELINE HAS TO MAKE SENSE. I’ve read too many books that don’t have a clear-cut timeline and it is so confusing.

Luckily, the writers have my help. There hasn’t been a lot to correct but so far, I think I’ve done a pretty dang good job of finding the mistakes in *continuity* (although minor, they’re extremely important).

I swear they roll their eyes a little bit every time I bring something up. They’ll thank me later.

What’s in a name?

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what's in a name

Hmm…we decided some of our names aren’t all that cool. Or they have been overused somewhere else, or they’re too old-school-sounding, or they were popular someplace else that we didn’t realize until now. Or something.

We also wanted to be sure we’re using names you can relate to, and pronounce. Regular names are good, because the Changers series is about regular people in supernatural situations. One of the pet peeves in a book is when you come across a name that you’re not sure how to pronounce. Like Aoulange, or Saint Maureiliape. In The Hunger Games, it’s pretty obvious how to pronounce Katnis. But not so with a name like Hialgney. You get the point.

Names that are out:

  • Hickey – what the heck were we thinking?
  • Maggie – old, overused.
  • Martha – old lady.
  • Georgia – old school.
  • Heliotrope – we hadn’t used this, but just sayin’.
  • Dewey – Someone reminded us that David Arquette’s name in the Scream movies is Dewey.

 

Stacks of Notes

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notes to posts

“Write that down.”
“It sucks.”
“Write it down anyway. We might use it.”
“I had this really bizarre dream last night.”
“Did you write it down?”
“Of course. I didn’t want to suffer the wrath.”
“What, like I’m a slave driver?”
“Did you write down that dream you told us about last month?”
“I pieced it together.”
“They say you should write down your dreams as soon as you wake from them. Even if it’s the middle of the night.”
“Why? I remembered it.”
“Because it’s fresher in your mind. You’d be more likely to get all the details.”
“Well, I filled in with some stuff I made up. It was still good.”
“I was thinking about the book today. I was thinking instead of having that scene at the school, maybe we should make it at a player’s house.”
“Or with the punks.”
“Punks with a capital ‘P’.”
“Of course, that’s what I meant.”
“I’m thinking the school thing should be out anyway.”
“Maybe, but the players, at least most of them, are school age.”
“It could be summer vacation. It doesn’t have to be during school.”
“Sure. That would free them up to do more stuff. We wouldn’t have to keep saying, ‘…after school the next day…’ or wait till the weekend for something to happen, or for someone to do something.”
“Write that down.”
“I’m way ahead of you.”

Who said what? It doesn’t matter.

We had a stack of notes. The notes were an archive of blood, sweat and cheers. We wrote so much down on paper – sticky note paper, spiral-bound notebooks, printer paper, colored construction paper. We never used napkins, they rip too easily. We tapped so many notes into our phones, our tablets, our laptops. We installed and uninstalled so many different note-taking apps, we lost count.

There were no tears shed over this book. We laughed, talked, argued and got pissed at each other. In the end, we have been our own best cheerleaders.

Now, the notes become posts. An archive of the badass adventure we took together – writing a story. An awesome story. Writing a book. It’s an adventure we’re still on. We choose to remain adventurers. If this book never goes anywhere, never gets published, we will always say it was fun. It IS fun. We’re still on the train, and there’s no reason to jump off now.