Sunday, February 28, 2016

First draft is done!

The first draft of Mars is finished.  Word count is a little over 58,000.  I have some things to add in during second-draft revision, so I'm predicting a final word count in the 62,000-65,000 neighborhood.  This will make it a little shorter than Venus but a little longer than Mercury.  And, of course, all that could change depending on what the beta readers say.

My goal was to complete the first draft in four weeks or less.  I completed it in 24 days.  Mission accomplished.  :D

My next goal is to outline the entire Wheel of Fire series before April 1.  I've already done a lot of world-building.  Last night, I rearranged some of the series arc.  The series is now planned as eight books, not nine.

So Mars is going on the back burner for the next month.  When April arrives, I'll return my focus to the Free Space trilogy.  The year is still young, but 2016 has started out satisfyingly productive.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

I'm past the climax

I've written somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 words today.  I don't have the exact number.  But I made it through the climax, and it feels great.  All that's left is the falling action.

The falling action is always my favorite part to write.  Not just because it means I'm about done--although there is that--but because of the way it makes me feel about the story.  In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien use a certain phrase to describe the after-dinner part of Bilbo's birthday party.  He called it "filling up the corners."  This is when the hobbits have just filled their bellies and are now casually snacking.  They're all warm and drowsy and letting their meals digest while still tickling their taste buds with the things they're snacking on.

That's what falling action is like for me.  It's the "filling up the corners" stage of the book.

Once the draft is done, I'm shelving it for a month.  I'll spend March world-building and outlining the books of the Wheel of Fire series.  I won't even think about Free Space until April.  My hope is to get the whole Wheel series outlined by then.  It won't be easy, but I intend to try anyway.  Once April arrives, I'll switch gears again and start revising Mars.

Anyway, that's the plan.  Let's see if I can pull it off.  *fingers crossed*

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Broke through 50,000 words tonight.  Only took me three weeks.  If it was November instead of February, I'd be a NaNoWriMo winner.

These last 10k words or so have been tough.  My outline wasn't up to the task, so I've had to do some thinking--which I don't like to do while trying to write--and the book has progressed in fits and starts.  I might be over the hump, though, as far as that goes.  I've got the climax and the falling action left, and I pretty much know how that's going to play out.  So hopefully I can knock out the remainder of Mars quickly and easily.

On the Wheel of Fire front, I've continued world-building.  Just a day or two ago I reached the point where the universe suddenly felt "real" to me.  The characters, nations, and peoples are all starting to jell together.  I'm actually a little excited about it.  It will be a serious challenge to get the whole series outlined before April, but I intend to try.  Once I finish the first draft of Mars, I'll shelve it until April.  That'll let me focus solely on the Wheel of Fire, plus the time away from Mars should help me look at it more objectively when it's time to start revising it.

So that's where I'm at.

And now back to work.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

X-Files 2016 - final thoughts

So the six-episode run is over.  Here are my conclusions.

The alien arc stuff seemed rushed.  I didn't really care for it.

The best episode, hands down, was the one about the lizard man.  I especially liked seeing Tyler Labine back as the stoner.  I'll never forget him licking the frog in the Quagmire episode. 

Unfortunately, this was the only truly good episode.  The rest were "okay" at best and cringe-worthy at worst.

Gillian Anderson's voice is... different.  I don't know what happened, but she sounds like she's got emphysema or something.  She didn't talk like that back during the show's original run.  An important part of acting is being able to speak your lines clearly, and her raspy voice detracted from her performances.  If she's ill, then I sincerely hope she gets better.  (Or got better, since the show was filmed before it aired.)

Politics.  The show was always political, but I don't recall it being so blatantly partisan.  Maybe it was and I just don't remember.  But if it was, it wasn't enough for me to notice it.  I noticed it now.  In the show's original run, the whole appeal of the conspiracy stuff was that it was above partisan politics--it didn't matter which party was in power, because the shadowy guys behind the curtain were going to do their thing anyway.  That was what made them truly frightening.  The partisan snark in these new episodes played against that to the show's detriment.

Resurrections.  If the Cigarette Smoking Man can be blown up with a freaking missile but still be brought back to life, then the same can be done with the Lone Gunmen.  I always loved the scenes with Frohike, Langly, and Byers.  They were, frankly, the best characters on the show.  They should have brought back the Gunmen.

Conclusion: It was nice seeing The X-Files on the air again, but not nice enough to make me want a new season.  I enjoyed these six episodes, more or less, but I'm also glad they're over. 

Thanks, Fox Network, I guess.

Now bring back Firefly.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Progress Report

I've written 43,395 words in Mars.  The action is about to start racing towards the climax.  I'm still on track to finish within my four-week goal.

I'm looking forward to finishing the draft.  I like coming up with new story ideas, and I like seeing the finished product, but I don't like the actual "writing" part.  Necessary evil, though.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Progress Report

My goal was to finish the first draft of Mars in four weeks or less.  Two weeks are now in the books.  Two to go.  My word count stands at just over 38,000.  I'm still on schedule to beat the deadline, I think, but I've been losing steam lately.  We'll see how it goes.

I've fleshed out a little more of the Wheel of Fire universe.  I still need to do actual book outlines, but I've got some very basic arcs down for characters and nations.  It's getting there.  Having the whole series outlined by April will be a challenge.  However, as soon as I wrap up Mars, I can devote more time to outlining.  So I'm still hopeful.

So that's where things stand at the moment.  Now... back to work!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Progress Report

My word count for Mars broke through the 30k mark.  I'm somewhere near the halfway point, I think.

I'm kind of dragging, though.  I made some real goofs, too.  Fortunately, I noticed them and corrected them.  But they were the sort of mistakes that make readers roll their eyes at you and snort with derision.  I really hope that doesn't happen again.

Maybe I'm getting burned out by trying to write too fast.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Did some more world-building

In addition to writing the first draft of Mars, I've been doing the prep-work for what comes next: the Wheel of Fire series.

I've stated before that I don't really like to write.  I like seeing the finished product, and I like thinking up new ideas and stuff, but the part in between--the actual writing part--is kind of a bore.

World-building, on the other hand, is fun.

It's going to get a bit tricky, though.  I've planned a nine-book series, so I'll need enough material to fill it.  I'll have multiple character arcs, and even some arcs for nations and peoples and whatnot.

I plan to outline the whole series before starting on the first book.  I can always change the outline later, if necessary, but at least I'll have a road map of where I'm going.

A nine-book series is awfully daunting.  I can pull it off, I think, but it will stretch me to the limit.  And it will occupy the next to or three years of my life.  My goal for the rest of the year is to finish first drafts of the first three books and have at least the first book available for sale.

And now back to working on Mars...

Friday, February 12, 2016

Week 1 results

My goal, as stated earlier, is to finish the first draft of Mars in four weeks or less.  I have three weeks left.  After one week, my word count stands at 20,500.  That's an average of almost 3000 words per day.  I'm roughly a third of the way through my outline.

I'm pleased with my progress so far.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Putting songs in your book

I've seen some authors ask questions about this on forums.  They want to include lyrics from some song or other, and they want to know how much they can use without getting into trouble.

The answer, of course, is "not much."  Copyright laws are far stricter for music than they are for fiction, and the big music companies have teams of lawyers at their disposal.  And, frankly, I think it's kind of pointless to use someone else's work if you can only quote a line or two.  Why not just make up your own line or two?  Authors are supposed to be "creatives," right?  Well, then do that!  Get creative!  :D

"But Mr. Tanyard, I'm not a songwriter.  I don't know anything about it.  I can't write lyrics."

Don't fret, good sir or madam.  Uncle Jeff is here to help.

Writing a song isn't really as hard as you might think.  Just think of it as micro-fiction with rhyme and meter.  First, let's define our terms:

Micro-fiction:  This is a form of flash fiction.  Wikipedia says:

"The terms "micro fiction" and "micro narrative" are sometimes defined as below 300 words..."

In other words, it's just a story that is very short.

Rhyme:  Words that rhyme.  Duh.  ;)

Meter:  From Wikipedia again: 

The familiar type of metre in English-language poetry is called qualitative metre, with stressed syllables coming at regular intervals (e.g. in iambic pentameters, usually every even-numbered syllable).

My suggestion?  Keep your meter simple.  Put the same number of syllables in each line, and stress every other syllable.  You can get fancy later after you've got a few songs under your belt.

So let's give it a shot.  We'll do a fantasy song about a knight going off to kill a dragon.  Let's break the story down into three acts:

Act 1:  The knight is enjoying life in his peaceful town.  Everything's cool until he finds out his lady love has been kidnapped by a dragon.  He sets off to rescue her and kill the offending beastie.

Act 2:  The knight enters the dragon's cave and does battle.  The dragon gets the upper hand, and things look grim for our hero.

Act 3:  The knight digs deep, finds the courage/strength/guile/whatever necessary to slay the dragon.  He rescues the lady and they live happily ever after.

Now let's write out each act in stanzas with equal numbers of lines.  We'll go with four lines each, for a total of twelve lines of song by the time we're finished.  No rhyme or meter yet, though.  Ignore those things for now.  Let's just get the story down first.

Ready?  Here we go...

Galahad was a brave knight in the land of Greenfield.
But his lady love Eleanor was taken by Saurus, a sinister dragon
He resolves to kill the beast for its transgression and rescue his beloved
He sets out on the road to Saurus''s cave

The cave is dark and maze-like, but Galahad makes his way to Saurus's lair
Saurus attacks while Lady Eleanor watches from her cage
Galahad strikes with his sword, but the dragon's scales are too hard
Saurus breathes fire, and it looks like the end for poor Galahad

Galahad rolls across the floor and avoids the fire
He plunges his sword into Saurus's soft underside, killing him
Galahad frees Eleanor and returns to Greenfield to a hero's welcome
They get married and live happily ever after

So now we've got the basis for a song.  All that's left is to add rhyme and meter.  Since rhyme, in my opinion, is more limiting than meter, we'll do rhyme first.  We want the last words of the first two lines to rhyme, and we want the last words of the last two lines to rhyme.  We'll do this for each stanza.  Remember: we're not doing meter yet.  Just the rhymes.  It may require rearranging the wording of the sentences a little, but that's okay.  Once we get the rhymes in place, we can go back and play with the wording to get the meter right.  Don't hesitate to use a search engine, too, to find words that rhyme.  The internet's a great resource.  Take advantage of it.

So here we go:

Galahad of Greenfield was a brave knight and true
But Lady Eleanor was taken by Saurus, and now he must pursue
He'll kill the dragon and rescue his maiden fair
He sets out on the road to Saurus's lair

The cave is dark and maze-like, but Galahad finds the den
Saurus attacks while caged Lady Eleanor watches from within
Galahad strikes with his sword, but the dragon's scales are too hard
Saurus breathes fire, and Galahad might be fatally marred

Galahad rolls across the floor and avoids the fire
He plunges his sword into Saurus's belly, spilling his intestinal mire
Galahad returns to Greenfield with his maiden fair
They get married and a happy life forever share

Okay.  So we've got the rhymes in, with a little re-wording.  Now let's do the meter.  I'm just going to look at the first line first, settle on a rhythm that seems right, and then rearrange the other lines to match.

Sir Galahad of Greenfield was a dauntless knight and true

I've done a little re-wording here so that the stresses alternate.  We now have the following pattern:

a A a A a A a A a A a A a A

Seven stressed syllables, each preceded by an unstressed syllable.

Now we just re-word the rest to match that pattern.

    Sir Galahad of Greenfield was a dauntless knight and true

    When Lady Eleanor was nabbed, he knew he must pursue

    To kill old Saurus in his cave and rescue maiden fair

    He took his sword and left to find the deadly dragon's lair

    The cave was dark and twisty but our hero found the den

    The dragon leaped right at him past the Lady caged within

    Sir Galahad was brave and slashed, but dragon scales are hard

    Old Saurus breathed his fire at him and knight was nearly marred

    Our hero rolled across the floor and dodged the deadly fire

    He plunged his sword into the beast and spilled his guts and mire

    Sir Galahad returned to Greenfield with his maiden fair

    They married in the spring and then a life forever shared

And there we are.  And it doesn't take long at all.  You should be able to crank out a simple song like this in an hour or less.

So stop trying to figure out how much of other people's lyrics you can use without getting sued.  Make your own lyrics and enjoy some peace of mind and the pride that comes with creative expression.  :)

A new personal record

Over 4000 words today.  That's the first time I've ever broken through the 4k mark.  Mars now stands at over 15000 words.  I wanted to write the first draft in four weeks, and I'm on schedule to beat that deadline.

Right now, though, I feel sort of zombie-like.  I guess that's what happens when you crunch out so many words.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Progress Report

I've got nearly 7000 words written in Mars.  Today hasn't been very productive due to the Super Bowl, but I'll make up for it during the week.

Still playing around with cover designs in Photoshop.  One of them seemed cool in my head, but turned out awful once I got around to splicing images together.  So I started over from scratch.  That's the way it is with covers, though, at least for me.  I don't have a natural talent for cover design.  I think I can make pretty good covers eventually, but I have to work at it.

And now for a small rant: during one of the Super Bowl commercial breaks, there was a 10- or 15-second spot featuring Carlos Santana.  It really irritated me.  Why?  Because if they can pay Santana to appear for a commercial, why can't they pay him to do a halftime show?  He could just sit out on the fifty yard line and play his guitar for twenty minutes straight and it would be the greatest halftime show ever.

Imagine a whole stadium rocking out to this:

Actually, you don't have to imagine a huge crowd rocking out with Santana.  It's happened many times.  The guy performed at Woodstock, after all.  ***Warning: half-naked hippies***

A lot of rock stars are getting on in years.  They won't be around forever.  I'd love to see more of them in things like Super Bowl halftime shows while they're still around and able to perform.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Started Mars

Started the first draft.  The goal is to finish it in four weeks.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Progress Report

I'm about 90% done with the mobi edit of Mercury.  So I'm well ahead of schedule as far as that goes.

I've done a little more world-building for the Wheel of Fire series and I've outlined a good bit of Hostile Planet.  This goal--outlining the whole series by April--will be a challenge.  Not sure I can do it.

I'll be starting Mars soon.

I've got covers done for the trilogy and Hostile Planet.  They need a little tweaking, but not much.  I've also got cover ideas for Neutral Ground (Wheel of Fire book 2).

I've got blurbs for Venus and Mercury.

I still think I can write and completely polish four novels this year.  If I can, then that would mean all three books of the Free Space trilogy and the first three books of Wheel of Fire could be out in the fall.  I'd love to see that happen.

Back to the grind...