The Beginning of the First Drafts

In early 2012 I finished my first novel. The working project name was the Key Worlds, and I think of it as a pretty solid story in the way I like to stage my three-act tales. I learned a lot about how I outline, how I write, and how I revise when I’m stuck from that book and three years it took me to write it. Six years, two months later, I’ve completed my second First draft novels and I’ve learned more about my process and what it takes for me to finish a story. This time I’m looking to do more than finishing a first draft. This time around I’m looking to get this sucker cleaned up, edited, and published. I’m about to make a number of mistakes, newbie flubs, and other screw ups I’ll have to fix on the back end, but I’m excited about it. So, excited that I want to share exactly what my plans are for the coming weeks. In Mile Markers, I talked about what some of those steps will be. I’m hesitant to give a time table for these events as I explain them but I will anyway just to give myself a bite of accountability.

Let’s talk laying a foundation first. Before I’m willing to let the book be edited or sent to anyone else to be read, I need to make sure the story is where I want it to be. Think of this as a skeleton. Do all the bones make sense? Can the creature even hold itself up? Can it walk? Run? I’ve got to make sure the base foundation for the story makes sense and that there’s not too many vestigial bones. A few of those are fine, as they can help lead to other stories, but there shouldn’t be too many that the story feels bogged down from them. That means step one is reading the book as is and seeing that these issues are handled. It’ll require some rewriting and cleaning but that comes later. First, we’re just identifying what goes where. Time table for this is to be done by the time this post goes live. I’ll add a comment to let you know if I knocked it out of the park.

Muscle comes next. The snappy strength that helps those parts move. Flavor and style of writing basically. Scanning what I have of the book and with previous micro-revisions, I know I’m solid with much of my exposition. When my narrator talks about the intricacies of New Castle, she presents a solid world that’s a character unto itself. I’m already pleased with those, and it means my fine motor control muscles in the story are strong. What’s lacking is some of the snap; the fighting, the conflict, the sex. I get too into the expansion stage with some of those scenes, and my narrator spends too much time explaining versus snapping into action and getting the fight done. Combat needs to be fast, dirty, and over. Guns end fights fast, and real fist fights aren’t delicate. They’re brutal, and she’s not Sherlock sitting there explaining the math of what’s happening to the combatant’s bones as she is twisting his arm off. Forgot the dissertation. Just hear the pop and scream. Fixing these scenes will come with the second draft. As I’m identifying where the bones need to go I’ll string the muscles along the joints and tendons to make sure the creature moves as a smooth jogging pace. The time table to conclude this step is early May. For fun, we’ll say the 1st for now.

Now can that creature sing? One of the things I noticed with the first draft was the inconsistency with voices for some of the characters, and that’s an issue I’ll be addressing after the second draft is set. This dialogue pass will have me go through the revised novel and make sure each character sounds like who she or he is meant to. I’m not suggesting the way a character speaks can’t be adjusted but I want the slang of someone born in New Castle to be true, versus someone who travelled a lot as a kid, or someone whose first language isn’t Central Speak. It will also give me a chance to work on dialogue for those other parts of the world and to find ways to make the world’s culture stand out more. I don’t expect the dialogue patch to take too long, so I’ll give myself a week. Due date will be on the 8th.

After that it’s grammar and flow checks, and for those we’ll outsource. I’ve got an editor lined up and several people eager for the first read through of the story. Here’s where I pimp things out a bit. If you’d like to be one of these alpha readers, jump over to my Patreon. While not the only way to become an alpha reader, you’re guaranteed a spot if you jump in even at the starter level.

Okay, that’s it for now. Time to get to work.

the Trans-Dimensional Café -or- Echoes of the past

I became a fan of podcasts back in 2006, when my wife bought me an iPod Nano for my time working in the corporate world. I filled that thing with what I thought was enough music to keep me sane in the cubes, and The Flaming Lips, Journey, and Pink Floyd filled my ears during those 10-key days. But eight months of the same music started to burn me out. I craved more; something to keep my mind active while still letting me stay productive at the day gig. Enter podcasts. NPR at first, but then onto Escape Pod and Pseduopod. The latter lead me to Mur Lafferty and from there to the world of Farpoint Media and the dozens of shows I latched onto from there. In 2007, things got kind of muddy as the expanding 2007-2010 web of podcasts lead me to audio fiction, new favorite authors, great interviews, and more. Through all of that, I kept hearing the same echo “podcasting has a low bar of entry, you should do it.” Heck, many of the shows on the network shows I listened to had blossomed from fans of other shows, so why not?

In late 2010, my friends Andrew Henderson and Dakota Lewis worked together to form the first podcast I would take part of: The Trans-Dimensional Café. Over the next half dozen years, this show would start and stop four times as it took us through various stages in our creative journeys. It was always something to try to keep us on task though, to check in and see if we’re keeping up with our writing, our other podcasts, our game design, or production on other larger scale items. It was fitting as TDC basically started as a bet between me and Andrew about who could finish a book first. But last year, one of those journeys came to an end. Andrew left us in the midst of another set of goals being set. We had talked in the weeks before his passing about the idea of resurrecting the show. Of using TDC as our white board for a fifth time.

I was left with a desire, but at the time I felt like I had no one to share it with.

Dakota was the one to get me prompted, indirectly, towards continuing to relaunch TDC. We talked about new Role-Playing designs in early 2017, and it gave me the nostalgia of our talks on the podcast. It made me want to continue to poke the kindling until the fire of creativity sparked again. A chance conversation with Brian Hessee made me realize that if we were going to bring it back, it needed to be a trio. Duos work for one offs but TDC was always best when it was three, and so I invited Brian to be our third wheel. We are now a writer, a musician, and a game theorist, with each of us bringing a portion of these three seeds into our works.

Now we’re back. We finished posting our fifth public episode, our ninth recording together, to the world last week. Five episodes away from submitting to iTunes. Five away from starting a Patreon. Five away from feeling like this might be here to stay. I’m excited for the work, and where the podcast is going. There’s an itch to bring more people in too, to try and start back the interview portion of the show we once had. We each want to share more of our works, from short fiction to music and podcasting, and I think the podcast is actually helping that happen.

I don’t know if 2017 is the year TDC becomes a permeant fixture in my productivity. I’d like it to be. For now it’s serving the purpose it was meant to back in 2010: to keep me honest, to keep me on track, to keep me moving forward. Maybe there will be a time I’ll be past the need of tools like this, but until that time I’ll keep stepping into the café.

TDC will live on.