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The public executioner at Rome, who executed persons of the lowest rank; hence, an executioner or hangman.

Category: Books

National Novel Writing Month

Posted on November 10, 2018  in Books

National Novel Writing Month is an annual event where amateur writers all over the world get together metaphorically and write novels. It is not a competition, but rather more like a support group. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. This is a tough challenge, assuming one does not write every single day, that is 2,000 words per day or roughly 8 pages per day. I have successfully participated in this several times, but I have only succeeded twice and the outcomes have not been what could be called actual novels, but rather streams of conscience. My biggest problem is when I get stuck or bored, I tend to write sex scenes, just so I keep going. This makes the book rather more steamy than I usually intend, the upside is, I now know how porn books get written.

 

The key to success though is to consider this writing the first draft. Get the key characters down, build a plot and lay down the infrastructure for each act. Don’t worry about writing a perfect or concise book, just get the basics down. Do not go back and edit your work, this can be done later as part of writing the second draft. I usually do not even go back and re-read anything I have written unless I am referring to an earlier scene and I want to make sure I am remembering what I wrote correctly. Don’t limit yourself to 2,000 words a day, 1 hour a day of writing or whatever, if things are flowing, just keep writing. Those days that you write three or four thousand words will make up for those days you could not get 500 words out or could not find the time to write at all. Once it is all done, go ahead and re-read it if you must, but don’t try to edit it. Just put it down for a week or a month, let the experience settle and congratulate yourself on completing the challenge.

 

Now go back and decide if you have something interesting that you can edit, expand on and turn into a real book. At this point start the second draft, I usually start by cutting out the stuff that is not really relevant, like the 15,000 words of sex scenes that do not contribute to the plot. Be vicious when cutting things, just because a scene reads well and you really love it, cut it out if it does not move the plot forward or flesh out a character in some important way, you can always use the scene in a another story. Then I try to fill in the holes, I almost always find problems with the plot, characters who do not act consistently throughout the story and things I forgot to explain, this is also a good time to expand the story if you feel it is necessary. I would hold off on rewriting any scenes at this point, that is probably best left to the third draft. This process will probably get you back up to 50,000 words and it is time to put it down for a week or two again.

 

Now, if you are not thoroughly tired of this shit, it is time for the 3rd draft. It is time to start rewriting all or most of the chapters with an eye towards consistency. It is now also time to clean up all your terrible grammar and spellchecker mistakes. At this point you may also consider moving things around, I have found many scenes that make more sense or have a better dramatic affect if placed later or earlier in the story. This is basically your last chance to make the book readable before sending it off for someone else to read. The temptation here is to make it more exciting, and that is fine, just be aware that you you have now been through this book 3 or 4 times and you are just bored with it, so think carefully about anything you add to the book at this point. If you suddenly find your book is at 100,000 words, you are probably suffering from this problem.

 

Now it time to send it off to an editor. If you are just doing this for fun, a friend is fine, just don’t expect to get a lot of good feedback. If you are thinking about publishing, hire an editor, yes, pay someone to read your book, give you an honest critique and layout a path for the next draft. Yes I said “Next Draft”, you are not done yet. Chances are good, you are not going to like what your editor has to say, tough shit, listen to them anyway. If you disagree with what they have to say, have a discussion about it, but if you find yourself pushing back and refusing to make suggested changes, it is probably time to quit and move on to the next project.Remember, your editor is there to help you smooth things out and improve your writing, so listen to what they have to say and make the changes they suggest unless there is a really compelling reason not too and the editor should agree with you after the discussion. If you can’t come to an agreement on a change, swallow your pride and go with what the editor says.

 

With the completion of the 4th draft that both you and your editor are happy with, it is time to shop your novel around to publishers or take a stab at self publishing. If you go with a publisher, if they accept your book for publication, they will assign you an editor and you will probably be writing a few more drafts before they finally publish. If you are going to self publish, it is probably not a bad idea to do another draft with your editor, just make sure everything is where it needs to be. That is about it, if this is your first book, the process more than likely took a year or more, if you have done this a few times and have a good editor, this process will take a lot less time.

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Category: Books

Review: The Left Hand of Darkness

Posted on October 11, 2018  in Books

The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #6)The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Admittedly, this was a slow read for me, mostly because of how dense it is with information about the world and its inhabitants. The story was written at the height of the Cold War between the United States and Russia, but unfortunately much of it is very relevant today, we have a trade war with China brewing and we have a mad king of our own who wants to build a wall between us and our neighbors.

One of the things Le Guin does best is world building and she does not disappoint here. As I was reading about this cold world locked in an ice age, I was reminded of my own childhood growing up in Montana and shivering.

The dual gendered people of this world was an interesting idea that the author put to good use to build interesting characters and highlight the differences between the two races without making them TOO different. I also think this might have been an nuanced way of talking about homosexuality without offending the readers of the time it was written and published. I admit though I may be mistaken, perhaps someone smarter than me can chime in on this subject.

Of course the most interesting character in the book I thought was Estraven, not just for his fall from grace story, but because at the beginning of the book, he almost seems like a throw away character, someone who was present in the first few pages simply to set the stage and I was pleasantly surprised when later in the book he become central to the story.

Overall, good read, although now I have to go back and read the other books in this series, as I did not realize this was #6 in a series when I started it.

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Category: Books

The original Internet quote

Posted on August 25, 2018  in Books

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. –William Gibson, Neuromancer

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Category: Books

Review: The Fresco by Sheri Tepper

Posted on August 12, 2018  in Books

The FrescoThe Fresco by Sheri S. Tepper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by a friend, her first comment about it being “I wouldn’t recommend it to most guys – or to anybody conservative”, and of course my first though was, “Oh this is going to be fun!”. About a quarter of the way through I knew why she was not inclined to recommend it to most guys. Let me get this straight right off the bat, this book is not anti men, but the book does depict a certain types of men in a bad light and if you happen to identify with those archetypes, you are not going to like this book much. If you are not of fan of irony and poetic justice, I would not suggest reading this book. In fact, lets just come right out and say it, if you oppose abortion, you will not be amused by this book.

The story is about earths first contact with aliens, instead of landing on the White House lawn or in Central Park, the aliens contact a rather unremarkable person, Benita Alvarez-Shipton. Benita is married to an alcoholic deadbeat husband who beats her, in spite of this she has worked hard all of her life and tried to support her family in spite of the the hardships imposed by her husband. Benita is a unique character among fictional female protagonists. Most female protagonists in science fiction tend to fall into a couple of categories, women who are thinly veiled men, oversexed killing machines and ice queens. Benita has no special ops training, she is described as mildly good looking and does not seem to have much of a sex life. She is literally from the bottom rung of society, no one cares about her and society often places her husbands well being over hers. She is the epitome of unlikely heroes. What Benita brings to the table is a wisdom born out of having lived a rough life, an intelligence that only someone who has been on the edge of the abyss all of their lives could have. She clever and competent, but not unrealistically so. In the beginning of the book she is shown to be out of her depth, but by the end, she grows into her role.

The plot of the book is a bit off the beaten path as well, when the aliens, the Pistach, come to earth, they are not here as an invasion army, but rather to guide earth into the interstellar community and help them become good neighbors. The aliens start solving problems and making earth a better place, some of the things they do are very colorful and the thought process of the aliens is interesting to read. Of course the Pistach are not the only race with interest in the earth, there is also a group of predators who want to make earth their hunting grounds. These predators have no trouble finding human allies who would rather things stayed the way they are, even if it means sacrificing human beings in the process.

Overall, this is a good read, I enjoyed it start to finish. Yes, the book has a liberal bend to it, but it is no worse than the conservative bend you might find in the John Ringo or Larry Correia book. The book has a solid plot, the storyline is tight, it is well written, and the primary characters are interesting. My only complaint about the book is the author does over use some archetypes, and hits us over the head with those characterizations, but this not a show stopper and certainly does not detract from story. I recommend it to anyone who is tired of standard fair science fiction, and are looking for something different, it even has a happy ending.

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