The Experience

I finished this morning. I’m excited. I’m exhausted. My face itches.

Now to leave it alone for a few weeks before fixing all the continuity errors and other editing stuffs. My book, not my face.

I hope to have it ready for my short list of beta readers sometime in May (ha). Everything seems to take longer than I planned. It will be three years this May since I started thinking about this book. The book is unrecognizable from the first drafts of 2012. But, I guess that is common.

Thanks to all here that have encouraged me over the past two + years since I started blogging. A special shout out to Barbara Varanka, my first editor. She did a great job in ignoring all the massive problems and seeing the seed of something that has grown into this book. I thought I was ready to publish 18 months ago. HA!

The road is long before me, and I have miles to go before I query. But query I shall, when the time is right.

Cheers all

Sigh. I thought I’d be excited and “rarin ta go” at this point in the book. I thought there would be music and dancing and prancersizing. I thought I’d be like “phew glad that slog is over with”. Or even VICTORY SWEET VICTORY!

But, I suppose all of youse out there that have already finished a book or two or eight know, it feels sad, like you’re about to say goodbye to an old friend, tell a lover it’s you not them, put your budgie to sleep, or flip your mattress. Painful. And I still don’t know how to tuck in the corners the right way.

Maybe I should spend a weekend writing the first part of the next book. What say you experienced veterans out there in WP land?

It continues to be a great journey. And I have lots of editing to do, after a break of course. At this point, I’m happy with the story. The writing not so much. But, that will get better, we hope.

“I’m tired, but it’s a good tired.” From my favorite Far Side cartoon. That’s how I feel. It’s a good tired.


I find these kinds of posts helpful, so I thought I would share the tools I use for my writing.

  1. Number one. Most important is Scrivener. I would be lost without this tool. I can write scene by scene into separate notes/documents, keep multiple versions, organize them into chapters when I’m ready, and collate a selection of them into a draft manuscript ready for printing or my Kindle. I do my world building and back story creation and cataloging in a section separate from the manuscript. I can describe my characters, one per note/document, and places. I also keep much of my extracted research in a separate Research folder. You can delete things and keep them in a trash folder as well. I use the Windows version, but wish I were a Mac user. Theoretically they will have an iPad version in the future. — $40 US
  2. iA writer. I started with this clean editor on my iPad. I typed on the screen itself until recently when I broke down and bought a Logitech keyboard case. iA Writer is a simple text editor. I like it because I can save all my scenes or world building into my Dropbox folder (more about Dropbox later). Main advantage of using my iPad and iA Writer is that I get to be in the same room with my family at night instead of hidden away in my man cave. Of course it is useful for writing/people watching trips to Sbux. — $4.99 US (apple store)
  3. Hemingway App This is my main grammar checking application. It gives you a passive voice checker, reading level, adverb killer, sentence clarity, and difficulty warnings. Very simple to use. Copy your text into the Web or app window and click “edit”. Check it out. Free on the web, $5 US for Windows app
  4. Grammarly — I splurged here before I found the Hemingway App. I’m not sure I’ll renew now that I use Hemingway App more. Grammarly is a Word plugin that does everything from grammar checking to plagiarism checking. I wish it had a direct Scrivener plugin, because I have to export some section I want to check into Word then run grammarly and copy the edited version back into Scrivener. Great and accurate tool though. Pricey, however, can be cheaper than paying for copyediting. (annual subscription at $11.66/month US)
  5. Evernote — Research assistant extraordinaire. When I’m doing web research Evernote is my go to clipper. I have multiple notebooks and Evernote has tagging capabilities. I love Pocket also, but I use Pocket for keeping track of general articles to read and Evernote for my book research. Evernote has its own cloud storage location. There’s supposed to be a way to integrate the two, but I’m happy for now. Free for limited storage
  6. Scapple — I just started using Scapple. It is a great way of documenting ideas, lists, relationships, etc. Made by the makers of Scrivener. $14.99 US (Mac/Win)
  7. Microsoft Word — Not fair here as I got a copy of all the Office programs for nearly free as part of my work benefits package. I’d use OpenOffice if I didn’t have this copy of Word. Basically Word is just the program that receives my exports from Scrivener for manuscript versioning (I save draft manuscripts this way), for editing with Grammarly, or printing. (too expensive normally, use OpenOffice)
  8. Microsoft Powerpoint — There are great templates of maps and timelines that are useful for documenting the journey of my character or just a great high level view of the area. (too expensive normally, use OpenOffice)
  9. Rootsmagic — My dad is a genealogist and uses and Family Tree Maker. I liked Rootsmagic because it has an iPad companion application that works if you save your files in your Dropbox folder. Why the heck do I use a genealogy program?  The book I am writing might be part of a series so I need to understand the characters, where they came from, dates, sequencing, etc. Rootsmagic has all the built in charts and reports that is making my character management much easier. $29.95 US
  10. Personal Historian — Personal Historian is an add on to Rootsmagic. I use it to capture my character traits and histories. Again, probably unnecessary, but it does have nice built in reporting. I like it so far. $29.95 US
  11. Maps Engine from Google — Hidden gem if you are using the real world as the basis for your story. I am researching castles and other ancient sites in Wales right now. I am building a map showing pins and labels for all my castle and other sites. It is giving me a great idea of the area, since I’ve never been to Wales. Maybe someday. Free on the Web with limitations
  12. Dropbox — Dropbox is my cloud storage tool. I used to use it just for backup, but it is my primary storage location now for all my content. Free for limited storage
  13. Pinterest — I need to put my castle pictures up in a folder on my Pinterest account. It is my visual tool. I keep pictures of people and places that trigger my creativity for the book. Free on the Web
  14. Spotify — I’d be lost without tunes playing while I’m researching, writing, or editing. Today’s tunes are from the Neal/Steve Morse, Dave Larue and Mike Portnoy group – Flying Colors. Music, it’s not just for your car. Free with Ads or $9.99 US / month

Overall, I’ve spent too much on tools, but this is my hobby so I’ve made an investment. Everything is working together for me so I won’t complain. I’m a bit of a gadget guy and pretty structured, so the tools are useful for me. Hopefully you’ve found some interesting information here. I like it when other writers share their tools, so thought I’d share mine.




My second writers conference. Four days of learning and encouragement. I focused on craft this year, Character Development, Tension, POV, Dialogue, World Building, Scene Structure, & Editing. Great stuffs, great teachers. The most difficult and most beneficial part was being an introvert among introverts and trying to make personal connection with other writers. I’m not good at it, but did meet a few other writers. It is always good to hear other’s writing process. Some notes here to help me remember what I learned:

  • Character Development – Police Report / Military Report / Psychological Report. Level of report/detail depends on the importance of the character
  • Tension – Suspense – What is going to happen next // Tension – uncomfortable, gritting your teeth, needs reader empath
  • POV – Omniscient is the only reliable narrator (God)
  • Dialogue – I’ve been doing it wrong… 1) Move the story forward, 2) Provide Information, 3) Importance of Unique Character Voice, 4) Subtext where needed
  • World Building – world becomes a character
  • Scene Structure – Mini stories. Establish a desire/need/deprivation, set a goal, action toward that goal, obstacle, resolution and setup
  • Editing – Differences between line/copy and developmental editors. Approximate rates for each.

And, of course, lots more.

If there is a writers conference in your area, I would highly encourage you to attend. Invaluable and cost effective when you consider how much instruction you get.
And, if you are in the Northwest, consider next year’s PNWA conference.


chainRecently, I was invited to participate in an author blog chain where I answer a few questions about my book and the way I write. I’m thanking my author coach and fantasy author Lindsay Schopfer for the invitation. (Lindsay’s Amazon page for his two books – Under Two Moon’s and The Beast Hunter). Check out his blog as he discusses his writing, the classes he teaches for the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association), and his service as an author coach. I also highly recommend checking Burnham Wycoff, who preceded Lindsay in the blog chain. Burnham is also a fantasy author.

What are you currently working on?
I am writing my first book, Nuisancer. Nuisancer is a YA dystopian story set on earth toward the end of the twenty-first century. I’ve spent two years writing the story. The story has changed and matured over the past two years. I’ve used a few different titles. I guess that is normal. This is my first real work with prose. I’ve written insult poems, lyrics, regular poetry, and more lyrics over the past 40 years. My experience with verse gives me a love for the taste and meter of language.

Currently I am working with author coach Lindsay Schopfer, and am focusing on exploring the history behind my characters, and world building. I’m ready to work through the third draft of Nuisancer, but need to understand my characters and their world before I can adequately complete this next draft.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?
I’m trying my best to make more of a social statement than a political statement. It is inevitable in dystopian stories to make some statement about governments and social structures. While I have the typical subject of a government system as the antagonist, I’m exploring more of the social impacts between differing people groups. Oh, and one of the characters is a cannibal. Not like a Louis Suarez type of cannibal, but a part-time practicing one. Not sure how that will work out.

I’m sure to be influenced a great deal by the authors I read. I hope to be influenced positively! I read across various genres, not just dystopian. I focus on the way the author tells their story and how they make it interesting enough to encourage me to read the entire book. Some of my favorite authors are: Gaiman, Murakami, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Gillian Welch, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, and Chuck Wendig. I also love poets: Theodore Roethke, James Dickey, Sharon Olds, Robert Lowell, Ted Kooser, Peter Wild, and Seamus Heaney.

Why do you write what you do?
My love of language and writing started off with a trip diary from a time my family drove from Wisconsin to California and back. I think I was 9 or 10. When I neared teenage years my friends and I exchanged insult poems, like “You are so smelly, oh it is so terrible!…it smells like your nose was stuck in the shit of a grizzly bear” We wrote over a hundred of those poems which are unfortunately lost to history now. Stupid decisions. I was also the lyric writer for my band in the 70’s, influenced by Neil Peart and Alice Cooper. What a combo. I reluctantly entered college to pursue a business career when the whole rock-n-roll thing didn’t look like a stable career. But, I did take three semesters of poetry from the wonderful Dwayne Rail. He was an awesome teacher and helped my understand why I loved writing, who to read, and how to write better. After marriage, I didn’t write much for years. Over two years ago I took a Berkleemusic distance learning class with Slam poet and coach Caroline Harvey. The class was a real motivator and encouragement. I decided to try my hand at writing a story and seeing if it could turn into a book.

The short of it is, I have to write. Writing clears my head and frees up my emotions. Creating is essential to living and breathing for me. I love music, but I’m not a good enough musician to do much creating there, though I have written some songs. Writing is something I can do on my own. It is work, but it is comfortable.

How does your writing process work?
I’m still developing my process. I started this book by writing every day. I wanted to complete 500 to 1000 words per day. I used IA Writer on my iPad, typing on the glass. This was a pain in the… But, I forced myself to learn and coordinate this method so I could write while sitting in the living room with my wife. Her love language is “presence”. In other words, not demanding, but enjoys being near the people she loves. I transitioned to writing on the weekends in my office, when everyone is sleeping, and when I got into the editing phase. I just couldn’t edit on my iPad. Nearly a year ago, I moved to Scrivener and do my writing and editing there. I’ve tried Margie Lawson’s editing technique, and still use that method occasionally.

Now I write directly in Scrivener on my PC. I write a scene at a time and don’t worry about the sequence or chapter orientation until that full draft is complete. So, I don’t write sequentially. I write which ever scene seems exciting to write that day. I do plan my list of scenes, but I don’t really plot or outline. I’m a pantser. An organized pantser. I love letting the story discover itself, and finding out how things turn out for my characters. Much the same reason I like to read. I shoot for 1,500 words per day on the weekend.

I listen to music when I write. Everything from metal to progressive rock/metal, to punk, to bluegrass, to classical. Just depends on the mood.

My favorite writing coach authors are Donald Maass and James Scott Bell. I’ve belonged to writing groups and am looking for another. I’ve had great help from professional editors/creative coaches like Barbara Varanka and Lindsay Schopfer. Input from others shortcuts my flailing about and wrong paths. 🙂

The Next in Line
I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading a little more of my writing process and why I’m a writer. Be sure to check out James Osiris Baldwin, the next author in the chain. James recently published an intense military science fiction novella Lilium. James is a world traveller, but spends a good part of the year in Seattle.

old-typewriterI feel like we live in a world where the extreme achieve their goals. Sometimes I see the wreckage of that extreme focus on the rest of someone’s life, sometimes not. So, I wonder, will I ever really achieve what I want to achieve in writing since I am not following an extreme path? I don’t spend every available moment writing in isolation from my family and friends. I tell myself that I’m trying to achieve a level of balance. Yes, I love to write and believe I can finish the nth draft of my book. I believe I can write a second, third and fourth book.

My next post will describe my writing process in more detail. I’ve been invited to a blog hop about writing process. For now, I’ll say that I write only on the weekends. During the week there is work, spending time with my wife, my friends, and reading. A teacher I had once said that one must live life in order to write about it. I believe living life and reading good books are the best compost and fertilizer for my writing. So, instead of hermiting away during the week, I live life with my family and spend time reading and learning.

The weekends are my writing time. Everyone else sleeps in on Sat/Sun. I get up at my normal time of 5am and do the normal morning things before settling in to write for 3-4 hours. Initially, when I decided to write a book, I wrote every day and blogged about those daily experiences here. I think that was fine, but not sustainable for me right now.

Every writer is different. I’m torn inside because I wonder if I’m pursuing/achieving balance, or just making excuses for not writing every day. I guess it doesn’t matter, but I’m just saying that I do have that internal struggle.


April is the cruelest month. It was true for Eliot then, and true for me now. I’ve been stuck all month writing a Dr. Suess version of the Silmarillion to serve as a reference guide to the history of the world in my WIP. I’ve muddled along for a year and a half without having my world well formed in my mind which means it is not well formed in the book. *sigh*

Lately, with some assistance from my author coach, I’ve been going through scenes looking for plot holes. I’m asking myself, “self, why is that there? why do those people believe that? or, better, what do they believe? why is it a fence here and a wall there? why is that so important to your MC?” etc.

My conclusion today is that the lawn of my story has brown spots because I’ve been careless with the gophers. There’re too many holes in the lawn for the story to be healthy and green. Now, everytime I answer a question related to a plot hole, it’s like pulling a gopher trap out of a hole with a rigor’d body in the pincers. This is a relief; nasty, but a relief. I’ve been tossing seed on the lawn the last 18 mos and the brown spots were just increasing. I need to spend the time necessary to trap the gophers in my WIP, fill up the holes and then get back to seeding and fertilizing.

Oh, you might have guessed, I did yard work today. 🙂

God's story through my life from 2005 to eternity...

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