Perhaps there are writers craving competition with the intensity of a mixed martial arts superstar. And maybe pigs will fly to the moon and eat cheese. The sad reality is that more books are published now than any time in history, but there is good news. Tools exist to help authors stand out from the crowd.
Nothing exists to replaced imagination or a skilled editor. The editing tools I am about to describe require time, effort, and don't replaced professional eyes and the red pen that follows. Serenity Software: Editor and Pro Writing Aid can help deliver a superior product to a paid editor that should spend less time on the manuscript and thus reduce the overall fee.
With luck, a writer can pull ahead of the crowd by concentrating on craft and evocative storytelling. Marketing can sell anything, but readers won't purchase a second mediocre book.
First impressions count.
Why I like Pro Writing Aid
This tool works online. It highlights targeted writing issues and offers suggestions. The writing style check will show adverbs in bright colors making it easy to spot problem areas in a manuscript.
The cliches and redundancies check is nice. There is a passive word index and repeated word program just to name a few features.
Pro Writing Aid also has an affiliate marketing program, which I have elected not to pursue. Some authors advocate affiliate marketing as a way to bolster total income, but my brief experiment with it seemed a waste of time that could have been spent writing.
I discovered a neat trick that allows me to review documents on my smart phone.
Simply run Pro Writing Aid on a PC in Google Docs, then pull the file up on a smartphone when you can't be at your computer. The highlighted words will remain visible for consideration.
For my current work-in-progress, the Son of Orlan (book two in the Chronicles of Kin Roland) I've used both Serenity and Pro Writing Aid. Soon it will be ready for the eyes of Samantha LaFantasie, the editor of Enemy of Man.
In future blogs I will discuss these tools in greater detail. Please share your experiences with these and other productivity tools in the comments section. I know I can use all the help I can get.
Let's write great stories and represent the growing ranks of professional indie authors.
Crossfire will be playing at the Guns and Hoses charity event on April 12, 2013 to benefit Crime Stoppers.
Last year the Beech Activity Center sold out, so now might be the time to start practicing (every day). As usual, I have about a thousand goals and self imposed deadlines; now it is time to move guitar solos to the top of the list.
I finished what I hope is the final draft of Dragon Attack, the sequel to Dragon Badge. I think readers will enjoy this book; it goes places the first book only hinted at. I have finished Dragon Attack many times over the years. A lot of people, including reviewers, have demanded a second book and I can’t wait to share the continued adventures of Michael Prim and his companions. I also believe in taking the time to do things right. The number one business maxim for self published authors is (or should be) “Write the best book you can.”
I also believe in rotating projects to get a fresh perspective, so I moved back to Enemy of Man, found an editor, and received a sample edit of the first chapter. Samantha Lafantasie, the author of Heart Song is a board member of the Kansas Writer’s Association.
Samantha’s detailed sample edit of Enemy of Man gave me a lot to think about. During a painful moment of self reflection, I admitted that I loved most of Enemy of Man, but needed to address a few plot issues that would have distracted the reader.
I actually enjoy fixing these types of issues, because editing is really just another type of writing--and I love to write. The reason this was painful is that I set three major goals for this spring, one of which is Enemy of Man. I thought it was almost ready to go and now realize it needs more work than I had hoped after finishing the most recent daft. (I do a lot of drafts.)
I began thinking, at 2 a.m. when it was slow at work and the city was asleep, that my readers will lose faith because I am taking too long with books I have promised. I finally consoled myself that this is a serious concern, but writing the best book possible (and waiting until I can afford to have them edited) is priority number one.
The Good news: I pushed through my emotional doldrum (likely caused by sleep deprivation), read more from Enemy of Man, and encountered awesome writing. My favorite moment is looking at a story and saying to myself, with pride and astonishment, I wrote that.
Health and fitness has always been important to me. It benefits writing in many ways. Exercise puts me in a good mood, and contrary to the tortured artist stereotype, I write better when I am happy and full of energy. Go figure. A challenging workout can also provide distance; it can clear your head so that the swirling plot lines encountered during revision and editing seem less daunting.
This week started great. I am determined to finish the Insanity DVD program day by day, rather than pick and chose the workouts I like. But, alas, I did allow other priorities to interfere a couple of days.
INSANITY (Fresh Start)
ST 3-9-13 Fit Test 25 min (Bare feet/ mat)
SN 3-10-13 Plyometric Cardio Circuit 42 min (Bare feet/ mat)
M 3-11-13 Cardio Power & Resistance 39 min (Bare feet/ mat)
T 3-12-13 no workout, altered work schedule
W 3-13-13 no workout, trying to catch up writing time
TH 3-14-13 no workout, trying to catch up writing time
F 3-15-13 no workout, caught in blog technical problems
Some of these books I have read multiple times. They have been highlighted, dog eared, and generally abused. However, despite the intense, emotional relationship I have with these books, they understand others will share the shelves. We don’t have an exclusive relationship. I am constantly searching for another book on writing that informs and inspires. Please post your suggestions.
And always remember - write strong, write free, write like you mean it. www.scottmoonwriter.com Click to Tweet!
How many times have you seen a hero's sidekick (we'll call him Bad Luck Bob) get shot and die, only to learn that he was wearing a bulletproof vest? In a dramatic scene, after the villain is vanquished, the hero goes to his fallen friend. Bob regains consciousness and unzips his FBI windbreaker to reveal body armor with several neat bullet slugs in the fabric.
Getting shot while wearing a bulletproof vest is like being hit by a baseball bat, really hard, or so I've been told. Body blows don't render people unconscious. More likely there would be a lot of screaming and writhing in pain, with a possible 300 cc bladder release thrown in to augment the indignity.
Tasers don’t knock people out, unless they fall and bump their head. A Taser works one of two ways. If probes are shot out and strike with sufficient distance between each other, an electric current (volts, not amps) travel between the contact points. All the muscle in this area suffers involuntary lock-up. No amount of moral fortitude can prevent this. It does not matter how many sit-ups you do or what your pain tolerance is. The muscles lock until the Taser ride stops. (Note: amps are what kill you, not volts.)
Having been Tased with probes, one in the upper back and one in the buttocks, I can attest to the irresistible force of this less lethal control method. The sensation is not so much pain, but a desperate, all consuming need for it to stop. I suppose it is painful, but it is hard to describe. Afterward, I felt good, as though I had done a really good stretch of my hamstring and back muscles. I don't recommend trying this, however, because results may vary. Also, I did not feel the probes being pulled out of my flesh. My mind was on other things, such as not being Tased again.
The other method of Tasing is called the Drive Stun. This is when a Taser is pressed (driven) against a muscle causing pain compliance. This does not cause muscle lock-up except for the muscle being contacted. A person can still fight. Some will yield to avoid a second Drive Stun. Others will get mad.
Neither method causes a person to collapse neatly to the ground allowing the modern day super ninja to finish infiltrating the enemy bunker complex.
It is really difficult to punch someone out. If it were this easy to knock someone cold, MMA fights would not last multiple five minute rounds. Sure, it can happen, but don't count on it. The same thing goes for clubbing a person on the head. Rendering a person unconscious by blunt force trauma to the head is a violent, potential deadly act. There will be blood.
I love the Walking Dead Series, but every person in the show who picks up a gun makes headshots from impossible distances, from moving vehicles, and while sprinting clear of the advancing zombie herd. No. This is ridiculous. (I let it go while watching the series because the tension and dramatic elements were so compelling, a bit like I never question the possibility of light-sabers.) The maximum combat effectiveness for a handgun is twenty-five yards, and if you are going to attempt a head shot while moving, you had better be a Navy Seal, and even then you had better be lucky.
Anyone involved in a knife fight is going to be cut to ribbons, even if they win. Edged weapons are too fast and too sharp. Knife fighting is not sword fighting. If you are close enough to use a short blade and your opponent has a similar weapon, expect to be cut—badly. (I would not recommend sword fighting either, especially with light-sabers.)
An explosion kills with over pressure long before the fire strikes. The blast pushes a shock wave of compressed air that can damage a variety of internal organs. Oh yeah, flying debris is bad news as well. Most people injured in tornados are injured by flying debris.
Virtually every action hero who has dived from an explosion should have been killed (fictionally, of course), even if they ducked the visually dramatic ball of flame.
However, being inside of a door that is breached with explosives is not very dangerous. The force of the breaching charge (explosion) presses extremely rapidly against the door (or wall) causing it to break, bend, or fall inward. The deadly over pressure is reflected back at the breaching team. Explosive breaching is more dangerous for the breachers than for the suspects inside.
This pistol pose has fallen out of style in modern movies. Holding a pistol near your face is dumb for so many reasons. I believe it is used in movies because it allows a nice face shot of the hero or heroine with the gun. Trained military and law enforcement professionals keep their weapons pointed in a safe direction until the need arises to aim at a target. They are carrying deadly weapons, not teddy bears.
Going into a burning building, especially modern buildings full of plastic and synthetic materials, without a self-contained breathing apparatus and protective clothing is suicide. Ask your local fireman. Fire quickly renders the air un-breathable and temperatures rise high enough to melt the change in your pocket in less than a minute. And every door or window you open feeds the fire oxygen. When a character in a book or movie rushes into a fire, it is best for the audience to suspend disbelief, because amateur firefighting is about as realistic as the Modern Warfare video avatar that can run for six hours in full gear without slowing down.
Starting a new project is the best feeling in the world. Many writers will agree that tearing through the pages, writing never before imagined scenes, full of great new characters, is the fun part of writing a novel. Revision and editing are often painful and slow, by comparison. Yet, it must be done and done well.
I use Microsoft Word or Google Docs to write. I write with Spell Check turned on, though the squiggly red lines beneath fictional names can be annoying until I add them to the document's dictionary. After completing the first draft, I read it once or twice doing minor revision and editing and taking notes. Then I take a break, as described in my Project Rotation blog. I return and edit once on paper, once using the Track Changes in Word, and another time after accepting or rejecting the changes. Then, sometimes after a few days to clear my head, I use Serenity Editor, an advanced editing program that goes beyond what the grammar and spell-check available in word processors. Serenity Software: Editor (I just call it Serenity Editor) helps with spelling, grammar, and style recommendations. I found it particularly useful for warning me of homonyms (are / our, their / there).
When I finish writing a book, I set it aside and move to a new project. That way I am always fresh for revision and editing. I have completed first drafts in as little as forty days or as long as eighteen months. Either way, by the time the final scene flows across the page, I am excited, but drained. Stephen King suggested in his book, On Writing, to take a break at this stage and I have followed his advice.
I worked on several projects after publishing Dragon Badge, but spent a lot of time learning about the self-publishing industry, marketing and promoting, and social media. I already had a draft of the second book in the series. After reading what I had a couple of times, I decided to start from scratch, salvaging a few scenes I liked, but planning the second book to answer questions from the first and further develop the fantasy elements.
At the same time, I was eager to publish a second book, so once I finished the rewrite of what was called Machine Gun Knight and later The Darklord’s Boys, I put it away and edited a science-fiction book I wrote years ago called Wormbright and shared it with critique readers. In the end, I decided I liked Wormbright, but it did not blow me away. What can a writer do with such a revelation? The answer, as painful as it seems, is to start completely over. So I wrote an outline from scratch, changed the title and some names my critique readers did not care for, and went to work. The result became Enemy of Man: Book One in the Chronicles of Kin Roland.
Now I return to the sequel of Dragon Badge. Why am I changing the title? Feedback on the book title(s) was decidedly negative. I decided it was time to put my ego and preferences aside. So what is the name of the second Dragon Badge book? I am still working on it, but it will be revealed in the Dragon Badge Newsletter.
Life is an adventure. I read to expand my horizons and write because I must.
- The Craft of Writing: 7 Magnificent Books
- Use of Force Myths
- A Really Useful Tool
- Project Rotation