Home of Exciting Science Fiction

Writing Tips

First of all this is how I write, so bear that in mind when you formulate your plan. How I do things may and probably differ from how you will do it. What do you use for a word processor? Is a question I get often and it boils down to what I like. I have a general dislike for Microsoft and have used Linux for 20 years now. On Linux I use Openoffice, it's free and full featured. Openoffice allows me to create user dictionaries with all of the alien terms and names. It also allows me to do everything I want without spending a lot of money on MS word. If you need a special feature that is not in Openoffice, there is probably a plugin for it on their website. For graphics, I use GIMP and sometimes I will jump over to windows and use Corel Draw and Photopaint. As of this writing, Gimp and Openoffice have been ported over to Windows, I'm not sure about Mac.

Me pic
  • I tend to write ideas in a small pocket note book.

  • Then I look at what I have written down (could take years to get to this point.) and decide what I want to write and what I will use, if anything from the notes I took.

  • Next I will put together a rough outline and then put it aside. I will probably look at this outline several times and each time making tweaks to it. I treat an outline more as a guide than a rigid set of steps to perform. There have been many times that I have made changes to an outline while writing the actual story. As long as I have a starting point, an overall plot and how I want the story to end, then how I get there can be an adventure in itself.

  • Once I have the outline in place I put together characters and profiles for each character. That way I have a list of traits for each character that I can refer back too.

  • Once characters are in place it is time to gather up the technology and science behind the story.

  • Now it is time to start writing. Some days pages flow from my keyboard, other days barely a sentence. Don't set strict rules on yourself, it will just be frustrating and you end up with content you may not want. Just go with the flow as it hits you.

  • Once you have a raw story pass it to a few people to critique and hopefully you will get useful feedback and not 'it's great'. At this point it probably will not be. You want real feedback and questions. While something sounds logical to you, no one else may see it the same way.

  • Once you have all of your feedback and make changes, now it is time to find an editor. Uncle Bob who taught third grade English 40 years ago is probably not a good choice. For science fiction you want someone who reads it and understands it. You will want someone who has a firm grasp of the subject matter and the English language. And of course pay them.

  • When you get the manuscript back from the editor, don't be shocked by the markups. If they are a good editor where will be tons of corrections. I've looked at my manuscripts and thought 'hey, this looks great!' then you get it back and suspect the person editing had to make several trips to Staples for red pens. As an author you are to close to the manuscript to see errors. It takes another set or sets of eyes to really see all the mistakes. (even after editing, my manuscripts still go into production with a few errors that don't get found until you the reader point them out. I don't feel bad about this because I have read thousands of books from all types of authors and no book is perfect. There are problems in all of them.

  • As a follow up to step 9. after you have made all your corrections, hand a fresh copy back to the editor for another go round. If they are good, they will still find things wrong. I only do the 2 pass edit. You can do more passes, but remember each pass at this point costs money.

  • As you wait for your manuscript to come back, it would be a good time to put a website together. There are many tools out there for doing this. I will address this in detail with another article.

  • If you choose to use an agent go ahead and find one.

  • Format your manuscript and send off to the big box publishers or if you chose to use a POD (print on demand) like I do, then download their formatting guidelines for which ever format you want. I use 3 formats: hard cover, softcover, and EPUB.

  • Design your covers, not easy, at least for me. If you suck at drawing and painting like me, then you may have to hire someone to design your covers for you. I managed to get by with what I know, but I have to admit, my covers could be better. Maybe after I make my first million I will hire someone.

  • Once you have all the pieces it is time to put them together.

  • ISBN numbers. Many publishers including PODs will provide these. After my experience with Publish America I don't give these people any more authority over my work than I have too. Get your own ISBNs they are cheap. Buy a block of 10 if you plan to keep going past 1 book. Lets face it you will need one for a hardcover and a softcover. So each story will need at least 2 ISBNs.

  • Set your pricing.

  • Put it all together and submit to your publisher/printer.

  • Order a couple of advanced copies to pass around and show off and most of all to make sure it is all correct.

  • When everything is correct, sign up for some local shows and order books. 25 -50 to begin with should be enough to get started without breaking the bank.

  • Marketing, Marketing, Marketing! Don't pay for this. Do it on your own. I will dedicate a page to just this step soon. It is quite complex and will require pages.

  • Always request feedback from the public. The good, the bad and the ugly. I personally like bad feedback or critical feedback. It helps with how I view my work and try to make the next one better. 'It's great!' is great to hear but, not helpful in the long run.

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