When is a manuscript “good enough”?

Just like I was surprised to realize I had been journaling for ten years (now up to 12 years), I’ll be participating in my 10th National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November. It’s weird to think that I’ve written nine books with this challenge over the years, even to the point where I’ve used the experience I’ve gained in doing so to publish other books outside my self-imposed NaNoWriMo publishing cycle (like the Cinema Connections book slated for release this September). Back when I wrote First Name Basis, I was so excited CreateSpace offered me five free proof copies of my book just for finishing the NaNoWriMo challenge. I really wanted that physical copy of the book I had just spent six weeks writing, but I also knew it needed some polishing so I’d be proud of what I had created. I asked some friends to help beta read, and I took their notes and performed a number of edits before finally clicking that “submit”...
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How much should you write?

Writing is my hobby. It is not my full-time job. It is not paying to support my family. Sure, it can make some money on the side, but I generally write to be creative. I have stories and ideas that I want to get onto the page and out to the world. I started writing for fun in college, creating a series of intertwined short stories I wanted to collect into a novel-length book. Nothing ever truly came of these short stories, other than to convince me that they were possible. Then I wrote my first novel. I found it ironic that I didn’t pursue a thesis-based Master’s Degree, but ended up doing nine months of research to write a thesis-length book in roughly six weeks. This was the largest thing I had ever written. Unlike my previous short stories, though, a coupon to get five free proof copies of this book was the impetus I needed to edit and polish...
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Why a book is more than just words

Go over to your bookshelf. Pick up your favorite book and open it up. What do you see? If your only answer is “words,” then take a second look. Flip through a few pages. Now, what do you see? Do you notice that it looks like a book? What do I mean by that? Essentially, all the other elements of page design—besides the words themselves—are what help make a book into what it is. That being said, I’ve seen some issues with self-published books that I feel I need to address. Good design balances negative space. Even though this post is mostly about the design of a book’s interior, the first place to start is with the words themselves. Open up your favorite book again and look at the words. Now, see where there are no words? The indents at the start of paragraphs and the chunks of space to the right of fast-paced dialogue create negative space that helps the reader...
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2019 and Beyond

While December was a good time to look back on all that I accomplished in 2018, now that it's January, it's time to look forward to the future. I have a lot of plates spinning right now, and a lot of manuscripts still waiting for me to edit them. Fortunately, I have plenty of projects that are wrapping up in 2019. The Buried Colony 2017's NaNoWriMo novel, The Buried Colony (originally titled as Frozen Planet) has gone through three editing passes in 2018 in preparations for one of the most terrifying things I have yet to do with my writing: submitting a manuscript to an agent. That's right! I'm going to spend 2019 pitching this hard sci-fi story to agents in the hope that I can have it be traditionally published in 2020. Since The Martian has helped make hard sci-fi a more viable genre in recent years, I hope that my exploration of how to potentially send humans outside the solar system is met...
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2018 Year in Review

It's incredible to think that 2018 is almost over. This year, completed quite a few projects and started many more. In case you've missed some of these announcements, this post is a handy recap of all the content that I released in 2018. So, without further ado, here's the . . . 2018 YEAR IN REVIEW Fourteener Father While 2017 saw the re-release of my first three books in the form of the 2nd Editions of The Fluxion Trilogy, this year I released my fourth book, Fourteener Father: a memoir of life above 14,000 ft. Here's an unboxing video for the paperback and hardcover versions: This book was a labor of love and the first non-fiction book I've written. Over the last 20+ years, my father and I climbed all of Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains, and I wanted to share that experience and journey with everyone. I released this book on Father's Day of this year and have been getting pretty good reviews on it on Amazon. It's...
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An Engineer’s Guide to NaNoWriMo (or how I grew from a newbie to a veteran)

This post was originally written for the NaNoWriMo blog. You can check it out here (it's been slightly modified, but the content's basically the same). I’m an engineer. While most of my colleagues use this as an excuse to keep themselves from writing anything, I argue it’s the reason they need to be the best writers. The concepts engineers can create in their minds still need to be communicated to the world. Concepts never imagined before. Similarly, how many writers are out there with an idea nobody has ever read, just waiting to get it onto the page? As an engineer, I have a particular set of skills—some would say “quirks”—that have helped me over the last eight years of NaNoWriMo grow from just barely finishing to writing rapidly and voluminously. Most engineers are known for their problem-solving skills, and NaNoWriMo presents an interesting problem: how do I write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days? Like most problems, I resort...
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Why you should schedule your writing

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” When it comes to writing, many will consider this alleged quote by Benjamin Franklin to mean that they should outline every single scene of their book, write FBI-level character bios, and practically have every part of the book already written in their head before they sit down and actually put it to the page. While this can sound like a daunting task, it misses the point of the quote. It’s not that writers should plan out their books, it’s that they should plan out their time. Time management is more important than you think. Back when I was becoming more serious about writing, I had all the time in the world. My job was stable, and I had a good work/life balance that allowed me to come home and do all the writing or editing I would need to complete the projects that I had started. Plus, at the time, I was single and...
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The ABC+ of Beta Reading

A few months ago, I discussed how there are four essential edits that every author should perform on their manuscript. While the author can do half of these edits by themselves, two edits need the input of other people: editors and beta readers. Authors shouldn’t expect editors to ask what to look for during their review, but most beta readers might not know the types of useful feedback the author is seeking with their review. It doesn’t hurt to provide beta readers with a little guidance on what to be looking for when they read the author’s manuscript. The benefits of beta readers are due to the fact that they aren’t necessarily professionals reading your work. They won’t have the background to tell you if you’re using too many dangling participles (like your editor should). Instead, they have the “layman” view of someone who would pick up your book and read it for entertainment purposes. Consequently, the beta readers should be able...
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3 unexpected programs to help you publish a book [PART 3/3]

Over the last few months, I’ve hopefully opened your eyes to some of the neat tricks you can use to help publish your book using the Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft Word is an obvious choice for writing, and Microsoft Excel can also be useful to manage lists and other planning information, but did you know there’s one more program that can help you publish your book as well? Up until now, the programs I’ve suggested are ones that you’d likely use anyway if you were trying to organize your work or polish your manuscript. The key was merely using the lesser-known tools within these programs to make your life as a writer easier. This month, I’d like to suggest something that might shock you and will require you to use a program in a slightly different manner than it’s usually used. That program is: MICROSOFT POWERPOINT Most people associate PowerPoint with corporations, presentations, and goofy animations. While these are the typical uses for the...
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3 unexpected programs to help you publish a book [PART 2/3]

Last month, I told you how the Microsoft Office suite can help you with your writing. I covered Microsoft Word, and how it’s more powerful than just a standard word processor. By getting to know some of the more obscure features of these (usually) easily obtainable and available programs, writers can take control of their writing without having to purchase expensive computer programs. With Microsoft Word, I covered how Section Breaks, Styles, and Formatting can help a writer create a professional-looking book with less effort. Even though our next program isn’t used directly for the actual writing of a book, it is incredibly valuable for planning and prepping. It can also be used during the polishing phase of a manuscript as well. I refer, of course, to: MICROSOFT EXCEL As an engineer, I love to use spreadsheets, and Excel is the king of the spreadsheet programs. Any time I need to write a list or do some calculations, I open up a new...
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