Revising Your First Draft Novel

typewriter_keys_letters_numbers_type_old_vintage_antique-1167460Writing a novel is an exhausting, time-consuming process. But finishing the first draft gives you an excellent feeling! Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing. I love having written.”

I already did one post about when to completely rewrite your novel, but what do you do if you finish it and want to revise it?

Here’s 5 tips for revising:

  • 1. Read It

Captain Obvious, to the rescue! It’s useful to also keep a pad nearby and jot down any themes or images you want to reference later in the story. It’s a nice idea to have some idea of symbolism or foreshadowing as you go through.

  • 2. Correct Grammar/Spelling

Really, basic correction from the first edit. These sorts of things should be fixed right away to avoid wasting time in the future.

  • 3. Add a Blank Page Between Chapters

I owe this idea to James Duncan from Writer’s Digest. An excellent idea that really helped me! I highly recommend it, as it’ll help you go through your manuscript easily.

  • 4. Write Down any Plot Elements You Need to Address

Sometimes you have things you want to address that are missing. This is easily fixed! Figure out where you wanted to go, and jot it down as well.

  • 5. Create a Checklist for Updates

Now that you have both the symbolism and plot elements you need to address, get down and dirty and create a check list for this. It’s useful, because it helps you figure out what’s missing in the story.

From there, you have rewriting and creating your second draft.

Have a good time writing!


Check out my other posts:

Finding Your Writing Style

How to Tell if Your Writing is Improving

Going from Outline to Manuscript

And maybe you’d like to read one of my book reviews:

Book Review: 1632 by Eric Flint

Book Review: Slan by A. E. van Vogt

Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram!

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Book Review: 1632 by Eric Flint

1632-Eric_Flint_(2000)_cover1632 is a hard book to describe. It’s often listed with “alternate history” and “science fiction”, but it’s hard to nail down; it has elements of both.

Eric Flint has created an entire “Ring of Fire” universe with 1632. He gave birth to a regular anthology of short stories, spin off novels, and numerous sequels all set in the same universe.

1632 is the story of a small town named Grantville, WV which gets transported back in time to 1632, during the Thirty Years’ War. These Americans find themselves in Germany during a period of royalty and aristocracy. They are also the most technologically advanced society of the age.

The event that kicks off everything in the book is not explained, but the characters must deal with it. Ultimately, what we get is a story that’s both interesting and fun.

Interestingly, Flint and his co-writers in the Ring of Fire series have had to track characters who were transported back in time, because they saw too many ex-military characters would appear as a result of an author’s needs.

I really liked this book. I honestly thought I already did a review of it, but I didn’t see one. There’s a ton of interesting elements, from Gustavus Aldolphus interacting with the Americans and coming to respect their point of view, to the town converting a vehicle to a “war machine” and seeing the locals’ reactions.

I really liked that last one, by the way. Flint made sure the reader understood that these 17th century people weren’t mindless. They understood that machines were able to move things, and when they saw the diesel-powered vehicle, they didn’t think it was powered by magic, but weren’t sure how it was powered.

Also of note was the way people thought back then compared to how people thought now. One of the characters remark that the Americans are all commoners who think like nobility. It was an interesting concept.

All in all, I would recommend this one to anyone who likes character driven stories and alternate history.


 

Check out my other blog posts:

Book Review: Slan by A. E. van Vogt

Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Book Review: On Basilisk Station by David Weber

Book Review: Slan by A. E. van Vogt

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Van Vogt is an author I was unfamiliar with growing up. I read the book Slan because of the nudging of a friend. He recommended the book because he thought A. E. van Vogt was one of the most under appreciated authors in science fiction history.

I’m inclined to agree.

This book was fantastic.

There were parts of Slan that felt dated. Certainly the lingo used and the manner of speaking in dialogue. The main part that hit me as dated was how Kathleen, the female tendriled slan, is used in the book.

Slan is about a society in the far future where a supposed war had broken out between humans and advanced humans called slans. As a result, there are slans who live as humans, hiding in plain sight, but humans are afraid of these advanced humanoids. Slans possess terrifying powers to read minds, and the main character Jommy uses his intellect to get creative with technology to advance this ability.

Jommy is originally introduced as a child, and the book follows him and Kathleen as they grow up separated and try to survive in this world of oppression.

By far the best aspect of this book is how any twists and turns the story takes. One chapter Jommy is living with Granny trying to survive on the streets. The next chapter, he is plotting how to steal a starship. It’s fantastic.

Of note is a fantastic ending, and a perfect bow to the story at the end.

If you like older science fiction, especially the works of Asimov or Heinlein, I would recommend Slan to you.


You might like some of my other book reviews:

Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Book Review: Dying of the Light by George R. R. Martin

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Or maybe my work on writing:

Writing Philosophical Science Fiction

Is Writing Every Day Necessary?

Make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram!

Finding Your Writing Style

StateLibQld_2_171951_Intimate_portrait_of_a_man_writing_a_letter,_1900-1910When we talk about “style” in regards to writing, it’s often understood to stand related to “voice”, “tone” or even “structure”. In reality, it’s a nebulous idea, springing forth from readers and writers alike with no concrete definition.

You know what it is to have a specific style, but it’s hard to nail down.

Here are some bits of advice I came up with to help you find your own unique style:

1. Read Authors You Like

This seems simple enough, but a word of caution: if you try to mimic another author’s style it could end up disastrous. It’s good to learn from the authors you love, but if you create a voice that’s an amalgamation of their word-choice and tone it could come off as forced. That leads to the next idea…

2. Sound Natural

Don’t try to sound overly intellectual, or overly relaxed. If you are an intellectual, embrace it as who you are. This idea is important, but it’s said so often as to be meaningless: fake it until you make it.

It’s reasonable to sounds as you are, and if you think you sound awful, continue trying. As long as you’re true to yourself, how you write doesn’t matter. Eventually, creme rises to the top.

3. Work on Word Choice

If you lack a wide range of words to choose from, then you lack the tools to construct a story that is truly your own. You must, must, must, must, MUST, work on vocabulary! It’s pertinent for all starting authors to get that under their belt, or they will find a lot of creativity with no ability to construct a sentence.

If you have a lot of words to choose from, then you’ll have the ability to choose how you want to sound. That’s how it works!

4. Write

How can you find your writing style if you don’t write? Continually improving yourself is the only way to improve your writing. That includes vocabulary, as I mentioned, and actually writing.


I hope that helps! You may enjoy some of my other writing posts:

Writing Philosophical Science Fiction

How to Tell if Your Writing is Improving

Dodging Derivatives

Make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram!

Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

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I used the cover I was used to for this book, growing up. It caught my eye because of how goofy it looked, and as a kid I wanted to see other kids in science fiction situations.

Honestly, Orson Scott Card’s most well-known book is one of my favorite books of all time, so it’s worth going through as a book review.

The main character is Ender Wiggin, a “third”. In this society parents are typically limited to two kids at a time. As a result, kids who are “thirds” are disrespected and treated poorly. Of note are his two siblings: Peter and Valentine. Peter is a kind of sadistic sociopath, while Valentine is a kind and loving person.

The story starts with Ender being tested for his capabilities. He is enrolled in battle school to learn to fight the “buggers”, aliens who apparently attacked Earth long ago, and Ender does progressively well. There’s a cast of interesting characters from across the planet (this was released in 1985, and one of the characters is from the Soviet Union). Of note are the zero gravity games, and their mechanics. Then, the twist at the end is widely regarded as one of the best in science fiction.

Critical reception was fairly positive. The novel won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, a rare achievement.

I think my only problems with the novel have to do with the characters. Ender is interesting enough, but Peter is purely evil and Valentine purely good. I always hated that. Real people aren’t like that, and maybe you can argue that from Ender’s perspective that was the case, but Peter should have had something redeemable about him.

Likewise, I take issue to the 3/4 mark in the book, when Ender is established at battle school and they start to throw whatever they can at him to beat him. At that point it felt like there was little to no tension. Then, moving him to another kind of school with other characters felt pointless (at first). There was no tension in the simulated fights, because they were simulated to the character. He wasn’t risking anything by fighting simulations.

Overall, I hope you don’t take away that I dislike this book. It’s honestly one of the best science fiction books I’ve ever read. I have recommended it to friends who aren’t into science fiction and they loved it. It isn’t perfect, by any means.

(NOTE: Card himself has come to be something of a pariah in the science fiction community. I have no interest in his political opinions, and as such am reviewing this purely on the book’s merits. However, I think context is important: Card is a devout Mormon. As such, he has taken the Mormon position on homosexuality and gay marriage, and though I may disagree with him, I won’t burn his books because of it. )

Once again, I highly recommend Ender’s Game for anyone who is interested in science fiction.


 

Check out my other reviews!

Book Review: “The Lost Fleet” Series by Jack Campbell

Book Review: Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon

Also check out my posts on writing:

How to Tell if Your Writing is Improving

When To Completely Rewrite

Also make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram!

Writing Philosophical Science Fiction

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My background was originally in philosophy. Science fiction, while my preferred fiction choice, wasn’t what I wanted to do in college. I pushed myself to study philosophy because I found the ideas interesting. Yet, the career prospects were null and the hobbyist possibilities the same.

In thinking about philosophy in science fiction I think about the short story from the July 2017 issue of Apex magazine: The Turing Machines of Babel by Eric Schwitzgebel.

One day I may review the short story, but I mentioned the story on my twitter account. In the mean time, let’s talk about philosophy in science fiction. There are a few possible ways to incorporate a philosophical question:

  • 1. Directly asking the question.

You could, simply, have a character wake up one day and ask, “is there a god?”

It’s been done to death and often feels forced, but it’s a possibility.

  • 2. Indirectly answering the question.

Instead of making your main character or side characters ask the question, have them deal with an outsider who wonders about why they do a certain thing, which is tangentially related. So, instead of asking “is there a god?” you could have an observer watch the characters perform their actions and ask “do they do this for their gods?” Make it assumptive, and instead of answering the question of “is there a god?” we deal with the moral argument for god’s existence, for example.

  • 3. Showing a world where the question isn’t asked.

If you want to explore the question “how do you know what you know?” Then show a world where it’s all just assumed and no one questions themselves. In this way, you create a reality in the mind of the reader that you can explore and confront. How do these characters know what they know? Is that right?

  • 4. Showing a world that explains the question and your answer.

This is how The Turing Machines of Babel did it, in my opinion. The universe was explored in the story, with its explanations and questions all laid out in how the universe was constructed. Coming to that universe was the main character, and everything was explained through his research and understanding.


 

Well that’s a few examples and suggestions. I hope it helps!

Make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and check out some of my other blog posts:

Going from Outline to Manuscript

How to Tell if Your Writing is Improving

Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

How to Get Back to Writing After a Break

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How do you come back to writing after you take a week (or longer) break?

It’s hard to say. For me, I find the following helps:

  • 1. Read through the last few chapters of what you wrote.

This is how you get back into it. Find what you were working on, and read through it. Hopefully, you find it interesting (I’ll come back t that idea), but if you don’t maybe there’s something salvageable.

  • 2. Do some creative/vocabulary exercises.

I’ve talked about this before, but it’s absolutely true. If you want to get into writing, drawing out your creative and word-crafting abilities can help. Vocabulary choice has always been my weakest element, and it gets me fired up to work on it. I recommend you find what you feel is your weakest element and work on it!

  • 3. Read interesting stories!

The most basic thing I would recommend. Just read something interesting, and if you are an aspiring author/successful writer, you will want to write!

I hope this helps you get back to it. The most important thing to being a writer is writing.

 

Finding Time for Reading and Writing

read-791767_960_720I work full time in an office, which is anathema to the aspiring writer. The siren’s call of a science fiction career calls to me from the shore. I want to write full time, but know I’m not even close to there yet.

I love it, though. I love writing and reading it. To me, it makes for a perfect outlet in life.

I often wonder if I do my full time career in the office as a means to pay for my real job as a writer.

I can’t be the only person to feel like that. And sadly, not everyone who feels that way will make it.

But the one key to it all is to continue pushing forward with it, despite everything.

If you continue plowing the field and planting the seed, eventually something will grow.

Book Review: The “Troy Rising” Trilogy by John Ringo

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Live Free or Die, the first book in the series

I have previously reviewed John Ringo’s work, specifically his second Posleen War book, Gust Front. Truth be told, I found him to be an entertaining writer, but not necessarily one of the greats in science fiction.

However, the Troy Rising trilogy changed my perspective on him.

This first trilogy follows humanity as an alien race makes contact and extends to Earth the chance to be part of their portal network. After this occurs, Tyler Vernon, previously a webcomic artist, finds out that the aliens really like one product Earth has to offer. He ends up monopolizing this product and selling it at a high price to the aliens. As a result, he consolidates wealth and power in an attempt to better mankind’s standing within the galaxy.

There are aliens who do not see humanity as an asset, however, and would rather conquer them. The series uses this as a point of tension and plot development, going so far as to alter humanity at the genetic level.

The stakes increase from book to book, and ultimately the series builds to a satisfying third installment.

The series expands to include multiple interesting science fiction ideas:

  • First is the concept of Troy itself: a gigantic fortress created from a hollowed asteroid for the human forces to use as both a space station and a spacecraft. The size of the creation is expertly relayed to the reader, and Ringo does a good job of hitting home how amazing all of this is.
  • Second is the development of artificial intelligence. These AI are interesting in that they exist to work a single purpose, not to act as human intelligences. As such, they have unique personalities, sure, but their uniqueness as minds comes into play later in the series, and is an interesting development on its own.
  • Third is the SAPL, a system of interconnected mirrors that focus solar light/radiation. The system has been mentioned in other works, so it’s not exactly is unique idea from Ringo, but the way it’s used in the story is excellent, especially how it is specifically created for space mining. I also liked the element of AI being the only mind that could properly calculate its usage.
  • Fourth is the retrovirus that the Horvath infect humanity with at one point. This virus makes specific human females very likely to procreate, the idea being that the Horvath would eliminate more of the planet but save a select number of humans and selectively breed them to be slaves of the Horvath. It’s an interesting idea, and from a conquering alien standpoint makes sense.

(EDIT: I forgot to mention these ideas are developed in the story from science fiction, because the Earth was approached later in its development, so we had science fiction entertainment and most alien races did not.)

From this, Ringo works well to create a universe for fun science fiction that has interesting concepts, characters, and plot; this is everything you could ask for in science fiction! I would recommend it to fans of Military Science Fiction especially, but hard sci-fi fans will find some interesting ideas in it.

Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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As I mentioned in my Ocean at the End of the Lane review, I am a fan of Neil Gaiman. The man is a fine writer, and creative beyond most authors currently writing. Tackling the Norse myths seemed like a match made in heaven for him.

This was a fun book to read. I enjoyed the entire thing, and especially appreciated the way he told the tales of old with new language. Don’t expect him to use modern slang or euphemisms; Gaiman is solidly in the old ways in this story.

I think that’s what I love and hate about it.

There’s a lot that just felt like a direct translation of old tales. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it sort of stands out when Loki tells Thor to “shut up” twice in a row. Also I felt like we never truly understood Loki’s motivations, but that seems to be the fault of the source material rather than any fault of Gaiman’s.

Honestly, I would recommend this version to anyone unfamiliar with the old tales. It’s a perfect introduction to Loki, Thor, Odin, Baldur, Frey, and the others. I think it should be used in middle school to introduce these old stories. There isn’t much in the tales that could be too obscene (apart from a mention of Loki’s privates being tied to a rope).

I think he’s done a great job, but would have liked a little more of the environment present; maybe more that is distinctly Scandinavian? The salty scent of the sea, or the coastal cut of the fjord? I’m not sure.

I don’t give grades in my review, but I expect that Gaiman’s stories in this book will be recognized for the skill they were crafted with. This is definitely a book worth picking up.


If you liked this review check out some of my others:

Book Review: Dying of the Light by George R. R. Martin

Book Review: Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon

Or maybe you’d like some of my posts about writing?

How to Tell if Your Writing is Improving

Write What You Like

Please make sure to follow me on Twitter: @FrankOrmond