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Exposed Monthly: Raw Creation!
Ryan M. Williams
Exposed Monthly: Raw Creation! September 2012
Copyright Â© 2012 by Ryan M. Williams
Cover art Â© 2012 by Ryan M. Williams
Published by Glittering Throng Press
Table of Contents
September was a different sort of month as I shifted my focus from writing new content, to editing my novel Full Moon Nights.
It’s all part of my new process, covered in greater depth in the last issue of Exposed Monthly. It boils down the creation of new material to five steps: Writing, Editing, Formatting, Illustrating, and Publishing.
In the past I’ve tried running multiple projects at the same time with a focus on writing new words. I’ve tracked my progress based on word counts, and continuous production streaks by those counts.
With the creation of my independent press, Glittering Throng Press, I’ve had to redefine what I do. Now I’m focusing on one project at a time, through all of those stages, before I tackle the next. Mostly.
Since I made the change I’ve been tracking my streak not in terms of word counts, but in terms of working on the project each day. I’ve done that every day, without fail, since back in August. Most of that time has been spent on editing the novel. I’ll cover that process more in this issue.
It’s been a hard adjustment. I’m used to writing new material all the time and this entire month I’ve been focusing instead on editing material already written.
I’ve also worked a full-time day job, spent time with my family, and I’ve been spending time studying art. That’s been the main distraction from editing, studying digital painting in preparation for the illustrating stage.
I finished up the edits on the 22nd, and the formatting stage didn’t take long to finish a good interior PDF of the novel. The final novel is 314 pages long, formatted, laid out and reviewed, but I’ll go over that process in this issue too.
Now I’m moving on to the cover illustration. Doing the covers scares me. I have a mental image of what I want the cover to look like, but I’m less confident of my ability to execute that painting to the level I’d like to see. It’s also fun, a challenge that I’m looking forward to tackling. In the last week I’ve practiced, doing the cover for this issue of Exposed Monthly. I’m reasonably happy with it.
The cover painting for Full Moon Nights is a whole other challenge. For one thing, I’m painting human (mostly) characters for the cover. I’m brand new at this, having only dabbled over the years. I’ve never put this kind of time and attention into anything except writing. This is like sitting down to writing my first stories! It’s still facing that blank page, but this time painting a picture instead of using words.
It’s quite the challenge.
I know, from my writing, that this process never stops. You practice, practice, practice and keep practicing. And studying. I’ve summed up my stance before. It boils down to three little words.
Create. In this case, paint something.
Share. Overcome the fear and put it out there for others to see.
Repeat. Keep doing that. Over and over.
That’s true of writing. It’s true of painting.
I’m releasing Full Moon Nights in October. After it’s out I have some other new stories to get out too. They’ll go through the same process. Then I want to relaunch my novel Downland, taking it through those five steps again. Mostly that’ll be a quick editing review, reformat (I’ve learned things there too), and then paint a new cover illustration for that novel.
The last five novels I’ve written, and many short stories, were done on my iPad.
I use an iPad 2, with a Targus bluetooth keyboard for the iPad. Using the keyboard, I’m able to set the layout to the Dvorak keyboard layout that I prefer when writing.
That’s the hardware. But what about the software?
Chapters from slidetorock (http://slidetorock.com/apps/Chapters-iPad-notebooks.html)
Chapters is an excellent app. It’s pretty simple to use. Create a notebook. Add entries. The interface takes up most of the screen with a plain view, except a title bar with the live word count and controls.
All of the recent novels, stories and journals have been written in Chapters. Each day I create a new entry in the notebook for the current project and just write. I like seeing the word count, I use it to make sure I’m meeting my goals. I keep adding to the entry during the day and after each session I export the notebook out to Dropbox. That creates a plain text file of my novel. Later I use Word to edit and format the file.
Chapters doesn’t do any formatting, which is fine for my purposes. Since it lacks that, however, there isn’t anything to break up paragraphs. You can’t do a first line indent, or add space after each paragraph except by adding an extra return. I do that and then Search/Replace ^p^p to remove them in Word when I’m done. I also go through by hand and eliminate the date labels on each entry.
Even though I’ve been using Chapters, and plan to continue using it for journaling, I started looking for other apps that would fill in gaps in what Chapters offers.
The first app that I picked up to try was Storyist. I was attracted by the ability to have multiple files within the project, as well as the index card view. Although most of that is a distraction when I’m writing, I thought I might like to use it to organize notes and other files that would help with the editing process.
It didn’t quite fit with my workflow. For one, it’s designed to work with the Mac version and I’m on a PC. Some functionality, like defining new styles, requires the Mac version right now. Also, when using a bluetooth keyboard, there isn’t a live word count. You can navigate through the menus and check the word count, but I really prefer to see it live.
Also, the addition of formatting and other features makes it a more complicated app to use. It isn’t as simple as a text editor. I like stripping everything away except the writing. Storyist does let you turn off the formatting toolbar and other elements to help.
Like Chapters, Storyist also syncs with Dropbox with an easy one-touch operation that updates the changed files.
In the end I liked Storyist. I may use it for some upcoming project. At some point down the line I intend to get a Mac, and at that point I’ll especially revisit it as a potential replacement for Word in my work flow. The ability of the app and the Mac version to share the same files could be very useful. Plus it can save ePub files.
I kept looking after working with Storyist, just to see if there was anything else out there that fit my workflow better than the apps I was already using.
That’s when I came across Writings, which I’m using right now to write this issue of Exposed.
Writings is similar to Chapters, but more elegant. The writing interface disappears completely, leaving the entire screen filled with the page. A simple tap brings the interface back. There are subtle, textured backgrounds, as well as the options to customize the color of the screen and text.
Like Chapters, Writings is strictly a text program, without formatting, but it does offer some added display options. A pinch or spread of two fingers expands or shrinks the displayed text size. There’s an option to set the width of the text column.
Writings also includes a nice touch navigation feature. Tapping the margin moves the cursor by a character at a time. Holding in the margin moves the cursor a word at a time.
The word count (or character count) can be displayed, or not, at the user’s pleasure. Likewise, the title of the file.
Those features alone make it a compelling application. Writings takes it further by supporting the creation of Workspaces. These workspaces show the files contained in the workspace. Like Chapters, the display is a large page, but in Writings the page shows the text at the beginning of the file, and displays a post-it style note at the bottom showing the word (or character) count and the last modified date.
Workspaces sync with Dropbox, and each workspace can sync to a different folder on Dropbox.
The Workspaces makes it very easy to group related files, such as notes about a novel. There is also a search feature to search across the files.
The focus of Writings is to create an effective, distraction-free environment for your work. It does that very well. I’d like to see two user options added to the program.
First, an option to display a separation between paragraphs. Not formatting, merely the option to display either a space between or a first line indent. That would remove the need to hit an extra return in order not to have the paragraphs run together. That’s the biggest distraction / flaw I have with the program. It also exists in Chapters. A easy user-definable option to set this would be very welcome and, I believe, would fit the design of the program.
Second, typewriter scrolling. That is, allow the user to set how far down the screen the text will go, just as the app offers an option to set the column width. The app does maintain a margin a couple lines tall at the bottom, but I’d like to be able to drag that to the height that works for me.
iA Writer (http://www.iawriter.com/)
Another distraction-free text-editor app. It features a minimalist interface, Dropbox integration, and some mark-up support for formatting. The word count displays in the title bar. A unique feature of iA Writer is the “focus” mode, which dims all but the current three lines of text and hides the interface. In this mode the word count doesn’t display. There’s also a Mac version. With Dropbox folder support, you can create a folder and organize your documents within the folder.
iA Writer is an excellent app, but ultimately I didn’t find it as compelling to use as some of the others. Its bare-bones simplicity, export options and Dropbox integration, make it a good option.
They’re all good, all have excellent features. It’s hard to go wrong and it’s more a matter of choosing what works with your workflow. After writing several novels and many stories in Chapters, I’m working more with Writings now while using Chapters for journaling. The dates make more sense for journals. Writings wins me over with the touches to the interface, the ability to display just what I want. If they add the two features I mentioned, paragraph breaks and typewriter scrolling, then I’d be pretty satisfied.
September was all about editing my novel Full Moon Nights, written as R.M. Haag. “R.M. Haag” is my ‘horror’ pen name. That’s why I use pen names, to help with genre identification. I’m happy if readers follow me across multiple genres but a fantasy reader might not want to read horror, or a romance reader might not be interested in science fiction.
Full Moon Nights takes place eighteen years in the future, a decade after a plague called the “Blessing” has transformed most of the population into werewolves. These aren’t the allergic to silver werewolves of legend, but they are monsters who consider themselves “post-humans,” the next stage in human evolution.
Andy Wilson, a “regressive” human lives in secret among the monsters until he falls unexpectedly for the beautiful Mira Samuels, Washington state senator.
A violent, slightly futuristic, and sexy novel.
I finished writing the novel on August 23rd and then moved into editing the book, which took four weeks of focused work. In the last issue I talked about my reasons for wanting to work on each stage of the book myself, but I still aim to produce a book as professional as I can make it.
The first step in editing the novel was simply reading over it for entertainment, trying to approach it as if it was simply another book that I had picked up.
To facilitate this approach I ran a quick spell check on the file, set up basic chapter headings and format, and then converted the book to an e-pub file with Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/). I saved the Word file as a clean .htm file, imported that into Calibre and then used the converter to create an ePub file. For a cover I used the mock-up I’d done of the cover with a simple picture of a moon and gradient background with the typography somewhat the way I wanted.
All of that took a few minutes, not much time at all. The point wasn’t to produce a finished product, but a readable one. I transferred the ePub to my Nook and then started reading.
It’s always interesting reading over my own work. I try to read with distance, as much as is possible, trying to approach it as a new work. Time is different as a reader than a writer. This is a book that I worked on for months, and read in hours. Inconsistencies and errors jumped out but I read over without focusing on, or looking for those problems. This first read was simply to get an overall sense of the book. Was it fun? Did it work?
Near as I could tell, from my perspective, I thought it worked. I enjoyed the book. Sections that I thought might have gone too long didn’t seem that way when I was reading. Overall, I was satisfied with the book when I finished reading it.
First Pass: Heavy Lifting
That wasn’t to say that the book was without errors, of course not! After reading over it I started back at the beginning, back in Word, with track changes on and started going over the book finding and fixing problems. Some were just errors, sentences that didn’t make sense, all of that sort of thing. I was careful that I was not getting overly critical with the edit. There’s a line between fixing errors and changing the book in a way that destroys the character’s voice.
Many of the inconsistencies had to do with world-building details. Some of the details had evolved or been discovered in writing the book, which necessitated changes to the earlier parts of the book.
While I worked I also kept notes on changes made, to help me remember what had changed and why.
Second Pass: Amy
The first pass did the heavy lifting of fixing the problems with the book. When I finished I saved the file, then saved a copy for the next pass. I accepted the changes in the new file.
This time around I used “Amy,” a text-to-speech program from Ivona (http://www.ivona.com/us/products/voice-amy/), to read the book aloud to me. Amy sounds pretty good, speaking English with an UK accent. She’s not going to read it quite like a natural speaker would, but she’s also going to read just what’s on the page. No added words. No adding punctuation or commas. It’s actually a pretty flat reading.
With Amy reading aloud the remaining errors pop out. Especially the sort of things a spell-checker can’t catch, the wrong word, that sort of thing.
With the text-to-speech finished I do the same save, then save a copy for the final version. It’s a good copy. Is it perfect? Unlikely. It’s as good as I’m going to make it, and I think it’s pretty good. Could another editor help improve it more? Perhaps, but at a price I can’t afford right now. I aim to have a professional book, so I give it my best. As I learn and practice I expect I’ll improve, just as I improve my writing and other skills.
Formatting the novel ends up being one of the easier steps in the flow.
It starts with formatting the e-book version for Smashwords. Smashwords sells e-books directly and distributes to a bunch of other retailers including: Apple, Sony, Diesel, Baker & Taylor, and others. I don’t use Smashwords to distribute to Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), or Kobo. I upload directly to those sites.
Smashword’s detailed style guide is a good place to start in preparing a Word document for e-book conversion. It produces a nice clean copy of the book.
I then convert the Word document into a Kindle format using Mobipocket Creator, and to ePub using Calibre & Sigil. I upload the ePub directly to Barnes & Noble’s PubIt platform and Kobo’s Writing Life. The biggest difference between the sites are requirements on cover sizes, so some of these won’t be finished until the cover gets done.
The e-book formatting is the easier step and doesn’t take long.
After that I turn to InDesign to layout the print edition of the book. For this step I refer to the many books on my shelves for examples of how the book should look on the page.
With a print edition you’re working more with fonts and layout. E-books have much less control over that sort of thing since the readers can change the fonts and sizes themselves, and the text flows.
Print is fixed. It needs to look good and be easy to read. You need to watch for things like widows and orphans. What do the headings look like? In many ways the page is like a picture made of words. Does it look inviting, or not?
It takes time to define the styles for everything and then move through the manuscript carefully, checking each page.
Eventually I get the book to a point where I’m happy about the look of the pages. Then I upload the print-ready PDF to CreateSpace to create the trade paperback edition of the book. I’ll cover that process more in the next issue, as well as the process I’m currently using to create the cover art for the book.
Right now Full Moon Nights is still my current WIP. The book is coming along. I’m currently working on the cover design and illustration. Mostly painting the cover. As a new digital artist, this is the scariest thing about doing this book. It’s pushing my skills to try and create a cover that I’m happy with. I want it to suggest the story, the bloody and sexy side of it. And I want it to look good! I’ve been reading ImagineFX and other digital art resources, and I’m stunned by the beautiful work that those artists produce. I want to be able to do that.
As with any other step is the process, I’ll do the best I can do, and then move on. I have a backlog of projects to release which will give me lots of practice.
Each month Exposed brings you a â€˜behind-the-scenesâ€™ look at the work created in the prior month by indie writer/artist Ryan M. Williams.
What sort of things can you expect from Exposed Monthly?
- Monthly posts.
- Commentary on the writing process.
- A look at artwork, as its created.
- News on upcoming works and publications.
A prolific writer, Ryan M. Williams writes science fiction, but also writes other genres under different pen names, and Exposed covers them all! Fantasy from Michael Burges, paranormal fantasy from Tennessee Hicks, horror from R.M. Haag, mystery from Ryan M. Welch, and romance from Kate N. Ryan.
For all the latest issues, visit www.exposedmonthly.com, or pick up the issues as free e-book releases.
Finished work is available in all popular e-book and print formats through major retailers. Check out Glittering Throng Press (www.glitteringthrongpress.com) for all the details on new releases!
Moreau Society Novels
The Gingerbread House
Past Lives *forthcoming
Other books and stories
The Greatest Gig and Other Stories
Strange Babies and Other Stories
Five More Futures
The Idea Man
Journey to Emberland
Alien Conspiracy Theory
People Love Rocketships
Better the Boy
The Greatest Gig
Bouncing Baby Boy
The Copyleft Heart
Visit www.glitteringthrongpress.com for information on these,
and many more e-books under my other pen names.