A New System


I hate that I put five years of work into a book that may never see the light of day. It sits there on my hard drive, lonely and sad. And for awhile I was sad too. However, I learned some things after five years of hard work.

1. Have a plan! Do not just dive in and free-write. Some writers can do that, but I am not one of them. I knew I had a few problems to fix with the Mars book. Instead of figuring them out ahead of time, I just said, “I’ll get there eventually, and the answer will present itself”. No. Bad idea. Next time and forever and forever I will outline a book before I start to write.

2. Characters are my strength, and I need to play to that strength. I love creating characters that feel real and argue with each other in my head. My plots work best when they come from character interplay instead of action. This is a good thing to know because I won’t spend my time trying be to the next Suzanne Collins.

3. Description is my weakness. It was always difficult for me to reach the required page count for assigned essays in high school and college because I am naturally concise. In fiction this translates to a lack of description. When your characters live on Mars or under the ocean, you need scenery and solid world-building. Some writers are spare but vivid. I see that as something to shoot for.

4. My dialogue is a mixed bag. I think my characters have unique voices and sound natural. My problem is grammar. After reading the dialogue section of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, I realized I tend punctuate my dialogue in a way that confuses a reader. I need to work on using beats and description within conversations. I also need to quit being afraid of “said”.

5. I can’t spend too much time researching, or I get bored. And boredom kills my writing. I spent five years studying various aspects of Mars until I never wanted to hear about the red planet again. Or write about it. I need to take a “get-in, get-out” approach to research. What are the most common species of fish in the Gulf of Mexico? Google the answer, write it down, and go back to actually writing the story. I spent far too much time reading the papers and proceedings of  Mars Colonization Conventions thinking it would improve my novel. The reader doesn’t need me to do that. The reader wants a good story and will forgive me if I get the details of aeroponic farming or ocean salinity wrong.


6. Writing a novel is a marathon. I’m not exactly a marathon girl. Okay, I don’t run. I google running and watch it on Youtube. Anyway, in order to keep myself energized while writing my novel, I figured out that quitting on my blog was the worst thing I could do. I need to get that finish-line feeling once in awhile so I don’t get mentally exhausted. That’s why I’m blogging more now, and it seems to be working.


Right now I’m building my characters for my new story and slowly outlining the book from beginning to end. Hopefully these lessons won’t have to be repeated.


Novel Research: The Results of the Soymilk Adventure


I promised photos of the results of my homemade soymilk attempt, so here they are.

1st Step: Puree the soybeans

1st Step: Puree the soybeans

A better view of step one. I wont lie: it smelled horrible.

A better view of step one from above. Lovely texture, isn't it?

It smelled pretty bad raw, but then I had to cook it.

Step 2: Cook the soybeans to draw out the milk.

Step 2: Cook the soybeans to draw out the "milk."

It was on step two that I decided soymilk should be called “Soy juice.” It did not look like milk.

Step 3: Strain the mixture through cloth to filter out the okara from the milk.

Step 3: Strain the mixture through cloth to filter out the okara from the milk.

Sorry, folks. Forgot to take a picture of the actual straining process, but this is what resulted from it. Ugh. I stuck it in the refrigerator to chill for awhile.

My chilled mug of soymilk.

My chilled mug of soymilk.

By the way, I chickened out on actually trying it. The stuff smelled so horrible that I couldn’t bring myself to taste it. Perhaps that defeats the purpose of the experiment, but I just couldn’t. I consider it very valuable research anyway. Why? I could never live on Mars because I’d have to drink that stuff, and I can’t. So now I know what kind of people couldn’t tolerate immigrating to Mars: people like me.

How ironic.

Writing Some, Reading A Lot


I have a large stack of novels to go through since finishing the Dante Club. I finished Skin by Ted Dekker, but I honestly don’t feel like reviewing it right now. I’m now in the middle of House by Dekker and Frank Peretti. Yes, I know it’s been out forever, but I’m not much of a horror person. I could probably finish it this evening if I wanted to. We’ll see.

I’ve been writing a bit. The novel has now reached almost 16,000 words. Not bad for about six months of writing on and off. It would probably go much faster if I wasn’t so easily bogged down in research. I like my science to be as accurate as I can make it, and that pretty much smashes the brakes on a sci-fi novel. Currently I am trying to understand the basics of genetic manipulation and some chemistry along with how nuclear fusion would work if we managed to actually create it. Some of it is integral to the story. Some of it just matters to me because I’m a nerd.

Note to other would-be authors: Google Documents is a great tool for jotting down random ideas. Instead of emailing things to myself, I just log in, type, and hit “Save.” When I’ve accumulated quite a few paragraphs, I copy it into the Word document for my book.  The one thing I don’t like is the formatting is off when I import the text as a Word file, but it could just be my own ineptitude.

I also discovered a cool website: Advancedfictionwriting.com

Randy Ingermanson runs it. Look him up on Amazon to see some of the novels he’s written. He’s a physicist with a Ph.D. from Berkeley. Yeah, that Berkeley. He’s also very funny and a Christian. I highly recommend it.

Now I’m going to finish House.