Saturday, October 27, 2007

Interesting day

Things you don't expect to hear at archery #225, especially when you're at full draw:

"My daddy has a tattoo of a shark on his butt."

Injuries you have trouble explaining to a doctor, #188:

Whilst making weapons for a halloween fancy dress party, you're cutting vampire stakes on the drop saw when one catches the blade and flies off with enough force to impale you. Fortunately it slams into your belt buckle, ricochets around the double garage and ends up under the car.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Suggestive Cards

You're enjoying a quiet drink in a cantina when gunshots erupt. (Not sure who fired first - it's all so confusing.) Anyway, a confident-looking space pilot thrusts his business card into your hand and offers to get you off the planet.

Is that a bit suss, or is this one even worse?

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

24 hours of plotting later ...

Since I posted about plotting yesterday that exercise book hasn't left my side. So far I have fifteen pages of notes, and I'm getting some decent ideas for Hal 5. Below are low-rez scans of the pages, just because 14 pics are worth 14,000 words. (Does that count for NanoWrimo??)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Nanowrimo Tips

1) Write in 500 word chunks, 4 per day. Should only take 20-30 mins each. One first thing, one at lunch, two in the evening with a break.

2) If you write less than 1700 words one day, don't stop until you've written 1700 + double the difference the following day. That way, when you're thinking of giving up for the day you know you're getting double the work for your reward.

3) Buy yourself a reward and dangle it. I just got hold of the Lost season 3 boxed set, and it's sitting above my monitor, sealed. I won't allow myself to watch it until I write the 50,000th word for Nano. If I don't write 50K, I won't allow myself to open the seal until 2008.

4) If you fall behind, look up my NanoWrimo 7500 words in one day catchup form/article

5) Turn the TV off. If you have to cook/clean/do other chores, make them brief.

6) No sharpening pencils.

7) Delete your email and web browser icons from the desktop/start menu. Force yourself to go through C:\Program Files\etc to find and run them.

8) Each evening, after you've written the daily 2k or so, outline a few scenes for the following day.

9) Write the scenes which interest you, not necessarily the next scene in order.

10) Don't be afraid to branch out. If your plot changes, leave a note in the text and keep going.

This is my third Nano, by the way. I completed it in 2005 and 2006, and I have every intention of doing it again. I'm not a particularly fast typist (I don't really touch type - although I don't have to look at the keyboard) but I manage to do my 2k per day or else.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Outlining & plotting

Okay, you're starting a new book. Maybe it's part of a series, or maybe it's completely new. Blank page syndrome. Help!

Well, I can't give you a plot or a set of characters to use, but I can tell you how I approach each new novel.

I like to use a cheapo 64 page exercise book for my initial plotting. I can get away from the computer and scrawl ideas, rip pages out and generally use it like a brain backup. I'm certainly not ready to use a computer at this stage - that would be far too organised and regimented, even with a mind mapping tool. (The idea with a notebook is that I keep moving forward, reusing the good ideas from earlier pages and dropping the bad ones. On a computer, you end up deleting and editing text, which leaves you only the most recent version. Bad author, bad.)

I always start with the characters, and because this is a series book that means Hal and Clunk are pencilled in right away. If you're writing a new book you have to come up with your protagonist, and I reckon that's one of the hardest things to do. You'll want your readers to care what happens to this person, so a sympathetic or likeable protag is often a good start. And if you already have some plot ideas, they'll help to shape the character - think about their job, their attitude, their financial and mental state amongst other things.

Next up is the antagonist. Who are they? What do they want? Why is your antagonist getting in their way? Maybe experiment with the seven deadly sins until you come up with the right combination (all in the name of research, naturally.)

By now I'll have a few plot ideas - nothing detailed, just something big enough to carry a novel once subplots and other issues are mixed in.

Now I look at minor characters - pro and anti. Do I want a confidant who betrays the protagonist (or antagonist), a friendly face hiding their own agenda, a genuinely helpful character, or what? (Or all of them?)

At this stage I'm moving ideas around, based on the plot and the characters. Who does what to whom is taking shape, and I start picturing locations. A barren planet, a space station, a solicitor's office, deep space .. usually these are dictated by the confrontations in the plot, but there's total freedom when it comes to the outdoors.

By the way, during this process I'm consciously avoiding ideas and situations I've used in other books, and anything I remember from movies, TV or books. "Cop on holiday trapped in a building beset by terrorists" made a great novel, but I don't fancy being known forevermore as the guy who ripped off Nothing Lasts Forever.

So, the exercise book is bulging. Next up is putting it all into Freemind.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

New Hal 3 review

My publisher just forwarded me a Hal 3 review from the latest Fiction Focus*, and it's a good one! The Hal series has done pretty well in school libraries across Australia and New Zealand, so it's good to see the third book given a nice wrap:

"The satire is great, the plot oddities continue to fascinate and readers are fairly sure that the 'heroes' will somehow get out of every mess they get into. Simon Haynes wants to write fifteen Hal Spacejock books. We are happily waiting."

* Fiction Focus is a selection and buying guide for secondary schools and other institutions serving teenagers.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cover Contest

It's been a while since I gave away a book through my blog, so let's have a contest. And since it's my blog, I'm going to make you work for it. Hah.

I'm going to paste the current blurb for Hal 4 below, and I'd like guesses as to what the finished cover might look like. Bear in mind it's not even a glint in the artist's eye yet, so I don't have inside knowledge and neither does anyone else.

Puzzled? Here's an example: The cover has a vibrant pink tone and Hal, naked to the waist, is giving Clunk a piggy-back. Alongside them, a woman in riding gear has a suggestive grip on a horse whip, and in the background two orcs are squabbling over an author's thigh bone.

(You understand this is wildly exaggerated. I don't actually need to win a copy of my own novel, what with having written it and all.)

Conditions: If nobody comes close, I'll award the free book to the most imaginative entry. If there's more than one apparent winner, I'll pull the winner's name from a hat. Just one winner, in other words, and they'll be announced as soon as I get the finished cover AND get clearance to post it.

Okay, that's the instructions, conditions and the example out the way. Now here's the latest version of the blurb (no, it hasn't been funnied up yet!):

An old rival seeking revenge, a trainee officer thrown into a dangerous investigation and a planet with more bugs than a new operating system ... When Hal and Clunk set out to make a fresh start, this wasn't exactly what they had in mind.

Now Hal must choose: Take on his rival to save his business, or set aside his own problems to help the trainee with her first - and possibly last - investigation.

Whatever he decides, it's No Free Lunch for Hal Spacejock!

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, October 15, 2007

How many drafts?

First, a picture:

Now the explanation. The red folder at the bottom contains dozens and dozens of outlines. The green folder contains my ideas for the novel.

The manila folder on top of those contains the 110,000 word Hal 4 draft dated 16th of August, and it was the first I was prepared to print out after writing the book on-screen for five months. Every single page of that draft has editing marks like these:

The next folder contains the second draft, dated 27th of August. The pages are even more hacked about than the first draft, and after putting in those changes I submitted the novel to my editor.

The folder on top of that one is the printout my editor handed back. I put a red tab on each chapter beginning so I could find & address her comments.

The next one is my fourth draft, now slimmed down to 94,000 words or so, and the fifth draft (88,000 words) sits on top in the final manila folder.

Now we get into the loose pages - chapter by chapter printouts which I'd edit, then print again. The A5 sized printout buried in there is a copy of the draft I received back from a first reader, who gave me lots to think about. Then another draft, and sitting right on top is the ARC I gave my wife to read.

And just in case you think there's less work in the later drafts, here's a page I was working on last night, barely 24 hours before the manuscript had to be handed in:

and the reverse ...

In total you're looking at the editing I've done over the past eight weeks, not including additional changes on-screen. Bear in mind ALL that editing took place AFTER I'd written the first draft.

A novel isn't ready for publication after you finish the first draft. No sir.

EDIT: Not everyone goes this wild. In fact, Holly Lisle has an article from the opposite end of the scale: One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Positive thinking

A few months ago my wife rescued a bedraggled zebra finch from a shopping centre carpark, and we've been looking after him ever since. (They're not native birds - this was an escaped pet.)

Anyway, today my wife brought home a female finch, and within ten seconds of adding her to the cage the male was hauling grass stalks to the corner and building a nest. I mean, it happened literally that quickly. So fast, in fact, that he didn't actually stop to ask the new bird whether she was up for it.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

5, 6, 7, 8

Okay, I'm just two days out from handing in the final manuscript for Hal 4. Since I emailed it to my first readers a week or so ago I've polished and tweaked, tweaked and polished, and it's really taking shape. (All the excellent feedback really helped - and there's more coming in all the time!)

So, now that Hal 4 is nearly done, what next?

Here's the plan:

Hal 5 is loosely plotted, and I'm intending to write 50,000 words of it next month for NanoWrimo. It's a big Hal and Clunk quest, with less focus on secondary characters.

Hal 6 is already 85,000 words. This was GOING to be Hal 4, but the plot outline kept changing until it was nothing like the stuff I'd already written. It's a jumbled mess right now, but I'll do a new outline based on what I have and take it from there. (It's a dig at the art world, with a cargo of valuable gear, neurotic artists, exhibition disasters and so on.)

Hal 7 consists of a couple of notes I've had knocking around for a year or so. Confident (brash) fighter pilot, military stuff, threat of alien invasion, Hal deeply involved in military affairs for some strange and as yet unexplained reason. (Note to self: avoid similarities to Han Solo/Star Wars.)

The idea for Hal 8 just came to me, but I can't say much because it's all spoilers. Expanding the business with the help of an old friend is the best hint I can give.

The order of these novels isn't set in concrete, by the way. I'll write whichever excites me the most. And perhaps by the time I hit #14 or #15, they might even (gasp) be available outside Australia and New Zealand! (Powell's and Amazon sell the Hal books as imports, but they're rather pricey.)

Onwards, Hal and Clunk!

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Kids' insights

My kids just showed me what they've been working on all day. It's an Oblivion addon called the 'Debating Room', where they've built a fancy parliament and added a copy of every leader and ruler from the game. (If you don't know what Oblivion is, think single player World of Warcraft. If you don't know what World of Warcraft is, I'm not convinced you're using the same internet as everyone else.)

Anyway, when they came to drag me away from Hal Spacejock 4 edits they said they wanted me to 'come and listen to the politicians having a debate.'

I did, and I discovered my kids have carefully upped the aggression levels for all these noble leaders and rulers so the minute you enter the room they all start belting the crap out of each other. Yes, it's cage fighting as we really want to see it! Why bother with expensive elections?

Oh well, it explains why my kids have been howling with laughter all day.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Simon's Simple Recipes

The other day I stuck a few of my fave recipes on my website (Simon's Simple Recipes), and today I was surprised to discover several visitors coming in after they'd searched Google for 'simple recipes'. Turns out my little effort comes in around #8 or 9 on the Google Australia search results, just ahead of the recipe page for a massively popular morning TV show.

Thanks Google ;-)

By the way, the one that really makes me laugh is this: My article on flower pressing. I should imagine it annoys a few visitors doing careful research on the subject, but that's what makes it amusing.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sporty Simon

Yesterday my eldest daughter and I joined an archery club*, and today I bought a second-hand windsurfer. Looking forward to a long summer ;-)

* I used to shoot at this club and participate in tournaments, and still have my gold, silver and bronze medals from several state & club events. Last night I spent a couple of happy hours fixing up the equipment, rebinding the grip with tennis racket tape (I have large hands, so the standard handle is too skinny) and fiddling with the arrows.

As for the windsurfer, I used to be a real dedicated nut. Only on the river, not the ocean, but my old Bombora tri-fin used to go at a hell of a lick in gale-force winds. I still have the wetsuit and harness, the latter being a big metal hook you held the boom with, to rest your arms.

After I got married I sold the board and bought a surfcat instead, with a spinnaker and a trapeze harness. There were three of us on it once, no idea how fast we were going but a wave washed my brother-in-law's feet off the hull when he was at full stretch in the trapeze, and he swung all the way round the mast and ended up dangling in the water on the opposite side. Not sure how we avoided tipping over, either.

What with the regular family cycle outings as well, I reckon I'll be the antithesis of a pale SF geek by the time summer is done ;-)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Nanowrimo Reminder

National Novel Writing Month (NanoWrimo 2007) registration is now open!

Even if you don't write a word for the entire month, the forums are great fun.

I've signed up again (sucker for punishment) and will be grinding out my 50,000 words in November. To help, there are a couple of progress forms on my site, and my yWriter 3 has several Nano tools to keep you on track.

So, is anyone else daft enough to sign up for this kind of writing commitment?

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, October 01, 2007


This may also be of interest to the writers amongst you...

Twelfth Planet Press is pleased to announce the release of the first issue of the new YA electronic short story magazine, Shiny.

Shiny #1 contains stories by Sue Isle, Trent Jamieson and Eugie Foster.

You can pick up an issue for the lowly price of three dollars at the Shiny website

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)