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Author: Matt

Matt (MG) Herron writes science fiction thriller novels and nonfiction how-to guides. His first novel, The Auriga Project, was published in 2015. His first nonfiction book for writers, Scrivener Superpowers, was published 2016.

When he’s not bending words to his will, Matt organizes Indie Publishing Austin, a local Meetup for writers and authors. He also likes to climb mountains, throw a frisbee for his Boxer mutt, Elsa, and travel to expand his mind.

An update on Translocator 2 and some perspective

Still don’t have a proper title for this book yet, but I’m only 11 chapters away from the end of Translocator 2, a science fiction thriller novel.

Okay, I’ve got a few ideas for titles, but I haven’t decided. Still too much work to do.

I wrote 1400 words this morning with a couple writer friends and lots of coffee, and headphones with Ratatat cranked up. It felt like I had to break limbs to get the words on the page, but I had 1400 by 11am.

Then I took a break and came back home to write this blog.

Writing this book has been an interesting experience. In some ways I am breaking through walls and setting new personal records. Other days, I question myself and start to freak out, especially when the writing is hard or I get snagged on a plot or character issue. So I wanted take a step back and look at the big picture, and hopefully get some perspective.

If you like the nuts and bolts of this kind of work, you’ll find this interesting. The math is where the insights are, so stick with me through the numbers.

Here are the original goals for Translocator 2.

Outline:  March 6th – March 19 (done and on schedule)

Write: March 20 – June 17th (Today is day 66. Only 24 days left.)

Words per day: 1,000 words per day target

Manuscript goal: 75k manuscript goal

A few days into the work, I realized the book was going to be much longer. The manuscript target shifted up to 98k.

No problem, I thought. Just write more per day.

So tried to do 1500 words per day. It’s been 66 days, and my average words per day is 1,139. My low is 0 words per day, but my high is almost 3k. In my logs, I have half a dozen or so days of 2500+ words. That’s incredible. I’ve never written this quickly.

I still fall short some days. Like most writers, I have a day job and a personal life, so some days I have less time to write than others. But I try to write every day, and only missed one or two days where I didn’t write at all on this project so far. And those off days were usually planned (i.e. a family vacation).

I figure if I get “words complete” (98k) in early June, that gives me enough time to read through and revise anything that sticks out or needs fixing up before sending it off for editing by my original June 17th deadline. Or before? We’ll see.

More words, same deadline. I can live with that.

Here’s what I’m working with today. To finish by June 1st, I need 2700 words per day.

translocator-2-word-count-5-24-17.jpg

That’ll be tough, but I think I can make it work. Maybe. If it takes an extra day or two, that’s fine, too. I’ll be happy to have another finished novel either way. That’s big picture thinking.

For comparison, the first Translocator book, The Auriga Project took 14 months from start to finish. It was about 50k words.

Even if I’m a few days late at June 20th, that’s still less than 4 months and change (March 6 – June 17) for a 98k word novel.

So how’s that for perspective?

Bonuses! Artwork! June 13th!

I accomplished a ton of writing and book marketing stuff today, so I am exhausted, but I’m not tired because my mind keeps revving on all the cool art and bonus material I’ve put together for the upcoming launch of the complete Tales of the Republic.

That’s all seven episodes collected into a 400+ page book. A dangerous adventure filled with resistance fighters and scheming politicians between two matte covers.

If you buy the book when it launches on June 13th, you’ll also get all this great stuff with it:

  • A mech sketch
  • Character sketches of Po, Ari, and Ming
  • A desktop wallpaper of the cover
  • A deleted scene from the book

I’m still looking for ARC (Advanced Review Copy) readers. If you like reading and reviewing books early, get at me.

Finally, I’ll being giving away signed paperbacks during launch week—maybe a few other things. So keep an eye out! June 13th!

Reading: Jumper

Jumper by Steven Gould
Science fiction
First published 1992

Ignore the movie adaption cover for a minute and focus instead on the opening words of this novel. These words drew me in and hooked me straight away:

The first time was like this.

I was reading when Dad got home. His voice echoed through the house and I cringed.

“Davy!”

The first time for what? For David Rice to teleport to the Stanville Public Library, which happens before the end of the first short scene. It is not a spoiler to tell you this.

Teleportation is a common trope in SF, yet it was refreshing to see it dealt with so directly. David Rice can teleport, and you learn that immediately.

It’s the rest of the emotional depth that keeps you there—his escape from an abusive home, his search for his estranged mother, his first real relationship…and how he resists the damage and danger he faces trying to move through the world. The book is a complex mix of adventure backlit by heavy emotional trauma. The teleportation is central, yet not isolated in its impact.

The story meandered a little in the middle, but then a remarkable change was brought about by tragedy—terrorism, to be specific. From then on the story shifts direction. It lost me for a bit at that point, so I took a break and read one of the 4-5 other novels I’m working on at any given time. But I kept coming back because of David’s voice, and finally finished the book a few nights ago.

I haven’t seen the movie the cover of this edition depicts (in fact I prefer this cover), so I can’t speak to how it is on screen. IMDB gives the film 6.1/10 stars, which usually means it’s forgettable. But I won’t forget the book any time soon.


Note on the new column: I’m always reading, both because I love books and because I make an effort to study the writing, trying to absorb new storytelling skills by osmosis. So I thought I would try out some short articles on the books I read. I’m not going to rate the books or grade them in any way. I just want to give you my reactions and impressions and try to make some interesting connections for you. Maybe you’ll like the book. If you do, cool, the link is up top. If you’ve read the book, I hope you talk to me about it in the comments.

Designs in the sand


I purchased this fine zen garden and populated the empty sandscape with two patterned planets. Thanks to the artist and his invention’s unique ability to occupy a restless mind for a time on a rainy Portland morning some weeks ago.

Right now, the sandscape sits on top of a small cabinet in the office. May it soon find a new home on a fine modern bookshelf, if we can find the right one for the empty wall in that room.

Strike while the iron is hot

My story board reminds me to strike while the iron is hot. It helps me keep published stories from this year, works in progress, and ideas at eye level. If I have a new one, I throw it up. The squares are sticky notes so they’re easy to fix and replace. Old ideas dry up and fall off. Placeholder titles grow stale and get replaced. 

The five on the right are new this year. Let’s see how many make it all the way over before 2017 cools off.

Pictures from Portland, April 2017

I just returned from Portland on Tuesday, a weekend trip filled with family, mostly, and not an insignificant amount of wine.

I took a few photos while I was there of the beautiful country—and the wineries, of course.

It was relaxing and fun. I got to read a book and a half, and see cousins and aunts and uncles I haven’t seen for years, and unplug for a little while.

These grasses abound. The nectar of the gods fills those golden barrels to the brim.




The second to last episode of Tales of the Republic out now

Episode 6 of my dangerous dystopian thriller, Tales of the Republic, came to life yesterday. It’s called Early Warning and it’s the second to last episode in the series.

Here’s a little teaser…

First, the print cover spread for the print-on-demand version.

Then the opening chapter of this episode…

Episode 6, Chapter 1
Click to embiggen

This is one of my favorite episodes of the series for many reasons, most of which have to do with the urchin communication network that Po recruits, and the return of Noura, as she takes on a new role and helps Po on her mission because she believes in her.

You can buy Episode 6: Early Warning on Kindle now. The print version is on its way and will be available shortly.

The final episode to complete the series will be out in a couple more weeks. It all comes together in Episode 7: Killer Cause, on May 10th. The last stand. The final battle. Who will survive? What price must be paid to save the Republic, and who will pay it?

• • •

So what’s next?

About a month after the TOTR episodes are all out, I’ve got some fun plans for launching the complete novel that include bonus goodies like a deleted scene and some wallpapers and a chance to get a signed copy in the mail. Still trying to think of what else to give away that might be fun, maybe do a few readings on Facebook.

I’m also in the process of recruiting an army of ARC readers, people who will help me launch books by reading early and leaving honest, timely reviews. Email me or leave a comment here if that sounds interesting to you, and I’ll add you to the list personally.

I’ll be posting the good photos from my trip to Portland soon. But first I have some work to do on Translocator 2. Recently crested 40k words and I don’t want to lost that momentum.

Prepping for some book sales events

I love doing local readings and bookselling events. The next is coming up on April 29th at Lake Travis Spring Fest just outside of Austin, so I ordered some books and have been slowly getting ready for the event.


I enjoy these kinds of events partly because I love bookstores and have always wanted to run a bookstore of my own. Seriously, I am crazy about bookstores. I seek them out everywhere I go. I’ll be in Portland this weekend and if I’m within a ten block radius of Powells it will draw me in like a space ship of intrepid explorers to an ultradense black hole. So bookselling events, especially one like I have been invited to join next weekend, is like having a bookstore for a day. Hell of a lot of fun for me.

Since I’ve become cognizant of how bad my sales setup was for past book events (I’ve done 3 or 4, I think), I went out and got some bookstands and price tags for a better setup, and supplies for DIY bookmarks so people who drop by can make their own bookmarks and carry something away with them. Who knows, a little personal touch might help draw the crowd in.

Speaking of drawing people in, it has recently dawned upon me that writing is a retail business. Given my fetish for bookstores OMG IS THAT A HARDBACK FIRST EDITION OF—

*achem*

Given my fetish for bookstores, you’d think the full implications of that would have struck me sooner. How a good store is warm and welcoming and always open, how they keep the shelves stocked and fresh inventory rotating through. Now that I have several books for sale my shelves are more “full” (I’d still barter with Beelzebub to have 12 more novels under my belt). I’ve got some fresh inventory lined up for this year (just 2 more full novels in 2017, alas. No barter deal with satanic figures available), and more in production.

It’ll be great to have a chance to talk to readers and maybe make a new fan or two. I always learn something new and it’s interesting talking to people about the books they like. Plus it’s good practice—selling books, that is. I don’t just want to write books, I want to sell a bunch too. In person events teach me how to how to sell my books better. I’ve sold a lot of things over the years. Bagels, pitas, baby chimeras, river trips, websites, and the occasional Soul of an Innocent.

Selling novels is a different mountain to climb, though. I’m learning.

If you’re in the area, stop by Spring Fest and say hi.

Portland Bound

Meanwhile, I’m getting on a plane to Portland today. Don’t know why I always think about blogging when I travel, but I do.

Sometimes it feels like I measure my life by the intervals between trips.

I’m ready for a little adventure. It’s a family holiday, but it will be relaxing and fun. I’ll try to grab some good photos!

***

On the plane now. I wrote the first half of this blog on my phone when I couldn’t sleep last night. Always have trouble getting to sleep the night before a trip, too.

See you soon, west coasters!

Translocator 2 in progress

Here’s a snapshot of Translocator 2 in progress. Still don’t have a proper title for it, or chapter names, but I’m at 30k words and cranking onward into act two. The plot I shared two weeks ago is keeping me on track, and I’ve had a handful of 2,000+ word days—those are big for me.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to show my work here without showing my hand, if you know what I mean. I have no problem with blogging rough stuff if it’s nonfiction, but fiction is harder.

There’s a fear lurking in this area called perfectionism. More than that, though, it’s about preserving the magic of story. If I put rough chapters on the blog, I rub off some of the magic.

I also don’t want to be attached to anything yet. Any passage, any sentence, any chapter could be cut away at any moment. I need the freedom to do the cutting.

I’m deep in creative voice, and it would be foolish to invite criticism right now. I’ve tried that before. It kills the momentum, let me tell you.

But I still want to show my work, because it’s fun to follow along, and writing is a lot of being alone, sitting in this chair and typing—solitary. It’s great for a while, then fine for a time, then really dull for a stretch before being great again.

Let’s try this instead—snapshots of the work-in-progress:

Translocator 2, Chapter 5 (ROUGH DRAFT)
Part of Chapter 5 with the outline on the left. Color coded by point-of-view.
 
4-15-17 wordcount and target
My word count as of 4/15/17

If you’re on Twitter, I post daily wordcounts, too, plus thoughts on writing and other science fiction and fantasy inspired stuff.

(Those wallpaper photos are from Unsplash, by the way.)


In case you missed it, The science fiction novel that started the trilogy I’m working on is called The Auriga Project. Read a sample here:

 

There’s also Tales of the Republic, a dystopian sci-fi thriller which is being serialized right now:

Episode 1: Stolen Choices

Episode 2: Lost Memories

Episode 3: Perilous Journey

Episode 4: High Crimes

Episode 5: Reluctant Rebel

Coming soon…

Episode 6: Early Warning

Episode 7: Killer Cause

Catch up on my sci-fi series’

Straight fell off the blog wagon these last few months. Blogging just isn’t a priority right now. If you want to get updates from me in real time, I’d suggest the newsletter, which I am striving to make more entertaining and the primary source for book news.

Writing and releasing new fiction IS a priority, however. I’ve got a few new episodes of Tales of the Republic out over the last month, and you can read samples of them or catch up on the series right here:

And if you’re hungry for more, Episode 5 is available for preorder.

Long time readers will be thrilled to hear I’m also 15,000 words into Translocator 2! Drafting is coming along nicely. Smooth and fast enough that I’m happy with what I’ve done so far and the pace I’m moving at.

The drafting process isn’t very visual, but here are some photos of the outlining process, when I was using index cards to break out the plot into chapters.

Translocator 2 outlining process, phase 1
I’ve got the rough outline in broad strokes in Scrivener there on my laptop—now I’m just starting to break it out into notecards (1 card for each chapter).
Translocator 2 outlining process, phase 2
Act 1 is now broken out into chapters, with some placeholders for the rest. I went for 12 chapters per act this time, and a 75k target for the story.
Translocator 2 outlining process, phase 3
Two and a half acts complete now! This whole process with the notecards took 3 days, a whole weekend basically.
Translocator 2 outlining process, phase 4
Outline complete! Four acts, 48 chapters, an entire novel outline. Beer time!

If you want to know when Translocator 2 is ready, sign up for my newsletter. The big news will go to that list first.

This blog will remain as a creative outlet, but my activity will vary as I’m prioritizing writing and publishing in the limited time I have apart from my freelance business.