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Author: M.G. Herron

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.

This is the other secret…

This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.

– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Scrivener 3 update incoming! Here’s a peek

I try to keep my insane, nearly fanatical, love of writing tools contained—at least in public and on this blog—but I have to take a moment to share how excited I am about the Scrivener 3 update that’s coming out on November 20th.

According to their blog, it will look a little something like this:

That looks pretty similar to the current version of Scrivener, with some minor aesthetic tweaks. But wait until you see what’s inside.

One particularly awesome feature for all writers, no matter what genre or subject, is the Linguistic Focus mode. You’ll now be able to highlight specific parts of speech within the visible part of your manuscript, like dialogue, or adjectives.

This is particularly useful to fiction writers for whom some of these elements of speech could be used as crutches, and need to be rooted out and eliminated. I can also see myself using this when I’m doing a pass at a long manuscript with a particular aim. Say, for example, I just wanted to do a pass to improve the dialogue. Linguistic Focus mode will allow me to be more efficient by helping me ignore any irrelevant text.

Super neat.

Another feature I’m really excited about is wordcount history. Currently, Scrivener 2.x only supports cumulative word count for the manuscript, and word count for the day. The new version can apparently log word count per day over a period of time, which is something I used to have to do manually in a spreadsheet, if I wanted to see how productive I was over time.

Now, it seems, all that will be done automatically! Fantastic.

One last cool thing to share is particularly relevant to indie authors. It’s not something you’ll notice much unless you’re publishing, but for me—and anyone else who uses Scrivener to create epub and mobi files—Scrivener 3 will now support the most current versions of EPUB specification, EPUB 3.

This should fix the Look Inside issue on Amazon that was troublesome to so many authors.

Literature and Latte says that….

  • Scrivener 3 can export to Epub 3 format.
  • Its Kindle export is also much improved, and should now work fine with Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.
  • The internals of Epub 3 and Kindle files are tidier, containing only a single CSS file.

And the exporter will now also have a place to edit the CSS yourself.

So all this sounds great to me, and it’s easily worth the small price they are asking for the upgrade. New users will be able to get a 30 day free trial of Scrivener 3. If you’ve never tried it before and you like to write at all, it’s worth checking out.

I wrote a how-to book on Scrivener 2 that will still be 99% applicable to Scrivener 3, although perhaps missing a few of these cool new features. You still may find it useful.

A chance for more sci-fi stories here

I’m a science fiction writer first, so I’ve been contemplating the best way to get more SF stories onto this blog.

I always post snippets from my upcoming novels, of course, but I don’t produce full length books fast enough to keep those snippets running for long. (The next book in my Translocator series won’t be out until early next year, for example, and that’s good for about 3 snippets, or 3 days worth of blogs.) I have occasionally posted short stories on the blog, but they have historically been few and far between.

If I add a weekly column like I’ve been contemplating, something like “Flash Fiction Friday,” where I publish short short stories (likely less than 500 words) once a week, that would be fantastic…but it would also add more to my workload. That time has to come from somewhere else.

So the trick to getting this right is going to be about timing and effort, and finding a balance between the two.

So here’s a couple things I’ve got to sort out, and what I’ve been noodling on while I consider the best way to make this shift without losing ground on the daily blogging streak (which has been super fun and gratifying!)

  1. Have a plan. Right now I have problems, not plans, but I’ll get there. Whatever the plan is, it needs to be sustainable.
  2. Gather the prompts/ideas ahead of time. Either come up with some process that generates infinite combinations of SF writing prompts, or buy books of sci-fi writing prompts, or just make and keep a massive list. Most likely it will be “all of the above.” Having the prompts takes the hard decision making out of the writing—simply open the prompts, pick one that sounds neat, and you’re off!
  3. Build up a backlog. So that I can plan ahead for holidays/times when I’m just busy.
  4. Start short. Start with flash fiction and short short stories. 50 word stories. 100 words. 250 words. No more than 500 words, TOPS. One day, I’ll have a back catalogue larger than you can believe, and I’ll be able to run full short stories (5-8k words) once a week on the blog…but that’s years away.
  5. Think long term. I plan on reusing the stories of course, bundling them together into books when I have enough to publish. So I am already thinking about themes and genres and certain series characters that would fit together in a book. Being able to publish stories later in books/collections, makes me feel like the time I spend on stories for the blog is not wasted, but is contributing to another product that helps grow my author business. That’s important to me, too, because one day I plan on making a living writing fiction.

So that’s it, basically. Publishing more short fiction here is something I want to do, but it’s always presented a challenge of time and effort. For the past few years, the vast majority of my fiction-writing time has been dedicated to creating publishable stories and books. For the foreseeable future, the vast majority of my fiction-writing time STILL NEEDS to be dedicated to publishable stories and books.

But if I can eek out a little more from my time and regularly publish flash fiction here, especially stuff that can eventually be wrapped up into SF flash fiction collections, that will be good for me and good for finding new readers.

So it looks like the next step is gathering a ton of writing prompts, and coming up with a process to nail down SF flash fiction ideas quickly.

More soon, I hope!

Belly full of cake

Shelly and I did a cake tasting tonight, for the wedding in March. I’m so full of cake! It was delicious. Wonderful flavors like peaches and cream, and blueberry bourbon, and all sorts of chocolatey caramel deliciousness. The caterers we found are very talented.

As for my writing projects, I’m making solid daily progress on Translocator 3. Up to 41k words now, past the halfway mark and into the third act (of four). I’m at the “shut up and type faster” phase, which is a great place to be because I’m not worrying about the words so much, just trying to get them down as fast as possible.

Meanwhile, I’m daydreaming about a sci-fi mystery series I’ve decided that I will one day soon create. Taking notes on that, since I don’t want to get distracted by starting a new project in the middle of another one. The new ideas will be 2018 slate for sure.

First Pages: The Word For World Is Forest

The Word For World Is Forest

Apropos of nothing, here’s a photo of the really excellent opening page of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novel, The Word for World Is Forest, which I happen to have on my bookshelf.

I’ve become obsessed with studying the openings of novels I love due to a writing course I just finished, and this one truly stands out in my mind. So I went back to find it an decided you ought to check it out, too.

The reader gets a complete picture of who Captain Davidson is and what he’s all about from the first line.

“Two pieces of yesterday were in Captain Davidson’s mind when he woke, and he lay looking at them in the darkness for a while.”

Controlled, cold, but perceptive. Military, obviously in charge of…something. What?

A few lines later and most readers have realized this captain a total ass. Captain Davidson is not remotely likeable. From halfway down the page I want to punch him in his smug face, the picture is that vivid. Yet he’s irresistibly engaging, too.

And then there’s that lovely line of setting amid his ugliness…

“…thinning the mud to a red broth that ran down rocks into the rainbeaten sea.”

If that doesn’t let you know how this man feels about the planet on which he’s been stationed, I can’t help you.

A great opening. Deep into the character so quickly. Really makes me think. And want to reread the book, but this time I might start at the beginning of the series instead.

 

The Word For World Is Forest

Milemarker #200 on this blog

Tonight is noteworthy because this is the 200th blog post that I’ve published here on MGHerron.com!

A little history will help provide perspective.

I registered this domain and launched the website in December 2013, shortly after I settled on a pen name and began to write and publish fiction seriously. That’s almost four years ago now.

Looking back at the early posts, you can tell what my goal was setting out. It was all about writing and getting published. There was still a lot I didn’t know, but if nothing else at least that much is clear.

The first blog was published on 12/12/2013: The Oxford Comma Makes a Funny.

I shortly followed this up with some modest writing goals a few weeks later, in the form of writing resolutions for 2014 (1/4/201).

Fast forward 4 years

As I’ve published a dozen stories, 3 novels, and a nonfiction book since then, looking back at the beginning is surreal, almost like I’m looking into someone else’s past life instead of my own.

I’ve run personal blogs on and off for a decade before this one, publishing articles and stories and links and quotes and conspiracy theories and code snippets and other various things I was interested in at the time.

But none of those blogs had any staying power. They were all attempts to find myself in some way. Those projects taught me different aspects of writing and critical reasoning and creative collaboration and website management and HTML/CSS and other important skills. Eventually, though, I grew bored or restless of each and moved on to something else.

The biggest downfall of all those previous attempts was that they all lacked direction. This blog, for any failings it might suffer, at least knows what it’s about: my journey as a writer and everything that entails.

My journey, told in my own voice. After four years, I finally feel like I’ve embraced that. That’s liberating in its own way.

So 200 posts is a milestone I’m glad to have reached. I’m grateful to be able to look back and see that I’m a different person than I was then, that I’ve grown, and that I’ve got a few books on the shelf and many hundreds of thousands of words under my belt.

I wonder where I’ll be four years from now…?

Well, there’s no reason to rush it. If you’re not diligent, you blink and life rushes by.

I’m just going to continue being present here, trying to squeeze the most of each day, and be a better writer this year than I was the last.

The finished fence

The fence is done!

There are a few details left to clean up, but the gates are on and the yard is once again completely enclosed. And bonus: Between the cedar wood scraps we’ve been burning in the fireplace and the fresh-cut lumber of the cedar planks, the house smells amazing.

I love how the new fence makes the yard feel so much bigger, even though it runs along the same property lines. Really strange but cool. And now we have privacy in the yard that the old chainlink fence never provided.

My father deserves most of the credit for the work. I just followed orders, while he designed and directed the construction. Couldn’t have done it without him.

It’s always gratifying, whether it’s a book or a fence, to be able to look on something you built with your own hands and say, “I did that.”

Today was uneventful

Inevitably, as with any significant undertaking, there are days when I am tempted to say “screw it” and skip the daily blog.

Today is one of those days.

Perhaps it is because today was uneventful. I went to the gym and I worked. And then I worked some more.

Or perhaps it is because my focus is on the novel and what’s going on in my freelance work.

Either way, one of those days. Not much else to say. I’m going to go finished reading The Lives of Tao and have a glass of wine, and then probably watch Stargate SG-1 reruns.

Enjoy your night!

It is change, continuing change…

“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be … This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our everyman must take on a science fictional way of thinking.”

– Isaac Asimov, “My Own View” in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1978) edited by Robert Holdstock; later published in Asimov on Science Fiction (1981)