Edits Complete

I talked in my last post about the fact that the third Shadows of Tomorrow book is going through publication. I’m excited to announce that I have just finished going through the last round of edits.

The way things work, the publishers have editors and proof readers going through the manuscript, suggesting changes and fixing mistakes, and then the book gets sent back to me to review. I check their suggestions, make whatever changes I feel improve the book, and maybe do a bit of typo-hunting of my own. I’ve just finished going through the last round of changes that the publisher sent me and I think this is the last round. Which means that now I need to send the book back to the publisher and we’ll get on with the last stages of publication.

Watch this space for launch information. Given the plague that’s still going on, it’s possible that I’ll do a virtual book launch, so you may be able to participate from wherever you are in the world. I’ll post more information, as well as things like pre-order links for the book, when I have them.

Patreon

As the third book in the Shadows of Tomorrow trilogy is going through the publication process, this seems like a good time to remind people that I have a Patreon. If you support me at any level, you get insights into my writing and publishing process, as well as updates about how these things are going and some pieces of original fiction not otherwise available. I will also be doing the cover art reveal to Patrons a couple of weeks ahead of doing it to the rest of the world, and giving Patrons a sneak peek at the book ahead of its publication.

Supporting me on Patreon is another way to get my books. Depending on the level of support, you can get access to e-book or signed physical copies of some or all of my books. Support starts at $1 and that will get you e-book copies of The Adventures of Technicality Man and A Monster’s Kindness. Supporting at higher tiers will get you copies of my other books and merchandise like book bags and patches with this amazing Werewolves Are People Too artwork by Christopher Hoyle.

Cartoon of a wolf holding a picket sign reading "werewolves are people too"

If you like my writing and you want to show your support, please do consider becoming a patron.

I’m still developing my patreon, so if there’s something you would love to see me do as a reward for patrons, let me know. I’m open to ideas and suggestions.

Hide Away

This is a difficult time for everyone, but I wanted to share this beautiful song. It attempts to do for our current situation what Ring Around the Roses did for the Black Death.

I first saw the idea of having a song like this in a Tumblr post. A few different people shared ideas and proposed potential lyrics, which Alice Dillon here then polished up and placed to music.

As well as being a nice way to find something beautiful in a dark time, I also think a song like this, born out of a collaborative discussion, it a nice way of showing what can be created by pooling ideas.

Writing Game

This was a piece written for a writing game. It was written in about 15 minutes and hasn’t been edited, but I was quite pleased with the end result. The prompt was the very first sentence of the story, that’s said by the master.

—-

“Now you see the difference between the two paths,” the master said.

He pulled down the sheet to reveal the body, the face pale and strangely shiny, the eyes staring unseeing up at the vaulted ceiling, the bleached-white roots of the hair. Prittan wanted to look away, to turn aside and empty his stomach in revulsion, but the master was staring each of the boys down. If Prittan ran from the room as he wanted, would the master take that as a sign of guilt? Would he know that Carcy hadn’t been the only one to stray down the path of easy power.

“Every year, we explain the dangers of impatience,” the master said. “We worn each class of the risks involved in snatching for power beyond what you are ready for, but far too often we have examples like this. This boy wasn’t content to follow the path of caution, to study the craft as he was advised at the pace set by his teachers. He delved into the rituals of power exchange, grasping for magic he was not ready for, trying to get stronger the easy way, instead of through the gradual development of careful skill, and he paid the price for it.”

Prittan remembered the way it had felt, that ritual cast behind the library building, drawing in the power of the flame from their small candle. He remembered the rush of heat, the exhilaration of ability as the power filled him. He remembered the way that spells came easier over the following days, classes that had been impossibly difficult passing with ease as he used his new-found strength. He remembered how hard the lessons had been once that influx of foreign power had worn off.

It had been sorely tempting to try the ritual again, to find another source of power to enhance his gift. He could understand why Carcy had delved into these rituals.

Magic was difficult and draining, the simplest spells exhausting. To use power from elsewhere made them so much easier, enabled the caster to perform feats they would never be able to achieve otherwise. Some of the greatest acts of magic in history had been performed in such a manner.

But this was the risk of the situation. This was the danger. When a student pulled in external powers, they didn’t build up their own endurance. Their own abilities remained weak, propped up by ritual tools instead of standing on their own. Then there came a moment when they were asked to do something harder than they could manage, when they drew in too much power and it overwhelmed them. Carcy had tried to manipulate power far beyond his own and he had been burned out from the inside because of it.

And Prittan could so easily have done the same.

“I hope,” the master continued, “that you will remember what you’ve seen here today. I hope that you will tell next year’s students of it. Perhaps they will listen to your warnings as your classmate did not listen to ours. There is the path of easy power and it leads to death. There is the path of patient effort and that will lead to life. Choose the latter path.”

He raised the sheet to cover the body once again. He looked each of the boys in the eye and added simply, “Please.”

Good Enough for a First Draft

You’ll often see writing advice about good first lines. It’s important to hook your readers right off the bat, to make them want to keep reading and find out what happens next. It’s important for finding a publisher too. A lot of publishers get hundreds of submissions and they have to sort through them very quickly to figure out which ones they’re going to reject, so you want to have a really strong opening that grabs your reader’s interest and makes them want to know more.

You need an engaging and interesting opening sentence and opening paragraph.

But the problem is that if you spend ages and ages trying to make the first sentence absolutely perfect, you might never write the second one. For me, because of my approach to planning, I often end up having to rewrite the opening to my books. For example, in Shadows of Tomorrow, I initially thought that the main character would be the one who became Cassie, so I started the book there, but I later realised that Gareth was the one making all the important plot decisions. Gareth turned into the real protagonist, so I went back and rewrote the opening to start with him. I could have spent ages and ages making that first scene with Cassie have the perfect opening line only to find that it didn’t need to be the opening line anymore.

Knowing this about my writing style, I generally don’t fuss too much about the opening sentence until the end, until I know exactly how the story is going to end so I can write an opener that ties in with that. When I’m writing my first draft, I will just write whatever fits with the first scene as my opening sentence, knowing I can come back to it later. What I write is good enough for a first draft.

And that’s the point. A lot of the time, you can write something knowing you can come back and fix it later. If you’re not sure how to get a piece of information to a character, you can write a clunky bit of exposition for the first draft, knowing you can come back and fix it in a second draft. I’ve seen someone advise just summarising what needs to happen next in square brackets: [and now the hero does something clever to escape]. There’s a large chunk of a scene that’s summed up by that one sentence, but you don’t have to figure out the perfect escape plan right now. You can keep writing and figure out the details later. I tend not to use this square bracket summary approach – I prefer to just write a clunky version of the scene I can fix later – but I can see why other writers might like it.

The thing I do use though is ??? in place of details. I might want to think of the perfect name for a location, but I haven’t figured it out yet, so I’ll put ??? in every time the name would come up and I can easily find these parts and insert the name in a second draft. I do the same with details I need to research. ??? basically means little detail (usually a word or a name but sometimes a sentence) that I need to add later. It stops me losing my flow of writing to go and look something up there and then. Using the same set of punctuation every time I reach one of these points makes it easy to search through the document later to find the bits I missed.

My first drafts tend to be pretty rough as I’m generally figuring out the plot as I go. I know I will have to come back and rewrite chunks later, so I don’t sweat the details. I can fix these little detail gaps later. I can find the perfect first line when I know the overall shape and themes of my story. I can fix the awkward dialogue exchange.

If you fret about having every sentence perfect before you can proceed to the next one, you’ll never get the first draft finished. So write something that’s good enough for now and worry about making it perfect later. This means writing a second or third draft is critically important, but you can always improve a thing that exists more easily than you can make a perfect creation out of nothing on the first go.

Rejected

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I’d received a “please wait” response to a short story I’d submitted. Unfortunately, the story was rejected but I’m still seeing this as a positive outcome because it wasn’t rejected immediately. As it stands, I’ve dusted the story off and sent it out into the world once again.

This is something you have to get used to as a writer. Rejection happens. It doesn’t mean a story is bad. Perhaps the editor who read it wasn’t in the right mood for it, or wasn’t the right person for it. David, my editor for Wolf Unleashed, has talked about how a story can be great but only if it matches the tastes and styles of the editor who accepts it. He’s told me an anecdote about how he rejected a novel submission but told the author to go and talk to a different editor who he thought it would be better suited for. That other editor later thanked him because the story was a perfect fit for them.

Sometimes a story can be great but not quite right for the theme of the anthology or magazine it’s submitted for. Sometimes it could be great but too similar to another story that the editor has committed to publish and they want to have more variety. Sometimes a story is good but the other stories submitted were just slightly better.

As a writer, you have to develop a thick skin and just keep submitting. If a story gets rejected a couple of hundred times then it’s probably time to either do a major rewrite or move on to something else, but a story getting rejected once, twice, or even ten times doesn’t mean you should give up on it.

I have already resubmitted the story that was rejected and if it gets rejected again, I’ll submit it again. Either I’ll find the right place to send it eventually or I’ll have got another story ready to go out in its place that I might have better luck with. I just have to keep trying and so should you. Every writer gets rejected. Every successful writer doesn’t let that stop them.

Submission response

I’ve received what was effectively a “please wait” email about a short story I submitted recently. The place I submitted to want a specific number of stories and they’re waiting until the end of their submission period before they decide which ones they’re accepting, which makes sense.

I’m not sure if they send out the same email to everyone about making the decision when the submission period closes or if they do a first round of reviewing the stories. I’m hoping the second, and I think it makes sense given that there was about a week between me submitting the story and receiving the response. It’s plausible that they go through initial submissions to divide into no and maybe piles, and then go through the maybes when they have all the submissions. In which case, it would mean that they read my story and didn’t reject it right away and I’m now in a short list pool.

So I’m being optimistic about this story and its chances. Fingers crossed.

Writing Update

I’ve submitted a short story this weekend. It’s one I’m very proud of so I hope it is received well. This is the third time I’ve tried sending the story out. The first time, I received a form rejection, the second time I received a personalised rejection, so hopefully this continuing trend of improvement means that the third response will be an acceptance. Who knows? I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

I have next week booked off work and since all my wonderful travel plans are cancelled due to plague, I intend to spend some of the time working on my writing. I have edits for the third book in the Shadows of Tomorrow trilogy to go through. Edits are never the most fun part of writing a book for me, but they are important so my plan is to spend some of every day working through those to get it done.

I also have the second draft of the fourth Codename Omega book to finish. I’m nearly done, but there’s a plot thread from near the beginning that sort of trails off. I need to try and tidy that up a little bit before I let someone else read the story. This fourth book is a little different from the first three in the series in a way that was a lot of fun to write and that I hope will be a lot of fun for other people to read.

I may not be able to use the time they way I’d intended, but at least I can use it productively, in between trying to get exercise despite social distancing restrictions. I’m trying to make the best of things, which is all we really can do.

Diverse Reading Challenge

There are various diverse reading challenges out there, but I’ve made my own for me. Other people are welcome to take this and adapt if if you want. I intend to read:

  • Written by an author of colour x 5
  • Main character of colour
  • Translated into English
  • Written by a trans author
  • Trans main character
  • Asexual main character
  • Gay main character
  • Lesbian main character
  • Non-binary main character
  • A classic I’ve never read before x 2
  • Written by a disabled author
  • Disabled main character
  • Non-neurotypical main character
  • A genre other than SF&F x 5
  • Mentally ill main character
  • Book I loved as a child
  • Based on non-European folk tales
  • Poetry
  • Book from a small press
  • Self-published book

I expect there will be overlap between these characters. I read a lot of SF&F books, so I’m specifically going to try and read 5 books in other genres to widen my reading, but it’s likely that some or all of those 5 will also meet at least one of the other criteria.

I will share reviews and progress here and on my YouTube channel.

Any recommendations people have for books that meet some or all of these criteria would be welcome. If you’re an author and your book meets any of these criteria, let me know.

Coping During COVID-19

Things are difficult right now for a lot of people, so I wanted to share some thoughts and ideas on ways to cope.

Links to resources and free content:

The Adventures of Technicality Man mobi download – https://plottwister.sharepoint.com/:u:/s/Patreon/EaLnKAt47IJJnvRiVDP-qTIBdqy0N_0A7U9IEzmQF2LpIA?e=LVIbIs

The Adventures of Technicality Man epub download – https://plottwister.sharepoint.com/:u:/s/Patreon/EVf8j9t-uWZErOAG8ZGaHZIBKL-2SSS99NmxwZY_Jw3hfw?e=xfvBEx

Stay home wri mo – https://nanowrimo.org/stayhomewrimo
Free animation course – https://creatureartteacher.com/product-category/special-sale/
Free colouring books from museums – https://hyperallergic.com/548006/free-downloadable-coloring-books/
Virtual science and technology museums – https://interestingengineering.com/11-science-and-tech-museums-you-can-tour-virtually
Free art history classes – https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-10-art-history-classes-online-free/amp

Virtual concerts – https://www.npr.org/2020/03/17/816504058/a-list-of-live-virtual-concerts-to-watch-during-the-coronavirus-shutdown?t=1585498288163

Virtual museum tours – https://hyperallergic.com/547919/2500-virtual-museum-tours-google-arts-culture/
Free text books – https://www.cambridge.org/core/what-we-publish/textbooks