Monthly Archives: August 2013

Game Over – The Unique Pain of Novel Redrafts

I knew it was coming. It felt like that moment just before you reach the Boss Enemy at the end of a level you’ve already failed half a dozen times. The bit where you grit your teeth and tense up. The bit when your novel writing goes to hell. Image

I’ve been documenting the birth of Ironfang on here since its inception in June, from the first coy announcement of the genre to the triumphal first draft finale. In the past two months of hard writing I’ve been astounded by both my own productivity and dedication. I feel like I’m really getting into the business of professional writing. But now the honeymoon is up and the game’s most definitely over.

I started Ironfang’s second draft two days ago, and in one night of confused writing it all seemed to go to hell. Plotting is my greatest fear and biggest weakness, and it felt as though the moment I went back to the story’s start and tried to weave in fresh strands everything went wrong. The strands got horribly knotted. I started losing track of who was where and what was when. The antagonists had the motivation for their actions hacked out. Even the cat I cast as Val’s pet was staring out of the page at me going

cat

That was the first ‘fuck this’ moment I’ve had with Ironfang, which actually makes me quite proud. It seems that most writers have their first doubts when they reach the 20,000 word mark, so the fact that I actually got the first draft done without a care in the world is great. Unfortunately I’ve now realised that the redrafts are going to be a killer.

The situation has improved slightly since that panic a few days back. The issues are being ironed out, slowly and painfully. The word count is looking healthy. There’s certainly no way I’m stopping. But it’s worth mentioning, for the sake of all the fellow writing newbies out there, that hit points where all you want to do is give up isn’t just normal, it’s downright inevitable. That doesn’t mean things won’t work out if you keep at it. I couldn’t close with better words than those of Richard Bach;

A professional writer is an armature who didn’t quit.

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Ironfang Revealed – The “Elevator Pitch” Summary Rolls Into Town

Hoots people, what a day it’s been! I’ve no time for a full explanation, suffice to say I woke up at the totally unnatural hour of half past six this morning to discover a number of both important and awesome emails in my inbox. The full lowdown will be delivered in a somewhat overdue SITREP in a few day’s time, but for now I’ll turn to the topic of today’s post; IRONFANG!

Or, maybe Ironfang. The ongoing poll shows Ironfang to be the most popular title for my mysterious urban fantasy novel. It’s still open to votes though so make your thoughts heard!

Anyway, on with the show. On Saturday I entered Ironfang into Pitch Madness. Summed up, this involves submitted the opening 250 words of the novel along with a 35 word summary to a small, brilliant legion of slush readers and agents. Whether anything comes of it remains to be seen, but it’s been great fun and I’ve already been introduced to a load of brilliant fellow-writerlings.

But that’s not the point! The point is Ironfang, and that 35 word “elevator pitch” summary! The idea is that the 35 words are ones you’d use when your friends and family inevitably come out with the classic “so what’s it about then?” Or you somehow manage to corner a writing agent in an elevator (seriously, has anyone ever actually done that?). Those 35 words must distil your novel as clearly and as succinctly as possible. For example, here’s the elevator pitch for the novel Stone Heart by Charlie Fletcher;

Grosvenor House, deep in the City something had been woken, something so old and so ordinary that people had been walking past it for centuries without giving it a second look…

See? Small and captivating. Have spent a good three days in literary agony crafting my own summary snippet for Pitch Madness, I realise it was also perfect for today’s purpose – telling y’all just what I’ve been banging on about for nigh-on two months.

Supersized moon inserted for extra woof!

A privileged few of you already know, and to be honest lots of you have guessed the general themes. Heck, you only need to be able to read post tags or be familiar with my past works. Today though, it goes official. Here it is. No sniggering at the back!

Struggling single mom and schoolteacher Valerie Chance finds herself plunged into a world of murderous cultists, hackers, suspicious work colleagues and ruthless government agents after her young son is infected with the werewolf ‘shaper virus.’   

So, um, yeah. There you go. Think Underworld, not Twilight. Except there are no vampires. There’s nothing paranormal actually, except dem werewolves. Going for magical realism in a modern urban setting, dealing with the stresses and strains of single parenthood, a terminally ill son, and an examination of what it is to be human. How precocious does all that sound? Full moons and silver bullets included – these beasties are the real deal. Helicopter gunships, insane asylums and werewolf orphanages thrown in for good measure.

Also, the janitor dies.

But that’s enough with the teasing. My biggest hope is that I can make the old wolf-shifters interesting and avoid the many boring clichés. I managed to keep them original in Werekynd (according to some), so hopefully I can do it again whilst still respecting the mythology. We’ll see.

Right, back to redrafting!

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Week 34, imma dedicate a book to you

Week 34, imma dedicate a book to you

Actually scrap that, “Week 34” deserves to be a book TITLE!

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August 25, 2013 · 11:30 pm

Critiques – The Difference Between Success and Not-As-Much Success

“In criticism I will be bold, and as sternly, absolutely just with friend and foe. From this purpose nothing shall turn me.” – Edgar Allan Poe

Robbie’s summer writing/blogging offensive grinds brutally on today with a look at yet another aspect of the The Craft – editing. Specifically, I’m turning to the editor’s slightly less hardcore but equally important little bro, the critiquer. Strap yourself in for a stern, near-humourless lecture about his importance.

It is no more possible for a writer to successfully edit his own work than it is for an ant to dissect Plato. These are simple truths. A good editor will make a crap work mediocre, a mediocre work decent, and a decent work brilliant. It’s in every writer’s interests to employ an editor. 

There are two layers to your work. The first and most discernible is the one you can self edit – ruthlessly hunting typos (some will still slip through and make a break for it though!), cutting back on unnecessary replacements for the word ‘said,’  deciding once and for all whether Tristan really is the best name for your protagonist. Time consuming, yes, but ultimately doable.

The second layer, however, lies below what you can discern. It is the muck that makes the water murky, always there but slipping through your fingers when you try to snatch it. For this you need someone else’s eyes, not those bloodshot things that have been staring at a laptop screen for the past 18 hours.

Yeah, that ‘someone else’ could be your mum, but if you want to go pro with your writing you’d better start thinking about interacting with pros. This is where most authors baulk, because professional editing cost monies. Sometimes quite a lot of monies. If you aren’t lucky enough to have your own publishing house employing an editor for you, you may be tempted to commit a cardinal sin and skimp on editing.

Thankfully there are halfway houses, in-between alternatives. There are the critiquers.

Critiquers (I prefer Critters. Sometimes they’re even big and hairy) provide critiques of your work. What’s the difference between them and agents? Well, mostly they don’t get paid. Consequently their analysis of your work will generally be a little less thorough. It’s still, however, immensely valuable.

Why would anyone want to look at your work for free when it’s still in it’s horribly deformed embryonic stage? Often critting is an exchange of services, so it’s quite likely you’ll be acting as a critter for their writing too. Which brings me onto the core of today’s post – scribophile.

I’ve been a naughty writer. I’ve never really had my work seriously critted. I paid an agent a big wad of cash to go through Crucible of Faith last year and, to be fair, he turned up the goods. But there’s no reason why I haven’t been making use of the internet’s abundant source of free, crit-hungry fellow-writers. That’s where Scribophile comes in. It’s a site hosting tens of thousands of folks happy to critique your work for free. The only requirement is that your crit their work as well. Fair enough.

There’s something freakishly revitalising about entering the world of crittery. Suddenly, every word, every sentence, matters. There’s a distance between you and the agents and publishers you submit your work to, a lack of connection that numbs you to the reality that this person is going to be dissecting everything you write. Having critique partners brings this back home with horrible clarity. I’m already feverish trying to fine-tuning the first few thousand words I intend to put up on Scribophile as a starter. It’s a tad stressy.

And the great thing is, even if I make my work the best I possible can, someone will still find something that can be improved on. That’s the whole point.

If you’re already on Scrib or intend to join, throw me a wassup on the scratchpad to the left of my profile. In the meantime, I’m still looking for opinions on Name that Novel. If you’ve already voted on that then what are you doing still reading this? Go out there and get critical!

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A First Look at… Ironfang?

Salutations readers! Today I’m posting a lil’ eight sentence excerpt from the mystery work involved in Thursday’s Name that Novel mania (Ironfang is winning!) for the Weekend Writing Warriors weekly bloghop. The snippet itself features our protagonist, schoolteacher and single mum Valerie Chance, caught in rare moment when s**t isn’t going down. Physically anyway. Without further ado…

* * *

Since Martin? She’d forgotten men even existed since Martin. Since she’d seen how easily they broke, how much they bled, all that they left behind when they were gone.

“No,” she said, looking into her glass. Sensing the change in her voice, Abby started to apologise.

“Its fine,” Val said, dredging up a smile from the wine’s red depths. “I just… y’know. They say you get over it, but you don’t.”

* * *

Where’s the rest you say? Well, it’s called a snippet for a reason. You’ll just have imagine the writing. Literally, if this scene gets ruthlessly pruned in the next redraft. More will be revealed soon…

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August 23, 2013 · 4:06 pm