Construction of a Novel: Revisions

Ahhh, novel revisions. Feedback has returned, notes have been made, and I am currently wading through it all while fighting the almost constant urge to procrastinate. Once I get in there and start making changes, it’s fine, but actually making myself get on with it has been harder than I anticipated. It feels so daunting from the outside, but once I’m immersed in the manuscript I realise it’s really not so bad after all.

Revising stories has never been my favourite part of writing, but it’s always incredibly satisfying once it’s done. That feeling of pruning, shaping, polishing. Adjusting this and that to get the story just right. Adding details here, cutting extraneous words there. It’s a great feeling when it’s working.

Novel revision is an order of magnitude greater than revising a short story, mind you. And I don’t even have anything massive to change here. There’s nothing glaringly wrong (which was a relief), but there are a cluster of things that, once implemented, will definitely enhance the story. It’s weaving them in that’s the tricky bit.

I’ve been here before, but it’s never felt quite as momentous as this. Maybe because this novel feels so different from the previous ones. Maybe because it’s that much more personal. I have a need to do this one justice that didn’t strike me the same way with the others. Maybe I just believe it in more.

No pressure, then.

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Doomsday & Daddy’s Girl

Sale announcements! Woo!

I recently sold my apocalyptic/parallel universe/love story, ‘Doomsday in Springtime’ to Galaxy’s Edge. I wrote this flash story several years ago and it’s always been a surreal little piece of my heart, so I’m delighted it finally found such a great home.

And I’m now free to announce that ‘Daddy’s Girl’ will be appearing in the Robots and Artificial Intelligence anthology from Flame Tree Press. This is this story’s third sale, although its previous outings were online and in audio, so it’ll be lovely to have it in beautiful hardcover format alongside a wondrous lineup of fellow contributors. Check out the fabulous list on Flame Tree’s blog.

It’s also my first-ever sale to a British market, which has long been a goal of mine. There’s something special about selling a story in my own country (and whoa, getting paid in my own currency… fancy that). The anthologies that Flame Tree produce are beautiful books, and I couldn’t be happier for one of my stories to have found a home here. It’s due for publication in September, with pre-orders available from August. Watch this space for updates!

 

2018 Is Go

I’m feeling it’s time for a progress report, if only to keep myself on track.

 

ink, letter, note, office, paper, table, wood, writing

I’ve spent the last few months focused exclusively on finishing my novel, which was time extremely well spent, as I got a draft completed and it’s now with beta readers. That’s pretty nervewracking all by itself (people are actually reading this thing now… eep), but I’m looking forward to having a break from it before diving back in for my next round of revisions when feedback comes in.

In the meantime, I’m planning to get back to some short story writing. I’ve written several pieces of flash this month, one of which is already on its first submission, so that was a nice way to dip my toes back into short fiction. I’ve also got several story drafts that have been awaiting revisions for ages now (they tried so hard to tempt me away from novel writing, but I HELD FIRM). It’ll be great to get back to some of those and sculpt them into worthy stories.

My submission list currently has a very healthy seventeen stories doing the rounds, and I’m hoping to get a few more out there soon. 2017 was a slowish year for me, sales-wise, but I’m hoping things will pick up again this year.

All in all, I’m feeling really positive about my writing at the moment. Now to ride that momentum for the rest of the year!

Construction of a Novel: First Draft!

Well, that took long enough. I began this particular novel-writing journey around five years ago. Yup. It’s only taken me half a decade to wring out a complete draft. Argh. I did not envision such a drastic length of time, and I certainly didn’t plan for it to take this long, but various factors contributed to it taking vastly longer than I expected.

Short stories kept tempting me with their shiny new ideas and relatively instant gratification and the lure of having things on sub. I wrote lots of them. I sold many. This is an excellent thing. But the novel was languishing.

I had ridiculous, intertwining themes and shifting ideas and at times felt like I was trying to knit a Fair Isle blanket with all different weights of yarn and needle sizes. Which, if you’re not a knitter, is a probably meaningless analogy.  But yeah. There were so many things going on and they did not cooperate easily.

And I wrote the whole thing by the seat of my pants, which is not advisable. I never had an outline. I barely knew where I was heading half the time. My characters kept getting themselves into unforeseen situations and then staring at me going ‘Okay, now what?’ as if I had some kind of insight. Pfft. I wrangled a story out of this thing, and I think it’s a workable story, and there are parts of it I’m really proud of, but gah. The most important lesson I learned from this novel is to NEVER PANTS NOVELS, EVER, JUST DON’T DO IT.

So I have a draft, and completing it was a delirious thing. And now the work of refining and polishing and figuring out how to untangle the messy parts begins, and this time I’m really looking forward to it, because it has taken me so long to get to this point. It’s rough right now, but it can only get better from here.

YES.

Reprints Ahoy!

My story, ‘The Scented Man’, which first appeared at Stupefying Stories: SHOWCASE in 2014, is now out once more at Digital Fiction! It’s once again free to read online, and it’s great to be able to show it to a new audience. If you didn’t catch it the first time around, it’s a perfect ten-minute coffee break read. It’s a bittersweet post-apocalyptic spacefaring tale, and I hope its aroma lingers in the reader’s mind after it’s done.

In other reprint news, I recently sold  ‘Pawprints in the Aeolian Dust’ again. This story originally appeared in Sci Phi Journal in 2015, and it’s one of the most personal stories I’ve written. Set on Mars, it’s a story about grief and the unique power of a human/canine relationship. It’s currently set to appear in the December issue of Deep Magic, and is my second sale to them, following ‘Her Glimmering Facade’, which appeared in August 2016.

Watch this space for updates on its publication!

Pedantics #9

Stop saying ‘but yet’, people. Just stop it.

‘But’ and ‘yet’ are synonyms. In this context, they mean exactly the same thing. Using them together is utterly redundant. If you’re doing it to sound sincere or more knowledgeable about something, it has the opposite effect. Trust me.

“I want to go to the ball,” said Cinderella, “yet I have nothing to wear.”

“I can help you,” said the fairy godmother. “But you must be home by midnight.”

The first example does not need the word ‘but’. The second does not need the word ‘yet’. See? Easy.

Now stop pairing them together.

That is all.

Construction of a Novel: Sleight of Mind

When it comes to novel writing, I’m a pantser. Or at least, I have been in recent years. This brings its own share of challenges and thrills, but one of my favourite things about it is the element of surprise. When I don’t know (or only have a vague idea) what’s going to happen next in my story, I’m frequently surprised by it. And there are times when that surprise truly astonishes me.

There’s a secondary character in my current novel who makes a few brief appearances off-screen (the protagonist never even meets him), and then sort of disappears. He plays an important role, but I wasn’t sure what happens next with him, or even if it was important. I sort of left it open-ended, with no plans to reintroduce him, yet also aware that I should probably go back and tie up those ends properly during edits, as it’s all a bit ambiguous.

And then, yesterday, tens of thousands of words after his last minor appearance, he showed up again, completely out of the blue. I had to seriously question myself to figure out whether he belonged in this section of story, or even if it fit what I’d already written about him. I ran a search for his name and read all my previous references to him, and to my astonishment, his reappearance fit perfectly. I didn’t need to rewrite anything. I didn’t need to shoehorn references in that would later fit with his return… I didn’t need to foreshadow it. Because I already had. It turns out I’d been foreshadowing it almost from his first appearance, and I had no idea. Re-reading the last references I’d made to him, it was almost like I’d gone back in time to write them from this point, knowing where he would end up and just how important he would actually become to the story.

So. Weird. And kind of mindblowing. When my brain conjured him back into the story, it’s almost as if it went ‘ta-da!’ as it did so. Like my subconscious had been performing a long, elaborate magic trick on me, and it was finally revealed.

Amazing. And I still have no idea how it was done.