Science-fiction writer

Category: books (page 1 of 7)

On the Importance of Reading Inspiring Books

I recently had a short holiday to the US, visiting my best friend who I’ve not seen in person since he got married almost two years ago. The problem of them marrying an American and moving over there. The one good thing about a flight to the US is that it gives plenty of time to read, and on the way over I read The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemsin.

Oh my, it’s spectacular. I loved The Inheritance Trilogy she’s also written, devouring that over a weekend, but this is on another level of awesome. But it wasn’t just fantastic to read, it’s inspired me as well.

I used to be wary about reading books when I was working on my writing, worrying about the ideas from what I was reading seeping into my work. It’s a silly worry, one that should be ignored, as the best books you read will make you want to write so much.

Reading a book like The Fifth Season, with its fantastic style and unique voice, just inspires me. It makes me want to reach the same levels (fat chance but I’ll try!) with my own writing, and to trust in my writing voice as well.

The best books not only show how a novel can be written, in a myriad of different ways, and teach you lessons on style, pacing, character. They make you want to improve as well.

So right now I’m working on draft two-and-a-half of The Word, and thanks to The Fifth Season I’m trusting to write my own way a little bit more.

The First Draft is FINISHED!!!!!

More exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!

It totals 95,906 words across a prologue and thirty three chapters. 41,000 words of those were written since the 5th of June, a bit of a mammoth effort but mainly got to by increasing my word count goal to 2,000 a day. More work but I did it each and every day and now the first draft is done.


Well, as complete as any first draft is which is to say it’s pretty much shit and fucked in so many places.

But first drafts aren’t there to be lovely and purpose. They’re there to let us suck, to explore the story as a whole and see what works and what doesn’t. Now I have a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end with plot arcs that sort of make sense I can take a look at it, work out what needs to be changed.

A quick list of pro’s and con’s for this first draft, starting with the con’s:

CON’S (boo!):

  • It’s not very good – my writing has improved a lot since the first draft of Oranje, but I still have a lot of work to do on the art of writing, though I think that will always be true.
  • The pacing is all over the place – this I’m not 100% sure of, but I think re-reads of the first draft will only confirm.The first half is too slow and the second half moves too fast. Needs changing.
  • Too much dialog, not enough description – a problem that plagued all my drafts of Oranje and I’d say was still there in the final work.
  • Characters need work – they’re not really there as distinct personalities yet in many cases.
  • Grammar? Who needs grammar! – ahaha oh god its terrible.

However, however, those cons are pretty much the point. You write the first draft to get it done then sort this out, so let’s move on to the pro’s.

PRO’S (yay!)

  • It’s a hell of a lot better than Oranje’s first draft was – that was half the length of the final book and I basically rewrote the whole thing for the second draft. I’m expecting major changes to this first draft, but not on the same scale.
  • I can see the improvements – the pacing and balance of the book is better, and the characters are more fleshed out at this point than they were on Oranje.
  • All of the con’s can be fixed! – that’s the big pro, the fact all of them are solvable problems. The story isn’t complete shit, it’s just rubbish, rubbish that can be trimmed and tucked and smashed into shape.

So all in all i’m a happy Jack – we’ll see how long that lasts once I start editing – and enjoying the moment. Be a short break whilst I work on a few issues I know straight away and working on a draft back of the book description, and then on to edit lands it is.

Today I smile.

Another Progress Update or Hey Where Have I Been?

Been quiet around here hasn’t it and luckily a simple reason for that. I’ve just been busy with work and writing.

The Word is up to 48,000 words, total book length going to be between 90-110k I think. Later chapters are shaping up to be longer than earlier ones. I’m very happy with the progress I’m making especially as I took a week and half to go back and revise what I already had when I hot 30k to reflect some changes to the setting I’d thought about.

It’s certainly shifting more away from the story that was told in Oranje and was intended for the rest of the September series. The Commonwealth of Earth, the great nation behind humanities golden age – is no longer something that receded into the annals of history and then re-emerges to become the antagonist in the books. Now it is there as a lasting influence after the Collapse – the fall of the Commonwealth which happens a few centuries before the start of The Word – reduced, but a vital part of how the nations of the galaxy act and feel.

The setting is now much closer to the fall of the Roman empire in terms of the lasting influence it had after it was gone. Many nations that came afterwards tried to take up the mantle of the empire or keep its institutions running.

In the United novels the same is true at first. A lot of nations will seek legitimacy from being the appointed protectors of a region of the galaxy by the Commonwealth, and all aim to replicate its old success. But not everyone is happy with that, with the veneration and lifting up of the old days.

This results in a setting where the past has a firm grip on how people and nations act but new identities divorced from the path of following in the footsteps of the Commonwealth begin to emerge. That’s the story of the United, the nation that becomes the second golden age of humanity. The United series is all about how it starts, its conflicts with the Commonwealth, and how it comes to be the nation of humanity in the milky way.

I think this all allows for much richer storytelling so I’m really happy with it all. I hope these changes come through in the final book and the others in the United series. Now I need to just finish the first draft. End of June/mid-July seem feasible. Only time will tell. Until next time.

The #KTBookChallenge and What I’m Going to be Reading This Year

Last month K Tempest Bradford (@tinytempest) posted this great article: I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors For One Year. The internet’s reaction was of course as you’d expect, accusing her of reverse sexism and racism and completely missing the point. A lot of them rounded on her use of Neil Gaiman as an example, though he himself thinks the article is great. It certainly got me thinking about the authors I’ve read over the past few years.

Asimov. Niven. Vonnegut. Reynolds. Iain M Banks. China Mieville. John Green. Neil Gaiman. Jeff VanderMeer. The only non white male I can think of having read recently is JK Rowling via a re-read of the Harry Potter series. Even thinking back to Star Wars and Star Trek novels I’ve read they’ve all been written by men. Not the most diverse list of authors. Even when considering the ones that are my favourite – Rowling, Asmiov, Iain M Banks, Gaiman, Pratchett – there is only one woman.

So I’m going to do better this year. From this point on – with one exception I’m going to get to – I’m only going to read books by non-white, straight cis male authors. Already read one so far this year – The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison – but I’m now reading more. So I’ve bought Ancillary Justice by Ann Lecki (finished that though it was really good and promptly brought the 2nd book in the trilogy), The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley, and The Inheritance Trilogy by NK Jemsin.

After those are done I think I’m going to go with some of K Tempest Bradford’s recommendations which she’s posting on her website linked at the start of this post.

Why aren’t I doing the whole challenge? The answer is simple. The tragic news of Terry Pratchett’s untimely death mean that I have to re-read some of my favourite Discworld books this year. His writing meant too much to me not to do that.

But who knows, maybe after this year of reading I’ll have a more diverse list of favourite authors that I do currently.

On Terry Pratchett and What His Writing Meant to Me

It’s taken me a few days to organise my thoughts since the tragic news of his death broke on Thursday. My first reaction was very simple. I cried.

I didn’t know him personally, never met him, never emailed him a fan letter or anything like that. All I knew him through were the Discworld books.

I got into them when I was a teenager and I’ve worked my way through most of them since then. Think I need to do a re-read soon in the light of his passing. It’s hard for me to describe how much those books mean to me. I’m going to try, but by describing something I hate.

I hate – no LOATHE – that in obituaries and headlines he is so often described as a fantasy author. A weird complaint given the fact he did write fantasy. Discworld is fantasy. But describing him as a fantasy author does a disservice to his work, to the worlds he created.

He was a writer about people. About our lives and the world around us. About good and evil. Bad men and good men and the very thin line between them at time. About right and wrong. About discrimination and religion and DEATH. Oh how I love DEATH in Discworld. What a perfect character they are.

Sure all of the things he wrote about he did through highly satirical fantasy novels set in a made up world, but that setting that world let him shine a critical – and often highly philosophical – light on what it is to be human. What it is to live. He was a master of it.

The discworld books speak to me. They lift my mind and make me think. They use fun to poke at things wrong in the world and say ‘hey, isn’t this wrong and odd shouldn’t something be done about it?’.

I want those books to be held up like Shakespeare as greats of literature so generation after generation gets introduced to them and experience the joy they’ve already brought to so many. If it makes some of them think as well, that’s a double bonus as far as I’m concerned.

You might be able to categorise Pratchett’s work as comic/satirical fantasy, but that description sells them so short. He wrote about us and about life and did so in such an intelligent way.

His books have helped shape who I am as a person. It’s why I cried at the news of his death.

Thank you Sir Terry for so many wonderful books. You will be missed.

Announcing The Word – the first United novel – and the end of Oranje

So I posted here a while ago about a change of plans with my writing. Not the first I’ve had since I finished Oranje, but this should be the last. After it released I began work on the 2nd book in the series – Choices – but stopped when I’d not got very far through the first draft. I felt I needed to work on a different project to improve how I write characters and the flow of my writing.

That project, like the September series Oranje was part of, was going to be a series. This time of three novels rather than four. I outlined and wrote part of a first draft of the opener to that series before deciding I was on the wrong path again.

The issue for me has never been coming up with ideas. Christ I’ve got pages of ideas for stories I want to write. I think that will always be true.

The problem’s been keeping my focus, on finishing whole stories.

Sure I finished Oranje, but it was only the first part in a series. And I know I could always expand my ideas into series after series after series but that’s no use if I don’t truly finish any of them.

What I need is a setting within which I tell a series of standalone stories that are all great on their own, the common setting serving as a link between them all so each can enrich the other by revealing aspects of the back story or universe not covered in the other books.

So without further ado I’m pleased to announce…

The Word, the first United novel:

Three will decide the fate of millions.

War is coming to the region of September, war it cannot predict or prepare itself for without help. But the impending invasion has not gone unnoticed. The Curators, protectors of the Net, have seen the coming storm. They know that millions have died already.

All of September must be warned and an alliance built to fight the enemy that threatens them all.

Three people will be sent out to do this perilous mission. The future of September is theirs to decide.

(the above description is very much rough and work in progress right now but you get the idea).

The United will serve as the setting for a whole bunch of standalone novels that will cover the rise of the United – a nation seeking to unite all of humanity – one thousand years in the future.

But what about Oranje?

Ah yes. As some of you may have noticed the description for The Word above shares quite a few similarities to the story of Oranje.

That’s because it is Oranje really, well it will cover the entire story I meant for the September series in a single book all told from the perspective of Isi and The Three. But don’t expect to see large chunks of Oranje copy and pasted into it, it’s a rewrite from scratch so it’s all new and you’ll see a lot of differences in characters and story.

So what for people who already own Oranje? I’m delisting the book as we speak from the various sites it is currently available on and won’t be available for purchase.

If you bought Oranje you can email me at jacklusted[at] and I will send you a free copy of The Word in whatever format you want when it releases. I don’t want anyone to feel ripped off.

The end result of all this should be better books – complete books! – and a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

It’s a big step to take but the right one for me and my writing.

I also intend to be more open with progress on The Word so expect work in progress chapters to appear both here and perhaps on sites like Wattpad once I get to work on the second draft.

I hope you will enjoy this journey with me and thanks for reading.