An Update

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Been quieter on here recently than I’d intended. Simple reason for that is I’ve been feeling pretty stressed recently and been dealing with things one at a time. Most of the stress has been dealt with so should be more regular posts here soon enough. Thinking I might also starting talking about my IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) because it does have quite a large impact on my life and it could be useful to talk about.

In book related news, got my submission off to Hodderscape for their open submissions. They’re going to let people know if they’re interested in a submission by the end of September so fingers crossed until then.

I’ve had an editor looking over the first draft of The Word but they’ve had some issues to deal with so that’s been delayed. I’ve started to get on with getting the second draft in order, my submission to Hodderscape serving as the first 15,000 words of it. Hopefully have most of that done by the end of September.

So still plugging away at the writing, just been dealing with some things. More posts soon.

Hodderscape Open Submissions

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Hodderscape, the UK sci-fi/fantasy/horror imprint of Hodder & Staughton, are holding open submissions in August. It’s open to authors without agents writing and novels, and I’m going to be submitting The Word.

I went the self-publishing route for Oranje as it felt the right path for me at the time, but this time round I’m interested to see if a publisher would take up The Word. Hodderscape seem to be a very good publisher with a lot of great authors on their books.

Also look at the cover art they do:

I mean holy hell they’re good!

So i’m going to be spending the next month getting The Word up to scratch for submissions, with the help of someone I’ve hired to do some character/story feedback. I think there’s a really good book here that with some editing can shine. Only time will tell.

The First Draft is FINISHED!!!!!

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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.

Finito!

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?

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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.

A Progress Update on The Word

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A quick post with a progress update for The Word. I’m now 30,000 words through the first draft, around a 1/3rd of the way through it if my guess at it’s final length of 90,000-100,000 words is correct. At the pace I’m going the first draft should be done sometime in June or early July. Not bad at all.

I think there is a definite improvement in my writing when compared to the first draft of Oranje though I’m noticing a lot of the same problems with it. Lack of description, too much dialog, characters showing their emotions in the same few ways (nodding, shrugging etc.). Not going to worry about that for now, 2nd draft is for fixing those.

Talking of the 2nd draft there are also other changes I know I want to do. I’ve been working more on the overall back story and setting for the United novels, changes that will give The Word and other stories a lot more depth and feeling of being part of a consistent universe.

The whole idea of the United novels is now to chart the changing situation in this galaxy a thousand years in the future, from the golden age of the Commonwealth of Earth to the new dream of the United. Each novel will tell a different part of this story, The Word telling the tale of how the United begin. Hopefully the United novels will end up feeling part of this grand sweeping story, and that people can get invested in it.

That’s all for now, next progress update probably sometime after I’ve passed the half way point.

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

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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.