All posts in Dark Heart

Project juggling

Barcelona is meltingly hot. Shame I can’t see any daylight from the hotel meeting room.

Thanks to idle time spent at airports and on planes yesterday, I managed to get two days’ worth of Seven Wonders editing done, which is just as well as I may not get another chance to look at it until Thursday. So it goes.

I’ve also been pondering my schedule for the rest of year – I have two main things to do: rewrite my first novel Dark Heart, and write the next new novel Night Pictures.

I still need to work out how to approach Dark Heart, but really it’s Night Pictures that has me excited. This is the book I think about when I’m not focussed on Seven Wonders. This is that great next project that you can’t get out of your head, that you’re so desperate to start it drives you bananas. This is that kind of project that you have a feeling about. Everything has clicked into place. This is the book you have to write, and you have to write it now.

Or at least once I’ve got Seven Wonders to my beta-readers, which should be by the middle of July.

So Night Pictures it is. I just have to write the first draft of that before I tackle Dark Heart. Although Dark Heart is theoretically less work – being a rewrite rather than a new novel – I haven’t decided what I want to do with it. It needs to go from epistolary pseudo-Victorian first person (I’d ask myself what the hell I was thinking, but hey, it was my first novel, and first novels are like that!) to my regular prose style, it needs to be slightly less steampunk and slightly more magical.

Dark Heart needs more time in the oven. In the meantime, I’ve got a story about lost family, street light interference, television hijacking and Max Headroom impersonators to write.

Roll on July!

2nd May, 2011: Pre-trip to-do list

We’re off to New Zealand for three weeks tomorrow, but I understand they have the internet out there so I’ll still be online occasionally. The blog may become a little sporadic, and there’s no way I’m organised enough to compose a month’s worth of posts and schedule them to auto-post. Besides, I’ll be wanting to post photos and stuff from the trip.

Yesterday I sent off a bunch of stuff to my agent – some revised chapters and a synopsis for a potential future project, and the revised full manuscript and synopsis for Ludmila, My Love. I pretty much met my timelines on those, which (as planned) just leaves me with one current task – finish the edit on Seven Wonders. While I don’t need to deliver this to Angry Robot until October, it still needs to go through a beta-reading period and I want to have plenty of time in hand to do the expected edits and rewrites, as well as handle anything unexpected that might crop up as I give the manuscript another pass.

I’m hoping to have that done by early June, and then once that goes off to my beta-readers I’ll be able to get onto the next projects. I’ve got two firmly in my calendar.

First is a top-to-bottom rewrite of my steampunk novel, Dark Heart. This was the first novel-length fiction I wrote, and apart from being, well, not that well written, I also made a whole heap of bad decisions regarding that book. The major problem is two-fold – not only is it first-person from the point of view of pseudo-Victorian characters, it’s epistolary in format.

First-person faux-Victorian means the whole thing is packed full of fluffery and baroque language. I remember this being very hard to write at the time, and certainly now it’s not a style I’m interested in. Having written four novels after Dark Heart, I think I’m starting to find my style and voice, and looking at Dark Heart now, it doesn’t sound right. It’s me putting on a voice and writing unnaturally – acting, almost. While some writers can do this very well – just think of the wonderful baroque style of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – it’s not my bag. The book needs to be rewritten in third-person to my own style, although keeping in mind the period detail.

Epistolary is an interesting form, where the story is told via letters, diary entries, etc – Dracula is probably the best example of the style. However, it’s very much an acquired taste and while it made sense one hundred years ago, when communication was via letter, it is less relevant – and interesting – today. So that has to go as well. The story, plot and characters of Dark Heart are good (or “crazy-awesome”, as my agent said!), so rather than just trunk the thing forever, it’ll be good to rework it.

Although I haven’t done a project like this before, I’m hoping it won’t be too traumatic – after all, I’ve essentially got the most thorough and detailed outline you could imagine: an entire manuscript. So with that in mind, I’m going to be strict and stick to a maximum of two months on that project.

Because after Dark Heart is the next new book, and one that I’m dying to get stuck into: Night Pictures. This is a story of missing people, parallel universes, television hacking and the phenomenon of street light interference. I’ve got a feeling about this book – okay, that sounds kinda wishy-washy and pretentious, but hey, it’s true. I haven’t done the outline yet but I have a stack of notes that, from today onwards, I’m going to try to add to in some form every day.

All of that – plus edits on Empire State, which are due to arrive – will probably take me to the end of the year.

Busy is good!

12th April, 2011: One book down and the year ahead

Well, after hammering out 4,278 words yesterday (amazing what you can do when the end is in sight), I finished draft 0 of Hang Wire. The manuscript weighs in at 90,447 words, which is 10k below target but still within the accepted 80,000 to 110,000 for science fiction. I tend to add 10,000 words at the redraft anyway, and I suspect I may add even more for this book as the theme changed halfway through, and I have a fair bit to go back and add in. That’s why this is draft 0, not draft 1. This one will go in the trunk until next year.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 4,278
Words total: 90,447/100,000 (90%, although complete)
Total words for 2011: 120,428

I also finished 10 days ahead of my self-imposed deadline, which means I won’t have the guilt of not writing anything during EasterCon.

So: yay! But I must admit I’m at a loss as to how to celebrate. Jen Williams has some thoughts over here, but as I don’t drink or smoke I may have to settle for… cake! Cake is good.

While it’s only April, the rest of this year is looking very busy already. Taking stock of projects, I have to fit in the following:

  • Revise Ludmila, My Love based on beta-reader comments, write a synopsis for it, and deliver both to my agent by April 30th. Hopefully this won’t take too much work – I’ve got all but two sets of comments in and most things are minor.
  • Edit Seven Wonders, allow a beta-reading period and further revisions, then deliver to Angry Robot by October. This deadline may be months away, but it’ll arrive sooner than I think.
  • Re-write Dark Heart and deliver to my agent ASAP. I mentioned on Twitter last night that I was contemplating a “secret project”, and this is it. Dark Heart was the first novel I wrote, and while the story is solid, the writing is less so. After chatting to Stacia about it, we agreed that the best way forward is to basically strip everything out of it bar the plot and characters, rewrite, top-to-bottom. I’ll talk about this later when I actually start work on it, but I’m feeling a lot happier about this book now I know what needs to be done.
  • Outline, write, edit, beta, correct then deliver Night Pictures by the end of the year. The timeline is still fluid on this project, which will be my next novel written. I’ve shuffled it down after Dark Heart, and it’ll be an interesting exercise to turn around a novel – including edits – so quickly. I’ll have a better feeling for this once I actually start writing it – I certainly don’t want to rush it, and it may be that this slips into 2012. We’ll see.
  • Edits/rewrites on Empire State for Angry Robot. I don’t know when these are expected, although no doubt I’ll know more after EasterCon.
  • Finish Godless by year end. Doable, considering I’m only writing half of the 100,000 words. Again, more planning will be possible after EasterCon.

And that pretty much fills my calendar up until the end of 2011. By heck, I’ve a job of work to do. But what a great job it is!

6th April, 2011: Stats and EasterCon update

Earlier today I posted my review of Firestarter, so this is just the obligatory stats post, although featuring a bonus EasterCon. Woot.

Seems the EasterCon schedule has undergone a major rejig, and of the three panels I was scheduled for, two have been cancelled. This just leaves me with Comics for Beginniners, which is on Sunday at 10am in the Earls room. It’s a shame the Social Networks panel has been cancelled – I think this would have been one of the highlights of the convention, given the growing importance of social media for writers, even since this time last year. Among other panellists, it would have been a great opportunity for me and Angry Robot editor, Lee Harris, to discuss how exactly I got a book deal via Twitter – for those who had got in touch saying how they were looking forward to hearing more about this, sorry! But please do come and find me in the bar.

Yesterday was a 2k day on Hang Wire and I also finished up a synopsis for Dark Heart, my steampunk novel, and sent that and a couple of sample chapters off to my agent. The rest of this week is going to be devoted just to Hang Wire, although if I get any downtime I’ll be making notes on the next book, Night Pictures. I’m itching to write this, and even have the first line in my head – but I shall resist starting anything until the first draft of Hang Wire is complete. I had planned to start the final run on Ludmila, My Love this week, but several of my beta-readers have asked for deadline extensions, so I’m now hoping to get that polished off by the end of April

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 2,151
Words total: 74,780/100,000 (74%)
Total words for 2011: 104,761

2nd April, 2011: March madness

So 2011 is now one-quarter gone… and what a quarter it was! To paraphrase a line from Firefly, I feel like I’ve done the impossible and achieved two dreams – to get a book deal, and to get an agent. It still feels very surreal, but I’m very grateful for the opportunities those two achievements represent. This is just the beginning of a big long adventure!

I’d been in negotiation with Angry Robot since February, but the beginning of March was when everything was made official. With Stacia taking me onboard on the very last day of that same month, March was certainly an eventful one.

During the month I also:

  • Continued work on Hang Wire
  • Wrote the synopsis and sample chapters of my post-apocalyptic horror The Suicide Tree and submitted them to a publisher
  • Had my shorty story The Walker appear in Hub magazine
  • Began working up notes on my next book, Night Pictures

So, pretty busy. But busy is good. Busy means things are happening. April looks like another packed month, although a little more relaxed, I hope. I need to:

  • Finish the first draft of Hang Wire
  • Attend EasterCon, where I’ll be on my first convention panels ever (!)
  • Prepare the final draft of Ludmila, My Love based on beta-reader critiques
  • Complete a proper outline for Night Pictures
  • Write full synopses for Ludmila, My Love and Dark Heart

I’ve also got two other things on the horizon. One is to start the final edit of Seven Wonders, which I am due to deliver to Angry Robot later this year. After that edit it needs to go through my beta-readers again like any other novel.

Secondly, as mentioned in my April list above, I’m going to unearth Dark Heart, my steampunk novel and the first full-length novel I actually wrote. This has been edited, at least in part, but the draft is still fairly rough. I’m going to get this ship-shape this year.

Yesterday I didn’t hit 2k on Hang Wire, but that was because I spent a large chunk of my writing time preparing a project status list for my agent. I’ve got a lot of material stashed away, several pieces out in the world, and a few things planned ahead, so compiling the list took a little time. But it was useful exercise for myself, as well. We’re off to New Zealand for nearly all of May, and while I’m going to try and get some writing done as usual, my writing time will be unpredictable and I’m not going to force it. I need to take that month into consideration, hence a project list is very useful in helping plan my work for this year.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 1,133
Words total: 66,422/100,000 (66%)
Total words for 2011: 96,403

2011: The lowdown

Okay, let’s recap: last time, I said that I had two New Year’s Resolutions. The first is to write 2,000 words a day. For me, in theory, this is easy, and if I can keep it up then every other writing plan I have for 2011 will just fall into place. Novels, short stories, blogs and guest blogs, editing, whatever. All of these things are just collections of words, some of which have due dates attached. If I can write 2,000 words a day, I don’t even need to think about anything else.

Secondly, I need to keep a log of what I do. Despite lamenting only one novel written from start to finish in 2010, I actually got more done this year than in any year previous, but I haven’t really kept track. As it so happens, I’ve got a website and this website has a blog, so it makes sense to use it to record progress daily. Regular updates will be good motivation too −  if I slack off, it’ll show up here pretty quickly. You have my permission to throw a kick or two in the comments when this happens.

So what do I have to work on? Here’s the list of confirmed projects. There is other stuff on the boil too, but it’s a case of wait and see on those. They can be slotted in as needed, and in a couple of cases will take automatic priority.

I need to finish Hang Wire and write two more novels; I have a steampunk novella to write by early February, and a superhero short by the end of March. Also in 2011 Kate and I need to finish The Gospel of the Godless Stars. My daily word count will include any fiction written, but no non-fiction (eg, blog posts or articles).

I have three novels which need to go from draft to submission-ready manuscripts. These are Dark HeartSeven Wonders and Ludmila, My Love. I’m starting with Seven Wonders tomorrow. Unlike writing, editing is slightly harder to measure progress, so rather than have fixed goals (other than to edit three novels in one year) I’m just going to track it by number of pages edited.

I’m part of the Stephen King challenge, so I have to read at least six King novels in 2011. As I am working through them in publication order these will be: The Long WalkThe Dead ZoneFirestarterRoadworkDanse MacabreCujo, and The Running Man. That’s actually seven titles, but Danse Macabre is non-fiction so doesn’t count. The Long WalkRoadwork and The Running Man are all short Richard Bachman novels, which will help balance against doorstops like The Dead Zone. Aside from King, my TBR pile is fairly substantial, and I hope to reduce it by a handful. If I can read a total of twenty books next year, I’ll be doing well.

In 2011 I’ll also be reducing my comics backlog by reading five issues a day. My first batch, as previously mentioned, will be the new/current series of Power GirlZatanna and DC Legacies, alongside the 2002 series of Catwoman and the 1970 O’Neil/Adams run of Green Lantern.

So, lots to do but a year to do it in. See you tomorrow for the first update!

Honourable mentions

Week one of the new decade draws to a close (no, I’m not getting into an argument about whether the decade starts in 2010 or 2011. Get. Over. It), and after a bit of heaving and swearing (lots of swearing), I’m finally dragging Empire State back on track. After about two months in the doldrums, it’s a bit like that old metaphor of turning a cruise liner around. It takes a bit of coaxing, and it’s not a fast process. Anyway, one million words, here I come.

Meanwhile, Cherie Priest, the author what wrote that damned fine book Boneshaker that I harped on about earlier, seemed pretty pleased that she rubbed shoulders with Stephen King on the pages of this blog. Thanks for the link, Cherie!

And this I dig, a lot. Reader ediFanoB, whom I randomly bumped into on Twitter due to our shared love of steampunk, has a few words to say about my novella, The Devil in Chains, on his website. Now, The Devil in Chains isn’t a new release, and one of great mysteries of the publishing world is how books are all hot news on the week of release, then everyone forgets about them. I mean, Coke advertise several times a day on TV, and you can go to the store and buy a can. But I can also go to my local bookstore and buy, say, Salem’s Lot, but you don’t see Salem’s Lot advertised anywhere. Although writing is an art and a craft, publishing is about building name and brand. With that in mind, I’m pretty chuffed that ediFanoB enjoyed The Devil in Chains enough to not only blog about it, but demand I get on with the rest of the series and get Dark Heart (the first novel in the series, for which The Devil in Chains is a stand-alone prequel) edited and, heck, published even!

Well, that’s why I do it. I write stuff that I hope people enjoy. And if they do, that’s my job done. Thanks, edi!

The awesome and radical of 2009 (part 2) and my New Year’s Resolution

Two down, seven to go. Tonight it’s just one, and it’s the big one.


I don’t have a competition running against Jennifer Williams, but we do egg each other on a bit. In 2009, she wrote 120,000 words, and if her novels (one completed, two in progress) are anything like her short stories, she’s going to snap up an agent and deal in next to no time. At which point I will be very jealous, and may have to take up some form of Black Magic to make her laptop battery die at inopportune moments. Jen has christened 2010 the “Year of Writing Dangerously”. I like it.

For me, 2009 has been the “Year of Writing Seriously”. It started with me completing my first full-length novel, Dark Heart. I had started this in 2008, or even earlier, but after a year of faffing had reached 30,000 words or so. In 2009, I Took It Seriously, and churned out the next 70,000 words in just two months. Taking It Seriously seemed to work. Dark Heart (first draft) came in at 118,743 words. I even got the manuscript printed up as a trade paperback via Lulu, providing myself with a bound, portable manuscript that I could edit wherever and whenever I wanted.

Taking It Seriously worked so well that I applied the same general technique (sitting down and writing) to my second novel, Seven Wonders (originally called New Gods, but so harassed was I by Jack Kirby fans – and rightly so, and myself included actually – that I changed it). I didn’t keep a track of time on Seven Wonders, but the first draft of this, my second novel, was done at the end of August and came in at 111,073 words.

I took a break after that, and started to edit Dark Heart, but after hacking at the first third of the book I realised it was still too soon. The text was too fresh, and I remembered nearly every comma, which made it hard to judge whether something – a scene, a chapter, a character, a plot point – was actually working. So I shelved that Lulu paperback and moved on to book three.

Book three is my current work-in-progress, Empire State. I was going to write the second in the Dark Heart steampunk series (I have books two through five plotted), but I felt I needed to stretch my writing muscles and write in different styles and genres. And if I spent another three months writing book two, only to never be able to sell book one, I’d kinda be stuck. It wouldn’t have been a waste of time, far from it, but as a new writer it made more sense to have written three books and be able to pitch each of them, rather than having written three books and be able to pitch only two of them.

Empire State, then, is a SF detective noir fantasy thing. Hmm, I think I need to work on the elevator pitch… the draft stalled in November/December for a variety of reasons that I have posted about before, but the file will be cracked open tomorrow as part of my New Year’s Resolution. Empire State stands at 35,387 words. The target is, again, 100,000 words, which leaves me about 65,000 to go. It started as a NaNoWriMo project, but November is where it all went wrong, so I didn’t even crack the required 50,000 words that month. Eh. What can you do?

Aside from these three full-length novels, I wrote a short story – The Unpopular Opinion of Reverend Tobias Thackery. This Lovecraftian horror was written in June 2009, and is 7,143 words long. It was rejected by Weird Tales, and is currently with another publisher, but if there is no luck there I’ll put it up here for free, and also as another Legends iTunes eBook alongside The Devil in Chains. Short stories are not my thing – I find them too hard to write and I rarely read them either.

That’s my writing for 2009. A total of 272,346 words written. Two complete novels and one complete short story written, and one novel at the 33% mark. The Year of Taking It Seriously seemed to have paid off.

For 2010, I have just one New Year’s Resolution (I’m not sure if that is supposed to be capitalised or not… I’m assuming it should, because that makes it Important, and Important is a Good Thing). If 2009 is my Year of Taking It Seriously, 2010 is my Year of Taking It Professionally. Okay, that grammar isn’t the best, but in 2010 I will have more time to devote to writing, which means I can think and act like a Writer.

My goal therefore is 1 million words in 2010. I think I got the idea from something Scott Sigler said, that he was going to write 1,000,000 words in 2009. I’m not sure whether he hit it or not, but Stephen King also said that you need to write 1 million words before you get to the good stuff. He might be right, and it looks like I’m 25% of the way there already. One million words is 2,740 words for each and every day, which is actually quite achievable considering on a good day I can get to 5,000 words at a push. So those one million words will be, more or less, the last two-thirds of Empire State, plus seven more novels, plus revisions on two novels.

That’s the plan anyway. And it all starts tomorrow. All I need is my ass, a chair, and my computer. And tea. Lots of tea.

More of my awesome and radical things of 2009 tomorrow. Happy New Year everyone! See you in the Amazingly Utterly Awesome 2010. See, capital letters, 2010 is Important.

The end is the beginning is the end

Seven Wonders is finished.

Oh yes. The bad guy got what was coming, the good guys got what was coming. There was a meeting on the moon, there was an attack on the city. There was one mother of a finale, with the superheroes of the world uniting in high orbit to defend the planet against an alien attack. Exciting and action-packed, I hope.

Except it’s not finished. The final chapter has been written, the last sentence typed. The story is complete and plot threads resolved.
Except for the middle bit of the book, which I skipped.

Now, I had my reasons. Seven Wonders was pretty difficult to get started. Although I’m a fan of and familiar with the superhero genre, it’s a new one to write in for me, and getting it right is tricky. It has to be serious but not po-faced, with all the capes and spandex and X-ray vision of comics, but without descending into parody or silliness. I cracked it in the end, and the second half of Seven Wonders really took off.

But in order to make the jump and get things rolling, I had to call it quits on the earlier part of the book. I’ve called it “Act II” on Twitter, but really it’s the second half of Act I. There is a big transition to make between all of my characters making their independent discoveries at the beginning of the book, to the giant battles at the end. This bit is really integral, the whole reason for writing the book in the first place, the whole high concept thing. I stopped writing it because I didn’t know the characters well enough, and wasn’t happy with what they were doing. What I had written turned into a series of independent events with no apparent arc or theme. So I stopped, knowing that I would return at the end and add all this in. Now that I know what becomes of the characters in the story – sometimes diverging from my original outline by quite a margin – I can go back, plant the seeds, build the arc, and push everyone where they need to go. Aceness. Currently the manuscript is at 89,284 words, which gives me just over 10k to fill in.

And then I sat down to do some outlining of this Act I.5, and it’s so long I think I’m going to need, oh, 50k to fit it all on. Well, hot dang.

As with my first novel, Dark Heart, the target wordcount is 100,000, for various reasons I have mentioned in the past, but mainly because for a first novel from an unpublished author, 99.99%-recurring agents won’t touch anything longer. While this doesn’t influence my writing to a significant extent – a story is as long as it needs to be – it is something I try and keep track of. Dark Heart ended up as 126,000-something, which means it’ll need trimming in the second draft. The second draft that I’m supposed to be working on now, in August, while the completed vomit draft of Seven Wonders sits on the shelf in as fancy Lulu POD’ed trade paperback editing copy.

But it looks – maybe – that Seven Wonders is going to be longer, possibly much longer. Well, fine. The first draft is the first draft is the first draft. As Scott Sigler said (more on my interview with him later!), you’ve gotta get that clay on the wheel. So Seven Wonders is going to be a long one, and will need maybe another month to finish up.

What does that mean? Absolutely nothing, really, except I’m a list-maker and a box-checker, and had the rest of 2009 mapped out, writing-wise. Now that schedule is out by a month, which considering the glacial pace of writing and publishing in general, is nothing major. But one frustration is seeing steampunk increase in popularity almost daily, and I’ve got a cracking steampunk series that begins with Dark Heart, a novel that is in need of rewriting before I can even begin to think of shopping it around.

But that’s just me. Steampunk won’t go away. If anything, it’ll be even more popular in 2010, looking at forthcoming books, films and TV shows.

So what do I do? I write, and keep writing, and do my damnedest to make Seven Wonders completely awesome, even if it is 150,000 words long.

Time to put some new dates on the wall planner.

Seven frickin' Wonders: Half freakin' way

And in the nick of time too! Seven Wonders has crossed the magic 50,000 word mark (in fact it’s about 51,000-and-something even), and with a month to go, I can basically give myself a little personal NaNoWriMo challenge – 50,000 words in a month, or 1667 words a day. Right on target. And 50,000 words – half a novel – is nothing to be sneezed at. Seven Wonders is also about proving that Dark Heart wasn’t a fluke. It’s a milestone, no mistake. Sure, in ten years time I’ll look back and laugh at how wonderful I thought it was, but novels are big, long, scary, frequently heavy items. I’ve got 1.5 under my belt now. Top show.

I have to admit it’s also a relief to get Seven Wonders to this point. As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, I’ve found this novel to suffer from the “difficult second album” syndrome, but I’m starting to see this as a good thing. My next book is number two in the Dark Heart series, which is plotted, outlined, and sitting at the starting line with steam-powered engine revving. It’s going to be a good story, and I’m looking forward to writing it, and I’m glad that I hit the hump in Seven Wonders and not that one.

But that’s not to say Seven Wonders is suffering as a consequence, or is that annoying, must-get-it-done second novel that I’ll fling into a draw and forget about. Not at all. I knew from the beginning that it would be a challenge, and I deliberately made it so – the modern-day setting, the third-person narrative, these were conscious decisions made to ensure that Seven Wonders would be completely different in every way to Dark Heart – style, tone, setting, language, the works. Although I didn’t set out to construct an unclimeable mountain, or set impassable traps and roadblocks, I did begin with the intention that it was going to be a learning experience.

Like anything, writing requires practice. Having completed a novel in pseudo-Victorian first-person, I needed to write one in modern-day third-person, just to see what it was like, and whether or not this suited my personality. As it happens, I don’t think it does that much, but I’m making a damned good hash of it. Perservering out of my comfort zone is teaching me an awful lot about long-form fiction, which – given that I’m just a beginniner – is essential for me to improve my craft.

Which brings me to an important concept for all writers to remember: you are allowed to suck. The first draft is the vomit draft – it’s you typing out the story, transferring it from your head to the screen/paper before you forget it. Some bits will be great, some bits will be terrible. But the important thing is to get one word down after another until you reach the end. Then you can go back and fix it. Later. At the end. When you’re finished.

I’m trying to remind myself of this rule this week because while I’m hitting my daily target of 1667 words, for the past few days they’ve not been terribly good words. The story has reached a very crucial section where
Several Big and Important Things need to happen that change each and every one of the individual characters, effectively finishing Act II (most of which I haven’t really written yet) and leading into the final third.

It’s almost because the Several Big and Important Things are big and important that it has been very, very difficult to actually integrate them naturally into the story. First there was a big fight out on the streets of San Ventura between the superheroes and the supervillain. Then everyone went to the moon, and a couple of shocking secrets were revealed. There’s another fight (on the moon this time), and now the superheroes are retrospectively figuring out what went wrong, allowing them to return to the Earth and start Act III.

Which sounds great in the outline. And actually the outline is quite detailed at this point – this happens, that happens, X says that, Y realises this. But writing a story around it was surprisingly difficult. What has happened is that apart from the two big fights, the superheroes have basically sat around a table and discussed things very seriously for about a million pages, which is not only not particularly interesting, but at first glance seems to be the classic trap of plot exposition and info-dump. Take your protagonists, sit them down, and they’ll chinwag about the story for chapters without actually being involved in it.

Except – and here’s the problem – this is pretty much what the Seven Wonders would do anyway. They’re a committee of seven, they have big shiny conference rooms with 3D computer displays. Sitting down and talking about stuff while pretty graphics fly around is exactly their idea of fighting crime.

So what am I doing wrong? I’m worrying about the first draft, that’s what!

Yep, the last 3000 or so words will need reworking, probably significantly. But so what. All I need to do now is move everyone off the moon as quickly as possible (less chin-stroking around a conference table I think), and then on with the exciting Act III.

Panic averted. Carry on.