All posts in Hang Wire

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!

11th April, 2011: The end of the road

Today is a full day of writing, and I’ve got a book to finish. So… talk amongst yourselves. I’ll be back later.

In the meantime, here’s a picture from the weekend. We had the most amazing weather ever – it’s only April, but I swear it was the best we’ve seen since moving to the UK back in 2006. Consequently, my wife and I spent most of it sitting outside, reading and getting sunburnt, save for a trip to Dunham Massey to walk around the deer park.

See? Blue sky. This photo was taken at about 10am on Sunday.

Now, Hang Wire – this will be finished, today. Ten days ahead of schedule too. Wish me luck!

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 2,077
Words total: 86,169/100,000 (84%)
Total words for 2011: 116,150

10th April, 2011: Sunday listmania

  • In response to some recent questions, here’s my annual discussion on how I know that what I am writing will run to 100,000 words: I have written four novels, am about to finish my fifth, and am concurrently collaborating on a sixth. In that time, I’ve worked out what 100,000 words feels like, and with that word count in mind, I can plot and write a story to that length. I’m not artificially constraining a narrative to fit within that limit – a story is as long as it needs to be. But with practice (and that’s what writing is and continues to be – practice) you learn how to plot a story to the required length. It’s the same as any kind of fiction – if you write a short story to submit to a market that has a limit of 5,000 words, for example, you know the length of the story before you start, and you sure aren’t going to write an 11,000 word story.
  • Having said that, I tend to write to 110,000 words – a 10% fudge factor seems about right. As it happens, my current project, Hang Wire, looks like it’s going to come in at around 90,000 words. No doubt it’ll hit 100k on the second draft, as I already know a couple of things I need to expand.
  • Speaking of words, today’s writing advice is from Stephen King: “One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones“. Oh, how true this is. The number of books I have put down and never picked up again because the writer is not writing but choosing words (believe me, there is a difference) is surprisingly large.
  • Speaking of putting books down, I’ve just finished Vegas Knights and now need to read something else. How do you choose, when your to-be-read pile is several years long? I think I may need to break out a random number generator… although that means counting the books up first. Still, anything to take the heavy responsibility of choosing what to read next away from me!
  • The World Fantasy convention is coming to the UK at the end 2013! Memberships are available now, and will go fast. Yes, even for an event which is two and a half years away.

Does five items count as a listmania? Does in my book.

I have a feeling I’ll finish Hang Wire either today or tomorrow. I’m writing the final showdown now, and then there will just be a couple of post-adventure chapters, and I’m done on draft 0. Actually I’ll definitely be done by tomorrow at the latest, as I have a whole writing day booked in.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 2,090
Words total: 84,092/100,000 (84%)
Total words for 2011: 114,073

9th April, 2011: One sunny day

Yesterday was sunny. And boiling hot. And the sky was completely, utterly cloudless. It’s only early April, but I’m going to suggest that it was the most brilliant day since I’ve been in the UK (coming up five years now). Also, the hawthorns in our garden are flowering.

It was a perfect day to get some writing done – although I didn’t try writing outside (although I guess I could have dug out the umbrella for our picnic table), our house has a big ranch slider leading from the back garden to the lounge, and with that wide open I could happily (and comfortably) write from the sofa and pretend I was outside. With a day devoted to it, I crossed 3,000 words.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 3,206
Words total: 82,002/100,000 (82%)
Total words for 2011: 111,983

Last night I made a rare trip into Manchester to attend Emma Newman’s launch for her From Dark Places anthology. It was a great evening, during which Emma read a couple of stories. I also bumped into Pat Kelleher, author of Black Hand Gang and The Ironclad Prophecy for Abaddon books.

Although Emma and I have known each other online for a while, and she’s narrated recordings of two stories of mine, it was great to finally meet in person!

8th April, 2011: From Dark Places book launch

Tonight I’m off to a book launch, reading and signing by Emma Newman for her anthology of short stories, From Dark Places.

Emma and I met – I think – on Twitter. I also have a feeling it was The Devil in Chains that initiated the contact – she got in touch to say how much she liked it, which eventually led to her doing a superb reading of it for Dark Fiction Magazine. Emma’s a professional voice artist, and after Devil I got her to record Nine Ladies Dancing last Christmas, which you can listen to here.

Emma is also a kick-ass writer, and a prolific one at that, running a short story club via her website. From Dark Places is her first published book, and she has a dystopian YA novel, 20 Years Later, coming later this year.

Tonight’s launch is at the Cornerhouse, in Manchester, from 6-8pm. Copies of From Dark Places will be available to buy, so if you are in the area, drop in and say hello.

Work this week on Hang Wire has been pretty strong, and I’m happy that I’ll be meeting my deadline of Thursday 21 April – in fact, I’ll finish ahead of time at this rate. The deadline calculator in the latest Scrivener update is just brilliant – so long as I keep ahead of the session wordcount, I know I am right on target. It’s a great motivator.

Today I have a free writing day before I take the train to Manchester, so I’m going to push the boat out at 4,000 words. Wish me luck!

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 2,000
Words total: 78,796/100,000 (78%)
Total words for 2011: 108,777

7th April, 2011: Cover junkie

I love book covers. I am a cover junkie.

The cover is a key part of the book’s marketing. There are three things that might make you pick a book up off a shelf in the store – the author’s name, the cover, and the jacket copy. Ignoring the author’s name (which depends on whether you have heard of them or not, or whether you like their work or not – this only applies to established authors with some kind of track record and/or following, obviously), it’s likely to be the cover that will grab you first, enticing you to pick it up, turn it over, and read the back copy. It is the cover that sets the expectation. While it is perfectly true that you should never judge a book by its cover, this is exactly what we do when confronted with a new, unknown title. A bad cover can sink a book. A good cover can make it fly off the shelves.

So it was with some delight that I saw yesterday the cover for fellow Angry Robot debut author Jo Anderton’s Debris, due to drop in October this year.

All I can say is: wow.

But this also makes me both excited and nervous about my own cover for Empire State – I have no idea when to expect it, and while we have thrown a few ideas around, it’s entirely in Angry Robot’s hands.

But those hands are safe ones. Just look at that cover above. Wow, again. You can read more about it over at Angry Robot, and you can find Jo’s website here and her Twitter feed here.

Yesterday was a good writing day, 2k on Hang Wire and I’ve started expanding my notes on Night Pictures. Night Pictures is at the stage where I need to let my subconscious hammer away at it, behind the scenes. However, there is plenty of time for that – once Hang Wire is finished I need to revise Ludmila, My Love based on beta-reader comments and then start the final edit of Seven Wonders. Add to that a trip to New Zealand for most of May, and I probably won’t get started on Night Pictures until June.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 2,016
Words total: 76,796/100,000 (76%)
Total words for 2011: 106,777

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

5th April, 2011: Locus magazine

Well, there it is:

I’m in the April edition of Locus, as the very last item in the Books Sold section. Locus magazine is THE trade magazine for the genre publishing industry, and a subscription is pretty much essential for any writer.

For some reason, this little news snippet – a single tiny paragraph at the bottom of a list of authors that makes the mind boggle – was what I was waiting for. One of the weird things about your dream coming true is that it doesn’t feel real – okay, that sounds both obvious and twee at the same time, but it’s true. It’s not so much the fact that I have a book deal with a terrific imprint, and I have an agent with a terrific agency. It’s more basic than that – people are going to read my stuff. People are going to BUY my stuff? Like, Empire State? And Seven Wonders? Like, what?

It must be true. It was in Locus magazine!

Writing this week consists of Hang Wire, which is now heading into the endgame, two synopses (for Dark Heart and Ludmila, My Love), and plotting for Night Pictures. The synopsis for Dark Heart is interesting, considering how long ago I wrote the book. The manuscript itself is going to need a very strong edit – this was the first full-length novel I wrote. I’ve been skimming it as I compiled the synopsis, and it seemed pretty interesting, which is a good sign. Hopefully I’ll get that out of the way (the synopsis, not the edit!) today.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 2,030
Words total: 72,629/100,000 (72%)
Total words for 2011: 102,610

4th April, 2011: Genre for Japan – the results

Well, what a week – hitting refresh on Genre for Japan lots became something of a habit! Unfortunately my budget ran out and I didn’t win anything, but the total money pledged is an incredible £11,203. Which is just amazing.

Bidding on a creating a superhero in my forthcoming novel, Seven Wonders, topped out at £111, which is far more than I ever hoped to achieve. Well done to the lucky bidder, Christo Taylor-Davies!

There were some terrific lots available, and if I had an unlimited budget I would have bid for a truckload of them.

So congratulations and thanks to the organisers – Amanda RutterLouise MorganJenni HillRo Smith, Alasdair Stuart and Robert Mulligan. Splendid chaps, all of them. These guys deserve some kind of reward themselves for services to genre fiction.

Well done!

Writing wise, it was a good weekend despite the fact it was so busy – we had a million and one chores to get done, mostly in prep for our New Zealand trip next month, but I still cracked the 70,000 word mark on Hang Wire and 100,000 words on writing for 2011. Or maybe it was because we were so busy? I must admit, when I have a whole day free to devote to writing, my attention can wander around a bit. Having to fit it in around an already tight schedule may be beneficial. Hmm. Something for me to work on – because if I have a day of writing planned, that in itself should create a tight schedule.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 2,067
Words total: 70,599/100,000 (70%)
Total words for 2011: 100,580

3rd April, 2011: In Brightest Day…

You may have noticed I’m a fan of superheroes. In fact, I write superhero fiction and have one and a half superhero novels coming out next year (Seven Wonders is the one and Empire State is the half, mainly because while it has superheroes in it too, but I don’t think of it specifically as a superhero book).

I therefore read an awful lot of superhero comics, Green Lantern being about my favourite. Starting with Green Lantern: Rebirth, then through rest of the trilogy with The Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night, Green Lantern has been some of the best science fiction/space opera I’ve read in any format.

Yesterday, four minutes of footage from the forthcoming Green Lantern movie was released. I’m not going to embed a flash version here, because I recommend downloading the full high definition 1080p version and watching it on your HD TV (if you have one – if you don’t, just go with the largest version you can watch).

While it is still difficult to judge a two-hour film on just four minutes of footage, it’s better than the regular trailers.

For me personally, the footage left me speechless. It is just incredible. Of course it’s a total CG-fest, which may be offputting to some, but I think it suits Green Lantern very well.

Those four minutes show why I love superheroes and why I write superhero fiction. I just hope the rest of the film stands up… but the early indications are: hell yes it will.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 2,110
Words total: 68,532/100,000 (68%)
Total words for 2011: 98,513