All posts in Night Pictures

The Terribleminds interview, part two

Been a busy week for interviews – part two of my epic chat with Chuck Wendig is up at his site, We’ve both had a lot of positive feedback from part two, which is great, and a lot of people have said this has really opened their eyes to Angry Robot books, which is awesome. Thanks, everyone!

You can also read part one of the interview, including my short story Green Eggs and Handguns, here.

Yesterday was day 4 of Night Pictures, and as I mentioned I’m trying to get a couple of 4k writing days a week. Yesterday I succeeded, despite battling a headache for a large part of the afternoon.

Project: Night Pictures (missing persons, ghost towns and TV hackers)
Words yesterday: 4,056
Words total: 11,434/100,000 (11%)
Word to go: 88,566
Days to go: 56

A writing challenge

Well, kinda. I have two days a week for the next two months as dedicated writing days, so I figured if I can hit 2k on a day-gig day, I should be able to at least double that on a writing day. A daily count of 4,000 words is pretty high – I’ve done higher (nearly 6k, I seem to recall), but I do have a daily limit. No matter how unlimited time may be, there comes a point when you just can’t squeeze anything more out, unless you’ve got a pressing need (like an impending deadline, or if you can see the end of something in sight).

So 4k, let’s see.

Yesterday was day 3 of Night Pictures, and the going is still pretty good:

Project: Night Pictures (missing persons, ghost towns and TV hackers)
Words yesterday: 2,097
Words total: 7,378/100,000 (7%)
Word to go: 92,622
Days to go: 57

My idea of heaven is…

…something you’ll find out over at Write Fast, where there is a fun little interview with me today. Write Fast is also on Twitter, so make sure you swing by and say hello! Also check out the archive of previous interviewees, you may find a familiar name or two.

Now, it’s exceedingly hot today (hot! In England! I know!), so I’m going to keep this brief. Night Pictures is going well – three days in and I’ve broken 2k each day. I just need to keep this up until the end of September and I’m home and dry. The book is still very much in the what-the-hell-am-I-writing phase, but still, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s all clay on the wheel. Yeah, I use that phrase alot. I like it.

In time-honoured tradition I’m doing stats for the previous day’s work, the idea being that I can then do a blog post first thing in the morning before I’ve written anything and I don’t need to update the stats. Trust me, it makes sense to me.

Project: Night Pictures (missing persons, ghost towns and TV hackers)
Words yesterday: 2,145
Words total: 5,281/100,000 (5%)
Word to go: 94,719
Days to go: 58

Now I’m off to melt.

Empire State pre-order links and some stats

It’s Tuesday. Must be time for an admin blog post.

Empire State

Empire State, my SF-superhero-noir, is coming out on December 27th in the US, and January 5th in the UK. Both editions are now orderable from a variety of retailers, so here’s some new pre-order links.

Empire State (UK edition; ISBN: 978-0-85766-192-0)

Empire State (US edition; ISBN: 978-0-85766-193-7)

Empire State (ebook; ISBN 978-0-85766-194-4)

Night Pictures

Yesterday I started work on Night Pictures, my sixth novel. I need to get the first draft done by the end of September, and so far, so good. In time-honoured tradition, I’m going to share stats for the previous day’s work. And day 1 was off to a flying start!

Project: Night Pictures (missing persons, ghost towns and TV hackers)
Words yesterday: 3,136
Words total: 3,136/100,000 (3%)
Word to go: 96,864


Yesterday I mentioned on Twitter that the buzzards were being vocal, and a few people thought I was making some oblique reference to an internet spat or something.

Far from it. I was referring to real, actual buzzards.

This is the edge of the woods across from our house, shot with a suitably evil filter in Instagram. While we see the buzzards circling over the surrounding countryside frequently, they seem to live here. Certainly over the last few days we’ve heard their cries, and they come from these trees.

Buzzards are common to the British countryside, but I’ve never lived near where they live. Their call is instantly recognisable, and being a fairly large bird of prey, slightly spooky.

But I like having buzzards as neighbours.

In non-buzzard news, I started work on Night Pictures today, which is my sixth novel. It’s only the first day but I clocked up 3,136 words – but more importantly, in the space of the prologue and first half of the first chapter I introduced a completely new characer that I had no idea even existed. Looking back on my outline, it’s obvious that he was there all along, but he never showed himself. He’s a villain, and an important one, so I guess he was just hiding in the shadows, biding his time.

I’ll do up some stats tomorrow, but book six is underway!

Conflict, change, and need

I’m not starting the first draft of Night Pictures until Monday, but I’ve been tweaking the outline a little, even adding in a whole new character and small subplot.

I’ve also been looking at the characters and their own, individual stories, which brought to mind a classic piece of writing 101. A story needs conflict and change. A character cannot be at the same place at the end of a book as they were at the beginning (change). In order to get from the beginning to the end, there needs to be something they need to overcome on their journey (conflict).

But there’s a third aspect of character and storytelling which is sometimes harder to pin down, although quite obvious. Everybody in real life is their own superhero. Your own life is a big story. Everybody has their own needs.

Asking what a character in a story needs is vital. It will be obvious for the main character – he/she needs to win the race, needs to defeat the villain, needs to find the magic key. Therein lies the change and conflict too – when the hero finds the magic key they are at a different place than they were at the beginning when they didn’t have it (although that’s only the overt representation of change; by claiming the key, something has changed inside them as well), and in order to get the key they’ve overcome their obstacles.


But when it comes to secondary characters, you have to ask what they need. In some ways this is more important for secondary characters than change or conflict. Supporting characters often share the conflict and change of the main character, while having their own subplots or secondary story threads. But they also have needs – in their own mind, THEY are the hero of the story. It’s not enough for someone to be a sidekick to help punch bad guys, or to be a handsome stranger for the heroine to fall in love with. Everybody in the story needs something. If you can find out what it is, your character will have so much more depth.

Like I said, writing 101, but sometimes it’s good to think about the basics.

New interview, new short story, new novel

Yesterday my second-ever interview went up over at, the website of Chuck Wendig. As many will know, Chuck is a fellow Angry Robot author, and fellow member of Team Decker. My interview is split over two weeks, probably due to the fact that when he said to tell him a story, I went and wrote one. The result was a bit of fun called Green Eggs and Handguns, which you can read over at Chuck’s site. Go check it out!

Also yesterday I got the end of the final edit of Seven Wonders, my superhero novel which is being publishing by Angry Robot at the end of 2012. This morning I did one last quick spellcheck and sent it off to my beta-readers.

Getting that manuscript done is a huge relief – not just because that book was tricky to edit, but because I feel like I’ve been editing forever. The last novel I wrote was Hang Wire, the first draft of which was finished at the end of May, although it feels like longer.

Anyway, now it’s time to write. My next project is up and running:

I’ve done a more detailed outline for this than I would normally, but conversely I’m determined that this novel has a more straightforward structure. Seven Wonders took a long time to get right because of two concurrent timelines. Night Pictures has, so far, one flashback sequence, but aside from that, everything else is linear.

Well, as far as I know. Let’s see what happens when I start writing!

Night Pictures has an outline!

Sunday. Still alive. Just a few days now and I get to be full-time writer writer for the rest of the month. Hell. Yes.

Today I seem to have finished the outline for Night Pictures – I say “seem” to have finished, because no doubt there is still room for alteration, addition, deletion, improvement, etc. At the moment it consists of a big table of 51 chapters – each one gets a little description of events, and then I have a side column with notes for myself. Overall, this is about 1,700 words, which is more or less right for an outline or synopsis – a synopsis is usually 2,000 words-ish in my experience.

The next step then is to take this outline and turn it into a synopsis. As I mentioned before, I want to use a more detailed foundation document for Night Pictures than I have done in the recent past because this just feels like the kind of book that needs it.

On the other hand, given my tendency to go off on tangents and for my characters to start making their own decisions, I don’t want to spend too much time locking down a synopsis that will just change anyway. So long as I have a beginning, a middle, and an end, all the twists and turns are more or less in the right order, and I know who is actually in the book, I think I can probably make start. I’m not due to begin until August, but I’ll continue to tweak the outline and let my subconscious start working on it, so once Seven Wonders is out to my beta-readers it’ll be straight into it.

It’s gonna be a good one!

Friday night air guitar

Just a quick one as I head into a weekend of… work.


With Seven Wonders at draft X.2, I’m putting it to one side for a week or so as it’s at the point where it really needs my full attention, and it’ll get that in the second half of this month.

In the meantime, I’ve written a short story which is very silly but which should go online shortly, and I’ve been working on the outline for Night Pictures. The last book I wrote was Hang Wire, and while that turned out just fine, I decided to run with only a very loose outline and at times some of the draft was tough to get right. So this time I want a pretty strong foundation, especially as I have a “feeling” about Night Pictures – that sounds both silly and pretentious, but hey, I think this is going to be a good book. I’m excited about it.

So while I pull the plot to pieces and try and get it into some kind of order, for this week I leave you with Lou Reed playing a Velvet Underground classic sometime in the early 80s. Check out the front row air guitar.

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!