All posts in Night Pictures

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!

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

3rd March, 2011: The long and winding pitch

Another 2k day. As this is now the norm – should be the norm – I’ll stop harping on about it. The sample chapters for The Suicide Tree are about one-third done, I think. I just have a dramatic showdown to draft (and redraft, and redraft… I’m getting performance anxiety about this scene already, as it’s a biggie) and then it’ll be straight into an edit. The sooner I submit this pitch the better.

Project: The Suicide Tree (post-apocalyptic horror in storm-battered Louisiana)
Words today: 2,076
Words total: 7, 079 (sample chapters only, no specific word limit)
Total words for 2011: 73,055

Also today I started making notes on what will be (I think) the book I write after Hang Wire, which has the working title of Night Pictures. I’ll talk about that a bit more later this week, but suffice to say for now I’m surprised already at how complex this story is going to be.

There was some fairly big news announced yesterday – Stephen King has a new novel coming out in November this year, entitled 11/22/63. Yes, that’s the wrong date format for those of us outside the US, and interestingly his UK publisher Hodder don’t seem inclined to change it. Well, I’m sure we’ll cope. Anyway, this one is a time travel novel, and although the concept sounds very old-hat, this blurb actually sounds pretty gosh-darned hot:

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

I can’t wait for this – I think I’ll have to break my chronological publication order readthrough of King’s catalogue to read 11/22/63 when it comes out. Under the Dome was brilliant, and this is said to be another 1,000-page epic. I do find it quite amusing that while everyone was busy reading Under the Dome, and King was out on tour asking people what he should write next (either a sequel to The Shining or the next Dark Tower novel), all along he was writing another doorstop epic. He wasn’t writing it in secret, not really, but certainly only those in the know knew (if you know what I mean) about it until yesterday.

So, cool cool. I’ll be keeping an eye out for any limited editions that are released – there are both US and UK limited signed editions of Under the Dome which now cost quite a lot on ebay to get hold of, so if I’m going to get something I need to be in quick.

27th February, 2011: The lost weekend

Let’s call this day two of a two-day break. I meant to do something constructive today, honest, but what with scones with clotted cream and jam for breakfast and the Dragon Age 2 demo to finish on the PS3, and Fight Club to read and John Lennon documentaries on TV (which were great until I realised I’m now older than Lennon was in 1971 when he was recording Imagine), well… I deserved a break.

But I have made a list. I like lists. Lists are good. This coming week I need to:

  • Write 2,000 words a day
  • Tweak the synopsis for The Suicide Tree
  • Work up sample chapters for The Suicide Tree
  • Have a story conference with co-author Kate about the next few chapters of Godless
  • Continue work on Hang Wire
  • Work on plots for a couple of ideas on my corkboard that are burning a hole in my brain
  • Develop a proper synopsis for Ludmila, My Love
  • Catch up on overdue blog posts for Escape Pod.

The first item is now the priority seeing as my editing is out of the way. Those 2,000 words a day will include the chapters of The Suicide Tree and whatever I get done on Hang Wire, but I wouldn’t count the plotting and synopsising in that. It also makes sense to do the synopsis for Ludmila, My Love this week as the whole book is still fresh in my mind. If the beta-readers suggest any major changes, it’ll be easy enough to amend the synopsis. It’ll be great to have a submission-ready manuscript soon for this book, but that can’t be sent anywhere without a two-page synopsis.

Godless hasn’t moved since I sent my last (long) chapter off to Kate a couple of weeks ago, but I might have digressed from the outline a little, hence the need for a Skype call about it. Writing a book with two authors in different parts of the world is pretty cool, but the length of time the project takes means that both of us tend to forget what is going on when it comes to writing our bits. But I think it’ll be a pretty cool book when it’s done.

The couple of ideas on my corkboard that are demanding attention are the ideas vying for their place as the next book written after Hang Wire is done, which in theory should only be a month or so away. Which means I need to figure out which idea is the most exciting and which has the most potential. I’ve got a feeling I know which it is, so for the moment I’ll give it the codename Night Pictures. The index card on my corkboard is actually without a title anyway, so that will suffice as a WIP title. I’m not sure it works as a proper title, but it is pleasant on the eye for some reason.

Which means I can now relax and enjoy the rest of my Sunday. I feel absurdly lazy and guilty about being lazy and guilty about not doing anything writing related. Seems I might hooked on this business.