All posts in Writing

1st April, 2011: A pinch and a punch and a…

… deep sigh of disappointment. Yesterday I talked about DC’s plans for their proposed Batman film reboot and a Justice League film for 2013. I said how doing a “reverse-Marvel” was a great idea.

Turns out they’re not doing that at all. The rebooted Batman and Superman will be standalone films.

Which is… entirely the wrong thing to do. If the Batman and Superman reboots are successful, then they will spawn sequels. Meanwhile the Justice League film – the crowning glory of the DC film franchise, the ultimate geekfest/nerdgasm/opportunity to throw in as many obscure superheroes as there were blink-and-you’ll-miss-it aliens and bounty hunters in Star Wars – will sit oddly on its own. Any films spun out from it – say, The Flash, or Green Arrow/Black Canary (oh, what I would do for that film), or Birds of Prey, or Hawkman/Hawkgirl (again, how amazing would that be?) – will be stuck in this second-tier film universe while the new Superman and Batman franchises steam onwards.

It’s peculiar and very disappointing. Marvel are doing it perfectly with The Avengers. Why can’t DC?

Le sigh.

Meanwhile, I hit another 2k on Hang Wire and finally have got down to the nitty gritty – secrets are revealed, plots are twisted, and the players move to their final positions. An unexpected plot strand appeared, but I’m pleased with that as it increases the stakes considerably for the final showdown.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 2,107
Words total: 65,289/100,000 (65%)
Total words for 2011: 95,269

Later today I have a major announcement to make, one which I’m pretty excited about. Stay tuned!

28th March, 2011: Wordcounts

Back to the schedule of a blog post first thing in the morning.

Yesterday, I mentioned that Scrivener had given me an extra 2,005 words on Hang Wire, somehow, after I upgraded to v2.0.5. This morning I tallied each individual scene, and the total wordcount is correct – 57,420. Unfortunately, I haven’t been tracking progress on an Excel chart like I normally do for a novel, but I’ll definitely go back to that for the next book. Scrivener is marvellous but it has given me strange wordcounts in the past, and the Project Targets function reports a different total wordcount to Project Statistics because it includes the front page (which has the title plus my name and address, in standard manuscript format).

I’ve actually had a few questions in the last week or two about wordcounts, and while I’ve talked about this before, it’s probably worth mentioning again. I tend to put a lot of emphasis on wordcount – I tweet about them (tweets which are cross-posted to Facebook), and post stats here – and the two questions tend to be: how do you know how much to write in a book, and surely you should be focussing on quality, not quantity.

In terms of knowing how much to write, that’s pretty easy. Unless you are a very well-established author with a strong track record of sales, or you are a natural writing genius and have produced a groundbreaking manuscript, nobody is going to buy your 250,000 word book. The average science fiction novel runs at 90,000 – 110,000 words, with fantasy going up to 150,000. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which includes cost – anything longer is too expensive to produce, unless it will sell in gargantuan quantities. And you’ll only sell gargantuan quantities if you are a well-establish author (eg, Stephen King) or a debut/newer author who has produced something out of the ordinary (eg, Patrick Rothfuss – although that’s not to say that a book needs to be long in order to be a bestseller, but it does have to be something out of the ordinary).

So with that in mind, and considering I’m writing books I want to eventually sell, my novels tend to come in at 100,000 – 110,000 words. Having completed four, I know what this kind of wordcount “feels” like and I know the work required. Hang Wire is only 57% done, but I know what is required and what is still to come to get it to the target of 100,000 words.

Which is where the daily wordcounts come in. Yes, you should focus on quality over quantity, always. But when you are working to deadlines (whether self-imposed or professional, I think you should always work to a deadline), you need to have a method of tracking progress. Wordcount is a simple metric – the simplest – and by setting a target of 2,000 words per day, I know exactly how long it should take to finish a draft. This allows me to schedule my time. Writing is an art and a craft, but for me it is also a business. It goes back to the whole thing about waiting for the muse to strike – you can’t. You have to sit down and write, whether you like it or not.

Incidentally, both Empire State and Ludmila, My Love gained about 10,000 words during the edit, so a 2k/day schedule isn’t just mashing the keyboard until Scrivener dings.

Of course, you must write the number of words that you story requires – no more, no less. With an outline of some sort – even just a skeleton – you should know approximately how long the story is going to be. There is nothing wrong with writing a 250,000 word novel at all, but just bear in mind that you probably won’t be able to sell it to anyone as it is.

The most important thing really though is to just not worry about it – don’t be put off if you see people posting high wordcounts on Twitter, for example. I might be pretty chuffed to reach 2,000 words, only for another author to tweet to say they managed 3,500 on the same day. Everybody is different, and that’s what counts.

14th March, 2011: We have normality

“I repeat, we have normality. Anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem.”

So wrote Douglas Adams in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It occurs to me that despite the first book being one of my favourite ever, ever, I’ve never actually got past book three in the series. Hmm. I think I should rectify that.


Routine. I love routine. I am a routine person. Me and routine get on like a house on fire. Disturbances to the routine annoy me. Returning to routine is like coming home.

Today I returned to routine: 2,000 words a day. As I said at the beginning of the year, if I can manage 2,000 words a day then everything else will flow. And I mean everything. Two thousand words a day is nearly three-quarters of a million words a year. With that kind of rate of production, you can really carve something good out.

As I type this I’ve only just done 1,044 words on Hang Wire, but that only leaves 956 to go later today. I split my writing into two sessions, as I find around 1,000 words is as much as I can comfortably write before I need to do something else.

Getting back to Hang Wire is interesting as with so long spent editing and working on other things which had rather more pressing timelines, I didn’t really remember the story that well. Or rather, I remember the story just fine (and I have an outline anyway), but I didn’t really remember what I had typed. After reading the last couple of scenes back, it was pretty clear this particular sequence wasn’t working and possibly isn’t needed at all, so I added a “to be continued” footnote and then went on with the next chapter. When it comes time to edit – and not before – I’ll encounter this sequence again and can then decide what to do with it.

I never edit while writing. Move forward, not back. And who knows, I could have spent a day fixing this sequence only to discover this time next month that the ending of the book requires something be seeded earlier in that very sequence. All that editing time will have been wasted for precisely zero progress.

Move forward, not back.

Yesterday I finished the edit of The Suicide Tree sample chapters. Overall they came to around 11,000 words, which was about 1,000 words more than when I started editing. Of course these chapters don’t quite fit the “don’t edit while you’re writing” rule, because I’m not writing any more of the book now unless it gets commissioned, and I need those sample chapters to shine. Of course, if I did write the whole book, those sample chapters may well need some tweaking at the end anyway. But that’s part of the risk.

Those chapters are out with my beta readers, and fingers-crossed I’ll be able to submit them by the end of the week.

11-13th March, 2011: Crisis on Earth One

So says the poster on my office wall, anyway (the cover of Justice League of America #21 from April 1963). Nothing quite so dramatic here, except for the fact that I haven’t blogged in two days, nor have I done anything writing-related (ie, writing, editing or planning). Remember when I said that if I don’t make a 2k day I get crotchety?

I think it’s because of the heavy week I just had – I didn’t consciously decide not to do anything, I just kinda… didn’t do anything. But, y’know, sometimes you need to recharge the batteries and reset the routine.

Today looks like another wet and grey Sunday, so the plan is to work some writing/editing schedules out. I’ve had a couple of things come up which need to take precedence soon, so need to work those into the gameplan today:

  • Need to finish editing the sample chapters of The Suicide Tree, send them out to my beta-readers, then revise as needed and submit to the publisher. I’m going to aim for Friday March 18th for that.
  • Hang Wire needs to be wrapped up – I’ve got 65k to go (ie, most of the book), and I had planned to get it finished by the end of March. This isn’t going to happen, clearly, but in theory 65k should be about 30 days. So at a quick glance on my wall planner, if I can get the first draft done before EasterCon (April 22nd), I’ll be happy.
  • Read faster. I read three books in January, one in February, and it’s now the middle of March and I’m still on book five.

That’s what I currently have on my plate, in addition to those couple of other things. Part of my planning today is to work out how those couple of other things fit. I need to think about these for a bit, so once I’ve got them programmed in, I’ll let you know.

Reading may seem less important, but actually it’s a vital part of the writing process. You have to read in order to write. I’ve noticed in the past that when my reading slows, my writing does too, and it’s never the other way around. The first month and a half of this year were very productive, and I was also whizzing through books. Then I got stuck in Firestarter, and everything else slowed down too. Firestarter has actually picked up now I’m past the first 150 pages, but I haven’t touched it much. So, finish Firestarter by the end of March. I have a house full of books to read!

So what am I waiting for? Time to jump to it!

6th March, 2011: I am Jack’s grinding envy

This is what I was supposed to be doing – updating the blog in the AM over coffee (or tea). For some reason it slipped my mind.

So, yesterday was a 2k day on The Suicide Tree. This project – which is just the first few sample chapters – is getting a little larger than I anticipated, but my characters have been misbehaving a little and not following the outline. Actually, that’s not true, they’re doing what they are supposed to do, but they’re talking too much and thinking too much.

What does this mean? Well, two things: that I’ve got strong characters – they’re starting to act and think on their own, which means something is working. Secondly, these sample chapters will need a bit of chopping when it comes to the redraft. This is generally always the case – it’s easier to write too much and carve out something really solid than write not enough and have to patch it up. The old clay on the wheel analogy again. I do need to get this finished, however, and soon. I’ve got about 65,000 words on Hang Wire to write by the end of the month. Also, by the looks of things, I’ve got a couple more things coming in around then that will be new to my schedule, resulting in a few other things being pushed back. This is fine though as it will allow some extra time to get the plot and outline of Night Pictures, the next book, worked out before I start on it. Note to self: find the real title of that book!

Project: The Suicide Tree (post-apocalyptic horror in storm-battered Louisiana)
Words today: 2,034
Words total: 9,113 (sample chapters only, no specific word limit)
Total words for 2011: 75,089

The other day I finished Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. I’m a big fan of the film – it’s in my top five films, easily – and have always meant to read the book. At a hair over 200 pages it’s was a nice, short read while I took a break from Firestarter by Stephen King.

Now, Fight Club is an amazing book. Amazing. In his introduction to King’s Night Shift collection, mystery writer grandmaster John D. MacDonald said “you read everything with grinding envy or a weary contempt”. He’s right, and Fight Club is one of those books that make other writers – like myself – despair. What’s the point in even trying when writers like Palahniuk have a natural talent for words which is part-genetic, part-occult science? Fight Club left me blinking at the page in surprise nearly every time I turned a leaf.

But here’s the thing. The film is better. It’s unusual, I know that. Usually adaptations, whether for TV or the cinema, are very much watered-down versions of the original. Most novels are far too long to adapt fully, resulting in something which is nothing more than an echo or afterimage of the source material. Sometimes adaptations share nothing but the name, diverging a long, long way from the source.

Short stories work better – The Mist, by King again, was made into a fine horror film in 2007. The film does differ from the original, but in this case works better – King himself even said that he liked the ending of the film more than his short story.

And so with Fight Club. Fight Club, the film, is more cohesive and satisfying, and Chuck Palahniuk agrees. As brilliant as the book is – and it is – there are parts where it doesn’t quite flow properly. Palahniuk wrote the book on 10-minute breaks at his day job, sometimes only managing a single sentence a day. While this is a terrific lesson for all writers that anyone and everyone can find the time to write (lack of time being the number one excuse for most people who say they want to write but…), this process sometimes shows up.

The film fixes this. Things which didn’t sit properly in the book were reworked for the film, and improved. Palahniuk himself is on the DVD/Blu-ray commentary along with director David Fincher and stars Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, and he agrees. The film is better than the book. This is particularly evident in the story’s major plot twist (which I won’t reveal here). Although I had seen the film and knew it was coming, in the book it feels very much like an anticlimax. On screen, no matter how many time I watch the film, the twist always makes my head spin. It’s all in the set-up and pacing of the reveal. In the book this is mostly absent.

Of course what you don’t get from the film is some of the breathtaking prose – some of the best bits are in the film, as part of Norton’s narration, but not all of them. This alone makes Fight Club a worthwhile read for anyone, but particularly writers.

Try it. You’ll learn something.

2nd March, 2011: How I won Wednesday

Made it. The required 2,000 words was hit today. This feels good. Actually, it feels better than good.

On the days I don’t hit 2,000 words, I’m in a bad mood. Just ask my wife. When I don’t reach 2,000 words, there’s no amount of tea in the world that can solve my problems. Woe, as they say, is me.

But when I hit 2,000 words, or cross it, something changes. The universe suddenly becomes a vast and wonderful thing, and life is precious and wonderful and something to be treasured. Seriously. Hitting 2,000 words is a buzz. 2,000 words and you have won the day. Your sole purpose in life has, for that 24-hour period, been achieved. Rejoice and be reborn and have the best cup of tea you’ve ever drunk in your whole life.

Etc, etc.

And when your 2,000 words are good – and at the vomit draft stage, ‘good’ means they don’t make you want to drink hemlock when you read them back… and trust me, there are days like that – it’s even better. This writing thing? I think I like it.

Here’s the stats:

Project: The Suicide Tree (post-apocalyptic horror in storm-battered Louisiana)
Words today: 2,052
Words total: 5,003 (sample chapters only, no specific word limit)
Total words for 2011: 70,979

Ooh, I’ve crossed the 70k mark on words for the year. Behind my target but quite a chalk, but words are words.

Also today both Vegas Knights by Matt Forbeck and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss arrived. I’ll be digging into Vegas Knights first, as I’ve been looking forward to it for months. And The Wise Man’s Fear has to go back to Amazon anyway as the back of the dust jacket was damaged in transit. I guess when a hardcover book is 1,000 pages long and about the weight of Harrier jumpjet (seriously, have you ever tried to pick up a Harrier? Those things are hea-vy) then the chances of damage increase. Oh, that and the single layer of thin card Amazon chose to wrap said book in.

And the sun was even out today. And I’m listening to some Joy Zipper. Not even Amazon’s crappy packaging can spoil today.

I win Wednesday.

1st March, 2011: That new start thing

Weeeell… I’m not doing that badly. The first chapter of The Suicide Tree is done and dusted (pending redraft, of course). It comes in at 2,951 words, which is probably a bit long for a first chapter. But it’s the clay on the wheel, as I am fond of saying.

Project: The Suicide Tree (post-apocalyptic horror in storm-battered Louisiana)
Words today: 1,732
Words total: 2,951 (sample chapters only, no specific word limit)
Total words for 2011: 68,927

Ooh, just short of the requisite 2k today. Dang. Must try harder. Although I did say it would take a couple of days to get back up to speed. So, all eyes on day three!

Also today I had a Skype conference with Kate about Godless, which was a pleasure as always as we try and figure out what happens in the next chapter. We do have an outline, but one of the problems of sharing the writing chores on a novel is that rather than just sitting down and getting your words out for the day, and then repeating that the next day, and the next, instead you have to process the proceeding chapter, work out where it digressed from the outline, have a Skype call to make sure you’re on the right track for the next bit, and THEN write your chapter.

As a solo writer, everything happens inside your own head and even if you head off on a tangent, you kinda know where you are going. When somebody else has written the chapter before, you have to analyse it and try and guess where the other person was heading. It’s an immensely fun process, and seeing a new chapter from your co-writer is always a surprise, but it is also time consuming. It’s Kate’s turn to write, and I gummed up the works a little by writing a gigantic chapter (at least twice as long as it should be) which is mainly a conversation between our hero and a local sheriff who is having a bad day. Fun to read (and write), but it took some unravelling to work out what needs to come next.

I’m not complaining. Far from it. But that’s what else I did today. Ain’t the internet a wonderful thing?

28th February, 2011: New month, fresh start

Well, in 2.5 hours’ time, anyway.

Today I did some writing (!), which I haven’t done in more than a week (not counting the 10,000 words added to Ludmila, My Love during the course of editing). Possibly as a result I only squeaked in today with 1,219, but I’ll allow myself a day or two to get back up to speed.

Those there words were the opening salvo on a new book, The Suicide Tree, which (for those of you catching up) is a post-apocalyptic horror novel I am writing a proposal for. The synopsis is locked (and was actually tweaked a bit today to tidy up a couple of loose ends), which just leaves a few sample chapters to write. Time is beginning to tick on this, so I want to get them done this week and then (hopefully) sent off next week.

Project: The Suicide Tree (post-apocalyptic horror in storm-battered Louisiana)
Words today: 1,219
Words total: 1,219 (sample chapters only, no specific word limit)
Total words for 2011: 67,195

March starts tomorrow, and it’s time to set some goals for that month:

  • Finish and submit the proposal for The Suicide Tree. This takes top priority, but the writing side of it should be done this week at least. Allowing for a few days of beta-reading, I’ll look at submission next week sometime.
  • Finish Hang Wire. I’ve got 61,000 words to go on this, and I’m taking way too long, although that’s mainly because I’ve had two spec projects to work on (proposals for Transmission and The Suicide Tree), plus a couple of chapters of Godless, plus the final edit on Ludmila, My Love. It might sound like I’m trying to do a lot of work at once, and that is true, but once The Suicide Tree chapters are done I’m home and dry for at least a month. And that’s a month I can use to focus on Hang Wire and get the first draft complete. The goal for this year was to write three complete novels – Hang Wire being the first (although I started it last year), plus two more. I need to put the pedal to the metal, just a tad, so it’ll be fulltime on this until the first draft is done. While I do have Godless to work on as well, the pace of that collaboration is slow enough that I’ll probably only have to do a single chapter of this during March.
  • Plot the next book, whatever that may be. Oh, my magic corkboard taunts me with ideas. I’m still thinking about Night Pictures… but what about Crawlspace? Or The Last of the Outlaw Truckers? Or The Hot Rock? Ah, decisions, decisions. So that’s for the list this March – pick one (the one that excites me the most) and hammer it out.
  • ‘Plot’ out four Escape Pod blogs. Seriously, Mur is going to paddle across the Atlantic and kick my ass if I don’t get this sorted (she knows Kung-Fu, too). I need to be organised and stick to a schedule, and also stick to a list of predetermined topics instead of idly looking out the window of my office for inspiration.

That doesn’t sound like too much, and after a hectic February should be a more comfortable workload.

Reading-wise, things have really slowed down. I managed three books in January (The Long Walk, Death’s Disciples, and The Dead Zone) but in February I managed only 150 pages of Firestarter before stopping (temporarily), and am about halfway through Fight Club (although Fight Club is only about 200 pages long, and a nice book to break with). I want to be reading three novels a month – one by Stephen King, and two not by Stephen King. It’s just a case of setting time aside, which, as a self-employed person who works from home, I’m not that good at doing.

The only other thing lined up for March is a trip down to London for the launch of the limited edition hardcover of Embedded, by Dan Abnett, from Angry Robot books on Saturday March 26th. We’re taking a couple of days off and will probably hit a show and take in a museum while we’re down there.

February just went so fast. March is going to be just as intense, writing-wise, but should be more focussed.

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.

17th February, 2011: Leave it to the reader

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. Suffice to say, it was far and away my favourite book of 2010. I hope it wins a BSFA award this Easter. I hope it wins a Hugo – it deserves to, for sure. I reviewed Zoo City and interviewed Lauren last year over at Dark Fiction Review, but a couple of things I’ve been working on reminded me of the key reason why I love Zoo City, why I think Zoo City works, and why I think it should win a lot of awards. Minor spoilers ahead, although I don’t think they do any harm if you haven’t read it yet (why the hell haven’t you, anyway?) because the book isn’t actually about this. This is just an aspect of it. I think it’s the aspect that is critical, but it’s nothing to do with the plot as such.

In Zoo City, nothing is explained. Nobody knows where the animals come from, or why they come to those who have committed crimes. Nobody knows how it started or quite when. Nobody knows what the Undertow is, although a few people have seen it in action. There are a lot of theories, but I like to think the (fictional) author of the academic paper on the Undertow presented within the book is well out of his depth, trying to apply current scientific understanding to a possibly supernatural, or at least super-normal, phenomenon.

Because none of the mechanics of being animalled are explained or understood, the reader gets the sense of something much larger and much darker at work. Suddenly the universe is far stranger place. With nothing explained Zoo City goes from being a medium-sized SF novel about a weird near-future South Africa to a small slice of much, much larger world, one that we (the readers) want to learn more about. When the book ends, the story itself is wrapped up but we’re left with a whole bunch of questions. We want more, more, more.

I know I’m a late-comer to this, but last year I discovered a “new” favourite film – Assault on Precinct 13, written and directed by John Carpenter (I’m talking the 1976 original here, not the 2005 remake). Assault on Precinct 13 is a very simple action film – a street gang declares war ona defunct police precinct, and it’s up to a rookie policeman Ethan Bishop to defend the building through the night with the help of convicted killer Napoleon Wilson. That’s all there is to it.

Why then does Assault on Precinct 13 – an action film with little action – qualify as one of my favourite films? Because nothing is explained. Napoleon Wilson is a convicted killer on his way to death row, but he doesn’t answer another policeman’s question about why he “killed those men”, and his actions suggest his crime was a far more complex affair than just cold-blooded murder. Ethan Bishop is a new on the job and we see him leave his house at the beginning but that’s about as much as we know about his background. The gang, Street Thunder, swear blood revenge on the police after several members were killed in a police ambush, but the apparently supernatural nature of their oath, Cholo, goes unremarked. Street Thunder also never speak, and when they retreat after the first siege at the precinct, they tidy the bodies of their fallen away very quickly. Too quickly, as one of the men inside the station comments, quietly, to himself. Are Street Thunder even human?

Leaving the details to the imagination of the reader, or viewer, is key here. The monster lurking behind a closed door, with only the sound of creaking floorboards and a shadow under the door, is much scarier than showing the thing itself, as the reader’s imagination goes into overdrive, filling in with ill-defined and generally impossible detail. Lovecraft was a master of this – while he often went to extraordinary lengths to throw adjectives at things (one of his key points of style, and another reason why he’s my favourite dead author), actual description was sometimes thin. He would emphasise the point again and again that something was horrific, terrifying, or mind-rendingly incomprehensible (and usually a combination of all three), without actually saying why or how. As a result, you create the detail yourself with whatever your subconscious can dream up. The end result is much more effective. It’s writing advice as old as the hills – leave it to the reader, leave it to their imagination.

Not everyone agrees, of course. I read a negative review of Zoo City which complained that nothing was explained and therefore nothing made sense. Likewise Assault on Precinct 13 has more of a cult following than a wider one, because a lot of original audience thought the lack of explanation and detail was a pulp-style shortcut on the part of Carpenter. Many critics slam Lovecraft for breaking the cardinal rule of show, don’t tell by doing the exact opposite.

The book I’m editing at the moment, Ludmila, My Love, and the synopsis I’ve just finished for another, The Suicide Tree, contain unexplained elements. In both cases I wrote what I wrote knowing that an explanation or mechanism would be needed, but that I could worry about that later. Now, working on both projects concurrently, I’m not sure I need to. If my point-of-view characters don’t understand what’s going on, do I need to break into the unfashionable omniscience third-person perspective (which would screw the rest of the book up, given that both are told from a couple of different third-person personal perspectives), or do I gift the knowledge of events to some other characters and have them infodump it somehow? And if so, why, exactly?

But I’ll just leave it, I think. I want to give the reader something to think about. I’ll provide the building blocks and the prompt, and they can go and create whatever they like.

Incidentally, as well as being eligible for the Hugo award for Best Novel, Lauren Beukes is still eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. While not a Hugo award, this is nominated, voted and awarded concurrently with the Hugos. Click here for more information on the Hugos and how to nominate and how to vote for them.

Hang Wire is pootling along nicely. I’m now into the second third of the book, and some bizarreness at the circus is starting to occur. In an unexpected twist of events, another character witnessed said bizarreness at first-hand, and was seen herself by the bad guy. I had planned this particular character to be present for the rest of the book, but it looks like she might meet a sticky end. I love it when the unexpected happens!

Project: Hang Wire (superheroes and serial killers in San Francisco)
Words today: 2,099
Words total: 35,975/100,000 (34%)
Total words for 2011: 54,960

It’s now full-steam ahead on Ludmila, My Love. I hope to get it to my beta-readers on 1st March, but we’ll see. The current draft is a little short (about 95,000 words versus the 100,000 to 110,000 that I want), but already by the end of chapter four I’ve added quite a lot of text, so by the time I hit the end I expect the numbers to be about right. I know for a fact that one particular sequence towards the end needs beefing up, and that might account for the additional words all on its own anyway.

Books: some pages of Firestarter by Stephen King. I’m enjoying it, but it doesn’t seem to have that page-turning quality that his other books do. I had the same problem with The Shining, which so far is my least favourite work of his. Anyway, keep on keeping on.