More Dragons to Give Away (4/7/2012)

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The Book of the New Sun didn’t go down nearly as well as I thought it would but now I have more books to give away, this time another pair of The King of the Crags and The Order of the Scales as one lot (again). That’s the UK editions and I will sign and line them if you want. Perfect for anyone who got The Adamantine Palace[1] but never got around to the others, and yes, I have several more lots to give away because I need to clear space for when the new covers come out. You haven’t seen the new covers? Go see the new covers.

As a reminder, by the way, here are the old ones. Usual story – leave a comment on this posts if you’re interested in two free books and the gods of random will make their choice come the weekend. Also, tell me whether you like the new covers better than the old ones or the other way round or neither. Also also, have I mentioned the new covers?

ORDER OF THE SCALES draft coverKing of the Crags - Draft cover

If anyone was following my MOPNOWRIMO projects earlier in the year, the one I did in February is going through what might be its last rewrite and the one I did in May, which I distinctly remember thinking sucked like a Dyson[2], is pushing two thirds through its first re-drafting and turns out not to be so bad at all, once you get rid of certain obstacles like one major secondary character doing too much vacillating, too much descriptive waffle and the pointless and unnecessary addition of a primary non-human antagonist when there was a perfectly good human one just sitting there waiting to be used. Once he didn’t have NO HANDS any more. Never give your villain no hands. Really. Just don’t.[3]

[1] To be clear: The books I’m giving away this time are parts two and three of a trilogy. The Adamantine Palace is part one.

[2] I am getting spam from purveyors of Tutus again. This is a test to see if I can get some more technically oriented spam, because as a purveyor of FIRE-BREATHING MONSTERS I find that tutus, even in spam-form, seem remarkably… well, wrong.

[3] See previous post on no-handed heroes if you really really want to know.

MOPNOWRIMO Day 33 (1/6/2012)

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Target Wordcount: Done

Actual words: Not done (OK, 95500 with probably about 10000 to go).

Sometimes my editor randomly tweets something that makes a lightbulb ping on in my head. I was about to give up on this and come back to it in a month or so after rewriting the first two books of the series, but I can see a little better what’s not working in this one now. First problem are the new characters. Not that they don’t serve a strong purpose, but they don’t get enough airtime to have the strength of the new characters that came into the second book (and took it over) and so they come over as a bit bland and dilute and fade into the background a little too readily. I think maybe this can be dealt with by introducing them earlier in the series, even if they are little more than named spear-carriers at that point. Second thing that’s not right is the antagonist. Not selling himself. And for a while I was going with a Mysterious Dark Force In The Background which is, in hindsight, weak. And not foreshadowed in previous volumes enough. And not necessary when there’s been a perfectly good antagonist waiting in the wings all along.

So a bit meh, but all is not lost, and here’s the great thing about doing three books at once – I can go back and change things in the first book to first the third. Even for us “seasoned professionals” it’s far from a smooth wride. I’m going to stop posting updates now. Maybe once the rewrite is underway. The mental consolation I take is that the book that’s with my editor now had serious problems at the first draft, grew by 60000 words at the second draft and I reckon it to be the best thing I’ve done yet. Ho hum.

Other news: The Alchemist of Souls has been my most popular book give away yet, which is cool for a début novel by a writer I’ve known for a very long time on and off. Winners have been mailed. Not sure what’s going to come up next but I still have that copy of The Witcher II for the Xbox.

Favourite spam this week: A link to a weight loss website (or so I assume from the site name) in a comment on The Order of the Scales congratulating me on “some great advice here.” Not sure what particular advice they meant, but yeah, I guess being chased by dragons across half a kingdom would do some good for the old waistline. I shall begin work on my next book at one: The Dragon Book of Dieting.

MOPNOWRIMO Day 29; Sniper in a Diaper[1] (28/5/2012)

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Target wordcount: 80000, actual words 74000

The big multi-strand climax is kicking off nicely enough and the Unassailable Fortress of Utter Impregnability in which our heroic heroes are heroically . . . well . . . barring the doors and muttering pleasegoaway pleasegoaway a lot is turning out to be quite a challenge but my antagonists appear to be up to it. Two unexpected strategies for bashing their way in already and I appear to have foreshadowed another and . . . and . . . Well, it’s working out as a denouement, which is a relief given how the rest of this has gone.

There is an inciting incident behind this series of books that was originally written as the prologue to the first one and then met the Devourer of Prologues and ended in the Big Prologue Bin In The Sky. It involved three people trying to steal a glimpse of something that had been snatched away by the Thing That Isn’t Quite Human because of it being a Secret With Which Man Was Not Supposed To Meddle. This trio has supplied my protagonist and my principle antagonists and here I am at the end of three books and the protagonist is in the right place (albeit currently imprisoned by the heroic defenders for being the Wrong Sort Of Person) and so is the antagonist and all is set up for the inevitable showdown. If this were a movie, we’d be heading into the final twenty minutes or half an hour or so where a bunch of CGI creations fight with another bunch of CGI creations and lots of CGI stuff gets smashed up and I frequently start to get a bit bored.

The story has written itself such that I have two minor characters stranded in the middle of enemy territory. Right now they almost literally don’t dare to move. Sooner or later, however, the principle antagonist has to pass by where they’re hiding. They know this. That’s why they’re there. And right now it’s so incredibly tempting to let it work. Let the hidden snipers take out the antagonist. Don’t have them fail with a near miss but let it work. Deny the story its great showdown, because in the real world it almost never happens.

I probably won’t. And if I do, I suspect my editor will object. But it IS tempting.

[1] Actually they’re not, but they wish they were because they’re stuck with not being able to move for days.

MOPNOWRIMO Day 27 (26/5/2012)

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Target wordcount: 75000, actual words 69000

Is it just me or was this more fun last time round? The final battle has started at last. That’s something. Not sure how long it’s going to go on. A while.

At this stage in writing a book, it usually feels like being on the home straight. I’m Red Five and I’m going in, and one way or the other there’s going to be a bang at the end. It’s not usually difficult to fly these last 20-30k words. This time…

See, a part of me knows I’ve got the right characters and I’ve got the right relationships between them and it does all come together in the right place at the right time, and everything that needs to be foreshadowed or at least mentioned before someone turned up and uses it has either been written in to one of the volumes or noted for inclusion (and there are several of those). The overall timeline is finally in order, the geography well enough set, the history finally all lined up. The next week of working on this isn’t going to change any of that, and now it feels like a wasted week. I want to go right back to the start of the first book and sweep through all of them and start putting all the details right. There are a couple of reasons for this – first it’s much much easier to do those rewrites, and secondly because I want to run from the start, now I finally finally can, and put it all together properly. Oh and also I want to submit some manuscripts.

However, I won’t be pandering to that urge. In part because it’s bad practice and poor discipline and the ending will always look like it had one rewrite fewer than everything else. But also because there’s always the chance that I’ll write the final page and some character will show clutching an antimatter bomb and it will be entirely right and proper and fit with absolute perfection into the narrative and the ending, and the only trouble will be that at no point ever in the three volumes up to that point has anyone ever mentioned that the viking-esque savages happened to also have an antimatter bomb.

So no, Stick it through right to the end with that first draft.

MOPNOWRIMO again day 23 (22/5/2012)

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Wordcount target: 59000. Actual words 57000.

I have completely lost sight of whether what I’m writing is any good or whether it’s rubbish. There are now half a dozen tweeks and twiddles that need to be engineered back into various scenes in the first half of the book, some of which I continue to forget when I should be remembering them and others are now being written in as though they were there all along. The result is what we, in the writing world refer to through our uniquely obscure jargon as A Write Mess(TM).

At this point I’m into the last half of the story and since that;s also the last sixth of the trilogy, the pace will be ramping up and the action will be building all the way to an end in which all the threads will spectacularly come together in a grande finale that is as inevitable as it is rewarding, or else they won’t. And in writing that section of this first draft, I will completely forget the rambling nonsense or insightful and swift yet precise character portraits of the first half. And by the end, I will have just as little idea as I do now as to whether what I’ve done is any good and will have completely forgotten all the fiddles that need to be done until I start the rewrite and look at the notes I’ve left for myself[1]

To some extent this happens every time. With the last one, it felt distinctly uneven throughout the first half too, and then settled later, and with the first half recast into that shape, it worked. At least, I think it did. The rewrite seemed easy enough anyway.

So I cross my fingers and my toes and prepare to send all my small attack craft on their final all-or-nothing mission to destroy the death star and come back covered in glory, and all the while, it’s never quite certain that Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon are actually in the story at all…

Nine days left. This isn’t going to be finished in a month this time.

[1] Things like A is going to have sex with B later. So they should act like they might at least secretly be interested in each other. Which I then forget in once scene, remember in another, and then forget again afterwards and it’s all like it never happened except for two chapters somewhere in the middle. Or the whole bit about the stuff that one group of characters are supposed to be carrying around with them that I keep forgetting they have. Sort of like the Wages of Fear where they not only keep forgetting that the nitro is there but it really does keep vanishing .

MOPNOWRIMO day 19: Spam (18/5/2012)

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MOPNOWRIMO update: Target: 45000 (mumble mumble) Actual Words: 45000, and no, after mid-afternoon Wednesday there was some , er, playing Dungeons and Dragons instead. Now I have to work weekends. Meh.
I continue to know exactly where this book is going. I have no idea how it’s going to get there or why it’s doing what it’s doing. I think I’ve largely given up trying to have any say in this one at all. It seems like its aiming for roughly the right conclusion. Maybe. People will have angst. People will manage their angst by a) exchanging angsty stories, b) having sex and c) hitting things. Not necessarily in that order. At the end, a lot of angst will be resolved, hopefully by hitting things rather than having a massive group therapy session.

In the book give-away, Eric was won by an Eric, which seems fitting, even if wasn’t chosen by something related to elephant seals in the end.

Spam. Spammers and spambots, you are rarely, but sometimes funny. Apparently I have killed 46,500-odd of your comments over the years this site’s been up, but your persistence, I feel, deserves some reward. So now and then I shall acknowledge you

“of course like your web-site but you need to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very troublesome to inform the reality however I will surely come back again.”

I feel I should respond to what is, after all, a very fair criticism:

Dear Spambot,

It is true. There are many, many spelling mistakes on quite a few of my posts. There are grammatical faux pas. This is because I inform the reality a great deal and do so at high speed with little application of critical judgement or peer review[1].

There. Other spam of note:

I’m curious to find out what blog platform you have been working with? Apparently from a purveyor of tutus.
Thanks for another informative blog. On a post from years and years ago on the crapness of a local supermarket.

…your “Diamond Cascade” page was difficult to find as you were not on the first page of search results. Yes it was, muppetbot. No site EVER pips me to top spot on that search term. Who the hell searches for “Diamond Cascade?” anyway[2]. Fuck off.

watch game of thrones episode 8 season 1 I thank you for your wise advice, spambot.
I enjoy what you guys are up too. Such clever work and coverage! Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my own blogroll. No you haven’t. Fuck off.

Spam: A fine way to while away the minutes when you were supposed to be writing. Heh.

More books to be given away on Monday.

[1] I’m even worse at novels.

[2] people interested in jewellery apparently

Something Funny Comes This Way (another book giveaway) (16/5/2012)

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So, my sword-toting sass-talking thieves aren’t quite as popular as a certain Mr Lynch’s eh? I shall try to look surprised. Did you know we have the same editor at Gollancz? No? Do you remotely care? no? I’ll shut up about that then and get on with what matters…

The next book I’m giving away is Eric by Terry Pratchett, again in the yellow hardcover Gollancz 50th anniversary edition. Usual rules apply – post a comment here if you’re interested or else reply to me on Twitter and a winner will be randomly selected on Friday afternoon after 6pm. Which sort of makes that the cut-off for registering an interest except I might not get around to sorting it out until later that evening due to acts of gods, small children or cats. The last winner was randomly selected by the OpenOffice random number generator, for those who care about such things and I’m contemplating selecting the next one through some random process based on an as-yet undetermined behaviour of elephant seals. They must do something random, right?

One day the random number is going to be chosen to be equal to the number of typos I later see in the giveaway post. One day…

I haven’t read Eric so I can’t speak for its virtues, but it was selected for the Gollancz 50 so I assume it’s good. Don’t say too many nice things though or I might decide to randomly select myself and keep it :-)

MOPNOWRIMO update: Target by new-plan-that-should-still-see-me-finished-by-the-end-of-the-month-honest: 40000 (but we all really know it should be 65000) Actual Words: 39100ish, but given I’m writing this mid-afternoon, there might yet be more. And also curse you trip to Tescos because we ran out of toothpaste…

Started the day with a sex scene. The next scene waiting to be written is a sex scene. Is it spring or something? Sometimes when I look in the sky I see a strange hot yellow ball thing that I have a dim memory of seeing before in some previous life. I think it must be an omen.

I’ve noticed a thing (trying to help the rest of you writers here): I’ve taken to going and doing some exercise some days first thing in the morning before I write, a little bit more than the usual re-arranging the DVD shelves or the old D&D miniatures. It’s becoming a consistent enough observation to convert into a theory – after a decent spree of physical exertion, I write more and faster for the next few hours. Is it better? I have no idea but I DON’T CARE!! Really not. That’s what the rewrites are for.

Look about those random numbers (you know who you are) – STOP IT! I was a mathematician once and I’m halfway to building a random number generator in my head to generate the method for generating a random number differently each time. It’s going to be dice now, OK. After the elephant seal thing.

MOPNOWRIMO Day 16: Helter Skelter (15/5/2012)

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Wordcount target: Sod this not-having-a-plan lark. Strictly 60000 by now but I used to work in an industry where no deadline was ever met if we could possibly help it and re-planning consumed 90% of the available resources (more if we were doing particularly badly). So it is and always was 35000, right.

Words written: 35000 (which tells you I re-baselined my plan today, doesn’t it).

Two weeks ago when I was writing the first chapter of this, I had an idea that this story was a straightforward action-adventure, the culmination of a battle for racial freedom and personal identity that was going to be resolved by lots of macho shouting and speech-making and hitting things with axes or plasma bombs or whatever else came to hand. With a nice satisfying resolution in which the Forces Of Bad(TM) are soundly beaten (despite it being touch-and-go right to the end) and the hero maybe gets the girl or maybe, for a slightly tragic twist, dies nobly in the Last Stand That Saves The Universe and gets to have his savaged body[1] wept over a little before all the Ewoks come out and the celebrations begin and there are fireworks everywhere for no apparent reason (did the Ewoks have firework technology? I think not. So what, some bright spark of a rebel logistics officer sat there and thought I know – assault on the new Death Star? Better bring some fireworks just in case?)

Apparently I was wrong. Apparently this is a story about two people who desperately want to be together but somehow neither can quite give the other what the other wants and needs without compromising what they believe in. With all the other stuff, too. If the Laser-toting Deathknights are absent for the next few chapters, that’s because they’re off getting basic training in relationship counseling and when they come back, it’s going to be with cups of tea and comfy chairs. Sheesh.

Sometimes, when the opportunity for a good run at this comes, I’m laying down 2000 words an hour. I dread to imagine the quality of it, but right now, I just need to get to the end of the damned first draft so I can find out what this story is actually about. Please?

[1] or the sub-atomic particles that used to be his body, in the case of plasma bombs

MOPNOWRIMO Day 11: Character Drives (10/5/2012)

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Wordcount target: Apparently writing an number down and then crossing it out and pretending that I’m pretending not to have one doesn’t count as just letting it happen at its natural pace.

Words written: 16500

I feel like this novel is roughly back on track. Taken a third of a month to get there but I might yet finish before the end of May. Meanwhile the fallout continues. I can see the characters who took over the previous volume fading right back into the background. This is maybe no bad thing, but so far they’ve shown no interest having any of the limelight whatsoever. Meanwhile the abandoned wife of my protagonist has snatched a chapter for herself and is greedily demanding more. This is a little awkward since her position has always been that going off adventurin’ is all irresponsible when you’ve got family to look after, and while there may be place in the genre for a domestic drama on the trials of single parenthood in the middle of a war, this novel isn’t it. Or at least it wasn’t supposed to be. Laser-toting Deathknights it is,then – don’t think I won’t!

Meanwhile my protagonist is drunk in a corner feeling sorry for himself because no one wants him and another secondary character has turned up who I suspect will make a similar bid for extended air-time. But this is all good.

The thing, I think, that went wrong, was this: I had my story arc all lined up. I didn’t give much thought to the characters because they were established characters from a previous volume. I reckoned they’d take care of themselves. And they did, and it wasn’t compatible with the story I’d set up for them and so the story was broken right from the start. Should have given some more thought to what I’d done to my characters and what that meant to them. This is what I mean when I say things like “my characters didn’t do what I wanted them to do.” Even though they’re basically my puppets. Mumph.

Other news: I’ve seen the draft covers for the re-issue of the Memory of Flames trilogy and if you’ve been following Gollancz on Twitter then they’ve given a glimpse of them too. I’ll wait until the final versions are ready but they’re going to be delicious.

I’ll put up the winner the winner of the Fenrir competition tomorrow, along with the next book up for grabs.

MOPNOWRIMO again day 9: Back to the Beginning (8/5/2012)

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Wordcount target: 35000; words written 10500

A case of going backwards to go forwards, having moved the resolution of the protagonist’s core dilemma back into the previous book; but that’s done now. Most of what I have now is an extensively rewritten version of the first four chapters I wrote last week. It still slightly bugs me that the first three chapters read like an extended prologue and lets-remind-ourselves-of-the-important-bits-of-what-has-gone-before but perhaps that can’t be helped. It bugs me slightly more that I’m already seeing warning signs that this book is going to be even less centered on its nominal protagonist than the last one. However, neither of these are necessarily bad things and it’s early days. What matters most right now is that the words are coming and the (a) story has started to flow.

I’ve been wondering over the last few days why I’ve had so much trouble with getting started on this month’s project and why the last one, by contrast, went so smoothly. I went back and read through the posts from those opening days, looking for any hint of fumbling for the story and that was how I remembered that last time I’d cheated by writing the opening three or four chapters quite slowly in odd pieces of spare time over the previous month. There’s a lesson there. Now I’m left wondering how important it is.

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