“His knuckles clenched” (13/4/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

All us writers have our quirks. I think mine might be clenching things. I’ve begun to notice that a lot of clenching goes on. Fists are clenched. Jaws are clenched. I might even have clenched some toes, although thankfully I appear to have self-edited that out. No buttocks, I think.

Here are the summed stats for a couple of novels of mine whose titles I shall keep jealously to myself.

First draft: 26 clenches
Second draft: 33 clenches
Before the edit: 29 clenches
After the edit: 26 clenches
Final draft: 20 clenches

This is the sort of thing that you start to notice (if you’re lucky) when you read your work aloud, and I’ve been doing a lot of that of late. Is this a lot of clenching? Maybe it isn’t, but I feel it might be. I think a few of my characters have my copy-editor to thank for not having serious impacted molars and possible tendonitis in their knuckles by the end of their stories. Admittedly, many of them have bigger problems to worry about by then.

Contrast this to eyebrow raising from the same two novels:

First draft: 10 eyebrows raised
Second draft: 4 eyebrows raised
Before the edit: 4 eyebrows raised
After the edit: 5 eyebrows raised
Final draft: 5 eyebrows raised

Admittedly, the two novels in question are more knuckle-clenching than eyebrow raising in nature, but see how the eyebrows get self-edited out at an early stage, while the clenching goes up instead of down and needs an editor to get under control? Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with a bit of clenching, but judging from conversations at Eastercon, I reckon most writers either have or had a blind spot somewhere.

“The author, having become aware at last of one blind-spot whose mere existence greatly raised the likelihood of others, felt a familiar tension. A frustration born of his own imperfections. He clenched his fists.”

And this, ladies and gentlemen, among many other things, is why we have editors and copy-editors.

Lightening Cannon (28/3/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

When I was doing MopNoWriMo back in February and blogging about it every day, that was because something was happening every day. Or most days. Five thousands words is easily enough for your entire story to either explode in a cacophony of wonderous possibilities or implode into Black Hole of Failure, resolutely impenetrable behind the Event Horizon of Contradition.

In the last month, I’ve been editing and polishing. That is to say, taking on board editorial suggestions from my editor for The King’s Assassin, and polishing up Dragon Queen and Sodium Hydride Volume I getting them ready for submission. In general, these days are nowhere near as exciting as the ones where that raw first draft gets laid down. However, I’ll do my best to pass on a few lessons over the next few days.

Lesson 1: When writing a story in which lightning has a significant presence, for example, say, as an attempted defence against a marauding dragon, DO do a Wordprocessor search for lighting and lightening. Not that either of these are necessarily wrong at any given time, but as substitutions for lightning, they’re damn hard to spot by eye on a read-through. There are probably some other word-pairs that merit a search too. From/Form for example, but I’ve had most fun with lightning errors:

“Sir! The dragon’s coming right for us!”

“Fire the lighting cannon, soldier!”

<soldier fires cannon>

“Excellent work, soldier! Now that the scene is lit up with special effects lighting, the shattered shards of our flying glassips and the trailing burning remains left as our zeppelins plunge to their doom are vastly more aethestically pleasing! And truly, that dragon is now far more terrifying to behold now that a carefully designed interplay of light and shadow accentuates its size and savagery. Soldier? Where are you going? Soldier! Come back! There could be an oscar in this…”

Or else the lighting cannon unleashes a hail of Ikea lampshades and other assorted fittings. I’m not sure.


“Sir! The dragon’s coming right for us!”

“Fire the lightening cannon, soldier!”

<soldier fires cannon>

“Excellent work, soldier! Now that the colossal still-heading-right-for-us-and-apparently-undetered-in-any-way dragon’s colours are now all pale and washed out, surely it is no longer a threat… Soldier? Soldier!”

Some typos are worth it though.

Baros Tsen levelled the wand at the intruder. “You will never get out of here alive!”

“I will kill you first!” The assassing leapt to one side. Tsen fired. Despite the assassin’s speed, the bolt of lightening hit him squarely in the chest. The two of them stopped and regarded one another, breathing hard.

The assasin frowned. “Actually, this is a pretty heavy scene, dude. Couldn’t we just, y’know, chew on a couple of pieces of Xixic and maybe talk our differences instead”

Tsen shook his head in relief. he started to laugh. “You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for someone to say that. I’ll open the apple wine. Strictly’s on in a bit if you want to stay.”