Thursday, August 28. 2008
Tomorrow I'm off to Cornwall for a week of cream teas, cliff-top walks, and novel revision.
I'd hoped to finish my first pass at the requested changes for Consorts of Heaven before I left, but they're knottier than I first thought. I've ended up re-working much of the middle section, and I need to keep the momentum up so I can pick up any changes that reverberate later in the book as a result.
Still, hopefully the bulk of the hard work is now done, so I can spend some time with Beloved before the Large Hadron Collider is switched on and we all disappear up our own fundament.
Monday, August 25. 2008
For them as is interested, I've recently participated in an online panel for Bookgeeks.co.uk, discussing how authors feel about maps and illustrations. The results can be found here until this Thursday, after which you can access it by going to the Bookgeeks home page and looking up 'Author panels', of which there is currently just the one.
Tuesday, August 19. 2008
Actually just the one editor, but it was still pretty intense.
Consorts of Heaven is the first novel I've had seriously, professionally edited, as Principles only needed line-edits. The experience of discussing exactly what needed to be cut/altered/added with someone who has strong views and many years experience was certainly interesting. Doing it in a crowded Japanese restaurant felt slightly surreal at first, but once we got into the nitty gritty I rather forgot we were in a public place. Hopefully my chopstick waving attempts to explain the nature of (my) reality didn't put anyone off their sushi.
The rewrites for Consorts my editor has asked for aren't huge - the overall plot, structure and feel of the novel is fine, but changes are needed, and there are a fair few of them. When she explained why a certain element needed bringing out more, or a particular character needed a slight change of focus, I generally concurred. She knows her stuff. Actually achieving what's required will be challenging, but, hey, I'm up for it.
We also discussed my ongoing overall plot, as further expanded in Guardians of Paradise - and beyond. I'm glad to report she's happy with where things go next. Watch this space ... once I've done those re-writes.
Saturday, August 16. 2008
I've been sent another positive review for Principles of Angels, this one from the Fantasy Book Critic website.
I should probably go surf for some less complimentary reviews to stop me getting ideas above my station, but I'm too busy, what with preparation for the Milford SF workshop week, making headway on the first draft of Guardians of Paradise, and re-reading Consorts of Heaven ahead of next week's editorial lunch, where my editor's request for changes should be cushioned by free grub.
Yesterday, it being a rare fine day, I took the mss of Consorts into the garden to read through it. I had just got settled at the table when a shadow overhead made me glance up - then down again as something zipped through my vision. And there, in the middle of page 15, was a large, slightly purplish splat of bird poo, probably Jackdaw.
I've referred before to the 'shit-bird' that sits on a writer's shoulder and tells her what she's writing is shit, but this is the first time I've actually had a story physically shat upon. It's OK, I didn't take it personally. To be honest I'm just glad it didn't land on my head.
Wednesday, August 13. 2008
Making the journey from hobby writer to pro involves learning new lessons, and making various choices. Some choices, such as choosing to sacrifice large swathes of my social life for my nascent writing career, are major. Others, such as how to refer to my books in print, aren't. However, this is still a choice I feel the need to justify.
The convention, which I have been following on this blog, is to capitalise one's titles - so PRINCIPLES OF ANGELS. But though I've been doing this for months it still looks too vulgar, too in-your-face. Obviously I want the meme that is my story to get into people's consciousness, but not in a hit-them-over-the-head-until-they-give-in way. After all, I'm not American. So, though I'll continue using that convention when dealing with my agent, editor and other publishing pros (and I don't think I can be bothered to change my 'Novels' page just yet) there'll be no more of that loud stuff on this blog.
In emails I had started using the lazy approach of initial letters: so PoA for Principles of Angels, and, for Consorts of Heaven, CoH. Then we come to Guardians of Paradise. Hmm. No, perhaps not.
So, italics it is. Look at that previous paragraph to see why: they're elegant, they stand out, but I don't feel like I'm shouting in anyone's earhole.
Friday, August 8. 2008
Recently the real world has been intruding into my writing life. I've had to do extra hours at the day-job, and weekends have been - pleasantly - filled with festivals. Much of the time I have spent in t'garret hasn't been on actual wordsmithing. With the detailed comments on CONSORTS back from my editor, I've been considering how I can make the changes she'd like - none of them world-shattering, but most of them challenging - and what work I have done on GUARDIANS has mainly been outlining and research.
Which, in some ways, is fine by me. Because I dislike writing first drafts, especially beginnings. The process of getting those initial words down on the virtual page is best described using scatalogical metaphors: it's either like trying to pass a melon - agonising, slow, very hard work - or else it comes out in a formless and uncontrolled stream which, on closer examination, really stinks.
Given this, the excuse not to write was, at one level, quite welcome. But deadlines wait for no woman, and whilst my preferred target of two new chapters a week has been totally unrealistic for the last few weeks, before I departed for this week's festival I was determined to at least finish the chapter I'd been fiddling with for the last week.
So I did. And I really enjoyed doing it. I can't remember the last time I savoured the experience of writing so much. It helps that I'm dealing with characters I know well, but even so I was surprised at the steady, easy pace I managed. And I was delighted with what was emerging from my head. Every word felt right as I wrote it, something I almost never get in first drafts.
I know from experience that the first drafts I find easiest to write tend to be the ones that turn out, on examination by critiquers or by myself after a decent interval, to be, ahem, in need of the most work. This may well be true of what I've done this week. I also know that I'm on the easy bit of the book, the section where I know what everyone's up to, and they haven't started to go off and do stuff that messes up my nice neat plot. But even if very little of what I wrote survives to the final draft, it was time well spent.
Tuesday, August 5. 2008
This week, I have mainly been plotting. I find dancing a surprisingly good way of working on gnarly plot points, and with festivals the last two weekends and another this weekend, there's a lot of that going on at the moment. My friends are very understanding of my tendency to suddenly exit the Mosh/Morris pit (Morris pit being the folk festival version), whip out a notebook, and start scribbling.
In other news, my editor has now given me detailed feedback on CONSORTS OF HEAVEN. She's very happy with it overall, and none of the points she raises are major; in fact most of them are things I had already wondered about myself. Work still needed, though, and I think a trip up to t'Smoke might be called for so we can discuss her thoughts in detail.
And finally, on Saturday, while I was knee-deep in mud and cider in a field in Hampshire, no lesser organ than The Times reviewed Principles of Angels. As well as being pleased at the largely positive review, I feel honoured by the company I'm keeping there.
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Consorts of Heaven
"A potential star in the making" SF Crowsnest