What I’m up to - August 2022
The waning days of summer and another finished novel.
This is a cross-post from my current Now page. You can also get these updates (and other cool stuff) in your inbox by subscribing to my newsletter.
August was another big writing month, but it was, shall we say, front-loaded somewhat.
- I finished up the first draft of The Disaster Club on July 26th, then spent a few days prepping to do two edit runs in early August. My rough goal was to get a draft to my agent by the middle of the month - a goal that I pretty much hit, I’m happy to say.
- Word count-wise, that meant a low ‘new words’ count for this month of just over 5,000, which was entirely new scenes, dialogue and bits and pieces added to the draft. That was counterbalanced by a lot of cutting - I lost over 10,000 words from the total word count in that two week editing window. In practice, on any given day, I might actually write 2,000 new words and cut 900, for example, so my daily word counts were aggregate. At a guess I think I probably wrote about 10k of new stuff, and cut about 18-20k, so it rounded out to a 12k total loss from the overall word count.
- What did this look like in practice? Well I started by doing a structural edit which took about nine days or so. That involved cutting a bunch of scenes, moving some stuff around, gutting and redrafting the ‘mushy middle’ that I wrote when I was recovering from Covid, moving several incidents from one city to another and doing the big fixes suggested by members of my critique group. Once I had that done, I then did a full read through on my Kobo, in the same way as I describe in this post about my editing process. Then I spent two days working through all of my editing notes and rewriting the ending based on some (excellent and extremely timely) beta feedback.
- My spreadsheets tell me I spent about 49 hours on this edit, over those first couple of weeks. So it was fairly intensive, alongside my day job. Thankfully, I managed to time sending the draft to my agent with the beginning of two weeks off from my day job, so I’ve had a very restful couple of weeks with absolutely no writing at all, bar what you’re reading now.
- The Children of Gods and Fighting Men by Shauna Lawless - Okay, this doesn’t release until tomorrow, but it’s on its way to me and I am super excited. Shauna is a fellow member of both Edinburgh SFF and my critique group and I have been following her journey to publication since before she signed with her agent and publisher, so it’s going to be amazing to have this book in my hands. The hardback cover is stunning and the reviews are stellar. If you love a bit of Irish mythology and historic fantasy, do yourself a favour and get a copy. And if you’re in Belfast, get along to Waterstone’s for the launch tomorrow.
- I’d normally have at least one more book in here, but honestly when I’m editing it’s about all I can manage to get through my own stuff. And on my holiday so far I’ve been reading a lot of short SF from Clarkesworld, Terraform, Interzone Digital and Fantasy magazine that I had queued up. I did also get to beta-read a terrific novella from a writer friend, but I don’t know how much I can talk about that, so I will err on the side of caution.
- One regrettable side effect of the editing push is that I slacked off on daily walking and seem to have relapsed a bit with the Covid shortness of breath after-effects. But I’m back on my daily walks and feeling it ease again, so I think I need to gradually work on rebuilding my cardio fitness. Plus, walking is excellent thinking/talking into my dictaphone time. I replotted the whole middle and ending of The Disaster Club with several long walks at the start of the month.
- I’m still greatly enjoying Casey Johnston’s LIFTOFF: Couch to Barbell program. Now that I’ve moved onto serious weights with the dumbbells, it’s having a noticeable impact on how I feel about my body. The main thing I’m stoked about is that all the little twinges I used to feel in my back and shoulders and neck when I stood up quickly or spent a long time in one position are going away. And yesterday I carried two 30kg bags of compost without any hassle or worrisome creaks in my joints.
- I finally made it down to Englandshire to meet some of my colleagues in Bristol, a city I’ve never visited before. It was immensely humid and sweaty when I was there, but it was great to finally meet some people and dip my toe back into travel. I was extremely the odd-one-out in terms of masking down south though, I think I saw one other person in a mask the whole time I was there. Wild.
- Up next I’ll be finishing up my holiday, then waiting for feedback from my agent. In the meantime (since I may have to jump on revisions quickly) I’ll be working on drafting and editing short stories. I love doing shorts between novels, since they’re fun to write, I can complete them in a few days (instead of weeks or months) and they give me an opportunity to play with lots and lots of different ideas, settings and characters that might not fit in a novel.
- I’ll also actually, for sure this time, write some blog posts. I’m curious - if you’re a newsletter subscriber, would you like some blog posts to be sent to you as well? Or are you here just for the monthly roundups? Ping me on Twitter with your thoughts.
I’ve been doing a lot of catching up with short fiction and stuff I bookmarked ages ago, so you are now going to be the beneficiaries of my last two weeks reading in the garden.
- I really enjoyed The Tails That Make You by Eliza Chan, a short (urban?) fantasy piece based on the Chinese mythology of the nine-tailed fox spirit and a powerful piece of writing about gender expectations, misogyny and family dynamics. It is a beautiful and moving piece of writing.
- A great interview with Shauna Lawless about her new book, The Children of Gods and Fighting Men.
- I thought this was a fantastic interview from Michael at Track of Words about the challenges and opportunities of doing IP-based work, in this case a duology for the Black Library, who publish tie-in work for Games Workshop’s roleplaying games. It’s a really in-depth and thoughtful interview, with a second part coming in September.
- Loved this interview with agency compadre Adam Simcox from the amazing guys at the Page One Podcast.
- This is a fascinating breakdown of a successful query letter from Genoveva Dimova. I’m totally going to do one of these myself, I reckon. Every little helps those labouring in the query trenches.
- Megan O’Keefe did a great thread on managing copy-edits and revisions that chimed pretty strongly with how I like to work.
- Here’s one weird trick for getting past sticking points in your first draft from David Dalglish.
- Really enjoyed this two part interview (part one, part two) with Peter V. Brett over on the Wizards, Warriors and Words podcast.
- Finally, I really enjoyed ‘Always Home’ by Jeff Vandermeer over at Terraform - it was an excellent take on a protagonist with an unusual POV and had some really great, vivid imagery.
And… that’s your lot. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably shaking your head a lot at the news and feeling like we’re in for a bleak winter. But we’ll do our best and we’ll get through as well as we can. Keep reading, keep writing and I’ll see you in September.
If you have a question, suggestion or something else you’d like me to write about, please get in touch over on Twitter.