What I’m up to - June 2022
Hey June, don’t bring me down…
This is a cross-post from my current Now page.
June was a month of things coming home to roost, in good and bad ways.
- June’s been pretty decent, all things considered (see below).
- I got a nice solid 30,000 words in June, despite Covid knocking me flat for a couple of weeks. Not quite as productive as May was, but I think I can forgive myself for that.
- That’s brought the current draft of The Disaster Club in at at 80,000 words or so, with a target of 100-110k and a post-editing target of 95-100k I think. It’s gone pretty well and the story is roaring along nicely.
- Me and the crew at Edinburgh SFF have really enjoyed our ‘EdNoWriMo’ - it’s been fun seeing people checking into the Discord channel with their daily numbers and cheering each other on.
- My experiment in ‘editing as I go’ was somewhat derailed by my Covid bout - when I lost a week, I started just writing first draft material because I didn’t feel in the right headspace to do any editing, so now I’m looking at a mostly-finished novel that has had some light editing done on the first 30,000 words or so, but otherwise hasn’t been touched. Oh well, maybe next novel.
- I got confirmation the other day that Carapace is coming in the next issue of Clarkesworld, out tomorrow! I’ll put out a blog post about it once it’s up. I’m super excited to see what the response is to this story - it’s both a more straightforward SF action story than my last one in Clarkesworld, but has a lot more going on in terms of metaphor and allusion. I really hope readers enjoy it.
- A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles - I got this from the library on the recommendation of my friend Nick and it did not disappoint - one of those books that is just absolutely bursting with voice and characterisation and gorgeous language. It had a sense of texture and place so dense it was like I could taste it. In some ways it actually reminded me quite a lot of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - it had a similar quasi-comic feel, incredibly memorable characters, dashes of tragedy and a tendency to linger in the memory. Highly recommended. If you’re a writer trying to get a sense of how to make characters jump off the page, this is essential reading.
- Refuse to be Done by Matt Bell - I’ve just finished this (I stopped to finish A Gentleman in Moscow) and it’s a great book. The suggestions that Bell makes about the second redraft (effectively rewriting your book from scratch with the first draft as a guide) is an interesting one - it’s actually something I tried in the past and it was a) a ton of work and b) didn’t, I felt, result in a substantially better book for me. But overall I’ve got some good stuff out of this book.
- My jury duty turned out not to be too tough - I was on call for selection for a day (at home), then I was excused.
- Of course, the joke was on me, as I then went and got Covid. It laid me flat for a week and I’m still recovering, with an annoying lingering cough. Zero stars, do not recommend.
- Before I caught Covid, though, I had one of the best long weekends I’ve had in literal years - a wonderful night away with my wife for our fifteenth anniversary at Peebles Hydro (a gorgeous grand old hotel in the Borders), followed by three days of amazing panels and meeting people in the flesh at Cymera Festival, which was in-person for the first time since 2019.
- Cymera was amazing - I participated as a weekend ticket holder, a volunteer and a speaker, with an open mic reading from The Burning Line on the Saturday. Ooo, green room access. I had several biscuits.
- I also really enjoyed the workshop I attended with Gareth L. Powell - he’s every bit as nice and knowledgeable and kind in person as he is over on Twitter.
- After my ankle injury (which is still not quite healed) I’ve decided to give running and cardio generally a bit of a rest and instead focus on building up some muscle strength and flexibility. I was inspired by this column by Casey Johnston about how and why she started strength training. I hugely identified with her experience of finding cardio and weight-loss focused exercise an annoying chore and not feeling like it was doing much for me. I’ve signed up for her LIFTOFF: Couch to Barbell program, which seems like a really good introduction to strength training for a relative newbie like me. We’ll see how it goes.
- I’m three quarters of the way through my novel draft, so I’m starting to think about what comes next. I think I’ll have a first draft finished mid-way through July, then incorporate beta feedback and send it off to my agent towards the end of the month.
- There will be some gaps while I wait for beta and agent feedback in July and August, so I think my next move will be some short fiction while I wait on that - I prefer not to get enmeshed in a new novel-length project while there’s a good chance I’ll be required to dive back into edits on the last one at short notice.
- As for blog plans, I’ll kick off July with a post or two about my new short story Carapace, then I will dig into my well of blog post ideas - I’ve got a whole list of things I might write about, like how I outline, how I assess opportunity costs when trying to decide what to write, how I use Scrivener and more. If one of those sounds more appealing than the others, or you have a question you’d like me to answer, please get in touch over on Twitter.