What I’m up to - October 2022
Birthdays, holidays, short stories and second-round edits.
October was weirdly warm in Scotland, and a quiet month (for me) writing-wise. I also turned 41. It’s largely the same as being 40, at least so far.
- The month started with second round edits on The Disaster Club, developing a character here, adding a clarification there, polishing a scene over there. It was also the Dreaded Moment where I had to transition to working in Word, so that my agent was able to see just what had changed, rather than re-reading the entire novel.
- I deeply wish that Scrivener had better collaboration tools, or that Word didn’t suck so hard for managing a novel-length manuscript, because hoo boy did it suck to switch into Word. I learned the extremely hard way that changing your ‘Normal’ text format can have large scale and unforeseen consequences right across the manuscript. Then I couldn’t get Track Changes to work on my iPad. But once I settled down and did a bit of Googling to remove the most egregious annoyances, it was… fine. Still, it’s a piece of software optimised for writing business documents of a few thousand words. It’s terrible for writing novel length prose, especially when the editing you’re doing is structural or requires comparing sections. But it’s the industry standard, so what can you do?
- I ended up adding about 2,000 words or so to the draft in small scene changes and edits, so it’s a comfy 108k or thereabouts now. And now it’s back with Harry and I return to waiting.
- In October, I finally (FINALLY) got back to some short fiction, after spending the entire summer on The Disaster Club. Now I have one new story out on submission and another one that’s been lurking in my Trunk that I’ve resurrected. I’m working on that this week.
- Centres of Gravity by Marko Kloos - I’ve been reading the Frontlines series by Marko Kloos for a while, and for my money they’re some of the best military SF around. Marko was a soldier in the German Bundeswehr and it comes through in the writing - the soldiers and flight crews in these books sound authentic, even though they’re fighting huge three-legged aliens. These are great, approachable SF novels that I highly recommend, especially if you want something that’s not a media tie-in.
- I got to stop reading The Disaster Club, then immediately started reading another draft of another book - what I’m calling PROJECT SHARD below. I think I’ve read enough of it now that I’m reasonably sure I’m going to work on it for the rest of the year, so maybe November will be the month I get back on my reading game.
- I wrote a process blog post about how I’m experimenting with editing-as-I-go, starting with the most recent novel. It was really great to get back to the blogging after a few months of just doing these update posts.
- It was a much quieter month writing-wise this month, since I was working on short fiction. So I managed to take a week off for my birthday.
- We also had visitors from the US during the week off, so we got to play tourist in our own city and country, including visits to North Berwick and Rosslyn Chapel.
- I’ve continued with daily walks, twice a day. I’m definitely finding that having a hard end to my working day (and not just swapping keyboards and launching straight into writing work or just surfing the web) is very good for my brain. And I’m consistently hitting 10,000 steps a day or more, which helps with the cardio fitness.
- I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit with my lifting program, but the cool thing about lifting is that you can always just dial back a bit and start again. And if I’ve learned anything from establishing various good habits over the past few years (writing, walking, regularly backing up my hard drive), it’s that making it very easy to re-start is the key to eventually making things stick.
- I managed to get some short stories done at the end of October and I’ll finish at least one more in November I think. Maybe two.
- In my last newsletter I said absolutely positively I would be working on short stories for the rest of the year. No more novels for me this year, no sirree. Unfortunately, I then started reading a draft of a novel I wrote and trunked a year back. It’s unfortunate because it’s actually pretty decent? It’s over-long and definitely a first draft, but I think it’s workable. So I’ve decided I’m going to start prodding at it and feed a few chapters through my critique group. I’m not committing to it beyond that, because I may need to switch focus if things happen with the books that are on or about to go on submission. But I normally need to force myself to read my own drafts and I’ve not had that problem with this book. It’s pretty fun! I’m going to give it the codename (fun!) of PROJECT SHARD.
- In November, I’m going to finally try and crack an effective project management process for my own writing work. At the moment, I have various notes, tasks, tracking spreadsheets, kanban boards, lists of links and a bunch of other things, spread out across a dozen different tools. Right now I’m researching One Tool To Rule Them All. I think it might be Obsidian, but I fear the Extreme Nerdery that may ensue if I start poking around in plugins. A markdown-based system is extremely appealing though. We’ll see. And whatever I end up working with, I’ll be sure to document it with a blog post or two.
- A lot more blog posts in the pipe for November. Writing the editing post I put up a couple of days ago reminded me how much I enjoyed blogging. As always, if there’s something you’d like to see on the blog, give me a shout on Twitter.
- Speaking of Twitter, I’m watching a lot of people I like and respect bailing on the platform, which is a not unreasonable reaction to what appears to be an incoming management culture that seems like it may drastically accelerate a lot of things I dislike about Twitter. I’m going to stick around for the moment, but I’m keeping an eye on the wider picture. And you betcha as soon as literally any other platform gains any sort of equivalent traction, I’ll probably bail too.
This month I actually remembered to keep a list of stuff that I saw on the internet, so this section was a lot easier to put together:
- I really enjoyed this thread of early-career writing advice from Allison Ashley.
- Dong Won Song’s excellent newsletter Publishing is Hard is back. Well worth subscribing.
- If you’re new to subbing short fiction, make sure to read Matt Kressel’s thread on the realities of slush pile reading and why there’s no such thing as a ‘too quick’ rejection.
- This is a fantastic list of reading, resources and teaching on SF, solarpunk and climate fiction.
- If you’re on submission, this is a good overview of the many reasons your manuscript might be ‘stuck’ at a publisher. TL;DR, publishing continues to be a bit of a mess, three years into the pandemic.
- I am 100% here for this thread about why how focusing on the ‘magical’ aspects of writing culture can often do us more harm than good. Count me into the ‘fun, amazing job, but still work’ side of the writing coin.
- This is a brilliant primer for how to vet the agents you add to your query list on PubTips, AKA the only good reason to go to Reddit.
- This post about one particular writer’s ‘tech stack’ of tools they use was really interesting and started my own process of assessing what I use myself.
- My agency compadre Frances White wrote about how she got her book deal.
- And of course once you get that deal, you’re going to need a survival guide for your book launch.
- Revving up for NaNoWriMo? S.T. Gibson has a great thread of tips on how to get seriously chunky word counts.
- Getting ready to query? Don’t miss this terrific thread on the role query letters actually play and how to approach them from CL Polk.
We’re onto our second Prime Minister since my last newsletter, so October definitely did not chill out like I hoped it would. But the year is drawing slowly to a close, it’s Hallowe’en and soon the festive season will be upon us. It’s a perfect time to turn off Twitter when the sun goes down, grab a few books and coorie down (as we say in Scotland) for the coming winter.
As ever, keep reading, keep writing and keep moving.
If you have a question, suggestion or something else you’d like me to write about, please get in touch over on Twitter.