All posts by kate

About kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at writingandcoe.co.uk. When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.

The Process of Editing, Kate-Style

Am I getting better at editing, or am I just getting more picky?

OH I HAD THIS THOUGHT AT 3AM SO HAVE A RANDOM EMAIL ABOUT CHARACTER MOTIVATION

If you consider the villain as the hero for a moment, how do they expect their plan to work? What are the political, logistical and financial aspects? What do they expect to happen, and what steps have they taken to ensure that opposition is squashed or neutralised? And where do ridiculously huge, magical war-machines fit into all this?

More toe-bones for everyone!

Sometimes it’s not killing your darlings for the fun of it; it’s identifying the threads in the book, identifying the core story and the core moments, and taking short-cuts to get the characters there. It’s identifying something that builds the character up (or tears them down) and making that happen without the intervening 50-page build-up.

YOU CAN’T KILL THAT CHARACTER HOW VERY DARE YOU.

I don’t have a background in English Lit and I’m sure there’s proper words for everything, but I’m just going by “I’m not sure starting with action actually works, because he’s not in a place to command the narrative, ok? He’s coming in with no plan and then it absolutely fails which obviously it would. Him getting arrested is a much better place to start, because that’s definitely more in-character at that point.” I think I’ve ended up at literary theory via practise, which is basically pointing at a bit and going “I don’t like that, it would work better like this.”

…STOP THREATENING TO KILL THAT CHARACTER IN EVERY SYNOPSIS!

The idea of every scene being needed, and advancing the story; but! not necessarily for plot. Character interaction and worldbuilding are just as necessary. However – and another BUT here – that doesn’t mean that those threads can’t be wound into the plot-related scenes. Worldbuilding and character-building are two of the things that need to wind around the bones of the plot, and if you have a scene that just builds characters, check with yourself: do you actually need it? It could be The. Most. Adorable. Thing but if it just adds texture, could that texture go somewhere else? Could it be threaded into another interaction?

THIS IS SO GOOD AND COOL AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH

And the other side of that is that we do need to feel for the characters. We do need to care: otherwise it’s a bunch of DnD murder-hobos running around. Why is that specific character doing that specific thing? How would they react? What are their feelings about a thing? How are they saying something, or doing something? If you don’t have enough character building and then throw them into something, we’re just reading for your snazzy description of sword-play, and not because we’re genuinely worried about what could happen.

WE NEED MORE FROOF

(As you may have summarised, I’ve been doing a lot of editing recently! It’s been on a wide variety of books, which has been very fun – I’m going between space opera to the cutest necromancers to a rather terrifying dystopia to sword-fighting ridiculousness. It’s actually been really interesting, because I’ve read two of the books before – about five years ago! – and it’s been fascinating to see what I pick up this time versus what I did then, and also how much firmer I am in my opinions. Editors are as prone to Imposter Syndrome as anyone – and actually, probably more so, because we’re the ones that Know Best and Make Things Better and We Are Right – and it’s fascinating to me to see how far I’ve come from “so, if you possibly did this would it make this happen?” to “LOOK JUST REWRITE HALF THE BOOK OK?”

It is hard work. It is tough. It is a knotty, thorny minefield of character interactions, bits I don’t want to cut, characters I love, wordcounts I have to get down and threads I want to tug. It’s so so interesting to see how different writers approach things, and how their ideas feed into mine – and vice versa – to make a book stronger. But it’s also very very fun!)

(Also, I have the best authors. They’re all a joy to work with!)

A Basket of Reviews: June 2020

Long time no read! Or at least, I’ve been reading things that I already love, so there’s not a lot of point in telling you about them. But… I have managed to read some new things!

Embers of War by Gareth L Powell – a book about a poet on the run from people trying to kill her, a misfit-laden ship trying to rescue her, and the cracks left over from the previous war. Action-packed, thoughtful, decent characters, and I like Trouble Dog (the ship.)

Moontangled by Stephanie Burgis – a novella in the same world as Snowspelled. Cute, adorable, and needs to be longer! You do need to read Snowspelled and Thornbound first, though, but I don’t think that’s a hardship – Regency feminist magic with adorable characters!

Recursion by Blake Crouch – a romance for people who don’t like romance. Very hardcore sci-fi and action, but a love story at heart; definitely got some mind-bending stuff in it, but it’s all fairly follow-able.

Ninth House by Leah Bardugo – urban fantasy meets screwed-up student going to Yale… it’s got a nice dose of reality but I wonder if the “Yale is seriously messed up in a whole new magical way!” is the reason it was so popular? Fun character interactions though, it was a good read. Not sure if I’ll pick up the next one or not.

Aaaaand – I can talk about this now! The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison, Sherlock wingfic in a fantasy London, with a whole bunch of really good twists on the Sherlock canon. It’s ridiculously fun and I love it!

A Kate Update: May 2020

Still here, still going. Still grey. I have lots of posts I want to write but get halfway through and can’t get the words right. (Also, my hands won’t do what I want – I keep typing words wrong. It’s made emails a lot of fun.)

I just made almond & orange cake, and chocolate & orange cake (I had oranges to use up, ok?) The taste test hasn’t yet happened, but they smell good!

Bobble is asleep in his veggie box; his second-favourite place is on a different box, and his third is on his piece of packaging paper on the floor (maybe it’s cooler?). He’s still shouty, opinionated, loves cuddles and loves his new food. We aren’t so keen on the farts from said food, but hopefully they’ll decrease over time.

(Note the pigeon in the window above… we had a nest for a month! We got to see two chicks grow from fluff to pigeons, and then learn to fly. Bobble was Distinctly Unimpressed, and I think the pigeon was also Unimpressed. They mostly interacted nicely though.)

I’ve given up on the garden. The Otter has taken over it for me, as I have deemed it too large a use of spoons and just generally too much stress. However, we have finished painting the fence! At the moment I’m just letting everything grow – the irises in particular look gorgeous.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is my current go-to for brain-turn-off.

I have managed to read a couple of books – reviews to come, I hope! I’m also managing to get through full days at work, and not (always) needing a nap at lunchtime. I’m still sleeping badly, though, or at least waking up feeling exhausted even though I’ve slept.

Haven’t got the spoons to do a Happy Things post, but there have been happy things. I got some great card games for my birthday, and ate cake; I’ve been for some good cycle rides, and chatted to friends, and read some good books, and had plenty of Bobble cuddles. Work’s been going well – I get to reference Avatar The Last Airbender! – and I’m enjoying cooking.

On the downside, the grey has been getting worse, in some ways – I’m definitely not as bad in terms of emotion as I was, and I haven’t been breaking as much. But everything is still very flat and has now become more dream-like; I’ve been wondering where I am, or forgetting what the view outside the window looks like, or trying to remember what I did yesterday. (The last is a bit more of a problem for everyone with days all being the same, I suspect, but it’s still frustrating.) Grey and fluffy, maybe, rather than just grey? But I am being hit with random memories at odd times, which I think is a good thing; hopefully it means my brain is slowly healing. I’ve got another six months minimum on the anti-depressants anyhow, so it’ll be interesting to see how the summer goes.

So: still here, still going, still got Bobble snorkles!

Random Things from Kate Life

Still here, just trundlin’. I don’t really feel like I’ve got anything big to say right now, so I haven’t been posting – I just don’t know what to write. But have some mini-Kate updates, because I have managed to collect a small amount of interesting stuff.

Cat asleep in a box

First update: Bobble has found A Box. It’s always a little disconcerting when your vegetable box sprouts a small black hole, and even more disconcerting when it starts snoring… but it is now His Box, so we’re resigned to having a fuzzy, snoring void at regular intervals.

As you may have spotted on my social media, I’m still buying all the books for work. We’ve announced five and we’ve got *checks notes* two more to announce, and then I’ll do a round-up! I did start the process at different times with all of them, they just ended up coinciding… much to my contract-fuddled-brain’s dismay… but they are all AWESOME and I love them. I am currently in the middle of Cover Hell and will shortly be diving into Editing Hell – meant affectionately! I do like editing, especially when they’re amazing books – but it’s a lot of work!

On which note, if you want a good book to read that is now actually out and I can talk about, try Beneath the Rising from Premee Mohamed – it’s the sort of book that you root for the characters, and then you think you know what’s going on, and then it hits you with everything and you’re yelling at the author on Twitter because HOW VERY DARE THEY. You’ll love it.

Otter has been reading GreenSky, and is now onto the unpublished ones… squee! They’re enjoying them, and I think they’re enjoying access to the author – they keep asking me random questions and picking up on little things, which has been really fun. I’m getting flashes of the world opening up again, as if everything’s lifted off my shoulders, just for a second – unfortunately it isn’t any more than a second, but it’s bittersweet when it happens.

Bobble-cat in the garden

We took a Bobble out into the garden over the weekend – he was a little freaked out (I think partly from the fact someone was following him constantly thanks to the lead, and partly just NEW SPACE WAT DIS) but he ate grass and stepped in fox poo and mostly enjoyed himself. (We didn’t enjoy the fox poo. Luckily the smell wore off by the next day.)

I’ve had a stack of freelance work so most of my time has been spent doing that, but in between that, work and naps, I’ve been re-reading The Goblin Emperor, playing Sagrada and Carcassonne, and trying to stop my laptop falling off my lap because Bobble has decided that he wants to sit there. I’m remembering all my little life-with-cat tricks (slide your feet backwards because you don’t know if there’s suddenly a tail there; get tea and toast BEFORE you sit down; make sure everything is within reach; accept that you will have cat hair EVERYWHERE) and enjoying the snuggles.

Excuse me?In general terms, I’m not great, but still trundling along; physically I’m very up and down, either with all the energy or with none whatsoever. Mentally I’m going through bad points, but just fighting them off as best I can – they’re mostly unexpected and with no obvious triggers, which is very frustrating! The medication change is kicking in but with no major effects so far, so I’m mostly just plodding on as best I can and fighting weasels on the way. My partner has been looking after me, which is great, and so far *crosses fingers* we’re fine and my loved ones are fine, so I’m just hoping everyone stays safe.

On which note, Bobble is insisting that naps are the solution to all of life’s problems, but has also declared that our technique needs work. He’s always very happy to demonstrate correct technique, and remind us that we need to practise. He is a very dilligent teacher!

Foxes in Love - task failed

Image via Foxes in Love.

Comfort Reads

I curled up in bed yesterday (with fairy lights on) and picked up a stack of books as a comfort read. Some are ones I’ve mentioned before – Gideon the Ninth (obviously), The Goblin Emperor, Curtsies and Conspiracies, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.

But there’s also a couple of other favourites that got added to the stack. Caesar’s Women by Colleen McCullough – I absolutely adore this series. It’s told as a fictional story, but the characters are brilliantly brought to life, and I love that it’s so detailed. This one is also one of my favourite periods as McCullough points out where Cicero – beloved snob about his own glory – might have just , shall we say, amended the historical timeline a bit…

And Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s story in Made To Order, which has also been put up for free by Tor!

A Guide for Working Breeds

And Calvin & Hobbes. Who can resist?

Calvin & Hobbes dancing