Tag Archives: gottakeepreading

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!

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

Review: Empire of Sand

Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha, #1) by Tasha Suri

Empire of sand coverA NOBLEMAN’S DAUGHTER WITH MAGIC IN HER BLOOD
AN EMPIRE BUILT ON THE DREAMS OF ENSLAVED GODS

Mehr is a girl trapped between two cultures. Her father comes from the ruling classes of the empire, but her mother’s people were outcasts, Amrithi nomads who worshipped the spirits of the sands.

Caught one night performing these forbidden rites, Mehr is brought to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, who try to force her into their service by way of an arranged marriage. If she fails in their bidding, the gods themselves may awaken and seek vengeance…

You know a book is good when you have to tweet the author (who is a friend, I don’t usually tweet at random authors) going WHAT EVEN IS THIS and I HAD OTHER STUFF TO DO TODAY and YOU ARE A MONSTER.

It’s so, so readable, and I’m annoyed that it took me this long to get to on my TBR.

The setting is haunting and beautiful and I love the multiple cultural inspirations that wind together but never feel like something wholesale borrowed; the characters are believable (and this from me, who ranted about a book with no character agency and I  also really hate the cliches that usually come with this sort of plot because just URGH but this time, YES); the plot has a whole bunch of twists that are built up nicely and tug you along; the magic system is lovely and I love the learning process and just-

I love it.

cover of realm of ashIt’s a running-away-from-home and finding-yourself and realising-the-world-is-mean (actually, more like “realising the world is mean in a whole variety of ways”) and slow-falling-in-love and people-are-actually-kinda-decent and some beautiful magic and landscapes and settings and YES JUST GO READ IT OK.

Also I immediately bought the second one (Realm of Ash) and devoured it so there’s that.

I know I normally do slightly better reviews but it’s readable and lovely and annoying and it’s the type of book that’s exactly what you need for a rainy day when you have a sofa and a cup of tea. So just buy it, ok?

Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

EVERY STORY OPENS A DOOR

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored and utterly out of place.

But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page reveals more impossible truths about the world, and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

I have loved Alix Harrow’s writing ever since reading one of her short stories (I’ll remember the name at 4am, don’t worry…) and grabbed the book eagerly when I saw it at FantasyCon! And it’s definitely, definitely worth the read.

It’s a story about a girl trying to find out who she is and where she comes from… and about trying to find her father and mother… and trying to find the way home… and opening and closing doors, and how stories fit into those, and how treasures fit into all of it, and why danger and adventure keeps chasing her around. The book is told between two perspectives, one of which is January’s, and both keep tugging you along to read as you want to know what happens next in both!

It’s also got some wonderful quotes about stories and writing and imagination; Lyndsie Manusos has done an excellent selection over on BookRiot, but I think my favourite is;

Worlds were never meant to be prisons, locked and suffocating and safe. Worlds were supposed to be great ramblings houses with all the windows thrown open and the wind and summer rain rushing through them, with magic passages in their closets and secret treasure chests in their attics.

So basically; if you like words and stories and adventures and beautiful writing, read this.