Tag Archives: howIwrite

Going back to things is scary…

The really satisfying days start with a punch to the face.

Not usually my face – although there have been exceptions – but there is something very satisfying about kicking someone else’s butt. Literally.

I’ve found myself, over the past few months, thinking of bits in No Man’s Land and the associated writing I was doing. Sentences keep coming back, and I keep thinking of parts I loved. I wonder about dipping in again, or find myself explaining bits and jokes and snark to Otter. It’s sort of bubbling back to the surface…

[Crib notes: modern urban fantasy with two magical people, who are incidentally exes and also incidentally hate each other, trying to save the world. The slight spanner in the works is that everyone might be going mad. It’s fun.]

I paused on NML because I’d had feedback that the first third needed to be better integrated – and they’re right. The danger needs to start sooner, and it can – that’s fairly easy to do, in plot terms.

But when I got that feedback, I was deep in burnout. I knew what I needed to do and I could see the shape of that, but when I started writing it just… didn’t come. Went flat. It was all words and no characters, no emotions, no flow.

I reluctantly put it aside when life went to hell, and promised myself I’d go back to it. And that fact it’s bubbling to the surface suggests that I should.

But I am scared.

I know that diving back in is going to bring back a lot of memories and emotions; I tend to write with a word cloud mixed with music mixed with emotions, and every book has a different one – so bringing that back again is going to hurt. The book was written at a very different time in my life, so that’s going to have memories; it has a lot of people and associations that are going to be hard to process.

And simply in writing terms, too, I’m going to have to dig back in. I’m going to have to figure out how to work it. I’m going to have to remember a whole bunch of stuff and backstory and details and then figure out how to change it.

But… diving back in might be good. I’ve had a break, and levelled up as an editor, so looking at this with fresh eyes will be good for it and for me.

It’s just going to hurt. And I’ve had so many hurts of the past few years that I don’t really want to face another one – it’s going to require a lot of falling down and getting up again, and I’m going to be falling on already-bruised knees, if that makes sense.

Hey ho.

Well, no one ever said the writing life was easy.

A Brief Conversation About The Bechdel Test

So I was chatting to Otter about their writing, and they expressed worry about the Bechdel Test. “I mean, if I have a male main character, should they… overhear a conversation? I mean, I could have them eavesdropping. Or maybe just walk in on one? But that would mean they’re in the room-”

“Hang on, hang on. They can be present during the conversation.”

“Oh! Ok. I thought it was a conversation without a man present.”

“…no. The bar is literally set low enough that it has to be a conversation.

And there was a moment of silence as we contemplated exactly how low the bar was that just one conversation between two women is hard to hit.

“And it can’t be about a man?” Otter adds.

“So… an argument about who’s turn it is to wash up?” I got another ‘really?’ look. “Yeah. Seriously. Hey, have you come across the Sexy Lamp Test?”

“You have got to be joking.”

“And Sexy Lamp With Post-It. Ok, go look up Mako Mori. That’s a good one.”

Some more contemplation was had, possibly about the state of the world.

“So… what happens if you don’t meet the tests?”

“Nothing. It just depends if you want to your books to be bought by readers who don’t want to consider women as characters.”

“Ah.”

Writing a Blurb from Gareth L Powell

Having done my “thoughts about pitches” a few weeks ago, I came across a template from the fantastic Gareth L Powell on “how to write a novel pitch or blurb”:

I know those of you on Twitter will have seen it already, but it’s worth saving! And if the tweet isn’t showing up above, here’s the image, and you can find the original tweet here.

Writer’s Block: Building Your Sandcastle

Have you heard the thing about writing a first draft; it’s like piling sand into the bucket, and the second draft is then building the castle?

My writer’s block at the moment feels like the sand is that really hot, dry sand you get sometimes at the beach; the sand that slips and slides and just falls through your fingers when you pick it up.

So I can grasp a handful, but it just trickles through my fingers: and even if I did manage to get it into the bucket, I’d tip it out into my castle and it would just melt away again.

I’ve got the ideas; but I can’t put them together into anything. I can’t flesh out the bones: every word is a grain of sand picked up and put in the bucket, and then taken out again.

Here’s hoping the tide comes in, and then there’s some damp sand again!

Image via Pexels.

Thinking About Pitches, Queries and Submissions

I accidentally joined in on the whole “Let’s Open The Gates To Hell” thing last week (for those not in the UK…politics broke, the weather broke, and we had a huge storm. Most of us are just assuming the devils are here to stay, and moaning about the heat.) When Ryan Estrada suggested over on Twitter that what the hell, everyone just go for your dream, ask for what you want, shoot your shot…

We joined in.

We had 1k replies within the first 24 hours, and I both regretted every life decision that had led me to that point, and laughed so hard at how enthusiastic, wonderful and simply bonkers the world of writers can be.

I’ve already DM’d a bunch of people, we’ve had some fab submissions in, and it’s open for another week so if you haven’t yet pitched then I’m still looking at them!

But the sheer amount of pitches got me thinking. What makes a good one? How can you catch my attention? What do I need to know?

Some people have been resorting to gimmicks; telling me that I’ve already decided to publish your story is a cute idea but doesn’t actually tell me what your story is, and frankly it creeped me out enough to not want to ask. Same with the people bouncing up and down in my mentions with cute little comments: it doesn’t help. Plus, I’m an introvert. I don’t like it when people wave frantically at me – it means I might have to talk to them!

The ones that have been attracting my attention are the ones that tell me some or all of the following;

  • what the conflict/problem is
  • what the setting is
  • what the genre is
  • who the main characters are

And the major two things:

What’s the hook?

What’s the difference?

THOSE are what I want to know. What’s the thing that is going to make me go “oh, ok! I haven’t seen that / I want to know more / what happens next?”

I’m going to pick someone I know (@AndrewSkinner, because he’s got an amazing book out with Solaris shortly and it’s about giant robots beating the snot out of each other; IT MADE ME CRY and I haven’t quite forgiven him for that) as a first example:

THE BARREN GATE SOCIETY – Val is militia, keeper of order in Rimir, the city with a second skin. By law, militia can’t cloud their eyes, can’t see or feel the all-sense projection that clothes Rimir’s rot in luxury. That is, until Val witnesses a murder. With no killer in sight.

So…I know the protagonist’s status (militia), the setting’s interesting and different (a city with a second skin? How does that work?), he’s set up the  individual conflict (can’t cloud their eyes) plus told me something about the wider world conflicts (rot and luxury)  – and then tells me the central hook.

And I’m sold. Yes, I’ve asked for a manuscript.

How about an example from someone I don’t know?

“lesbian AI space pirates”: What do you do when your ship has been blown to pieces by rebels, and you’re floating in the middle of deep space with no hope of rescue and only the shipboard AI for company? “Find love” was not exactly on Pepper’s to do list, nor “piracy”, and yet…

And I was sold by the “AI” part. Lesbian space pirates? Cool, that puts a few ticks on my personal list (which, obviously, is what I’m looking for – obviously all the editors are going to be looking for different things) – but the AI is the different bit. And that’s the point I went “oh, ok! That’s a story I don’t think I’ve read!”

The longer pitch then tells me about the wider world (space, rebels, they’re blowing up ships), the conflict (rebels!) and the problems (love and piracy)… none of which put me off!

I will note, though, that you can write a story I’ve read before – but tell me what’s different. If there isn’t anything, then maybe you need to have a think about what could be – and that doesn’t necessarily have to be anything huge, but what makes you stand out from the other books already published? What’s your personal hook? Your personal signature? Why should I read (or publish, in my case) this book when there’s already X stories of this type out there?

I mean, even the author who told us that he’d rewritten J.R.R. Tolkien because he felt Tolkien didn’t put enough description in had a good hook, even if it was one I personally disagreed with. (That wasn’t in this pitch storm, thankfully.)

There’s so many ways of doing pitches, and also multiple ways that you could do one for your own book – I mean, our blurbs often go through two or three iterations as we focus on different parts of the story, conflict and characters. So it’s worth trying variations!

And it’s also worth remembering that editors are looking for things they like. A pitch might be very good but just not something I’m looking for; that’s the nature of pitching and publishing, unfortunately – we’re trying to pick out things we’ll be passionate about in the hope that other people will too, but it also means we can’t choose everything. It’s been really nice seeing the other comments on Twitter, and seeing people join in with the conversations – there’s a whole world of readers out there!

So – if you do want to pitch us, throw your Tweet into the ring – I’m having a lot of fun reading them all!