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Our Child of Two Worlds – into copyedits

A quick note to say that Jo my editor has come back to me on Our Child of Two Worlds, she is very happy, and we are through to copyedits. 

Thank heavens.

Publication pencilled in for November although slipping to January 2022 is not beyond the bounds of possibility.  I know, I’m impatient too.  The pandemic has thrown timetables awry.

Copyediting works at the level of scene, paragraph and sentence, not least as the draft has piled on the pounds as I worked on it.  I’m looking forward to this, not least because it holds no fears – it is getting the book into shape, not arguing about what type of book it is and what exactly to focus.

I know so much more about writing a sequel now!

Editing is important feedback, and certainly made Our Child of the Stars a clearer, better paced, and more focused book.  You don’t always agree with the editor’s edicts – so what do you do?

It reminds me of a quote which summed up the issue with feedback.  Is feedback right, and what do you do about it?

There is good advice out there, but a writer must walk a knife’s edge. They must be humble and open minded enough to accept criticism and be willing to change. Yet, they must be confident enough in their own style to ignore bad advice. The problem is telling the two types of advice apart.

(Quote from Petewood – literally some random guy on the same writing bulletin board I use) 

I think it goes broader than style but to intent. And it is not necessarily that advice / feedback is bad.

One of the crucial things I learned from writing groups is the necessity to accept feedback that you don’t like may be right – but also the possibility that some advice offered firmly may not be right for you, or this story.  Some people hand down advice like they have tablets of stone on Mount Sinai.

That’s why in addition to tenancy, ability, and luck, I would always say ‘learn how to take feedback as dispassionately as you can, and know what to do with it’. You will also get contradictory feedback.

Jo and I agree what this book is trying to be.  Therefore, pointed in the same direction, I can judge her notes as trying to get us down the road.  Maybe her concerns will be met her way, or another way I will find, or maybe but not often, it will be a no.

Bring it on.

Paperback launch US and Canada

Cheery news. I am out in paperback in the States and Canada on Tuesday 2nd Feb.  This is satisfying and marks the end of my debut life.  The last launch of Our Child of The Stars.  And if you’ve read the book, and its origin story, you’ll understand why being on sale in the States feels very right.  (It has been out in hardback and ebook for ten months.)

Here are some buying links

It is on sale through Barnes and Noble, and Chapters Indigo (the biggest Canadian bookseller) and Amazon and Nook and so on.  Of course people can order it and IndieBound.com helps you find indepedendent stores.

This combines usefully with my other cheery news.  Which is that I sent Our Child of Two Worlds (Draft Four) back to my editor last week, some weeks ahead of schedule.  It’s largely there and I hope on track for a launch August-to-autumn. 

Super Relaxed Fantasy Club appearance

Super Relaxed Fantasy Club video. During lockdown this London based but wider minded group asked lots of authors to do them a film. I talk about the book, ‘wanting’ to be a writer, men, and other stuff.  Revel in the technical skill (had to do a second take for second half.) Phil who edited it did a good job.

Super Relaxed Fantasy Club is an informal meetup for published authors to read to a group – it has been going for a while in various venues and since lockdown one has been doing a video a week or more online. Interests cover SF, Fantasy, Horror and literary people surprised to discover fantasy readers are erudite and interested. Follow them on Facebook and You Tube. It was a part of exploring the genre world for me, which I knew a bit, and understanding better how writing and publishing works.

In which I change agents

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My agent Rob is moving out of agenting.  He’s sorry to go and I’m sorry to lose him. Perceptive and thoughtful, Rob picked my book from the slush-pile and got it to fly.  Who knows if Cory would have been published without him? (At least not as quickly or as well.)  He’s taught me a lot and I’m grateful.

It prompted some philosophical musings on publishing, but first the facts.

Fortunately, Rob can still give me his feedback on the next draft of Our Child of Two Worlds, so I will have that continuity.   Check out his latest books, The Toymakers and Paris by Starlight.

Rob is not one to leave you in the lurch.  I have a new agent, Alex Cochran of C&W, one of the larger agencies (and as it happens, the outfit who already partner Rob in handling my film rights).  Alex was on my top agents to try list, both for my unpublished novel, and for Cory. He likes the book, and its cross-genre appeal.  I’m optimistic Alex can help me navigate the strange waters ahead.  Getting the second book finished is the priority and then, Next Big Thing.

And the moral of this is, that publishing is a rum old game.  So many people assume that it’s all slog finishing that book and sending it out, but once you get the agent, all is plain sailing.  A book a year and the fifth book will win the Booker, the Hugo, or be in the Richard and Judy Bookclub. 

Real writing careers are more complicated. Famously George R R Martin wrote three books which were successes and the fourth, Armageddon Rag in the eighties, flopped.  He moved into TV and editing anthologies for a decade. 

Agents and editors move on, or fall out, there’s a merger or a start-up.  That brilliant idea doesn’t come off, the sequel doesn’t come off, or indeed, there is suddenly a nasty little virus. Many old hands say it’s harder now to have a steady career than in their youth.

That’s why I guess three things for authors I’ve come to realise, catching up with the wisdom of more established writers.

  • Write for joy. There will be days you hate it, but overall if you don’t enjoy it, there are other things to do.  In fact, people who write primarily for themselves can be very happy authors.
  • Make each work as good as you can.
  • Don’t define your self-worth purely by the financial and critical success of your work. 

Becoming a writer, by Dorothea Brande

This small classic book was published in 1934 and is bang up to date.  That is, if you don’t mind that the piece of tech she recommends is a typewriter (as opposed to longhand).

Brande directs you to other works to study the structure of plot, how to write grammatically, and so forth.  What she teaches is how to understand the creative process and she recommends disciplines to help you be more creative and productive to order.  She argues that the process of writing combines the anarchic creative free flow that is in part coming from the unconscious, and a more rigorous detached intellectual self.  Both need to be firing on all cylinders but not necessarily the same amount at the same time.    Exercises include writing on first rising, and writing at a fixed time, as a discipline to generate initial pages, without undue concern about quality.

If you like, the metaphor of write drunk and edit sober, or the adage to write the first draft as if no one is watching.

I can’t claim to have followed her method, but in so far as I understand my own process, it seems sound enough.  Interesting that many other writing books don’t touch on this.

Brande has plenty of bugbears.  She doesn’t like group discussion of student work, as unfocused and prone to pile-ons – though she doesn’t call them that.  What listening to public criticism of your work does is teach you to receive feedback and learn how to be selective in what you act on. Some is just wrong.

The book is short, practical, and focused on areas which many other books skip over.  Indeed, Brande would argue by doing so, they are actively unhelpful. 

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

…Two Worlds making progress

September is probably my favourite month, for weather, foliage, and oddly a sense of a new start. 

The crucial news – I believe the draft of OUR CHILD OF TWO WORLDS has really come together.  It will only be one more sweep through – strength, consistency, etc – and it goes to Jo the Mighty (my editor).  Hopefully we will be moving to proper edits, a series of successively quicker to and fros…

For punctual updates, and in due course an original Cory short story… subscribe to my newsletter.

Interview with Suanne Schafer

Suanne is an American author who runs a regular author interview slot on her blog.  It was fun to do. We covered a lot including message fiction, whether SFF has to be political, and what makes a good book.

Regardless of genre, what are the elements that you think make a great novel? Do you consciously ensure all of these are in place?

SC: Characters that leap off the page and that you care about, situations that do not feel contrived. For me a world which acknowledges the dark and unfair side of life but addresses it with hope and humour. Voice. The sort of writing that takes you by the hand and says, Trust me, this will make sense in the end. This will be worth the journey.

Read it here.

Online Discussion Sunday 7th June 2.30 pm

I am discussing what makes us human on Zoom with another writer, full details here.

It is pay what you like. book to get the Zoom details, and I hope you will come.

If you hurry you can also see the top secret cover of Our Child of Two Worlds which they have used by mistake… and which will probably be replaced very soon…

 

 

 

Going virtual

Odd how a virus can change things.  I’ve been tied up fighting it, biologically, and at work.  And I’m waiting for the feedback on the latest draft of OUR CHILD OF TWO WORLDS.

EdgeLit in Derby has moved its event to November, so that still may be happening.

Cymera (more here) is going online and I’ve just filled in a long questionaire about what I can do online. (No juggling on a unicycle, I’m afraid.)

I’ve just done an interview for an author’s blog and there might be a couple of other things.  But really it’s about staying well, keeping up with the day job, and waiting for the notes…

And my writers group has gone online, using Zoom.  I’m looking at trying to do some videos or Q+As because launching in the US in a pandemic obviously hasn’t been ideal.

More when I have it.

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Save the dates: A guest at two conventions

Scotland has hosted the big science fiction and fantasy conventions including I believe a Worldcon.  However it did not have a (big) annual convention of its own.  Cymera which is relatively new tackles that.

And I’m going, to do a panel on ‘what makes us human’.   I’ll be on the Sunday 2.45 7th June with Adrian J Walker, an Australian author new to me and whose intriguing book I have ordered, naturally.

The whole programme and how to get tickets (weekend passes look good value) can be found in their website.

This is wonderful to be asked, an excuse to visit Edinburgh, and I’ll post more thoughts as I have them.

And of course, quite a big likelihood it won’t happen because of The Virus. Certainly events are being cancelled all over the country and in the US.

I am strongly tempted to do something online with Adrian if not.

I am also at Edgelit in Derby, a friendly convention which I enjoyed last year, 11-12th July.  Put in your diaries.  It’s top secret but be naughty and tell your friends.

Nothing makes you a real writer except writing, but this certainly good to be asked.

Since the invite I have been thinking often of the great Alistair Gray and his ringing statement, “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.” Words for England too.

Image result for work as if in the early days of a better nation

Stephen