Hot Takes on beta reading.
So it’s been almost exactly two years (with a break in the middle to write the DEMONS… IN SPACE!!!! book) but… it is done! At least, the draft is!
This turned out shorter than I was aiming for, i.e. 80k, but that seems to be a trend in my writing at the moment, particularly since both this and DEMONS have been single-POV.1 That kind of sucks in the adult market—a bunch of Big Name SFF publishers won’t even look at something if it’s under 100k—but DRAGON is YA, so… hopefully the ~70k mark is okay?
Guess we’ll find out soon!
Now the hard part: revising. Ugh.
- Well… mostly. DEMONS has four “cheat” chapters. [↩]
Film Crit Hulk on the suckitude of the three act structure.
So despite the fact that both Liesmith and Stormbringer are divided into three parts, the secret is they’re both actually written against a five-act outline (roughly: set-up, inciting crisis, whoops-we-made-it-worse crisis, showdown, wrap-up). I’ve always found that structure much, much easier to write against than the three-act version, and Film Crit Hulk’s explanation of not just the acts in this template but the purpose of acts in general is one of the best and most accessible I’ve seen.
There’s this frustrating vicious cycle in tech that goes:
- SME is bad at writing.
- SME has to write doco for exec.
- Exec gets frustrated by garbage bafflegab stream-of-consciousness nonsense and pushes back.
- SME assume exec is “stupid” and can’t understand “technical documents”.
- SME rewrites doco to read as generic anodyne boilerplate.
- Exec accepts document because at least it’s comprehensible.
- SME learns wrong freakin’ lesson.
Above all, worldbuilding is not technically necessary. It is the great clomping foot of nerdism.
M. John Harrison on worldbuilding.
I’ve said this before, both here and on con panels, so it’s always nice to see it reiterated years earlier by other people.
For the record, I can always tell “worldbuilt” fiction, since its “Big Idea” is always something mechanical or setting-based, with characters designed to support that rather than the other way around. It’s not a “wrong” way to write a book—there’s no “wrong” way to write a book—but most of the outcomes don’t work for me that well. It’s also not the way I write, which is always driven by character concepts: “What if Loki survived Ragnarok and was also Steve Jobs?”, “What if a tax accountant turned into a tentacle monster and went on a Hero’s Journey?”, “What if a demon performed odd jobs in exchange for mortal souls… IN SPACE!!!! and also had to steal an angel?”, and so on. The “worldbuilding” then becomes a way to first construct, then deconstruct, then reconstruct those characters; the plot becomes the character development between pages 1 and 300.
Because I tend to write what I like to read, this is also the core of my big problems with “worldbuilt” fiction: its characters tend not to change very much, even if the world around them does…
So as mentioned previously, last Wednesday I was on a panel at our local SFF writer’s group, talking about author platforms along with co-panellists Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Chris Andrews. It wasn’t a super-formal panel, and I didn’t take notes, but I’m sure some of the discussion will be of interest to some people, so I’ve done my best to recap the salient points below…
I’ve been a member of the CSFG for a few years now, and they’re all lovely people and an excellent resource for Canberra-based speculative fiction writers. Membership is $30 a year (or $20 for concession holders), but if you’re not sure if the group is for you, you’re more than welcome to come along to an initial meeting to check it out.
The republic humans move slowly.
“I know that now,” Rose says. “But… Usually he seems incongruous.”
Davey starts panicking again. “No problem,” he says. “I do have a ship. ”
I don’t have to be afraid. The shuttle docks with a big shining orbital station, all white and glass. No one sees in, because voidspawn can’t be a problem. It’s not the same as being there.
“I know spells, y’know,” I say instead. “The goblin temples are always riskier than their owners.”
This is worse than the jumpsuit. But everyone needs their bedtime stories. It’s something familiar.
Novels by Botnik predictive keyboard.
Why bother to actually write a sequel to the DEMONS IN SPACE project when I can just feed the first book into a bot and predictive-keyboard-mash out the sequel. Genius!
For whatever reason, winter always seems to be my busy season for Author Appearances™, and this year is no different.
Panel assignments for Continuum have been handed out, so those of you who’re in the area will be able to listen to me ramble at:
- Out in the Open.
Fan fiction used to be hidden away, subject to takedown notices, and sometimes kept secret from friends and family. Now there are successful mainstream novels about fic writers and readers, and some creators allow writers to earn money from their work. Is this legitimisation or exploitation? What has been gained and what’s been lost in the process?(Sunday 10th June @ 4pm)
Continuum is always a lot of fun, and this year is looking to be especially awesome, with some amazing panels (and panelists) lined up. If you’re able to make it down to (or, alternately, live in) Melbourne over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend you should absolutely grab some tickets and go along.
While it’s still a little way away, I’ll also be assisting in a panel on Author Platforms for the CSFG June member’s meeting (20th June). We did one of these two years ago, and it seemed to go down pretty well, so it’ll be interesting to see what has and hasn’t changed in the intervening time (spoiler alert: the social media landscape is very different in this our post-CA/-GDPR world).
The meeting is open to all CSFG members, and if you’re in the area (i.e. Canberra) it’s absolutely worth joining up.
And, finally, to round off a busy authorial month: I’m taking a week off! By which I mean, “I’m taking a week off Day Job to try and finish up the dragon book, which got halfway done last year then put on hold for space demons.” So, yanno. A working holiday.
In other words: it’s gonna be a busy month.
It kind of occurs to me most of the sorts of prose people describe as “like bad fanfic” actually:
a) doesn’t sound like actual bad fanfic at all, and
b) does sound suspiciously a hell of a lot like a lot of prose written by the Great Men™ of fiction…1
- This post brought to you by the novel Solaris, which is basically a litany of Bad Fanfic Sins piled all on top of one another. [↩]