The Sundering Approaches

Look what Mrs Postie brought today!

Next Installment of The Sundering

Next Installment of The Sundering

Work continues on The Crown of the Blood after some ill health and other distractions. Hitting my stride now and really enjoying it (wrote the first sex scene on friday, that was a fresh experience). Just in the process of signing the deal for a new Space Marine novel for Black Library, and organising a Shadow King/ Raven’s Flight signing tour for December and January. Also don’t forget that I’ll be at GamesFest on 24th Oct along with a cornucopia of other authors.

Addendum: Just found out the artist for the Crown of the Blood cover – Paul Young. I can see how Paul’s flair for the historical mixed with fantasy will lend itself really well to this.

Published in: on October 12, 2009 at 1:04 pm  Comments (18)  
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Know Your Weaknesses

Those who are following DennisHamster on Twitter will be aware that Shadow King has been moved up the release schedule, and is now coming out in January 2010. This meant that I spent the second half of last week and much of the weekend reading through the proofed files to make a few last tweaks and to address a couple of points raised.

Alongside a couple of instances of name confusion and timing questions, there was one thing that really leapt out at me. Throughout the document, the proofreader had changed ‘toward’ and ‘forward’ to ‘towards’ and ‘forwards’ (the second usage being more common in British English, the former in American English). The change in itself is pretty non-descript, but because I was looking at a marked-up Word file, every instance had a little red underline. Reading through the document it became apparent just how much I use both of these words.

I had a similar comment on my sample chapters for the Crown of the Blood concerning ‘now’, and I’ve also noticed in the past how much I used to employ ‘then’. While none of the usages were technically incorrect, they certainly added additional ‘waffiness’ to sentences. When writers and editors talk about ‘sharp’ or ‘tight’ writing (or some similar adjective) it is these sorts of minor but unnecessary ‘weasel words’ that can make a text feel subtly bloated, like the written version of a speech impediment, lengthening a sentence without adding any extra meaning.

Another that can crop up is superfluous ‘subject reinforcement’ with pronouns (‘he’, ‘she’, ‘his’, ‘her’, etc.). Often article confusion (mixing ‘a’ with ‘the’) can also subtly change the flow of the prose, or may be excess to requirements entirely.

A real example from Shadow King:

Alith took a step forwards, his hand outstretched in a placating gesture, but the stag suddenly looked to the west and then bounded away into the forest.

A little bit sharper after editing:

Alith took a step, hand outstretched in a placating gesture, but the stag suddenly looked to the west and bounded away into the forest.

As a reader and a writer we assume that a step is forwards unless we’re directed otherwise. Similarly, unless the subject of an action might be confusing, we usually know who is performing it and don’t need telling again.

Others I have noticed – lunging forwards, using ‘forwards’ instead of ‘closer’. In all, ‘forwards’ appeared 132 times and ‘towards’ 232 times ina 150K document. That doesn’t seem like much as a bare statistic, but once you have it highlighted it really shows up how often one can fall into a bad habit…

This is where modern word processing can really help. I have a list of ‘Gav’s weasel words and phrases’. Rather than get hung up during the actual writing, I can use the Find function to locate these words during the first edit and assess whether they are really needed at all.

Have a close look at your writing to see if you have any such words and stock phrases that crop up too often. You may well be surprised.

Getting Out and About

As well as beavering away on the manuscript for Alith Anar I’ve been busy with arrangements for promotional events to celebrate the release of Malekith. Dates and times are yet to be confirmed but currently planned is an appearance at Warhammer World in mid-December for a launch party, plus signings at GW Derby and Plaza, as well as a visit to Forbidden Planet in London. I’ve also recently finished an interview for Falcata Times magazine, which will be appearing in the Christmas special, and the latest White Dwarf also contains an interview regarding the writing of Malekith and the Time of Legends series in general. We’ll have to wait and see if there’s any overseas events in the pipeline.

If you can get along to one of these, please come and say hello. Saying the secret passphrase “Dennis is da Best” will garner my undivided attention.

 

Addition: Facebookers can find details of the Forbidden Planet signing.

Additional Addition: More details can be found on the Black Library news forum.

The Lull

The long May Day Bank Holiday weekend has passed and it is time for me to start working again. The thing is, I haven’t got any writing to do…

 

Well, not ‘proper’ writing.

 

I finished the rewrites on Malekith and Call of the Lion last week and also sent off the synopsis for my Heroes of the Space Marines short. That means that this week is dedicated to paving the way for future work – another synopsis or three, emailing folks for possible ventures, and coming up with ideas.

 

100% Free Range and Organic

When I’m in this mode there are two different strands of thought competing for space inside my head. The first is practical. These are things that need to be done to get direct work commissioned (and pay the bills for another month).

 

I have upcoming projects such as the second instalment of The Sundering, Alith Anar. I have a rough outline of what occurs in the novel, some notes on characters and theme and even some text that is left over from Flames of Treachery (the first Sundering novel before it became Malekith). These ideas need to be turned into a proper synopsis with a plot and everything.

 

In a similar vein I have a proposal for a Warhammer 40,000 Eldar project, originally conceived as a novel but after conversations with Lindsey it looks like another trilogy would be better (yup, Gav’s hypocrisy strikes again!). So, I need to develop the ideas further from where they are at the moment, outlining the trilogy as a whole and coming up with a more detailed plan for the first book.

 

There’s also some follow-up work to be done for a possible novel or novels that continue on from the Space Marines story.

 

On the other side of things are the speculative ideas. These are the early seeds of future projects that I need to generate and then mull over for a while. This is what I suspect is most people’s image of a writer’s life – walking in parks, listening to music, scribbling notes and coming up with cool ideas. If only it was that easy…

 

The ‘problem’ is a simple one – it’s not a shortage of ideas, it’s trying to sift through the many and varied concepts and images to find the ones that I can hopefully turn into a good story. Some ideas are virtually stillborn, fleeting thoughts that don’t pass the first examination. Others seem dead-ends at first, but nag away in the back of your head demanding to be re-examined. Since I am not merely interested in writing novels, but also short stories, scripts, comics/ graphic novels part of this thought process is diverted to wondering which of the many media would be most suitable.

 

Split Personality

I can find this quite an unsettling time, because my first instinct is to dedicate as much effort as possible into the practical issues. Knowing that there’s another commission just around the corner, adding another little brick in the wall of financial security, is an exceptionally strong driver.

 

On the other hand, if I don’t make time to explore some of those wilder, more far-reaching ideas there’s no chance of them happening. These are the dream projects that may come to nothing and are a gamble in terms of time and money. They are also a real test of my creativity and I subject them to a high level of scrutiny.

 

As with life in general, the key to success is finding the balance. By spending some time on practical issues I can feel comforted that I have got some ‘work’ done, thus freeing my conscience to do a bit of exploration. The important point at this stage is not to apply too much structure, but rather to go with the flow. If I find myself stuck on one thing, I can move onto another. If I end up getting really caught up in a particular idea then it doesn’t matter if it overshadows some of the other stuff.

 

In this way I can deal with the ‘practical angel’ on one shoulder and the ‘speculative demon’ on the other and keep both happy.

 

In theory…

 

Mouse Update: Nope, still not taking the bait.

 

Last Week’s Life Lesson: Don’t put eggs on to boil and then forget about them whilst surfing internet forums:

 

 Cat-egg-strophe

 

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