Writing a Fantasy Trilogy Part 4: The Edit

Disclaimer: Ye gods, this is no how to guide. This is just an on-going collection of thoughts as I work my way through the process. They may or may not be useful or entertaining to people; it is more likely they may well end up providing a great deal of amusement to me when I look back over my posts and realise what a load of nonsense I was talking. So please do not think I am laying down rules here or instructions – I am just laying out some writerly jams. Or something.

(Here are the first three parts, on ideas, planning and writing the first draft. For this post, the great Captain Picard will be assisting me. Please note: this post covers editing a single book within a fantasy trilogy, not editing a whole fantasy trilogy in one go because, sweet Christmas, I am weak)

trek6

Jean-Luc is so ready for this.

So here we are. You’ve battled your way through the first draft and have emerged blood-soaked and steaming, and clutched within your shaking fists is the raw material of your book. Bloody hell. Well done. Seriously – lots of people talk about writing books, lots of people even start them, but only an awesome few get to write ‘The End’. Buy yourself some sort of ridiculous present and bathe in the glory. Enjoy it.

Because this is where things get sticky.

Now, the first thing I need to address upfront is that your editing process will vary wildly. Fine, everything about writing varies wildly, but in particular, your editing process will look different depending on whether you are a published writer or not. In the end, of course, you’re doing the same job and the work will look very similar, but if you have an awesome editor helping you, your support structure will be different. So here is the process as I am experiencing it currently (this may or may not be helpful, but it might at least be interesting):

Editing The Ninth Rain, or, How Clever People Poke Me onto the Right Track With Big Sticks

1 Draft zero sits before me, a heap of words and mistakes and adventure and banter. Here and there, I have already highlighted sections that need work, or stuff that needs to be removed and rewritten. I take a notebook and write down everything I already know needs to change. There will be a lot of things, from the very large (‘restructure this fictional religion’) to the very small (‘change this guy’s name, it sounds too much like penis’). All of these things will have been bugging me, and it will be enormously satisfying to get them out of my head and onto the page. Then, I will go right back to the beginning of the book and do a big, speedy, rough-and-ready edit. At this stage I am attempting to get the thing into some sort of readable shape so someone else can lay their eyes upon it without me having to die of shame. At the end of this draft there will still be problems, but its okay, because there’s plenty of time to sort them out.

2 Draft number two goes off to my agent, the brilliant Juliet Mushens. I specifically wanted Juliet’s opinion on The Ninth Rain, because it was the first in a new series and I was having the severe wibbles over it. Not all agents are so involved editorially, but Juliet is a) brilliant b) knows what makes a book work and c) reads faster than any other human being. Once she had read the book – sending me the occasional dramatic text message exclamation as she got to certain bits – we had a chat over the phone about what things needed changing/tightening up/flinging into the sea.

The role Juliet has here is the key to all editing: A FRESH PAIR OF EYEBALLS. As you will know, when you’re thigh deep in first draft, it is very difficult to zoom back out and see it from a distance again (especially when you have word-guts all over your trousers), and near impossible to spot all the flaws. Bringing in someone who can look at it afresh can give you a whole new perspective – and if it’s someone who knows their literary onions, even better.

trek3

Drink lots of tea during the edit. Picard knows about tea. One teapot is not enough for Captain Picard.

3 Draft number 3 includes Juliet’s tweaks, and all the other tweaks I’ve thought of in the meantime. After a bit of hysterical double-checking, this draft goes off to my brilliant editors at Headline.

~There follows a brief rest period, where I wander about aimlessly trying to remember what it is I do when I’m not writing, until I remember it’s video games and get briefly obsessed with Dragon Age again~

Then the editors come back to me. This will take the form of an editorial letter, which basically sums up all the stuff you need to do in a friendly and pithy manner, and then there will be the manuscript itself, with comments marked up in track changes. You read the notes. You read the comments. You have a little sit down.

This stage is always a bit odd. It is exciting, because through those comments and changes you can glimpse the gleaming spires of your finished novel. It’s also really satisfying to see all the ways in which the thing can be made better. It may also make you feel like a bit of a berk, because inevitably there will be problems you have missed, continuity errors, character motivations that didn’t quite land, etc. So you might feel the need to sulk for a little while. I usually do, but it’s all part of the process of absorbing what needs to be done. Sulk for a bit, grumpily eat some cake. Maybe re-arrange all of the toys on your desk. And when you come back you’ll be ready to kick some ass.

From there onwards, things are fairly simple. You attend to the areas that have been flagged as needing attention, you fix your cock-ups and you smooth down the rough edges, working your way through the document. As I said before, your editors are the fresh pair of eyes you need, but more than that, they are the EXPERT pair of eyes, the eyes that can also see the gleaming spires of your finished novel and know how to get you there. Listen to them, push back when you have to and be prepared to learn a lot. From the big edit (sometimes called the structural edit, because this is where all the big shit goes down) I move on to the copyedit (beloved of all writers everywhere… cough) and then the proofread, and then, BAM. It all moves much faster than you think.

Editing when you’ve yet to be published

So how does this all work when you don’t have an agent and an editor waiting to help wrangle your words with you? As I mentioned before, you’re essentially doing the same work, you just might need some different (or extra) tools to do it with. Some writers looking to start submitting their books do employ freelance editors to look over their work – I don’t have any experience of that, but I would definitely advise checking out what you’re getting before you lay down any moolah (perhaps people could recommend decent freelance editors in the comments?). Outside of that, here are some bits and bobs I have found useful in the past:

The Chapter-by-Chapter edit
This is brilliant for when you’re not working to a deadline. After the first, brutal edit, the one where I fix everything obvious, I get a new notebook and go back to the beginning. Each chapter gets a page in the notebook, and under the chapter heading I write a brief summary of what happens. Then, in a different coloured ink (red for me because, you know, edits) I write down everything that still needs changing.

Then I move straight to the next chapter, and repeat the process, all the way to the end. Then, and only then, do I start a second edit, and as I work through all that red ink, I tick off each section so that I know it has been addressed. Job done.

It’s a long process, and I don’t really get time to do it in such detail now (hello, deadlines!) but I think it’s a great way to avoid being overwhelmed by the edit, especially if you’ve written a very long book: looked at chapter by chapter, your book becomes easier to digest, with a small set of problems to be solved for each section. Totally doable. Also an excuse to use more notebooks.

trek4

Look, this is just a random picture of Angry Captain Picard I found, so it had to go in.

Beta readers
When you don’t have an editor or an agent nearby, these can be vital. Again, it’s the FRESH PAIR OF EYEBALLS necessary to get your book into shape, and chances are if you are writing seriously you already have a little group of people who help you out with this. We all have different needs from our beta readers, and I suspect we all approach it a little differently, but for what it’s worth, here’s some stuff I learnt about it over years of forcing friends to read my work:

– It might take a little while to find the right bunch of people. I know that initially I had quite a few friends who were very keen to read my work. I sent out the document to a range of reactions – some people never ever mentioned it again (possibly horrified by the book and what a terrible hack I am), one or two came back with ‘yay this is great!!!’, and a precious few sent me back detailed notes…
– Keep the note givers. The ones who enjoy your work but are happy to tell you what does and doesn’t work, to point out the bits they felt were lacking.
– Be wary of any who tell you exactly how you can fix it. That job is yours, in the end.
– I had a very low number of beta readers, no more than four, because I felt like more opinions than that would start to muddy the waters. However, again, other writers like whole roaming packs of beta readers to feast upon their novels.
– Remember that you can disagree, and that you don’t have to take every opinion as the ultimate truth. If more than one beta reader sees the same problem, you may well need to fix it. If one beta reader has a gigantic rage against beards and demands that you remove them all from your book… well.

trek5

We all know that TNG got good when Riker got a beard, right?


Developing your own Eyeballs of Insight

Learning to think critically about your own work is vital. You also need to be able to balance that with a confidence in your own abilities. So much of writing is about walking a tightrope – if you fall to your left, you sink into the stinky bog of My Writing is Worthless Why Do I Bother; fall to your right and you’re oozing through the treacle-like Hey I’m Pretty Much a Genius I’m Going to Send my Magnum Opus to an Agent Immediately and Get Really Salty When They Reject It. Keep your eyes on the far cliff edge, Brave Writer.

Read published books and ask yourself: does my book sound like this? Can I imagine opening a book in Waterstones and reading my prose there? Look at the books you love and ask yourself what it is that makes you love them. Take that knowledge and apply it to your edit. There’s no easy way to develop a critical eye (and in a way it can be a pain in the arse – when I’m mid-edit, I suddenly find it very difficult to settle on a book to read. My critical eye is awake and blazing like bleedin’ Sauron’s and I can’t enjoy anything) but it will always take time. Writing is a long game (soooo very long) and behind most published books are a little queue of books that never made it to the light of day because the writer was still learning.

But. It. Is. Worth. It.

trek1

Interloper!

So, apologies for the rambling nature of this particular post. I feel like I’m learning about editing every time I go through the process, and everyone has a different method. One of the biggest surprises to me since being published is how much truth there is in the saying writing is re-writing. It really, genuinely is. The terrible and brilliant reality is that the first draft is the tip of the work-iceberg, and the edit is where all the serious blood and sweat is shed. But it’s also the stage that leaves you with a book at the end… and that’s what we’re all here for.

trek2

Captain Picard is reading your book! In his jimjams! How good is that?

The Editing Process: A few random thoughts and a small dog

dog

Here is a small ceramic dog I saw at the British Museum. I appreciated his innate dogness. He has nothing to do with this post.

Gosh, blog posts. Remember when I used to do those?

In my defence, crazy busy times are afoot. In day job world, I’ve started a new position as a copywriter and I’m currently learning approximately 800 new things a day. It’s quite fun. In writing world, I’m still busily making book 3 (hopefully titled THE SILVER TIDE, you heard it here first) in a readable state for human beings. The good news is, it’s almost ready to send off to my lovely editors. The bad news is, it may break my brain before that happens.

Since I’m here, and editing is very much on my mind, I thought I would share some random and not entirely helpful* thoughts on the process.

Summarisation’s what you need

It occurs to me that although I know a lot about how other writers write, I don’t necessarily know much about how they edit (outside of ‘remove words, make better’) so I have no idea whether how I work is normal or totally batshit.

Soooo. When the first draft is done and a bit of time has passed, I will grab a notebook (usually a soft cover school exercise book, those are my favourites for this bit) and in the back I will note down everything I already know needs to change. There are always a few things, bits and pieces that have been bugging me the whole way through the first draft but haven’t had time to go back and change. Then, I will read the whole thing through again, summarising each chapter in black pen and then underneath in red pen I will make a note of all the big things that need to change.

Now, since I am weak and unable to resist, I will also do cosmetic edits as I go; chopping out the crap, tidying things up, tweaking dialogue. There will be a few more rounds of this sort of thing, but I usually need a couple of goes to catch everything.

Then, when I reach the end, I go back to the beginning and address everything I’ve highlighted in red pen, and anything that was written in the back of the notebook at the beginning that hasn’t been sorted yet. The useful thing about having these summaries of each chapter is that when you’re looking for a particular event or character moment later on in the edit, it’s much easier to find. Also, if you’re required to write a synopsis for any reason after the first draft is done, HELLO HANDY SUMMARIES.

Oh god continuity

Truly, the bane of my life when it comes to editing. Writing a book is a massive mental balancing act, and it’s natural that you drop a few balls here and there. Hehe, balls. So when you get to chapter 30 and remember that in chapter 7 someone shaved their head, but since then you’ve been lovingly describing their flowing auburn locks… This is a particular pain in the arse if like me, your book is heavy on weapons and the result of weapons flying about. People are continually pulling their swords out (steady on), putting them away, sustaining injuries or just losing their dagger under the rubble of an exploded building, and you have to keep track of all that. What is brilliant is that eventually a copy editor will read through the manuscript and point out all the ways in which I have been an idiot but for the next book, I am going to draw little pictures of my characters and as I write the first draft I will mark, with a red pen, all the various places they are injured. I’m not even kidding.

Accept Your Limits

I find that editing exhausts my brain in a completely different way to writing. Writing feels more like a trance state, when it’s going really well – words flow, your head is somewhere else, all is good – whereas editing is more like a heightened state of awareness, where your focus is narrowed down to a tiny point. If I do it for too long, my focus starts to bleed and my eyes slip over the page without catching the things I need to change. This is incredibly annoying, especially when you’re speeding towards a deadline and you have very little time to do anything.

It’s annoying, but it means it’s time for me to have a cup of tea, or a browse through tumblr, or watch an episode of Thundercats. Or even just time to stop for the day and go and have dinner. Or maybe, write a blog post about editing.

 

 

*almost certainly not helpful

I ATEN’T DEAD

Okay, so this is just a post to let you know that I am, in fact, still alive. Waving behind a mountain of editing and post-cold weariness, but still here.

Edits on THE IRON GHOST are progressing as edits normally do, with lots of hot chocolate, lots of flicking back to previous chapters and muttering “I said what exactly?!”, and lots of angst about whether everyone will unanimously hate the book, perhaps forming some sort of giant club where haters of the book can gather together to look at copies of THE IRON GHOST and shake their heads mournfully or throw things. So as expected, really.

Once that’s done with, I’ll be jumping back into Book 3, the final book in THE COPPER PROMISE trilogy and as yet, probably the craziest of the lot. Good times.

I spotted this quote today on the Tor blog, from the wonderful Sarah Rees Brennan, who was kind enough to entertain us with a reading at a recent Super Relaxed Fantasy Club:

“I love a trilogy: the setup of all trilogies is book one: set up, book two: make out, book three: defeat evil. All trilogies, including The Lord of the Rings (hello sexy maids of Rohan and the romantic complications thereof!) conform to these rules.”

This tickled me quite a bit, for reasons that may or may not become clear with the second book. Hope you are all well and groovy. x

EDIT: Oh, just noticed that the Kindle edition of THE IRON GHOST is now up for pre-order. Woohoo!

 

Early June Update of No Significance

CAT2

Random Picture of Our Cat Looking Incredibly Lazy

I thought I’d write one of those update blog posts, where I fart on a bit about what I’m doing at the moment and where I am in the writing process, la la la. It’s probably not spectacularly interesting but at least in November, when I’m locked in a room with my laptop and 800 packets of Halloween sweeties I can look back and think “What the Christ was I doing in June exactly?!” and I will know. So there’s that.

Book 2 in The Copper Promise sequence (there’s definitely a title for it at the moment but I’m not certain I’m allowed to tell you what it is yet) is currently with my editor and I’ll be getting notes back on it soonish. So far, reactions have been positive and feedback has made me feel like perhaps this is a real book after all. I’m looking forward to getting back into it, particularly now that I’ve had a break and some distance – in some places this wasn’t an easy book to write, and emotionally I feel like I put the characters (and myself) through The Giant Fantasy Wringer of Emotional Woe. I’m also looking forward to seeing the cover and getting used to the idea that next year I will have two books out in the world. Crazypants.

Book 3 (which also definitely has a title that I haven’t told anyone yet) is planned up the wazoo, and I’ve started writing bits of it. This one, the last book, is going to be both the most fun and the most painful. At the moment my corkboard has a half-inch thick layer of post-its on it, bristling with pins and scribbled over with felt-tip pens. It’s like a wee shrine to the Gods of Stationery.

And in the background to all that plans are afoot for the fantasy series that will come after The Copper Promise. It’s too early to say anything about this at all really, except that it’s more “epic” than “pulp”, but with the same emphasis on characters, banter, and drinking. I mean, adventure. Characters, banter, adventure, peril, etc. I’m cautiously excited as characters are turning up and introducing themselves at an alarming rate, and things like titles and names are coming really easily – something I often struggle with. We shall see where it goes.

Onwards!

On Editing and First Drafts: Gremlins, Pigs and Beasties

Life sits on the writer and squashes her a bit

So I haven’t done a post about writing for quite a while. This is partly because “writing advice” posts make my brain itch slightly – what is applicable to me is not necessarily applicable to you, after all.

However, it occurred to me that my situation has changed slightly since I last wrote about, uh, writing. I have an agent and a book deal now, I’ve been through part of the process of being published – I am in the midst of learning all sorts of new stuff – and perhaps I have a new perspective that could be helpful. Or not. Either way, it’s useful for me to keep track of things, so here is a brief summary of my recent thoughts on the writing process. Take all with a pinch of salt, or a dollop of BBQ sauce if necessary.

Writing is Re-Writing I doubt anyone really thinks about this bit when they start writing. I know I didn’t. I started writing a book when I’d had a really bad day at work, and spending some time in an entirely different world was a quick way to cheer myself up. I didn’t think, “What I’m really looking forward to when I’ve finished writing this book is, you know, writing it over and over again.” At the time, I had no concept of anyone else ever even reading it, let alone editing it (and to be fair, that particular book has never been edited – just thinking about the amount of work it would require to be beaten into any sort of readable shape brings me out in a sweat).

But editing is the reality of writing. And that’s okay. I’ve lost count now of the number of edits The Copper Promise has been through – there was the edit when I thought I was self-publishing four novellas, the edit before I sent it to Juliet, my agent, the edit I did with her before it went out on submission, the edit I did after discussions with John, my editor, the edit that has just been sent off to the copy editor… *gasp* There are a lot. And with each one, the book becomes a sleeker, stronger, more kick-ass beastie. More than ever I now understand the importance of seeing your book through the lens of another pair of eyes, because as the writer it is so easy to become blind to it. Somewhere in your subconscious is the slovenly gremlin that whispers “Nah, I mean, that sorta works as it is, we can get away with that, right?” when really, we all know that isn’t good enough.

The Precious Sanctity of the First Draft Yes, all of the editing. I’ve just come out of a long period of editing (about to go back for more, very soon) so right now I’ve thrown myself back into the first draft of the second book. I am normally the Queen of First Drafts, storming through them in a devil-may-care manner, forging onwards with a fairly solid plan and lots of room for let’s-see-where-this-goes. But ye gods and little fishes, getting back to that after nearly a year of editing is hard. The editor in my head is awake and lively, and worse, has had loads of exercise recently and is being a right dick about it. Every line I write is subject to the worst kind of scrutiny, so that I keep stumbling to a halt. “But this is awful,” I think, opening another packet of Percy Pigs to distract myself. “I’ll have to cut all this out anyway. What am I doing?”

The last few weeks have been about remembering that you need to go easy on yourself with the first draft. You need that freedom to explore, to make mistakes, to follow paths that might not go anywhere, or that might lead you to a gem of story-magic that you’d never have found otherwise. I’m chucking in dialogue that I know probably won’t make it to the final cut (my favourite this week was Wydrin’s embittered cry of “I don’t care about your ironing!”) and introducing secondary characters who may or may not get killed off horribly later on. The first draft should be fun, it should be joyous, and the editor in your head needs to keep its trap shut, just for a little while.

This is why, in my opinion, the first draft should always be private. It’s often tempting to show your first few chapters to someone else, to get their opinions (and let’s face it, gibbering praise) and feel justified in what you’re doing, but it doesn’t really help you in the long run. For a start, a lot of that stuff in the first few chapters will go anyway (take it from someone who has done a lot of editing recently) or it will at least change a lot, and it’s really important that your first draft is free to be whatever it wants. You need to write like no one is watching. For now, anyway.

And that’s it for now! I trudge back to the story-mines, a pick in one hand and a short sword in the other. I’ll see you on the other side.

On Leaving Dark Fiction Magazine

news beast final

It is with a slightly heavy heart – a heart that has been removed by a cackling scientist perhaps, and refitted with a combination of wheels and obese hamsters – it is with a hamster-heavy heart that I must tell you I am stepping down as editor of Dark Fiction Magazine (if you go there now you will see this post and a rather alarming picture of zombie me)

Unfortunately, it’s not for any particularly dramatic reason. The bodies have yet to be discovered (despite my notes) and we’ve all agreed to forget about the business with the elephant, so I won’t be flouncing off in a cloud of internet stink. The sad fact is that the time I would once put aside for reading submissions and wrangling narrators has recently become so vanishingly small that I now have difficulty finding it, even with the help of micro-goblins. These days I’m spending every spare moment working on my fantasy book (The Copper Promise, out in February from Headline books, first in a trilogy, no I’m not above plugging it here) and those characters take up a lot of headspace.

But, you know, it’s been a good couple of years. We’ve found some excellent stories, uncovered some new writers, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done. Short fiction, and particularly short genre fiction, is in fine health, and there’s some exciting stuff out there. I look forward to watching where it goes next. And Dark Fiction Magazine won’t be disappearing into a black hole with me; it will be passing over to the fine and excellent folks at Spacewitch, who will be taking it to new and saucy places, no doubt.

I am enormously grateful to the marvellous people that willingly gave of their free time and wicked skillz to make this thing work, particularly Marty Perrett, an awesome audio producer (known as Doug Strider in his local for reasons relatively undisclosed), and to Blane Traynor, Shock the Badger, who has provided us with some fabulous artwork. Huge thanks to the narration team, who are all excellent and very attractive, and to everyone who submitted a story.

And to the writers who have featured in the magazine over the years: cheers, guys. I think we did a beautiful thing.

Geeky Book Chat Club 4: Into Chatness

Hello all! It’s Friday and I’m feeling particularly indecisive today (really, you should have seen me trying to decide which t-shirt to wear this morning, and I only have one clean one left) so rather than forcing myself to decide on a topic I’m inviting you to another geeky book chat. As ever, answer whichever questions you like and please do get chatty in the comments!

Name a book or a short story that still haunts you. Why has it stayed with you for so long?

Speaking of short stories, any favourite short stories of all time?

Is there a character you wish you’d written?

How important are editors? (this might be referencing a certain blog post that was doing the rounds this morning)

Fanfiction – good thing, bad thing, don’t care?

The State of Play

Greetings from the mysterious mists of editing! I thought I’d just pop my head over the battlements so you know I’m still here; we might be down to chewing the shoe leather and eyeing up the rats for dinner, but the People’s Republic of Novel Revisions is still going strong.

 

No, I don’t know where I’m going with that either.

 

It’s been a busy few weeks. I’m in the midst of revising The Copper Promise and that has proven to be an oddly exhausting activity, at least mentally. It’s fascinating though; when Juliet gave me her pointers for smartening the thing up, it gave me a new perspective on the book, and now I understand rather more about the characters than I did previously. Which just shows how incredibly useful a very perceptive reader can be.

 

So yes! It’s very exciting, actually. One of my biggest jobs (ahem) is to reduce the word count as The Copper Promise is rather on the hefty side. On the face of it, to my delicate writer’s soul, this feels nigh on impossible. “I’ll never manage it!” I wail, chewing on my pens in Eat and worrying the Kenny Everett look-a-like who makes the coffee. “Every word is essential!”

 

Except it’s not, of course. I have spare words all over the shop, and scenes I am perhaps not utterly happy with, and so the Big Fat Chunky Word Count is being whittled down to a slightly more slippery number. It’s oddly satisfying, plus it’s enormous fun to be back with Wydrin and the gang. I’ve missed them.

 

In other bits of small news, Dark Fiction Magazine has reopened to submissions, and for our March episode we’re looking for stories inspired by folklore (a favourite subject of mine) so get scribbling! And yes, I am still doing the Everything and the Cat Project (even if one night of booze almost made me forget to upload the thing) and at the end of this month I’ll do a little post rounding up my favourite pictures so far. In the meantime, if you feel the need for random photos of trees and Lego in your life, you can follow me on instagram (username sennydreadful, as ever).

Rejections, a New Perspective: Or Developing Your Crusty Carapace

I haven’t mentioned it all that often on this blog, but these days I edit the audio fiction website Dark Fiction Magazine, and over the last year or so reading submissions has given me a new perspective on the short story market.

 

I know what it’s like to get rejections. I even have one from Black Static which I’m quite proud of, just because it came on a slip of paper and this somehow made it seem ancient and special, and I’ve lost track of how many I’ve received by email. It’s a very painful process, and I have ground my teeth and cursed the gods and the demons and all the little goblins in between, but after a while it doesn’t hurt as much. There are those markets, of course, which you’re desperate to break and each “no thanks” email is a kick in the writerly-ball-sack, but eventually you do start to form the beginnings of a crusty carapace that protects you from the worst of the agony.

 

Now, as the editor of DFM I’m the one sending rejection notices, and for a writer that is a very odd experience indeed. I feel bad. I feel conflicted. I occasionally cackle with the power of it all and stroke my evil cat. Mostly though, it’s a sobering process because it demonstrates exactly how complicated a rejection can be. I have, for example, said no to plenty of stories that are actually very good, but not right for DFM, or not a good fit for the upcoming episodes. I struggle with this a lot, because I don’t want to say to these writers, “you are crap”, because even though the email will say this isn’t quite right for us, it always feels like you’re being told “you’re crap”. Often though there simply isn’t room for everything good that hits the slush pile; last year we did five episodes (four stories an episode) and next year we’ll probably do four episodes, and that just doesn’t leave much space. Every story has to be very, very good and every story has to fit the episode – that leads to a lot of rejections.

 

There’s a lot of crap too, of course. For every story I agonize over there’s probably another two that get chucked pretty swiftly. Most of the time someone’s had an idea for a story and hasn’t quite got the craft to tell it yet, or, being a genre magazine, the story falls into common genre patterns, such as “It’s horror! Stick loads of blood and guts and possibly some uncomfortable sex in there!” I do, admittedly, have very high standards for short stories and a lot of submissions will come a cropper, and that’s as it should be; I want DFM to host the best weird fiction, after all. Some stories we receive just aren’t SF, Fantasy or Horror at all (which puzzles me a little – the website banner is a giant green zombie person, so you’d think that would be a big clue) and some are just too long or obscure.

 

If knowing how these things work hasn’t quite made rejections easier for me to stomach, it has at least made them easier to understand, and a year of chomping through the slush pile has taught me an awful lot about editing as well as writing. For 2013 we’re going to announce the themes of the episodes beforehand, giving writers more of a chance to refine their stories for the magazine, and hopefully this will lead to me sending fewer rejection emails. Plus the cat finds all the cackling puts her off her lunch.

The Copper Promise: Latest News and Also Cartoons

Robo5000

Time for a quick update from Admin5000!

 

So, the last Copper Promise post was a few weeks ago now and I think I was on Chapter Three of part four, which I had yet to give a firm title too. Well, a month later and I’m on Chapter 25 and part four appears to have morphed into Upon the Ashen Blade, which hopefully means I am making progress – quite a lot for me actually, as I seem to have finally developed a system of writing in small bursts that has boosted my word count. Hurrah for that!

 

I’m into the endgame now. There will be perhaps another two chapters (the endings always take longer than I expect them to, so take this with a healthy pinch of salt) and the first draft of The Copper Promise, in its entirety, will be complete. At which point I will probably crawl into a dark room and hide under a pillow for a while, making small uncertain noises as I contemplate the editing job that must take place.

 

This book has turned into a monster. Wydrin would probably find that hilarious, the moo.

 

In other news, isn’t Avatar: The Last Airbender amazing? I’m aware that I am horribly late to the party on this one, but we’ve just started watching series 2 and I’m a bit in love with it. The writing is great and utterly persuasive (how much do I adore Zuko already? It’s ridiculous), the world building and mythology is top notch, and the animation, which benefits from a lovely clean anime style and healthy dollops of slapstick, is just an absolute pleasure. New favourite thing!