discussions writing & publishing

Writerly Love

It’s Valentine’s Day – so I wanted to extend a little lurve. So unless you’ve got the Cava chilling, and and a Barry White LP on the turntable, I want to know what you’re all writing.

One of the things I’ve noticed – and let’s face it, it’s not that hard to see – is that many people online, many people who hang around blogs and forums, are writers – they’re just not yet published. I was one of those people at one point, so I know how you all feel. It sucks since you think that no one takes your writing seriously.

It’s also something that tends to go quietly spoken – for all sorts of reasons, we might not feel comfortable sharing. You might feel it isn’t always appropriate, that the opportunity rarely presents itself. I remember that the whole process – pre-blogosphere – could even feel quite isolating. Let’s face it: writing isn’t the most sociable activity in the world.

There may be many who follow this blog who also never jump in on the comments – well, now’s your chance. Introduce yourself. Say hello. Tell me what you’re working on – what the book’s about, what problems you’re having with it, or what you’re worried about. If you’re a regular, then I want to know too.

I’m genuinely interested in what’s going on out there.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

24 replies on “Writerly Love”

I may as well kick things off even if I’ve only followed your blog for a couple of months. 🙂 I’m writing something pretty traditional, I guess, with not much magic involved. It’s more of a character thing. I’ve only really tried writing recently, and I’m finding it really relaxing I have to say!

Great idea, Mark!

I finished a novel about a year ago. Once I started editing it, I realized it’s about 70% rubbish. So, since then, it’s been short fiction for me. I have three main projects I’ve been working on.

The first is a 7,500 word short story about a young soldier burying his fellow soldiers and reflecting on the nature of death, heaven, war and human compulsion. It’s quiet, dark and introspective. It took me a while to write and edit, but I’m quite proud of it. It’s called “A Night for Spirits and Snowflakes.”

The second is a 4,500 word fairy tale-inspired Fantasy inspired by the works of the Brothers Grimm, William Goldman’s The Princess Bride and Peter S. Beagle. It’s spin on the classic love triangle between a Prince, a Princess and a lonely Dragon. It’s called “Of Parnassus and Princes, Damsels and Dragons.”

The final and newest story is my first attempt at writing a Swords & Sorcery-style 5,500 word short story. It’s set in a Middle East-inspired world recently annexed by faux-England and smattered with the Orient. Steam power is invading and tearing away the religion and culture of the Kingdom. Our ‘hero’ is a disgraced priest-turned-mercenary who burns down an entire city while uncovering a rather devious plot hatched by his former friend (and current priest). It’s called “New Society is Burning”.

All three are currently looking for homes.

And that’s it. I’ve got a few more stories in The Patchwork Priest series that I’m developing in my head, but my main goal at this point is to polish and refine those previous three stories and (hopefully!) place them somewhere for the world to read.

I have to say, writing short fiction has taught me nearly as much about the craft as writing a whole novel. Plus, you know, instant gratification and stuff.

Hello Mark (and Aidan!). I too have not been following your blog for long, but it’s educational and inspiring to those of us still struggling to get published.

I am about 72,000 words into a novel that is lies at the crossroads of sword-n-sorcery, epic fantasy, dystopia, and a bit of horror. Band of misfit heroes topple powerful tyrant and then have to figure out how to keep things from falling into chaos while fending off rivals and dealing with the vast bureaucracy (a network of wizards’ colleges and imperial cults) that is trying to co-opt at least some of them into taking the tyrants’ place. There is a remarkable amount of betrayal in everyone’s interactions, and it is a lot of fun to write.

I am working on two short stories at the moment also. One, “The Quiet Fox Child’s Inconspicuous Lament” is about a young girl who finds out that she is a fairy (a kitsune-type) and is adopted by a geeky couple, and how they each deal with this (and the larger fairy apocalypse around them). The other is currently untitled, but is essentially social science fiction, set in a near-future where a Rapture-like event has taken place, and follows one of the “Chosen” as he finds out some unsettling things about his fellow fighters in the resistance movement against the defacto world government that arises after the event.

I just released a short story into the wild also, which is up at my blog for those that are interested to see how I write.

Thanks for the chance to talk about them!

This is my first comment, though I’ve been following this blog for a while. The thoughtfulness did make me smile this Valentine’s day, so thank you.

I’m working on a rather strange novel. Steampunk without steam, magic that can kill its wielder, incest, endless day, romance, a high body count… I worry (like most writers) that it’s not any good, and I also worry that it’s too strange to be published. Seems even odder to talk about it actually, but there we are.

The wine and dining will wait for later 😉

Thanks for asking!
I’m currently working on 2 short stories, 1 flash fiction.
The First “The Broken Prince”, is already written but is going through a second draft. I love to call it my Alternate History Science Fantasy as it is set in a post-apocalptic Eart with Magic and fallen science.
The second is a first-person Epic Fantasy called “The Dagger at Necromancer’s Gate”. It follows a woman who is trying to destroy the Necromancer’s Gate, which holds the world’s Magic, humanity’s only weapon against the Raz Ghul, the monsters inside the Necromancer’s Gate. The story explores the use of abusing creativity and imagination for power.
The third, is a flash fiction already written at 270 words called “The Bones of the Earth”. It is about the bones of the dead screaming to the bone-collectors to stop bringing bones before the Earth speaks.
I’m also working on a few fantastical poetry projects, but that’s for another time.
Thanks again!!

I’m currently working on a bunch of fantasy/SF/horror short stories… One day I’ll finish them and work out who on earth would possibly want to read them.

The newest one is a story about a bitter/grumpy old man who works for the library’s book retrieval service (good lord I wish this was still real) and has to figure out why the object of his unrequited love (topical!) tried to fake her own death in order to keep a book away from their bosses.

The other one I keep going back to features Jenny Green Teeth and a dysfunctional chap who isn’t sure if the water hag he keeps seeing is real or not. It’s kind of a mashup of folklore, urban fantasy and relationship drama. I think the length (probably going to cap 9,000 words) would be a bit of a barrier to getting it published in most magazines.

My biggest hurdle tends to be finishing projects, especially short stories. I tend to skip from idea to idea and most of them get discarded within the first two hundred words (when I realise that I’m not doing anything even vaguely new).

Hi, My name is Alexandre Mandarino and I’m a regular for a while, reading all posts via RSS feed. I’m a 40 year-old brazilian ex-journalist, now working with translations and trying to finish my first novel, which revolves around a conspiracy involving tarot cards and a subversive group.
I just finished the translation of China Miéville’s King Rat to portuguese (his début in the brazilian market) and I’m now translating Perdido Street Station. I wrote some short stories ranging from SF to fantasy, most of them in portuguese. One of the few I wrote in english, “The Circle of Bones” can be read here:

I’m also launching a quarterly online magazine called Hyperpulp, which will publish genre short stories (fantasy, SF, horror, etc) with a “literary” treatment and in a bilingual edition. We’ll translate the selected stories from english to portuguese for free and the guidelines can be found here:

My main concern is to finish my Tarot novel and one of problems is to accomodate time between my day job (totally unrelated to literature) and spare most of my leisure time to my writing/translating projects (and still read, research, play Red Dead Revolver and all this).

Thanks for the chance to talk about it, Mark.

Two words: Angel cannon.

Okay, some more words: working on a short story set in a rotating space station that’s been in space so long everyone’s forgotten what it is. Gravity is weaker near the ‘hub’ around which the station rotates, so angels (traditional wings-from-shoulder-blades angels, rather than the four faced biblical depictions) live and frolic and fly up there, unless they fall, in which case they become stuck. Surviving angels dish out spiritual advice in exchange for coin, which they spend either getting drunk, trying to get back to the heavens, or in the case of our protagonist, both. An engineer friend of his has built a big cannon. I think you can guess the rest.

(I need to work on the elevator pitch for that one)

Also, plotting out a military fantasy with demons bonded to muskets (I’ve already written a sequel, though it was by mistake) and editing a short about a pilgrim crossing a drained sea where legged whales and ambulatory dolphins walk.

And working on some queries for the next Black Library reading period too.

What about yourself, Mark? Are you purely in the edit-caves, or noodling around something else?

I suppose I’m a regular, in that I check in here most days. I once met you, a few years ago, while working for Games Workshop on their manager training course (or should I say “Squad Leader” course?) and being shown round the Black Library; I now use that fact to garner the admiration of my peers. Honest.
I’m working on on an idea I’ve had for years but never thought would sell until people like you came along, involving the aftermath of a biblical apocalyspe and the ongoing war between the descendants of angels and demons, which is kind of Dying Earth-y and kind of not. I also write Clive Barker-esque horror shorts that I’m too scared to send away in case they get stolen/mocked/sexually molested, the little darlings.
One word on the “secret writer” thing: I have a few friends who have roughly the same literary taste as me, and I’ve found them an interested, critical audience for my work. It’s also made the whole thing feel less furtive and shameful, which is nice, and something I wholly recommend. But you can’t have my friends, in case your writing is much more betterer than mine.

Hey Mark!

This is an awesome idea, and a Happy Valentine’s Day to you and all these other writers!

As for what I’m writing these days, I have a bunch of different ideas floating around in my head but I have a couple of specific ones I’m working on.

One is a short story called The Final Tree, about an elderly food connoisseur, living in a future where technology and nature have merged, looking to eat one real apple before he dies.

The next is called Little Girl, Elder God. It’s sort of like Clifford the Big Red Dog, except Clifford is a giant lake monster of Lovecraftian proportions. That’s going to be a fun one.

I’m also working on a fantasy novel tentatively titled Three Thieves, about three orphans who steal a book from the Regent of the city. Bringing that book to the right person could save thousands of lives. But first they need to make it out of the city alive. First in a trilogy thingy.

My biggest problem is concentrating and finishing one thing, slogging through all the doubts and the “this sucks,” moments to find something awesome and finish it. Any mantras/tips?

Thanks Mark, good talking again! Good luck to all the other writers here!

Well, that’s not a bad little response so far is it? I’m glad the quiet ones are jumping in too. 🙂

Angela – good that you find it relaxing. That’s VERY important..

Yo, Aidan – you’ve got quite the few projects on the go, and that final project of yours sounds very interesting indeed. I’m not one for short stories – just that I’m a kind of broad picture writer, and find the short form a little more tricky. Anyway, hope it all goes well with submissions – I’m sure you’ll find a home for them soon enough.

John – the 72k mark is a seriously good level of commitment into a novel! It’s usually about that stage I start doubting myself… Both those novels sound pretty good fun and I’m glad you’re enjoying the craft.

T.S. Bazelli – now that’s a complex story… I love the idea of putting so many elements together like that. And you’re welcome!

Brandon – snazzy projects. I think you’re the first fantasy poet I’ve come across online! What kind of things are they about?

Sam – yeah, I know what you mean about having so many ideas, and I used to be the same (though tinkering with novel starts). Ultimately, that creative spark is a good thing – it’ll be just what you need when you have to think of more ideas with deadlines looming… But I think it was Neil Gaiman who preached to finish what you write. He wasn’t wrong, either. Get to it!

Alexandre – thanks for stopping by from Brazil! Wow, you’ve got a heck of a lot of things on the go – great stuff, and thanks for the links. I bet translating Perdido Street Station is not an easy project, too. I can imagine it’s difficult to find the time to write with all those other things going on, especially with a day job.

Sam B – those are really cool ideas. Mad and cool and I like them. As for me – thanks for asking – I’m a little way into book four (whilst now working on the copy-edits of The Book of Transformations). It’s tying up a series, bringing threads together, so a different challenge from the other three. I much prefer the open ended story, I’m finding…

Brian – Ah, a GW-er! Are you still working for the company? And good to see some horror on the table, too. You’re lucky to have a group of friends with similar tastes. I imagine that’s not just useful creatively, but socially and mentally (me, I’m on my own and just go mad). I promise not to steal your friends.

Marty – just sharing the love today, is all… 🙂 I love the idea of an elderly food connoisseur – that’s an unusual character to choose. If it’s any help, we all get ‘this sucks’ moments, right up until we hand it in to the editor who tells us to stop being silly. I actually think it’s a good problem, since it means you’re going to strive to make something as good as you can possibly manage, as opposed to thinking ‘Oh, this will do.’ Use that power for good!

This is a nice idea of yours…

I’m in the planning stages of a fantasy series (although, now I come to think of it, there are unintended elements of steampunk in there, but not sure how much of that will survive), which is loosely-based on 1850-1915 Western history in China – so the economic zones, the Open Door, and Opium Wars. Only, that’s just the backdrop (at least, the rush for contracts and access is), and the focus is on a couple of character who I hope to become series-regulars. One is a pampered young diplomat, the other is his cynical ‘handler’. That he is a diplomat looked to me like a handy device to introduce new places, and keep him moving around the world. The plan is to have a novel, followed by a novella, followed by more novels and occasional extra novellas in between. But, of course, the best laid plans…

I’ve started it twice, but kept scrapping it. As soon as I’ve finished my thesis, I’m going to spend some more time on it and hopefully flesh out the story and characters more. I have a lot of the background stuff already sketched out (politics, geography, cultures, economics, etc.), but not much of the concrete story. Who know how it’ll turn out.

I guess influences would be Dan Abraham, Scott Lynch and writers of that ilk (although, I have no delusions of being anywhere near as talented as them).

Cheers for the reply Mark! Fortunately for you I left GW to go to uni as a mature student, or you’d have had to put up with me coming and bugging you for autographs/a pint at Bugman’s/reassuring nuggets of writerly wisdom whenever I was at HQ.
Having a group of people who are actually interested has helped a load. I’m able to show someone my drafts and get feedback before making any submissions, and it helps me make deadlines – I tell them what I’m working on and when they can see it and try to stick to it, which is good for keeping disciplined. If I don’t have a deadline nothing gets done…
To everyone else, it’s nice to see other people in a similar position to myself, and I hope it all works out for you and in years to come we can prop up bars at conventions together. With me as your king, obviously, bedecked in finery and surrounded by panting groupies. I may even let you share them.

I’m currently polishing and repolishing a horror novel for submission to Angry Robot next month, and I’m also 70k words into an epic fantasy novel about power and how it affects different people. Swords, sorcery, a lot of blood, some battles and three very different perspectives on a war. So maybe half way through so far.

Stefan – that’s nicely epic stuff. And it’s good to aspire to authors like that. I guess it can’t be easy with a thesis to write as well – writing might be the last thing on your mind after that?

Brian – I see! And panting groupies? That’s the spirit! (As an aside, I’ve always maintained that writing is largely about confidence to tell a story.)

Aidan – the cheek! James Frey I am not. 😛

Stephen – good luck with the Angry Robot submission. Hope it all goes well, but also good to see that you’re cracking on with new stuff, too. Never stop…

It’s easier to disappear into an already-written novel, yes. Two more months, then I get to spend some time tinkering on something I REALLY want to write. It also helps that that’s my favourite period of history, so I’m already familiar with what went on in real life, so transferring it to a secondary world might not be quite as difficult.

Is anyone a member of a writers’ group? I’m seeing more and more from some American authors (particularly those in Minnesota and Wisconsin, interestingly) who are members of these, and I was wondering if they exist in the UK?

I got the impossible acceptance letter a month or two back, and I’m now going to be seeing one of my short stories in an anthology (Historical Lovecraft). As a result, I’ve been writing shorts like crazy. I expected to run out of ideas after a story or two, but the more writing I do the more productive I seem to become. I should, at some point, wrap up the novel I wrote for National Novel Writing Month (75k in November, about 2/3rds through the plot) but short stories proved surprisingly addictive, and there’s the feeling that I’ve actually got a chance of, just maybe, seeing them in print.

Stefan – I think there’s a Glasgow SF writers circle, which has a few interesting names pass through – Charles Stross, Hal Duncan etc – though I’m not sure of anything in England.

Nathaniel – congrats on the publication. Yes, I think there are more chances for getting short fiction published (a lot of venues still around), and monthly magazines, e-zines as well as anthologies. Keep it up!

D’aww, this is really sweet. Hope I’m not late to the party- obviously I was the one out the back with the Cava and the Barry White.

I’m in the same boat as Aidan- finished a draft, went to edit and found out I had a steaming pile of…tripe. I wound up ransacking it for bones and came out with a (relatively) comprehensible story involving radical, highly politicised monks, a differently-evolved human clinging to life in a city ze never asked to be brought to, and a husband and wife who start the novel trying to get back to each other and end it realising two years apart can do a lot to people. Oh, and hopefully a charismatic narrating antagonist with an army of nationless stevedores at his back.

While it’s still going to need a lot of polishing work, I’m generally pretty happy with the shape the whole thing’s taken. TBH, I’m predominantly worried about the limited publishing opportunities here in Australia- which may mean seeking an overseas agent at some point.

Psst- this post was an awesome idea, Mark, thanks 🙂

Just finished my first novel last summer, a 287,000 word behemoth of an epic fantasy, and that was after I cut it down by 30,000 words in editing! Dense, grim, bleak, and pretty strange. Oh, and it’s the first of a trilogy, of course. I like it a lot, but I’m realistic about it’s marketability for a first-time author. So my next manuscript is more urban fantasy-lite and I’m trying to top out at around 100,000 words or so. Half-way there so far! Thanks for doing this, Mark. I’m a regular reader but don’t generally comment.

Has anyone thought about self publication? It’s not as hard as it seems and very rewarding, both financially and personally. There are loads of free lance copy editors out there and a million talented designers who would jump at the chance to get their work on the cover of a book. Plus the e-revolution has democratised the print bit. However it’s not for everyone. You have to enjoy self promotion and treat it like a job. Once you are into the cycle you have to keep going through thick and thin. Buts that no different from the writing I guess. Has anyone considered that route?

Hi Jax – hope Barry did the trick. Sounds like some good character interaction there, too. As for the Australian thing – I think some publishers tend to look for World English rights and have offices in various territories (Orbit, HarperCollins etc). But I suspect the UK and US markets are the two largest. The Aus market is pretty healthy though, to my knowledge. But in these internet days, it probably doesn’t matter as much.

Greg – that’s a beast! And nice one for taking out 30k words. That takes some discipline, so you’re doing the right thing.

Oc heaton – I think for many people they don’t have the free time or the money to self-publish (especially with full time jobs) and I know in SFF that middle-editor – the structural script editor – is pretty crucial in addition to the copy-editor. Also, there are quite a few companies that give self-publishing a bad name, and use it as a way to make money out of writers. Some manage quite well, though, but those success stories are the exception.

Thanks for the reply, Mark. Really appreciated. Yes, translating Miéville is a hard (and daunting) task. But it’s been an enjoyable and pleasurable work. It’s really hard to find the time to write my own stories; the day job takes most of it. But I force myself to accomodate a way to write, work in the translations and edit the forthcoming magazine (forgot to say we’ll have a story by Cat Rambo in the dèbut issue). My novel is at a really slow pace due to all the rest, but I think all these elements end up benefiting each other.

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