Friday, 27 July 2012

Ramblings on the Goodreads Hullabaloo

My brain is full of editing at the moment and I’m not very capable of forming reasonable sentences, so here are a few random thoughts in place of a proper blog post.


There’s a lot of unpleasantness flying about over Goodreads at the moment – it’s a site that I’ve only recently started to dip my social media toes into, and although I have yet to pay attention to even one of its recommends I do quite enjoy updating my book reading status; adding those extra few percent to my progress bar is so satisfying…


Most of the drama basically boils down to “authors are whiny babies who need to shut up” vs “reviewers are sadistic bullies with an agenda”. I think maybe we need to step back and consider the equality of the reader/writer relationship. Maybe, just maybe, we should try and reconcile the idea in our minds that they’re both equally important. Without writers, we’d have nothing to read. Without readers, there would little joy in writing (I know that we all say we write for ourselves, but in the end, you want to share that world, don’t you?)


I suspect we’d all avoid getting our knickers in a bunch if we could remember a couple of things:


Writers: Just ‘cause you’ve written a book, doesn’t mean it’s pleasant to lord it up over everyone.

Reviewers: Just ‘cause you’re reviewing a book, doesn’t mean it’s pleasant to personally attack the author.


The thing is, and I think we forget this on the internet quite often, you are totally free to say what you like. Of course you are. But please do not be all shocked if you say shitty things, and then people point out that you are saying shitty things.


We can all chuck our tuppence worth in. That’s what freedom of speech is.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Why a Book is Like a House, and I Can't Juggle


I was in the pub with my brother a few months back and he asked me how you go about writing a book. We were, at that stage, reasonably tipsy, approaching that point in the evening when taking part in the pub quiz seems like a really good idea, even though there’s only two of us and I’m terrible at all geography questions. After all, how can you fail when your team name is Simply Williams? (Or Simple Williams, as I suggested afterwards).


My brother is a very practical person who thinks in, I think, a structural way. He works at the Globe Theatre making sure all the sets and props do what they’re supposed to, and designs awesome stuff with a 3D programme on his computer (he’s frighteningly clever, despite our general failure at pub quizzes). That sort of thing boggles my mind; I can no more design solid structures than I can juggle chainsaws or solve a Rubiks cube – I don’t have great spatial awareness, and tend to walk into the walls of our flat when I’m thinking a bit hard.


So I tried to think of a way of explaining it to him. I couldn’t at the time, because I was drunk, but I’ve been considering it since and I have decided it’s like this:


It’s like building a house in your head.


Only, you have to imagine all the parts separately, and then you have to keep imagining them all the time so the thing stays up. So, you have to create the foundations in your mind (for me, the foundations are probably the characters) and then you have to keep them there, solid, in your mind, while you build the walls and the floors and the windows and the roof (or the plot, the sub-plots, the side characters, the character motivations). And then when you have the structure, and you can see it all in your head at once without having a nosebleed, you can start decorating; you imagine the wallpaper and the hideous floral carpets, the curtains, the tables, the doors and the funky fireplace with a dead body wedged up inside it. You can see the details, like how a certain character speaks, their foibles and liking for cheese, and the theme is like the central heating system, winding through the house and keeping it cosy.


Eventually, you must be able to see the house in its entirety without effort. It must become as familiar and lived-in as the house you grew up in, and you will know what is hidden in every drawer and shoved down the back of every sofa, even if you don’t need to show that to anyone.


And that’s what our books become, I think; a home inside our heads. And if we’re lucky, other people will want to come and stay there for a while too.


Which is what I would have said to Paul, if I wasn’t drunk.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Mysterious City of Bookville

Looking back through the blog today I found an entry where I talked about starting Bad Apple Bone back in May 2007. Since that was my very first book, this means that I have now written 7 books in 5 years. This seemed a bit mad so I went and wrote it down again to see if it actually made sense.


Bad Apple Bone

Bird and Tower

Ink for Thieves

The Steel Walk

Dead Zoo Shuffle

The Snake House

The Copper Promise

 (Not counting A Boy of Blood and Clay, which stalled at the 61,000 word mark, or the steampunk novella)


So, madness. What I really need to do, undoubtedly, is find more time to edit as well as write. Ink for Thieves is shiny now, and The Copper Promise is in the midst of a huge tidying session, but I’d really like to spruce up The Snake House (weird YA horror) and possibly even persuade Dead Zoo Shuffle (SF crime) to be a readable book at some point. Crikey, that’s a lot of work.


I was talking with some tweeps on twitter today (shh, that’s totally what you say) about what you learn with each new book, and how even the ones that don’t go according to plan (I’m looking at you, A Boy of Blood and Clay) can act like weird story sonar – you might not have found the Mysterious City of Booksville this time round, but now you’ve got a better idea where to look.


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

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The First Draft Is Done!


That is to say: the first draft of The Copper Promise, all four parts, is finished. 

I am drinking wine now, toasting Wydrin, Frith and Sebastian, and looking forward to beating the whole unwieldy thing into shape with the editing stick.

*snoopy dance*