Fixing a Hole

It’s Wednesday night – and it barely seems like a blink of an eye since two weeks ago, when I was preparing, packing and getting ready for an early rise and the journey to Cornwall. This time, I’ve got a much earlier start – instead of 8.55 am, my flight’s at 6.30 am, which means reaching the airport by 5.30, which means leaving for Newquay at 4.30… and I’m sure you can work out roughly when I’m going to be getting up tomorrow. Not exactly ideal, but I’m crossing my fingers for a relatively smooth journey – yes, there’s been snow down here (nowhere near as much as in other parts of the country), but it hasn’t been too heavy, so there’s a vague chance that tomorrow’s trip won’t disintegrate into a Planes Trains and Automobiles style nightmare.

It’s been an extremely nice two weeks – lots of relaxation, lots of calm, a brilliant day out with Tris, and a chance to write. I’ve had a few tech issues – my current Netbook, an early Asus Eee PC nearly conked out thanks to a faulty adaptor – it’s been sorted, but an upgrade of operating system seems to have exponentially upped the amount of heat the thing gives off. It now leaps to slightly over-comfortable heat within about an hour, which has me generally twitching and wondering if there’s anything I can do. I love gadgets, but I also don’t like being too dependant on them, especially when they inevitably start misbehaving – but, at the least, thanks to my current financial situation, there’s a chance that I may be able to upgrade or replace it.

I don’t feel like I’ve properly arrived in 2010 yet. I’ve found myself in a slightly odd mood – the prospect of travel always gets me slightly tense, even when I’m not playing the Snow and Ice Lottery, and being at the beginning of another year makes me simultaneously hopeful and worried, staring at the possibilities in front of me and wondering what to make of them. One of the most important things I’ve got to do – slowly but surely – is continue to move on from some of the bad things that have happened over the past two years. It’s easy to let myself get down about some of the things that have gone wrong, or the times when I do end up lonely – but the fact is that I’ve actually made a lot of new friends over the past year, and I want to try and make sure that I do the same this year. I’ve already got priorities I need to get sorted for the next six months – to finish my proofreading course, and to finish my new book.

Ah yes, the new book. I’ll introduce it now – I might as well, since I’ve been referring to The Hypernova Gambit as ‘the book’ for so long, things could get confusing. It’s called ‘Chill Out’, it’s a bizarre mixture of family drama and crazed fantasy, and it’s very, very ‘me’. I’m aiming it to be shorter than my first one – I’m trying my best to have fun with it, I’m about 100 pages in, and it has finally reached the stage where it’s actually feeling like a novel rather than just an interesting collection of bits.

I’ve got a plan. I know where I want to be. And whatever roads 2010 takes me down, I’m going to do my best to ensure they’re fun ones.

And now, you must excuse me. I’ve got sandwiches to make, and packing to finish…

New Projects Ahoy…

One significant step is that I’ve got two new writing projects on the go. They’re both in the planning stages – there’s one in particular that needs a good deal more meat on the bones than there is at the moment – but they’re both ideas that are making interesting things spark in my brain. One of the things this last rewrite on The Hypernova Gambit has taught me is exactly how important character is – and I’m trying to approach these ideas from the right angle, to try and lay down strong character stories first and then construct a whole load of craziness around them. I still know what I want to do, I just feel like I have a slightly better idea of how to go about it now. I don’t want to pre-plan too much; the point will come pretty soon where I’ve got to just say “Screw it” and start writing. I’m also not sure which one I will prioritise first – one’s a loose spin-off from The Hypernova Gambit (completely self-contained though), and the other is a somewhat crazy mixture of emotional family drama and bugged-out psychedelic pulp storytelling. I’m actually tempted to try them both at once, bouncing from one to the other and see if one wins out naturally over the other. But either way… I know that this is what I need to do next.

I also had a quick look at The Hypernova Gambit again this morning. Maybe it’s not wise looking at a project once it’s out the door and being officially looked at by important people… but you know what? I’m really, really proud of it. Whatever happens from hereon in, I tried my damndest, I made some pretty significant changes (there’s only a handful of scenes that I haven’t tweaked in some way), and the book is now much, much better than it was in its previous ‘official’ incarnation. Frustratingly, of course, it won’t change anything with the editors who read the previous version of the book and turned it down (however much I’m filled with the desire to be able to leap up and down and shout “Look! It’s much better now, honest!”), but it gives me a much better chance with the remaining opportunities. Whatever is destined to happen, it’s taught me a hell of a lot about writing. And I’m not about to stop now…

Blush Response

The end is closer. I’m actually getting within sight of finishing the rewrites, and I’m basically in the end stages of ploughing through the book and doing what needs to be done. What’s been particularly scary is that I’ve made a couple of fairly major character ‘enhancements’ on this pass – basically beefing up background, smoothing over motivation and trying to get it so that the characterisation works – and it’s rather like flying blind through a rainstorm and hoping beyond hope that the runway is actually there. I know that the stuff I’m doing is making the book much, much better, though, which is something of a relief. And I’m also having faith in the book as it stands – I’m never going to get it perfect, it is what it is, and it’s the kind of thing that isn’t going to go down spectacularly well with everyone. But it’s all me, and the version that will be the new ‘2009’ draft is going to be significantly better than the last version that was out with publishers. I’ve done my best. Can’t really ask for more.

But wow, I am definitely taking a little bit of a break once this is done. This has been a terrifying amount of work – possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, ever. And of course, if this does pay off, my reward will be to do it all again – and faster…

And you know what? I’m rather looking forward to the idea…

Time Is On My Side

Okay – it’s explanation time.

I’ve been very quiet on the blog recently. I’ve also been making veiled references to an Uber-Ultra-Secret project, and not saying much more. Well, I think it’s time I bring you roughly up to date with what’s happening. I’m still keeping some details under wraps, plus this (and any posts relating to it) will be friends-locked for the moment. But frankly, I’d like to actually be able to blog in the way that I used to. And being that I’m spending so much time on my own right now, I’m finding that I’m oddly missing it.

What I’ve been up to for the last two months… well, at the beginning of February I heard back from an Editor Who Shall Remain Nameless in relation to The Hypernova Gambit. And what I got was… well, it can safely be described as ‘interest’. The Editor Who Shall Remain Nameless was essentially turning it down and explaining why – but they also explained in quite a lot of detail the problems they had with the book. It was all done in a very open-ended way – I was welcome to disagree, ignore or do what I liked with the advice. But if I did want to take that advice onboard and try another draft, I was welcome to resubmit it.

Now, obviously this is one of those ‘good news/bad news’ situations – but the main positive thing was that it wasn’t a complete rejection. It was a possibility. And of course, when you’re looking at criticism of your work, it’s very easy to look at it and want to ignore it or disagree… but I didn’t. I looked at all of it, and I found that I actually agreed with just about everything the Editor Who Shall Remain Nameless had said. And within about a day or so, I was coming up with stuff. I was realising what needed to be done – changes I could make, ways I could take the whole thing and twist it in the right direction. A lot of these were the kind of things where you look at a story and think “How could I have been so stupid?” A lot of them were ideas where I suddenly realised that a tiny shift would make things so much better. And this is the bit that I love – getting actual feedback, being able to actually look at the whole edifice as a structure, and then making the right changes so that you can get rid of even more of the flaws than ever before. I know I’ll never get rid of them completely, but I can try my damndest.

So that’s what I’ve been doing since around the middle of February, and it’s been a lot of work. It was one of the scary things about this bit of the rewriting – I knew it would make the book better, but I also knew that this wasn’t going to be a small change. This was going to be big, and lots of smaller changes ended up happening along the way. There were certain sections that did come very easily, which was really nice – but there were also certain sections which were still difficult. And then, once I was at the end, I had to go back to the beginning and go through every single sentence of the book to try and get them to work better (and, heaven help me, I’m going to be doing it again once I’ve gotten a few people to read it). And it’s been something I’ve barely stopped at in the last seven weeks – to the extent that I think I’m slightly suffering from exhaustion having finished it on Friday.

And you know something?

It’s really good.

I’m really happy with it. It’s not absolutely done yet – there’s still work to be done – but there’s a whole selection of things in the book now that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. And the end of the book is so much stronger. I’ve got a level of faith in it now – I understand why I got those rejections last year. I think I had to go through those so that I’d get to this point, and understand what I need to do to make it better. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get it good enough so that the Editor Who Shall Remain Nameless will actually want to take it on – but I really, really feel like something is going to happen as a result of this.

And sometimes, that’s all you need.

The Hypernova Gambit – The Opening…

Okay, there comes a time when you’ve got to just put yourself out there and see what happens. There’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages on the site, and after talking it over with my agent, I’ve gone and done it. The prologue and opening chapter of The Hypernova Gambit are now online, – and if you’ve been following the long-running saga of my book, this is your chance to find out what I’ve been talking about all this time (For extra info, the blurb can be found here). Hope you enjoy it…

Interview (!)

I’ve done my first interview about The Hypernova Gambit. It’s for an online sci-fi e-zine called Concept Sci-Fi, and given that the book still hasn’t been picked up by a publisher I was rather surprised to be asked (the editor had read about it on my agent’s website). Never being one to turn down an opportunity to talk about myself, however, I put on my never-before-worn interviewee hat, and the results are now online here.

Welcome to the Machine

Weeks have passed, and aside from my vague Whoblogging, I’ve been keeping quiet here. My TV output has gone way down, mainly because I’m now doing a column for Vector, the BSFA magazine, and trying to sculpt my ramblings into 3,000 or so coherent words isn’t the easiest thing in the universe. (I’m also hugely thankful to coalescent for being prepared to edit out all the stuff that doesn’t work…). My most recent one was all about Torchwood, but I did try to actually tackle what I feel is conceptually wrong with the show, rather than simply bitching about the multitude of surface errors. There was a Torchwood-related link in this week’s Torque Control that said something significant (which I instantly wished I’d actually said in my article) which is that it’s a show that’s good at giving its audience what it wants (and no more) – and I think this is also true of New Who.

A short burst of yet more Who-related burblings…

A Stroke of Luck

Life is ticking over at the moment – it’s one of those nice yet frustrating times that’s not quite busy enough to keep me completely occupied, yet busy enough to prevent me from panicking hideously. As an attempt to give myself a focus and calm myself, I’m part way through the XBOX 360 game Mass Effect, and when I’m not getting completely vexxed at the combat interface (which I’ve finally gotten the grips of – it’s not completely intuitive, and there’s no serious training level) I’m having a ball. Of course, Grand Theft Auto 4 is out next week, and that’s going to be an embarrassing drain on my time that I’ll have to keep an eye on. I spent three months playing through Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, and never even managed to get further than 60% complete – the Grand Theft Auto games are works of computer gaming genius, and the level of immersion and freedom that they acheive is something truly amazing. I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into number 4…

Post-wise, I received a package with a proof of Richard Morgan’s The Steel Remains. Few epic/heroic fantasies will get me to read them without money being involved at the moment, but I feel it’s likely I’m going to break the rule here.

I’m also having major trouble with my next Vector TV column. I’ve got some things to say about Torchwood (true, almost all of them negative) but trying to say them and keep in the ball park of 1,500 words is proving tricky. My last go was 3,500, and then I managed to wipe that version. I’m currently rebuilding it from scratch, while I’m also starting chipping away at the follow up to The Hypernova Gambit. The climax is in my head already – it just might be difficult reverse-engineering a way of getting there.

London tomorrow, and a screening (for a review, thankfully) of Neil Marshall’s new film, a homage to mid-Eighties post apocalyptic sci-fi called Doomsday. Malcom McDowell is in it. I am not hopeful…

(Although I have also bagged a screening of Speed Racer on Sunday, and am absurdly excited as a result. The film itself may be dreadful, but the trailers have reduced me to giddy schoolgirl-like squeals of delight, and at the least it’ll look good…)