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Drafting, Day 91

Wrote another short scene today, and also signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo to give myself a solid target to work towards. Not sure if I’ll make the full 50k in July, especially given that I have a dayjob-related trip to California coming up, but I’m going to give it a try!

Words written: 734

Running total: 38,869

AltFiction 2011

AltFiction is now in its fifth year and is rapidly establishing itself as one of the best conventions for anyone interested in fantasy, science fiction, horror, comics…basically everything that falls under the “speculative fiction” umbrella. 2011 was its first year as a two-day event, and my first attendance, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The venue was the QUAD, a small but well-equipped arts centre in the middle of Derby Рhandy for restaurants and pubs if you want to eat out, but the centre also has an excellent caf̩ and bar, with efficiently, friendly staff. In how many other places have you received an apology for it taking ten whole minutes to bring your lunch?

The high quality of the venue was matched by the packed programme of events. There were the usual panels and author readings, of course, but also podcasts, writing workshops, film showings, and a surprisingly entertaining book raffle, hosted by Guy Adams and Sarah Pinborough.

Paul Cornell, Damien Walter, Jon Weir and Paul Kane
Paul Cornell, Damien Walter, Jon Weir and Paul Kane

The small size of the convention also makes it easy to meet people. Whereas at larger conventions, the guests of honour are often remote figures who turn up for their interview and then leave again, at AltFiction they are more inclined to hang around and chat in the bar.

Mark Chadbourn, Juliet E McKenna and guest of honour Dan Abnett
Mark Chadbourn, Juliet E McKenna and guest of honour Dan Abnett

For me, the event was a good balance between interesting events and free time spent hanging out with friends and colleagues. My one frustration was that I wasn’t able to volunteer for any panels far enough in advance, as my deal with Angry Robot was under a press embargo for several weeks this spring. Still, there’s always next year!

Drafting, Day 89

Knuckling back down to it after my AltFiction break! Yesterday was a washout – the temperature was pushing 30, and I was exhausted from the weekend, so I mostly dozed and thought about the next scenes I wanted to write. I need to give my heroine, Coby, things to do within the story, but it’s going to be difficult to fit anything in around the main plot without it seeming contrived. I think that in this book her character arc is going to involve relatively small actions that tie into the theme, rather than being a major subplot as it was in The Alchemist of Souls. Annoying, but right now I don’t see any way around it…

Today the temperature dropped significantly, so I managed to write a decent amount for a change – enough to add over a thousand words to the total, despite having to cut a substantial chunk of an old scene 🙂

Words added: 1,065

Running total: 38,135

Drafting, Day 85

A bit of a comeback today – almost 2000 words rescued from Scrivener’s trash folder, thanks to this plot rejigging I’ve been up to. Still needs some rewrites, but I feel like I’m making progress again. Which is fortunate, since I’ll be at AltFiction for the next two days!

Words added: 1,981

Running total: 37,070

Drafting, Day 83

Had a bit of a plot crisis today, so I worked on that instead of writing scenes. Basically I realised that by separating the characters early in the book, I was letting myself in for having to reveal key information twice, and possibly some contrived timing in order to get them back together again.

It’s going to mean rewriting a lot of the scenes I’ve written already, which is a bummer, but first I need to go back and fill in some of scenes I’d skipped because they were part of the subplot…

Horrible Histories

Savvy historical writers have long known that children’s non-fiction is a great resource. Books like Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Sections Castle or Man-of-War provide visual references unparalleled in adult history books – perfect for helping you plan out that seige or pirate attack! Children’s books also include many of the minutiae of daily life that get overlooked in discussions of the decline and fall of empires. It’s this attention to often bizarre detail that makes Horrible Histories a must-watch show for any writer of historical fiction. It also happens to be damned funny…

When the BBC expressed an interest in adapting Terry Deary’s wildly popular children’s history books for television, he was naturally a little apprehensive. Surely the venerable institution wouldn’t be able to replicate the anarchic humour of the books – or wouldn’t want to? Fortunately a wise BBC executive handed the project over to Caroline Norris (Dead Ringers, The Armstrong and Miller Show) whose used her experience in adult comedy to brilliant effect. The result is a cross between Monty Python and The Fast Show, except with the sexual innuendo and swearing replaced by jokes about poo and farting. Well, it is aimed at 6 to 12 year olds!

It succeeds by never talking down to its audience; whether parodying reality TV or explaining the English Civil War in a manner more reminiscent of an election night broadcast, it always acknowledges that kids are well aware of the adult world and want the same quality of entertainment as their parents. And with a cast of familiar faces from comedy shows like Gavin and Stacey (Mathew Baynton), Jam and Jerusalem (Simon Farnaby), That Mitchell and Webb Look (Sarah Farland) and of course The Armstrong and Miller Show (Martha Howe-Douglas and Jim Howick), adult viewers can be forgiven for forgetting they’re watching kids’ TV at all.

The show has become a huge hit, and has even been revamped (with Stephen Fry doing the between-sketch links) and given a new Sunday evening primetime slot. Ironically, the “grown-up” version is far nearer what Deary anticipated in the first place. Fry’s avuncular delivery of the linking material is ill-suited to the tone of the sketches at best, and patronising at worst. It’s as if the BBC is afraid that adults won’t think the show educational enough unless they inject some solemnity into the mix.

Not that I care. I have the DVDs of Series 1 and 2 on order, and Series 3 is still on iPlayer. I wonder if I can write the cost off as research expenses…?

Drafting, Day 82

I didn’t write anything yesterday (Monday) as I was off sick with stomach cramps and concentration was poor. Rather better today, thankfully, so I did manage to write a short scene for the current chapter and extend an earlier chapter that I’d taken a break from. Still not up to the 1000 words per day I really need on this project, but I’m gradually improving.

Today’s word count: 842

Running total: 35,089

Drafting, Day 80

Slow but steady this weekend, as I make my way further into the wilds of this story. I finally finished a difficult scene between Mal and Kiiren (aren’t they always!) and then rewarded myself by skipping ahead to an evening garden party in Venice – much more fun to write! I described the end-result on Twitter as “scheming, flirting, lute-playing and pissing up the garden wall”, which pretty much sums it up 🙂

Weekend word count: 2036 words

Running total: 34,247

Drafting, Day 78

I think it’s 78, anyway. Decided to shame myself by admitting how long this rewrite is taking me…

Only a few words written today, as I was very tired from a sleepless night and couldn’t remember how I was going to steer the dialogue in the current scene towards the ending I have planned for it. Very frustrating!

Anyway, I’ll post a proper wordcount tomorrow when I’ve made some tangible process. In better news, I’ve found a lovely guest-house in Venice that has rooms available the week we want to visit. Cheaper than a hotel, and even better for book research!

More Chinese Whispers

In late-breaking news, The Alchemist of Souls has now appeared on the Random House website for pre-order, with a US print publication date of February 28, 2012 🙂

Unfortunately, the blurb is currently suffering from an even worse attack of Chinese Whispers than the Bookseller announcement back in April, so I’m a bit loath to publicize it until I can get that fixed. I feel like the actual plot of my book is getting buried under the weight of increasingly wild (and inaccurate) speculation about the part of my world which doesn’t even feature in the novels, which is very frustrating.

Hopefully I can get this straightened out before it gets totally out of hand…