Monday, 23 January 2017

Serial Fiction is a Darned Sock

I always thought I'd love writing a serial. But let me just tell you, it sucks. It sucks in the way that eating right and exercising sucks. You know how great it is and you're proud of the results, but it takes such a long time and it's too easy to slip off track.
I love the novel and I doubt I'd have been able to finish it without the pressure of the serial format, but editing a chapter every weekand often, writing and rewriting several chapters, frantically trying to get everything polished and coherent ahead of schedule while editing that week's chaptergets uncomfortable. And the more I dragged my feet and avoided it, the more my workload built up, the more pressure I was under, the more I wanted to avoid it...

I won't say it's like having teeth pulled. But it may be like the discomfort of telling the dentist that I've flossed, when we all know I haven't flossed.
Ryan North and Dinosaur Comics on the subject of flossing.

I know what I wrote while out of town at a gig, while editing and writing my other novellas Integrity and Day Drunk, while getting caught up on what we call bits of chair… and in the last couple of weeks I've been scrambling to rewrite and chapters 30 and 31 while recording and filming with my band.

A photo posted by Billy Ammonite (@billyammonite) on

Most of novel-writing is a blur, one day bleeding into the other, and it's impossible to remember where you were at when you were writing or rewriting a certain part. I remember writing Wire's first visit to Sid's dreary house while sitting on a sun-soaked bench in a public park as gardeners pulled flowers and tossed them aside for the new season's colors. I remember huddling in a blanket at 2am, my keyboard the only sound in the isolated cabin I was renting, rewriting Jordie meeting Luke's friends. When the sun rose I found my first now had fallen outside.
So sometimes memories can stand out, but mostly novels take so long to write, and are such a crisscross of rewrites and edits and new scenes that they get to be like a darned sock. Or something sexiera tapestry maybe; or that kind of intimidating 20-layers-thick patchwork quilt that you think will win embroidery competitions but instead takes out second place. All anyone sees is that finished tapestryor that finished sockand even as the creator it's impossible to keep track of individual stitches.
As a writer, that's what a serial story has done for me: slowed my stitching down until I can see every stitch and am aware and focused on every one. Every individual chapter, I know where I was, what I was doing and what I was thinking. And that's a special experience.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The math we use to make ourselves feel better

Yesterday my dyslexic flatmate was frustrated that she spent 5 hours writing an essay outline (850 words).

I'd say 850 words in 5 hours isn't a failure. The essay outline is finished and says everything it was meant to. That makes it a successful piece of writing.

I spent 5 hours yesterday watching the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and I produced exactly 0 words during that time. The way I see it, any time spent on writing is better than none, any work produced is better than none, and any finished piece is a totally badass success of which to be proud.

Ten percent of nothin' is, let me do the math here... Nothin' into nothin', carry the nothin'...

But of course the frustration isn't the finished work, it's the time taken to get there.

850 words in 5 hours is 170 words in an hour, which doesn’t seem like many. Until you consider that it's 170 finished words an hour, so 170 words of polished, edited, shiny-happy writing. There were hundreds of other words which she threw out along the way, from outlines to practice sentences or excess trimmed out to keep the outline within ideal parameters.

The first Harry Potter is just shy of 77,000 words. If my flatmate kept producing 170 shiny words per hour for 5 hours a day, that's Harry Potter in 90 days. From 0 to Harry Potter in roughly 3 months.
Of course that's not exactly how it works. In my experience, longer novels need exponentially more editing and reworking than shorter novellas. There's an incredible amount of variation from book to book and author to author, and I would never devalue the effort of creating a finished short story. And yet, on top of my anecdotal evidence, there's the simple maths that if any chunk of writing needs X amount of reworking, the more chunks there are then the more editing and reworking.

I realized that I, a writer with a love of spreadsheets, am so used to calculating word count averages that I take them for granted. I love numbers and stats and goals. And sometimes, when you're feeling down about your writing, you have to do the quick and dirty math that will make you feel better.

The easiest example is what I did at the start of this post: think of the time you spent writing and compare it what you achieved in the same space of time not spent on writing. Maybe you got an hour of writing in today and your story didn't move far, but compare that to the eight or so hours at work in which your story didn't move at all. Congratulations, from a writing perspective you're more productive in your spare time than at work!

You can think of your writing as chunks of a finished work, or estimate how many books you'd be able to create if you kept this pace up every day for the rest of your life.

It's so easy to feel low comparing ourselves to prolific authors or even our own personal bests. We can take a step back and remind ourselves that any writing is a success and, if not a step toward a goal, then at least practice. But sometimes dirty math is the only cure to the writing blues.

Monday, 8 August 2016

I've officially watched Twin Peaks!

I recently watched Twin Peaks for the first time. If you're not familiar with it, Twin Peaks is a murder mystery TV show. Unlike most murder-of-the-week mysteries, it follows one murder over 2 seasons.

Artwork by Michael E. Kelly
(If you haven't seen the show, don't search 'who killed Laura Palmer' unless you want spoilers)

Partway through the second season, the murderer was revealed, and the show had to see if it could survive without the unifying mystery.

The fact that everyone I know is excited to see season 3 when it comes out next year proves this show has enduring appeal.

Why am I mentioning Twin Peaks? Three reasons:

1. So I can show off about finally joining this cult phenomenon

25 years late but moving fast.

2. To share my favorite quotation from the show.

3. Because it relates back to my weekly Wattpad serial, Omega Blues.

The premise of the novel so far—you want to be a werewolf and the one werewolf you love the most is the one keeping you from becoming a werewolf, only you don't realize it—has been resolved. Now it's time to see how the novel will stand when it only deals with little things like, you know, becoming a werewolf and having everything go wrong.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Five Awesome Non-romance Novels

Like most writers, I love to read. Of course I read in my genre, but I also read a lot outside of it.

This year I joined a reading challenge, as a way to make myself prioritize reading and because I enjoy working through lists. I'm just over halfway through the Popsugar Reading Challengea series of 40 prompts ranging from vague—a book with a blue cover, a book that's guaranteed to bring you joy—to more specific—a book from Oprah's Book Club, a YA bestseller.

Here are five books I've read and loved as part of this challenge.

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
Prompt: A book published in 2016

Kelly Link is the Doctor Who of the literary world. Most people who read her get obsessed and talk about it non-stop, but there are a fair share of reviewers saying, “I just don't get it, what's everyone so excited about?”

Either you love it, or you don't. And I do. Kelly Link's been my favorite writer since I first read her in 2008.

I've tried to wrap other people up in my excitement but I've had mixed results. Many people say she's too whimsical—which, in turn, is what I feel about David Tennant, one of the most popular Doctors.

Get in Trouble is a short story collection with Link's award-winning control of language and all the classic Link themes—doubling, ghost stories, unreliable narrators tapping at the border between dream and reality—but with some of the whimsy honed down to leave precise and beautiful weirdness.
Kelly Link, courtesy of her website

A personal favorite was the story Two Houses, with the crew of an isolated space ship telling ghost stories that spiral into each other.


Prompt: A book that takes place during Summer

I Called Him Necktie is a German novel set in Tokyo (the incredibly talented author, Minea Michiko Flašar, is half-Japanese and half-Austrian.

A shut-in and an unemployed salaryman meet on a park bench every day, sharing their stories in a slow-building and heart-breaking short novel. It discusses the pressure to work every day and balance work stress with the rest of life.

It's one of those rare, exquisite novels that I read at exactly the right time in my life. Sometimes the perfect book arrives just when you're in a place to need it. You and the book sync up and create a perfect resonance, which seems too unique even to justify recommending the book to anyone else. This was such a book, but I'm still confident that the theme and tone are universal.


River Monsters by Jeremy Wade
Prompt: A book written by a celebrity

With time now revealed as something finite, I was struck by how little I'd achieved, in any conventional sense, in my life. The weight of the things I had done was inconsequential when divided into the years.”
I was aware of the TV show River Monsters but had never watched it—I love sea monsters but I have no interest in fishing—so at first I suspected ghostwriting in the host's autobiography. Apparently though, it's quite common for him to refer to fish as “eldritch abominations” live on camera, disproving my prejudice that no one who wears cargo shorts could have access to a broad vocabulary.

River Monsters is more than a book about fishing (which, I agree, sounds like a very boring book anyway). It's a story of struggle, failure and obsession, with a dose of biology and some fascinating philosophy.
This is a Pokémon screenshot

Turns out when you spend hours—or days—sitting by a river and waiting for a fish to bite, it gives you time to form deep opinions. Rock on, you shorts-wearing philosopher.


Prompt: A book about a culture you're unfamiliar with

Shobha Rao's debut collection is emotionally heavy, but worth the commitment. The stories center around the 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan. The stories are often devastating and brutal, but always incredibly well-crafted.

I usually find short story collections easy to space out over a long period of time, but once I started reading An Unrestored Woman I couldn't stop. The collection took me through tears and anger and, finally, to joy.

If you can handle the subject matter, the beauty in this collection is 100% worth the discomfort. 


Prompt: A science-fiction novel

The inspiration for the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game, this modern translation of a 1970's USSR novel came with a foreword by Ursula K. Le Guin. If that isn't a recommendation, what is?

Roadside Picnic is perfect sci-fi from start to finish. The world—Earth after a brief alien invasion—is built realistically, with few awkward infodumps.

It reminds me of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy which rocked my world a while back. Lots of exploration of weird phenomena and unsolved mysteries, laced with death and crime.

Even the title—Roadside Picnic—is weird and cool. When I read the blurb, I asked the friend who recommend the book if the title referred to aliens using earth as a picnic destination and leaving stuff behind.

From Gary Larson's Far Side
My friend said no. But, spoiler alert, it totally is.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Omega Blues: Chapter 15

My free serial novel, Omega Blues, is moving along steadily and is now up to chapter 15.
The story is at just over 30,000 words, with a chapter added every week.

The last few weeks I've been getting behind then catching back up, so we've seen chapters updated within a couple of days of each other instead of once a week. I've been juggling work and band practice with moving house. Unfortunately I've been dealing with work stress by slipping back into depressive sleep patterns, sleeping 12 to 15 hours a night, which leaves very little time for anything else.

But, despite setbacks, we're still up-to-date with Omega Blues and I'm proud of that. I have a completed chapter every week, and I'm confident I wouldn't have gotten this far in the editing of this novel if I'd just had it as a side project.

Since I'm back on track with a new chapter not due until Sunday, I have a couple of days to focus on editing my next novel, Skin and Edge; a story which is dear to my heart as it's a reworking of my first ever romance novel. Stay tuned, because I think you're going to love it!

Monday, 30 May 2016

Coin Tricks review copies

If you'd like a free copy of Coin Tricks in exchange for a review, there are still a couple slots in the Goodreads MM Romance Group's Don't Buy My Love program!
You have to be a member of the group, but it is a great group :)

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Integrity giveaway!

To celebrate the release of my new mm romance novella, Integrity, I'm giving away 2 free copies!

Integrity is a rock star romance set on tour, so to win your free ebook copy all you have to do is post here (or on my Tumblr or Twitter) with your preferred ebook format and the answer to this question:

Which band would you love to see live?

It can be a current or defunct band, or even a band you've already seen!

I'll use a random number generator to pick 2 winners on Friday the 20th, then send you out your copies :)

Tyler Kostritch is famous for his honesty and straight-talking. It’s just a pity he’s lying to everyone. Ty gave up a promising MMA career to focus on his band. As the frontman of Proletarian Yell, he’s as aggressive and confrontational as he ever was as a fighter. He’s famous for the brutal honesty of his live performances—all the while hiding in the closet, never risking relationships so no one will ever find out. After years of hard work, the band finally have their big break: a tour with the hottest metal band around. It’s the best thing to ever happen to Ty. Until he meets Hale. 
Hale Tahmid, vocalist of the staggeringly-popular Funeral Kiss, is everything Ty’s not: Showy, flirty, openly gay. Hale’s the quintessential rock star from his staggering good looks to his attention-craving love of social media. The two bands couldn’t be more different, and their vocalists are opposites. They clash from the moment they meet, a constant verbal sparring and battle of personalities. Yet Ty can’t help noticing his extreme attraction to Hale. Worse still, Hale knows it and taunts Ty with his bad boy charm, every chance he gets. Ty’s hooked on the beautiful rock star and it’s inevitable that he’ll give into temptation. 
Hale’s not just a pretty face. He’s passionate and ruthlessly dedicated, and may just be the perfect partner for Ty. But Hale won’t accept half-measures. If Ty’s not fully in, he’ll walk away. Ty lives in a castle of lies that would come crashing down if he came out. He’d risk losing his band, his family, and everything he’s worked for. How can Ty choose between his love and the music he’s built his world around?