Yes It’s No

Another response from an agent re: Smoke & Mirrors. And yes, it’s another rejection.

Staying positive, I think maybe I’ll go back through email and count the rejections. Get a T-shirt made with the number on it. Wear it like a badge of honour. When people wonder why I make a thing about the negatives, I can say something like at least it shows I tried.

Actually, there is perhaps one positive thing, in that the agent said that she didn’t feel passionately enough about it, which I could interpret as meaning that the writing doesn’t really pop the way it needs to. I’m thinking maybe another editing pass is called for here.


Well, it’ll have to wait until tomorrow. While I usually work at home, all this week until yesterday I had to go into the office for meetings and presentations so I’ve had no time for any of my own stuff, and it’s also left me with a small backlog of work I need to catch up on today. It’s coming up on 6am; time to get started.

Until next time…

What I Did On My Holiday

Not a lot, actually. I took Friday and Tuesday off from the day job to give me a five-day weekend, and I had intended to spend some of that time working on the SF stories, but I ended up not doing much on that. Monday was pretty much taken up with prepping stuff for the grill—chicken and smoked sausage, mostly—and then actually grilling and eating. Nevertheless I did manage to make a little progress on the writing—specifically, I figured out how to get round one particularly knotty problem with the fourth and last story. On that front, the plan now is to focus on getting the high-level structure of that story nailed down so that I can get on to building the timelines.

Given that I didn’t do any day job, and only did a little (if important) bit of writing work, the rest of the time was spent slacking, by which I mean binge-watching TV and movies: The Martian (again), Interstellar (again), and The Expanse (season one; I’m part way into season two).

Today, back to the day job and as usual on the first day back after a break I’m whacked. So the plan is to take a little break then pull up the spreadsheet for SF story the fourth and do a bit more work on it.

But first, time for tea.


I’ve been working on the four stories making up the SF series that I’m engaged on at the moment. At this point I have a high-level description of each of the first three stories in the form of a dozen or so paragraphs.

But the fourth story… I’m having a problem with it.

I have the beginning. I know where my protagonist starts off. And I have the ending—at least in general terms, in that I know what she’ll have achieved. The bad guys are out of the picture one way or another, the protagonist has got what she wanted and more.

It’s the bit in between that’s giving me a headache at the moment. The bit that connects the beginning and the end. The part that writers like to call (technical term) the story.

I have absolutely no idea how to get my character from point A to point B. In part, that’s because she herself doesn’t know what to do at the start. She has a limited amount of information, and an objective—but no clue what to do to get moving in the right direction.

So right now I’m stalled. I’ll keep thinking on this for a while but I might have to find a way to start her off with a bit more information from the end of the third story—but not so much that it gives things away that I want to keep until near the end.

Meanwhile, episode 5 of Game of Thrones.

Neo’s Character Flaw

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I’d had to put timelining of the four-story SF series I’m working on on hold, because I’d managed to bugger up the way my protagonist’s major problem (her wound) got resolved at the end of the first story. I’d like to explain that a bit, at least the way it was explained to me.

Characters have flaws, and they have wounds. Flaws are usually consequences of wounds. When it comes to developing a series, the wound will usually carry on through the entire series. I used Harry Potter as an example; his wound is that Voldemort murdered his parents, and that doesn’t get sorted out until the defeat of Voldemort at the end of the last book. However, Harry has a series of flaws: self-doubt, arrogance, the worry that he’s a new Voldemort in the making, and so on. And each of these provides a background for one of the books, and is resolved by the end of that book.

So while wounds and flaws are related, they’re distinct.

But there’s more to flaws than just setting them up at the start of a story and resolving them at the end. Far better is to make the resolution of the flaw vital to the resolution of the story as a whole.

Here’s an example: Neo in The Matrix. Neo’s flaw is that he won’t accept that he is The One. In terms of wants and needs, he wants to believe that he’s not special (and the Oracle reinforces this when she tells him he isn’t). But he needs to believe, because until he does he doesn’t stand a chance against Agent Smith. So his wants and needs conflict.

So then comes the fight with Smith, and Neo dies in the Matrix. BUT… at that point, Trinity tells Neo’s real-world corpse that she loves him and that means he must be The One, because the Oracle told her so. And now Neo believes; he knows he is The One. He is reborn with world-bending powers, and can take on Smith with one hand behind his back.


In the first story of the series I’m working on at the moment, my protagonist realises that what she thought she wanted was a phantom, and that what she really needed the whole time is about to be taken away by the bad guy. This happens when the bad guy himself tells her that he’s going to take that thing from her, not realising that he just gave her a reason to fight as hard as she ever has, and doomed himself in the process.

Hopefully I’ve shed a little light on how wants and needs can tie into flaws in a way that all comes together at the end of a story, in such a way as to make for a more powerful tale.

Spoke Too Soon

A couple of posts back I mentioned that I’d got my storyline to the point where I’d started working on the timeline.

As it turns out, I got a little bit ahead of myself. I’ve had to stop working on the timeline because I realised I’d made a mistake with the story. And boy, is it a doozy.

The way I had the story set up, the first of the four stories starts with my protagonist having a problem. And the way the story went, that problem had been worked out by the end of that same first story.

That doesn’t work; it would mean she’d need a new problem to take into the second story. And if she’d already dealt with the biggest obstacle in her life, then what possible hurdles could she have in the second story that would even come close to that?

Here’s a couple of examples of the kind of thing I’m talking about; this should make it clearer.

First, look at Harry Potter. His problem is Voldemort. And while he wins fights against The Dark Lord in each book, Harry doesn’t actually beat him for good until the final battle at the end of the last book.

Another example: Neo’s fighting the machines and we find that out early in The Matrix, but he doesn’t end the war until the end of the third and last movie.

Last example: Frodo encounters the One Ring not far into The Fellowship of the Ring, and the story only ends when he destroys the ring—and Sauron—at the end of The Return of the King.


You get the picture. I’ve had to go back to my plotting and change things so that the problem my protagonist has at the beginning of the first book carries her through a series of adventures all the way through the complete set of four stories. And that in turn has meant adding in a bucketload of back story to support things—and the rabbit hole gets deeper as she learns more about the truth behind her original troubles a little at a time; she only finds out the complete details close to the end of the last story. It also means that what was to be the second story in the series will be pretty much torn down and replaced, and the way things are going it’s not impossible that I’ll need a fifth book to complete the whole tale.

So at the moment timelining is suspended until I get all the details worked out and written down. What I thought was going to take a few days is now looking like it’s going to take a few weeks at least. This thing is becoming a monster.

I’ll post more on this as I progress.


#AmWriting . . . or am I?

THE thing with the Twitter hashtags is that they can often be a bit misleading. At this moment I’m working on the Untitled Sci Fi Novel project, but at the moment I’m not actually writing anything.

This project is four stories back to back, with the same central  character, set in the same universe. Each story is self-contained, but there’s a separate story arc that runs across all four. I’m using my own process (as described in Finish Your Book) and in a particular way; I’m developing all four stories in parallel, rather than doing the first down to scene level before I move on to the second, and so on. Right now I have the top-level structure for the first three stories pretty much done, and I’m getting the fourth one down; it’s coming along well, and I should have that finished in a couple more days.

In other words, I’m world-building, and I’m developing the story, and I’m developing the characters. But I’m not writing anything other than my notes.

And that leads to something that is probably extremely trivial but bugs me nonetheless. You see, Twitter has hashtags like #AmWriting, and #AmEditing. But I don’t see #AmWorldBuilding, or #AmDevelopingCharacters, or #AmThinkingAboutAStoryIdea.

So I gave up on those hashtags. I don’t use anything but #AmWriting. If I’m in the car, thinking about a story idea while doing 75 down I-25, then I’m writing. I’m writing if I’m making notes about a character, or working on scenes, or building the timeline. Basically, if I’m doing anything at all that’s moving a story from the first seed of an idea to actual ink (or e-ink) that someone can read, then I’m writing.

And on that note, I have to run out to the store. But you can bet I’ll be “writing” at the same time.

Until next time . . .

p.s. A few words about the events at UVA:

  • They’re not “alt-right”. The term alt-right was invented by a nazi to describe nazis without calling them nazis. These c*nts are giving nazi salutes and carrying swastika flags. They’re nazis. Call them nazis.
  • So far about 99% of the tweets I’ve seen are condemning what’s been going on. That’s an encouraging sign that most people are against these bigoted, spoiled, white trash. I take some comfort in that.
  • Meanwhile, as of about sixty seconds ago, Comrade Trump hasn’t tweeted a damn thing about it. Fifteen hours without a tweet has to be some kind of record for him. I’m wondering what mealy-mouthed bullshit he’s going to spout when he does bother to say something.