Wednesday, 22 August 2012

A bit of news

Sorry for the blog delay. Not much going on this week! Just waiting for Alexa and Alexandra to give me feedback on the second edit. I'll update you as soon as I have news. In the meantime, I'm enjoying myself writing the first sequel.

Just a heads-up: Nate Surber asked me on Twitter if there would be an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) sign-up list for The Bone Season. As far as I know, the marketing team are very keen to do this, but I don't have any solid info yet. Keep your eyes peeled.

And last but not least, an exciting foreign rights announcement:

That's for Chinese in traditional characters.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The red pen

I went to the Olympic Park the other day, my friend having scored himself some free tickets. Apart from watching the gymnastics and the opening ceremony, that was my sole contribution to the Games, but I think altogether we did a great job at hosting. Well done Team GB!

I thought I'd save my post for today so I could talk about the feedback for the first edit. I went up to Bloomsbury today and sat down with Alexa and Alexandra over sandwiches to talk it over. 

A couple of things about the first edit. The book ended up longer than it was before. The original MS of The Bone Season was 122,199 words. The first edit ended up at 127,928. Not so much of a slimming down as a bulking up! The reason this happened was because [a] because I added several more scenes and [b] I'd added a lot of small details to the world. All three of my editors suggested that there should be more detail at the beginning, and my US editor felt that I needed to make the history and depth of Scion a little clearer.

Alexa and Alexandra strongly agreed on one thing: the first three chapters had suffered during the edit. The punchy pace had been lost because of the detail I'd added, which weighed down the narrative and made the 'hook' less effective. I felt the same. I'd preferred the in media res feel of the original, but after reading the editorial notes, I'd tried to add more detail to help the reader understand the world. Once we hit Chapter 4, however, the problem was resolved, and the MS was much better for the new scenes I'd added. The novel had a much greater emotional impact and was darker than before. So overall, a successful edit – but the first chapters need to go back to square one. I can copy and paste the original chapters over the edit, then bring in any additional parts, so nothing too strenuous there. I've got until 29th September, more than enough time to get the pace of the beginning back to how it was before. 

I also conceded to dropping a character from the storyline, which I'd fought against in the first edit. I was really attached. I did my best to fit him in more neatly, but he didn't work out. Fortunately he was very minor and I'm able to rework him. 

A problem I've been having is that The Bone Season deals with a lot of complex ideas. It's difficult to convey these to the reader without having to sit them down and force them to read paragraph after paragraph of information. You don't want them to feel as if they're at school. So how do you let the reader know what's going on? The timespan of The Bone Season, for example, stretches from 1859 to 2059, a period of two hundred years. Although the story takes place wholly in 2059, I still have to give the reader a sense of the events leading up to that year. This first edit proved that long explanations don't work. They detract from the plot and slow the pace. 

We all know the golden rule of writing: "show don't tell". I think the best way for me to talk to the reader without talking at them will be through dialogue, which works well where I use it.   

Another golden rule is that you need to establish a confident writing style. You can get away with not explaining things as long as the reader trusts that you, the writer, know what you're doing. They don't need to hold your hand every step of the way. They need tidbits of information that remind them where they are, and that the author has control of the world they've stepped inside, but they also need to deduce and discover things for themselves. I don't think it's much fun reading a novel when the author interjects every two minutes to guide you. There's a fine line between clarifying things to your reader and patronising them. 

In other news, Bloomsbury USA and UK are currently debating the font on the cover, so it won't be released to the public for a while yet. But I promise it's worth the wait.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

400 days

We've hit a milestone!  400 days exactly until The Bone Season is published in the UK.

I'd also like to announce that the novel has now sold to another publisher: 

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Tunes from the gramophone

On Monday I went to central London to see the cover designs for The Bone Season, both hardback and paperback. It's killing me not to give any details, but I love them. I cried! David Mann at Bloomsbury is a genius. I understand the public reveal will be soon, so hopefully not too long to wait now. 

Alexandra is back from Delhi and has finished reading the edit. She says the ending is much stronger, which I'm pleased about. More news on that soon. The next round of edits shouldn't take too long.

I'm still hard at work on the sequel, taking day-long breaks to read for my degree (just finished Evelina by Frances Burney, surprisingly hilarious). I want to get a big chunk of it done before I return to uni in October, as the deadline for the second book is December 2013, which leaves me only a few months after I'm due to graduate. It's going well so far, very fast-paced. I think I'm going to enjoy it even more than The Bone Season.


Do you often listen to music when you write? Does it have to match the rhythm or the style you're writing in and does it impact your actual writing?

Yes, I do. Not always – I often find it too distracting – but it helps me get in the right frame of mind to write a scene. I choose music that matches the mood of whatever chapter I'm working on. From time to time I find it more helpful to listen to music before I write and soak up the mood of a song, then cut the sound and write in silence.

I'm going to use this question as an opportunity to natter about my music taste in general. When people ask me what kind of music is on my iPod, I wait for them to blink, look confused and ask me if I can repeat that. When I do repeat it, they smile and nod. Nine times out of ten, a change of subject follows. Everyone has the odd embarrassing track on their iPod, but mine is stuffed full of the sort of music you get in film trailers, along with a bunch of songs my grandparents might have listened to when they were young. Genres I enjoy are shoegaze, dream pop, epic, trailer, film score, vocal trance, classical and post-rock.    

I'm obsessed with old-fashioned music. Really obsessed. I'd love the world to revert back to the early twentieth century and make more music like this. Sit me down with Billie Holliday, The Ink Spots, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby or The Chordettes and I'm happy as anything. There's something so chilling, and yet so chilled-out about that music. I've been wanting a real horn gramophone for years.   

My favourite modern band is Raised by Swans. They're a Canadian alternative rock band with two independent albums: Codes & Secret Longings (2005) and No Ghostless Place (2010). The second album was my soundtrack as I worked on The Bone Season. They're so underrated! I write a lot about dreaming and spirits and general otherworldly things, and I've found this band so helpful in getting my mind in gear. It's hard to describe why their music affects me so much; I think it just strikes my creative chord. It's haunting and beautiful, with a good, calm beat. 

I also love film and TV soundtracks. I suppose they're written for the purpose of supporting a story, so they work well for writing novels. The score for The Tudors is one of my favourites, along with Hans Zimmer's score for The Da Vinci Code and anything by Steve Jablonsky. It's taken me a while to narrow it down, but if I were stuck on a desert island with only a notebook, pen and 15 songs on my iPod, this would be my selection: 
1. We Were Never Young - Raised by Swans
2. Merchant Prince - Thomas Bergerson
3. Guilty - Billie Holiday 
4. My Prayer - The Ink Spots
5. Black Balloon - The Goo Goo Dolls
6. By an Ion - Raised by Swans
7. Some Velvet Morning - Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra
8. And I Will Kiss (feat. Dame Evelyn Glennie) - Underworld
9. World of Dreams - Future World Music
10. I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance (With You) - Frank Sinatra
11. By the Time - Mika  
12. Clair Voyant - Two Steps from Hell  
13. Rag Doll - Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons  
14. Lollipop - The Chordettes
15. Then He Kissed Me - The Crystals

It's an eclectic mix, but those are the tracks that never fail to get me writing. I'm also a big fan of the unreleased tracks made by Evanescence before they got signed. They're available to download for free here, with the band's blessing. It's very dark and experimental. Definitely worth a look if you're a fan of the band.