Am I writing too fast?

This is a concern I’ve started to have both in terms of the writing produced – I’m not sure if I’m skipping stuff I shouldn’t, as it feels rushed in places – and in terms of the writing process – I’m worried my tendency to write fast during the first draft is fixing things too firmly that aren’t easy to redo in revisions. Obviously this haste can leave the rushed feeling of the text, but without being sure that’s a problem I’m not sure whether it needs addressing.

I tend to have a sparse style anyway, with some of my fantasy stories feeling more like thrillers in places. Not necessarily a bad thing – although it could be a problem were I trying to go the traditional publishing route – and probably not something I can avoid without changing my writing style (and sanitising my style is not something I’m interested in).

Even given that, some parts feel a bit sparse. Some are fine, taking their time, but others seem to be purely the muscle and skeleton of character and plot, without any fat for flavour. I worry that I cut too much in trying to be concise, and in areas where it feels like there could be extra beats without damaging the story I’m not sure whether I only include the beats that are needed.

My descriptions tend between spare and non-existent anyway, although I try to remedy this where necessary (I tend to skim these when reading, so that inclination is just a part of my mindset that I’m unlikely to influence without severe retraining) Recently redoing one of my earliest novels has shown improvement in the viewpoint material (getting into the characters mind), so that’s something, and the sparseness doesn’t seem much different then to now so possibly it isn’t something that’s crept into my work. It could still be something I’ve only noticed as my writing’s improved, which is both good and bad.

While outlining and revisions can be more sedate – although revisions are sometimes done at speed, but not as consistently – I always feel compelled to write the first draft a quickly as possible, so the shape of it in my head becomes concrete. Until the first draft is done I don’t have a story, just an idea.

Maybe I’ll try forcing myself to stick to lower daily writing targets on the next project (2-3000 words a day maybe), and see whether it affects the output. If that makes no difference to the end result then it’s not a problem caused by writing fast, if it even is a problem.

Of course with the next novel scheduled to be written during NaNoWriMo I’ll have a deadline that’ll weigh on me. And since the past few years have seen me finish the 50,000 words in ten days, nine days, and then eight days, the impulse to try finishing in seven days this year may be difficult to overcome.

Random Rant: Eureka

The TV series Eureka (or A Town Called Eureka in some places) finished not long ago, and I’m considering getting the box set for the last couple of seasons which I haven’t yet seen.

While enjoyable, one thing that always irritated me about it was its anti-science viewpoint. It has all these big scientific ideas (some even using actual science), but the scientists inevitably lose control and its up to the non-scientist to deal with things using common sense.

This is not a series that trusts science, and in that it mirrors a general feeling in society that also irritates me.

While a fair bit of this is historical (Brian Cox’s new series Science Britannica gives an interesting look at this), it’s those who loudly declaim science for various reasons with no actual evidence to support them.

Part of the problem is that the imbeciles screaming in the manner most entertaining to the media (which give them the best chance of selling stuff) tend to be those who believe a political viewpoint is as scientifically valid as a theory (in the scientific sense of the word, which this kind don’t distinguish from the general usage). And because the actual scientific rebuttal may not be as entertaining, the media don’t give it the same coverage, leaving the public with a slanted view of modern scientific exploration (that doesn’t relate to mobile phones, the internet, etc.).

Not that I’m saying these people don’t have a right to give an opinion (although proclaiming their opinion as gospel shows a lack of perspective, both on their part and that of the media), and I accept there’s a place for this kind of opinion to be voiced.

That place is the middle of the forest, dressed in animal skins, ranting as loud as they like.

We don’t want to force these people through the indignity of having to spread their message via the results of science, do we? They should be allowed to return to a time before science corrupted the world.


Science is basically understanding the world around us. And, yes, how to change it. Are there some boundaries we shouldn’t cross, things science shouldn’t do? Arguably. And reasoned debate would be useful, if unlikely in our current society. But a blanket suspicion of science is absurd.

Civilisation is based on science. We’re surrounded by the results of scientific inquiry. We drive around in the results of science. Science keeps us alive decades beyond what we could otherwise expect, with far easier lives. We can communicate with people whose existence we probably wouldn’t be aware of without science. Even communication can be seen as a science (possibly causing more damage than any other science), language evolving as a tool to explain the world about us and our place in it.

Science is ubiquitous, so being afraid of it is not healthy. Look around and think of the science that went into making the things surrounding you

To those who insist science is bad I can offer only this: Indoor plumbing is science. If you don’t like it, go spread your shit about the forest.

[End Rant]

I’ll probably still get the Eureka box set though.

How do you to tell if your writing is improving?

How do you to tell if your writing is improving?  (In a technical sense, at least)

Tinker with your old stuff.

If the text looks horrendous and you can make a few changes to the first paragraph for reasons you know are things you’ve learned since you last looked at it then you feel like you might be getting somewhere.

There are parts at the beginning of To Hunt Monsters that bothered me for a while, so I set aside some time to redo it and tidy up the language in general.

Probably over half of the sentences in the book have seen some alteration, or even complete rewriting. While not necessarily that unusual for any cycle through a story, the bits being changed feel like they’re due to me learning how to write better. And since the thing’s now over six thousand words lighter it should be a tighter read too.

There are some viewpoint bits that may still need some work, where I’m not necessarily going into their heads as much as I could, but I found it difficult to do anything with those. I don’t feel it harms the story keeping the focus slightly further out, so I’m happy with it as it stands.

Once a story is in a fixed state I’m reluctant to do more than change the language. I’m happy that the plot structure of this one still seems to hang together (no plot holes I can see anyway, even after a few years away from it), so everything else is just minor surgery.

I’ve therefore updated the versions out at the moment with the tidied up language (the Smashwords version is updated, with others getting there when the sites get around to it). Of course, if so much could be changed for this one I have to wonder how much of the rest of my early stuff I should be revising. Gah.

Reasons to be Irritated (last month) #63c

Unsurprisingly, I suppose, Smashwords has again failed Part 12 of Shadows of the Heavens because of the titles.

Am I missing something here. Is there a misspelling in the title either for the listing or on the cover that I’m for some reason missing. Because I just can’t see it.

The alternative is that the other fourteen parts shouldn’t have passed review. Which they did. Meaning Smashwords have a massive hole in their reviewing procedure.

So I’ve got the irritating error message back, this time joining the irritating alert message. Since I’m not changing the cover (too much work), my only option is to rearrange the listing title. With the collected edition coming out in less than a fortnight I don’t suppose much attention will be paid (not that much has been yet) to the individual parts, so I may as well change it then. The main hassle then will be not changing it to ‘Smashwords are £)(!£<$’ (I’m undecided on the exact profanity to use).


Reasons to be Irritated (last month) #63b

As mentioned in previous posts I’ve had trouble getting Part 12 of Shadows of the Heavens past the Smashwords review process so it can be distributed, despite the issue it failed on being exactly the same in every other part of the story which passed review.

It’s now official that every other one of the fifteen parts of the story has passed the review. All with the titles in exactly the same format.

At least that means they won’t be in an error message at the top of the page when I visit Smashwords. And the error message for Part 12 irritated me enough that I’ve tried making a change. Rather than the cover or title I’ve tried changing around the title on the first page of the document. It’ll still be in a different order to one of the others, but given the inconsistency in reviewing it could always be passed. Or I’ll get the error message back.

[And of course a short while after getting rid of the error message, Smashwords use the alert space to prompt authors to use their new Series Manager. The day after I’ve used it for my existing series. Grrrrr.]

A Judgement of Shadows, Part 15 of Shadows of the Heavens

I’ve released the final part of the Shadows of the Heavens series, A Judgement of Shadows:

SotH 15 smallA Judgement of Shadows, Part 15 of Shadows of the Heavens

The rakshaas cannot be killed. They cannot be long contained. How then can their threat be dealt with, or are they destined to always plague mankind?

A 7,000 word fantasy short story.



The collected edition of the story will be out on October 1st. It’ll be $4.99 for the first week, then rising to the regular price of $5.99, and is available for pre-order at:


Barnes and Noble


Reasons to be Irritated (last month) #63a

I posted last week about part 12 of Shadows of the Heavens not passing the Smashwords review, and so being unable to enter wider distribution, despite the cover title (the reason given) being in exactly the same format as the previous parts.

Part 13, also in exactly the same format, has passed the review without a problem.

You’d think they’d have a set of standards for all reviewers to stick too (I’m assuming this isn’t just the fault of one erratic reviewer). It’s these kind of minor inconsistencies that build up to a dissatisfaction with Smashwords that I’ve heard from a few other writers recently.

While I’m not in the same mindset of considering other options to staying with Smashwords, I do wish the company would focus on getting the basics working properly before experimenting with new stuff like pre-ordering.

Progress Report

Since I seem unable to produce much substantial content at the moment I’ll do this occasionally as filler.

I’ve broken down Grey Enigmas ([distant] sequel to Grey Engines, which will be written for NaNoWriMo) into chapters, so I’ve got most of it worked out but it’ll still need another couple of passes to firm up the details. As a murder mystery the details will be important.

The other story I was thinking of doing for NaNoWriMo, Dreams of the Dead (the novel for the Thief-City series I mentioned a couple of weeks ago) has stalled. The ideas I have don’t seem to be cohering into something novel-length, and my mind keeps drifting to other things. This may therefore be delayed.

Part of the distraction comes from a couple of short story ideas that intruded on my thoughts. One feels like it could actually sell, so of course its the other that’s forcing itself on me. It’s partly a proof of concept for a setting and magic system which could be part of a novel or series I’ve had mulling in my mind, but I’m not sure if the short story would require a bit too much exposition to work. I’ll have to see when it’s written.

I also need to get on with revisions for Glyphwar. I’ll add another three chapters, one for a character that I feel needs to have one, and a couple for a character that doesn’t feel like the few viewpoint chapters he has are enough. Whether these will stay in is debatable, as the story feels fairly tight at the moment. The latter two can probably integrate with little trouble though, as there’s room for them in the flow of the story. I won’t know for certain till they’re in there and I read the whole thing linearly (and I may not even be sure then).

Tears of the Gods, Part 14 of Shadows of the Heavens

I’ve released the fourteenth part of the Shadows of the Heavens series, Tears of the Gods:

SotH 14 smallTears of the Gods, Part 14 of Shadows of the Heavens

Deep in the heart of the Forest of Tears lies the domain of the rakshaas, the ruins of heaven. None who venture there are heard from again. Yet four paths seem destined to converge there. And possibly to end there.
A 16,000 word fantasy novelette.