October update, and Open Submissions

Yet again, as expected, it has taken me far too long between entries on this blog. I’m determined to get better and make this a more regular thing though, even if the majority of my posts will just be brief and cryptic updates about current writing projects. But it’s a useful place to collate information about upcoming things or what I’ve been working on.

Speaking of which, I’ll have a story in the next Warhammer Horror anthology, which should be out at the end of this month to coincide with Hallowe’en. I got my author copies of the book yesterday, and as usual it’s a beautifully produced thing:

I won’t say any more about my story, only to say that it’s the so far only thing I’ve written set in the Warhammer 40K universe, which makes it a change from my usual Age of Sigmar fantasy setting.

In other writing news, I’m hard at work on my 5th novel for Black Library, which should be all finished in early December, and I’ve been grabbing every spare minute to work on the second draft of my own novel, ‘The Cutting’ (title TBC, because I still think ‘The Cutting’ sounds a bit rubbish). Every now and then, when I look up from the page, I allow myself the smallest feeling that it might actually be vaguely good …

Last of all, Black Library have opened up their submissions again, in the appropritely-named ‘Open Submissions‘ window – full details at the link. Whenever they do this I always encourage people even vaguely thinking about it to give it a try. Hundreds and hundreds of aspiring writers enter this every year, and even though it might seem a long shot, you have absolutely nothing to lose. Most of all, for people who maybe can’t find the motivation, it provides you with a perfectly structured process, with a time limit, to force you to get some words down. This kind of thing is invaluable, so even if you don’t get anywhere, I promise you’ll be a better writer for the experience.

I have seen some people commenting online (mainly on Reddit) that the Open Submissions isn’t legitimate, that it’s some kind of publicity stunt for Black Library and Games Workshop more generally – which is, frankly, bullshit. The Open Submissions isn’t designed to give someone a token story in Inferno and that’s the end of it – BL are genuinely looking for more writers to help expand an ever-growing field. I’m living proof of it. I got my first publication with them through the Open Submissions (my Horror story The Widow Tide, in the Maledictions anthology), and since then I’ve written another eight or nine stories, a novella, and five novels. That’s not to say everyone who enters is going to be so lucky (and I was very, very lucky), but it’s a genuine exercise and a really worthwhile one at that. Ignore the conspiracy theorists. Get writing.

Finishing things, and things published

About ten minutes ago, I finally finished the first draft of my novel, The Cutting (still not 100% sure about that title though). I’ve been working on this off and on for three years, although I probably wrote about half of it over the last six months. The draft clocks in at around 145,000 words, so it’s the longest thing I’ve ever done, although no doubt after a lot of pruning it’ll end up a bit shorter. I’m at the stage now where I’m incredulous that it’s actually finished, although when I start working through the draft I’m sure I’ll reach that familiar and welcome stage where I’m just incredulous that I thought any of it was worth writing in the first place … I’ve no idea how long it’ll take me to get to a second draft, but the important thing is that I now have something sitting there I can work on. Generating the material is always the hardest part, but in many ways it feels like the least consequential one. Everything comes alive (or not) in the edits.

It was also a strange project in that I wrote most of the draft by hand. I’ve been so used to hectically typing stuff for Black Library recently that I’ve forgottten what a pleasure and a trial a handwritten draft can be. I went for the Neil Gaiman method of using a fountain pen as well, and these three Leuchtturm1917 pocket notebooks – very handy for just scribbling stuff down on the go:

All three are filled cover to cover with the handwritten draft, with a few extra pages added at the end.

(Getting the book written is one thing of, course; trying to get it published is quite another though, and that’s the stage I’m really not looking forward to.)

I have had a couple of stories published recently though. I didn’t make it onto the shortlist in the end for the Short Fiction Journal competition, but I have had a story published by the excellent Tether’s End Magazine. My story The Rookery can be read here. This was a story I wrote about five or six years ago when I was at Cove Park on a week-long writing retreat thing, provided by the Scottish Book Trust. I think I sent it to a couple of magazines at the time, but after it was rejected I didn’t really do anything with it. It just goes to show, it’s always a question of the right piece finding the right place at the right time.

Secondly, my Warhammer Age of Sigmar short story Dark Master, about the daemon prince Be’lakor, is available as an e-short on the Black Library site. People seem to have liked this one, which is great – it always feels like a gamble writing Black Library stuff that isn’t just out and out action.

So, my immediate plans are to start redrafting my fourth Black Library novel over the next week or so, before submitting it in July, and to then turn my attention back to The Cutting. If I could get a second draft of that finished by September or so, I’d be very happy. Oh, and I should probably keep this blog updated a bit more, now that I’m actually supposed to be a full time writer …

Changes afoot …

As I expected, there’s been far too long a gap between entries in this blog – I don’t know why this always happens, but when you spend every spare moment putting words down, for some reason a blog is always the first thing to go.

Anyway, big changes over the last few weeks. Exactly three weeks ago I worked my last day at the day job, which means writing has now become the day job instead! I’ve mainly spent this time working on my fourth novel for Black Library, and going through the proofs for my third novel (no idea when that’s out yet though). I’ve also got to pitch some short story ideas for BL, which I’ll work on over the weekend, but it’s for a subject/faction that’s one of my favourites and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into it. For the fourth novel, I reckon I’m about two weeks off having a first draft ready. I’m basically working office hours (9am,-4pm) on it, and it’s incredible how much you can get done when you just stick to it.

In other news, I’ve got a short story on the longlist for the Short Fiction Journal & University of Essex International Short Story Prize. This is judged anonymously, so I can’t say what it is, but I should hear if I’m on the shortlist by the end of May. All very exciting anyway.

Finally, I’ve made incremental progress on my own novel (working title ‘The Cutting’), but I’ve found it harder than I thought to combine writing my Black Library fiction during the day and my own fiction in the evening, so I think I’ll just wait until the first draft is finished and then carve out some space for it instead. I’m about 110,000 words into the first draft of The Cutting, but I think it’s going to top out at 150,000 words – the longest thing I’ve ever written anyway. I don’t have an agent, and I don’t have a publisher lined up for it or anything, so it feels far more of a stab in the dark. It means a great deal to me though, and I’m determined to make it as good as it can be.

So, onwards and upwards. It’s 08.58 at the moment, which means it’s time to get cracking on the current Black Library book. I wonder how Chapter 23 is going to work out? I’ve got a bad feeling about some of these characters …

Things in the world

This has been a good week, not so much for writing (as in, actually getting some writing done), but definitely in terms of getting stuff out there for people to read!

My second novel for Black Library, ‘The End of Enlightenment‘, was published on Saturday. A broader and more expansive look at the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar setting, this is perhaps a bit closer to traditional fantasy than my first book. I seemed to go into a trance writing this one, I was a bit obsessed with it and got the first draft done in record time. I hope readers enjoy it.

Secondly, I’ve just had a short story published by the excellent Lunate website. It’s a story I’m really proud of, but for which I’ve strangely never made much of an effort to find a home. A more surrealist/hallucinatory piece, the story is called ‘Canvas’, and can be found on the Lunate website here:


The numbers game

I’ve been writing my current novel for about three years (by ‘current novel’, I mean my own, non-IP or non-Black Library related work). That’s quite a long time to have spent writing a novel, but of course not every day has been spent actually writing it – weeks and months have passed where I’ve done nothing with it, and evenings have gone by in a blur when I’ve pushed it on further than I would have thought possible. Looking at my old notebooks I see that one year ago (9 March 2020) I had 10,000 words of it in hand, and it had taken me about two years to get there. At the moment, the draft is around 90,000 words, which means that 80,000 words have been added to that original 10,000 in the last twelve months.

But in fact, the numbers don’t tell the full story, because the vast majority of those extra 80,000 words were added in the last two or three months. And of course, even if I keep that pace up and manage to complete it in the next two or three months (I think it’s going to top out around 130 – 140,000 words), I still wouldn’t have a complete novel. All I would have would be a first draft, and that’s a very different beast.

I suppose in the end the numbers don’t really count, or not as much as you might think. I can keep track of them and feel like I’m achieving something as they mount up, but all I’m really achieving is getting myself closer to an arbitrary total, and I won’t know what I’ve actually got until I get there. I just hope it doesn’t take me another three years to find out.