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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.

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 …

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.

New Writing Scotland

I received my contributor copy of the latest issue of New Writing Scotland the other day, containing my story ‘Mercury’. This was a more experimental piece, exploring time, landscape and permanence, loosely organised around my impressionistic ideas of the atomic bomb test sites in New Mexico, and the nuclear missile tests in Nevada, USA.

I haven’t been devoting as much time to my own/non-genre or tie-in fiction recently, so it was good to see some of my more personal work in print. I’m slowly working on a literary/fantasy hybrid novel at the moment, and I’ve got a couple of short stories planned, which I must get back to when I have the time.

Copies of NWS 38 can be bought from Bookshop.org here:

https://uk.bookshop.org/books/the-last-good-year-new-writing-scotland-38/9781906841423?aid=2111