Progress on the editing and revision of The Heroes presses doggedly forward. I’ve finished a second draft which means I now have a complete and hopefully coherent book considerably tighter, more focused, slightly simplified, and lacking in characters who suddenly disappear and are never mentioned again. It’s also some nine thousand words shorter than the first draft. Readers sometimes get nervous about these kind of cuts (don’t destroy those valuable words! That’s two whole short stories!) but believe me when I say these cuts are nothing you’d want to keep. Only one thing even approaching a full scene was cut, and that one was crap, added nothing to the story, and contained nothing either particularly witty or exciting – that’s why it got cut. The rest is all sharpening shoddy paragraphs, removing repetitive dialogue, and tightening up at the micro level. A short story made from the bits cut out is nothing anyone would want to read, believe me, and the book benefits in the same way a boxer might from sweating out a few pounds before a fight.
I feel as if the central characters are all working pretty well, their stories making sense and binding nicely together, but there’s still a fair bit of work to do. I’m already some way into the third draft, or the second round of editing, in which I’m addressing some character points that my editor has brought up, taking a look at a few scenes that aren’t working as well as they might, and trying to add some detail to the setting. I suppose you could call it worldbuilding, though not of the, “I shall destroy thee, as king Zanvonzulus the Fifth did the Smejians at the Battle of Saphontes Heights bringing the Third Flidgian War to a victorious close after seventeen years of fighting in the year three thousand seven hundred and twenty two by the Brapfistic Reckoning, varlet!” but hopefully of a more subtle type. Adding as much variety and detail as I can think of to the characters’ impressions of the landscape, especially important when pretty much the whole book is set in one place and one time. Trying to keep the weather consistent, and as varied as possible, and to make the characters’ experience of the weather more visceral and personal – the feel of wet armour, the sun beating on sunburn, and so on. And finally trying to work in some incidental detail of the two armies and the cultures they’re drawn from, giving some more texture and conviction to the backdrop, if you like. Often this can be done just by replacing and refining what’s already there. So rather than another set of bland soldiers tramping past, perhaps there’s a regimental wedding going on? Or a soldier being lashed for thievery? Or provisions being weighed out? Those kind of details can sometimes give a recurrent little hook to a scene, or draw some thought or speech from the point of view character that fleshes out and helps to illustrate their personality, hence killing two birds with one stone. I’m all about the killing of the birds.
Anyway, that third draft should be wrapping up early july, at which point there’ll be another run through, this time separating each point of view character out, looking at them individually, seeing if the balance of their story needs any additional tweaking but mostly concentrating on the voice for each character and the detail of the language, trying to make them stand out from each other as much as possible. By the time that’s done, I’ll probably have the copy edit back to look at. From the point of view of readers, still looking good for a January 2011 release, I hope.
In other news, Swords and Dark Magic, the sword and sorcery anthology in which my short story, The Fool Jobs, is appearing (along with a cornucopia of stories from masters of the genre old and new) is now out and available in the US. Afraid it has no UK publisher as yet, but I’m sure they’re looking.
In other, other news, Mass Market Paperbacks of Best Served Cold are now out in both the UK and the US. Don’t they look lovely, folks? I really like the graphic, gritty, commercial stylings of the US one, but also love the (now award winning, mark you) parchmenty appeal of the UK. Particularly like the fact that the UK one wraps around with no writing on the back, encouraging the browser to pick it up, feel it, and find the blurb on the inside cover. How could they resist…
In other, other, other news, there’s an interview with me up at the Examiner. Enjoy…
Back from holiday down in Devon, and I failed to win the David Gemmell Legend Award the other night, which went to Graham McNeill for Empire. Curses. But on the upside, Best Served Cold did win for cover art, so congratulations to the artists Didier Graffet and Dave Senior and the designer Laura Brett. Talented […]
The western is a genre somewhat neglected by the computer games industry. There have been a few reasonable efforts over the years, enjoyable romps with which to six-shoot away a few cactus-themed hours, but nothing particularly memorable. Until now, that is. Red Dead Redemption is in theory a “spiritual successor” (whatever that means) to Red […]
The signature sheets for Subterranean Press’s limited edition of Swords and Dark Magic came to my door yesterday, a whole box full. Having never been involved with an anthology of this kind before (having never before written a short story, in fact), I’d never participated in one of these group signings, and it’s kind of […]
Following hard on the heels of news that the UK release of The Heroes has moved forward to January, I can now reveal that my dark masters at Orbit US have decided to follow suit. So: The US edition should be in bookstores February 7th 2011, possibly even a few days before, and you can […]