Category Archives: Progress report

How we’re going with the current work in progress.

The word count is going down … slowly

Sometimes our word counts feel like Sisyphus. Cut the words, add the words, cut some more.

Winter is not just coming, it’s here

We had the first real frost of winter today.  Enough to ice up the car.  It’s only the start of July. It feels like it’ll be a cold winter.

I’m almost glad we’ll be inside with the heater on, editing.

Although, I confess, our heater is great when it’s working, but the thermostat is placed in the one part of the house where it’s always warm.  The passage.  Individual rooms can be quite cold, but it’s always warm and cozy in the passage.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in the passage.

When it gets really cold, we take the remote—which is also the thermostat—bring it into the room where we’re working, and watch the temperature drop.

It’s become a running joke in the house.  “Oh, the thermostat’s bored again.  Wants a different view.  Where will we put it today?”

Editing

Sherylyn has finished the first round of cuts on Stars Uncharted.  She got the story down from 128,000 words to 112,000.  Now I’m looking at what she cut, and doing my take on (Editor) Anne’s notes.

Sometimes the word count goes up.

I’m trying not to.

As you can see, I’m always reluctant to cut words we’ve written.  Sometimes I flat-out refuse.  Most times, we sort cuts out away from the computer.  Over dinner, or over coffee.  Or tea.  We did that last night.

There was a section I didn’t want to cut.  Sherylyn did.  We spent half of dinner talking about it, and realised by the end that the real issue was that I wanted this particular scene to show how tense everyone was getting, waiting for the coming battle.  Sherylyn wanted it gone because all they were doing was talking about food.  The food talk wasn’t doing anything about the tenseness of the situation.

Final solution. Rewrite the scene.

Goodreads giveaway

Our Goodreads giveaway was going well … until I went in and corrected a typo.  After the competition had started. Silly me.  Now it’s back waiting to be approved.  On a 4 July weekend.  So if you want to enter to win a copy of the whole series – it will come back, I promise.  We’re just not sure when.

Edits on Stars Uncharted. Sometimes we feel there’s no page we haven’t edited.

Two years since Linesman was published

30 June is the end of the financial year in Australia.  Tax time.  (It’s not the day we need to have our taxes in, it’s the date the last financial year ends, so we can start getting our taxes together.)

Both Sherylyn and I work in industries where end-of-financial-year has a big impact.  It’s a busy time of year for us.

30 June 2015 was also the day Linesman came out.

30 June is also Sherylyn’s birthday.  Best birthday present ever.  Your own book.

Two years already, and it’s gone so fast.  Another two books, and two more on the way.

We’ve decided to celebrate by doing a Goodreads giveaway.

Starting on the 30 June, running till the end of July, you have a chance win all three books.  If you’ve already got them, try a second copy. Or maybe give them away to someone you know who likes science fiction.

Pop over to the Goodreads site in July and enter.

Biting my nails waiting for deletes

Crying over our edits. Most times I agree with the changes Sherylyn wants to make. She’s good at cutting out the unnecessary stuff. There’s only one edit I really cried about. It was in Linesman, it was around 20,000 words and it was a Jordan Rossi section. Sherylyn didn’t think it was necessary, and said so. I refused to cut it. One day, about six months into the editing process, I had a lightbulb moment and realised it had to go. That was so hard.

 

Stars Uncharted was due at the editor’s on 1 June.  We sent it in, early actually, and settled back to concentrate on the next story.

Anne, our editor, got the book back to us on the 10th.  She said some nice things, and then talked about the changes she wanted. The biggest one, the book is too long. At least 20,000 words too long.

We have to say, it wasn’t unexpected.  After all, the contract calls for a novel of around 100,000 words.  We delivered a little more than that.  Like, closer to 130,000.  Sometimes, when you’ve worked on a book for a long time, you think there is nothing you can possibly cut.  A few months away from the book—or another eye, like the editor’s—will show that you can, but at the time, we couldn’t see it.

Anne suggested some areas we might cut.

“Let me at it,” Sherylyn said.  “Don’t look.  For a week.”

So I’m sitting at the computer, trying to continue with the next book, while she gives me a running countdown of how many words she’s cut each day.

“I’m down to 117,916 today.”

Arrgh.

Sherylyn is the editor in our writing team of two. She does most of the cuts. I do many of the adds.  She can be ruthless.  And sadly, she and Anne often agree on things.  Sherylyn will argue for something to be cut, I’ll make a stand and we leave it in, then Anne comes back and says, “Perhaps this isn’t necessary.”

I’m coming round, gradually, but … in the meantime.  Sherylyn’s cutting words, and I can’t argue about what’s she cut until tomorrow.  I’m chewing my nails, literally.

Tomorrow, I finally get to see what she’s done.

You know what, I probably won’t even notice what’s gone.

Books and other news

A progress report, today, and a glimpse into the publishing industry from the writer’s end.

Draft two of Stars Uncharted

We’re onto the next major draft of Stars Uncharted.  This is officially draft two for us, although if you count how many rewrites we’ve done so far, it’s a lot more than that.  We used to count each draft separately, but nowadays we mark them by the big milestones.

  • Draft one—get the story down
  • Draft two—fill in any story holes, nail the action scenes (even if they still need rewriting, and they do)
  • Draft three—incorporate any feedback from Caitlin (our agent), if any; add more world building
  • Draft four—clean out the weasel words*, tidy up
  • Draft five—read aloud

* We don’t use the term weasel word as per the dictionary version. For us, it’s shorthand for cleaning out all the wryly’s (ly words), changing from passive to active, getting rid of all those ‘,too’s, and so on.  Also, World building is not so much just making the worlds more realistic, it’s also building the characters, too.

They’re not clean ‘finish draft one, start draft two’ as they’re written above.  For example, Sherylyn was already working on draft two while I finished draft one, and she’s already cleaning out every weasel word she comes across.  (Sadly, more creep in.)  Even in draft one we went back and rewrote story holes once we knew they were there.  And we try to world build every draft.

We also read aloud chapters on occasion even now when we know the language isn’t working.

At the end of this month we’ll send a (relatively) clean copy to our agent for her input.

It’s starting to feel like a real book.

Contract

We signed the contract for Stars Uncharted (and a second book) yesterday, and sent it back to the publisher.

Those of you who have been reading our blog might notice that back in December we mentioned the books were coming (but only after it had been announced in Publisher’s Lunch, and Locus), and we knew about it a while before that.

In fact, until we get a copy back with the publisher’s signature, nothing is truly formal even yet.

This is normal.  While you’re writing the book, your agent is busy working in the background with the publisher getting the contract in order. For the Linesman books, we didn’t get a contract to sign until about two days before we had to deliver the book.

How an editor works

If you’re interested in how the book process works from the other side, over at Unbound Worlds, Matt Staggs interviewed Anne Sowards about working with Patricia Briggs.  Anne’s our editor, too, and that’s how it works for us, as well.

So much to write, so little time

A lot of people have asked when the next Linesman book is coming, and what it will be about.

Here are our writing plans at present. Everything is subject to change, and, also, to contracts, because if we don’t get contracts for the books then we can’t sell them.

We’ll definitely write them, though.

 

More Ean Lambert

We have another trilogy planned with Ean Lambert as the main character.  These books follow on from Confluence.

I don’t want to give away spoilers, but … The New Alliance is settling into the changes that resulted from the end of that book.  Captain Terrigal is ship captain, trying to believe that his mentor, Admiral Katida, hasn’t betrayed him, while struggling with the knowledge that his ship doesn’t automatically do what he says first.

The lines ships are starting to get personalities.

There’s a new ship being integrated into the Eleven fleet, because Abram wants the new ship, and the Wendell, to go alien hunting.

But before they can do that, the aliens bring their war to human territory.  Along with their ideas on how the lines should be treated.

And those ideas don’t necessarily match with those of Ean’s; or of the ships under his line twelve custodianship.

We haven’t started writing this series at all.

This is about as much of we know of any story plot before we start writing. More than most, because we have backstory we don’t normally have.  What we need now is a better idea of the aliens.  They’re still unformed.

 

Stars Uncharted

This is the book we are contracted* to write next.

It is not a Linesman book.

It’s actually the book we started writing while Linesman was doing the rounds. Back when we thought Linesman wasn’t going to sell and we’d have to start something completely fresh.  We stopped about a quarter of the way in, to rewrite Linesman.  But it was the first story we went back to when we were done with Confluence.

We love it. We’re enjoying it.  It’s a space opera adventure with a bit of fun, characters we both love, and lots of things happening.  (Less politics, for those of you who found there was too much politics in the Linesman books.)

It’s set in a totally different universe.

*Normally we wouldn’t even say we have the contract yet, but it has been announced in Publisher’s Lunch and in Locus, and we’ve been told we can mention it.  Even so, we feel a bit superstitious about even saying this until we get the paper in our hand.  Contracts take a long time, and can fall through.  We’ll give you more details once we have that paper.

Fact, for all the writers out there. We got our contract to sign for the Linesman books around the same time we submitted the finished Linesman to our editor.

 

Other books in the Linesman universe

While our agent was first trying to sell Linesman, and before we began Stars Uncharted, we wrote two other stories in the Linesman series. Back then, we weren’t planning to write three books about Ean Lambert.  We planned books set in the same universe, but with different protagonists. The first of these was Acquard’s War.  (Readers of this blog who remember us talking about Acquard, we’ve recently added the ‘War’, because we now we want to do a second book, Acquard’s Revenge as well.)

This is the story of a retired Balian covert ops team who get tangled up with space pirates, which drags them into the war between the New Alliance and Gate Union/Redmond.  It’s set at the end of Linesman, just after the New Alliance is created, but before they move to permanent headquarters on Haladea III.

We don’t know if there’s a market for non-Ean Lambert stories.  It’s one of three ideas we offered to Caitlin, our agent, when she asked what we were writing next.  She liked Stars Uncharted better, so that’s the one we worked on.

We love the ideas in this story.  We adore the characters.  And therein lies the problem.

People soup.

Both our agent and our editor (and also some of our readers) think we include too many characters in our stories.  (And they’re right.) .  The first thing both of them ask us to do in any edit is to reduce the number of characters.

Most times we can.  But we’re struggling with Acquard’s crew. She has a crew of seven, and there’s a lot happening in the rest of the book as well.  If we don’t fix it, this story has to become a trunk novel.

We’re going to fix it.

When we get the time.

Confluence is now available

2 Dec. Updated to include later links.

Today has been crazy with non-book related issues. So much so that I nearly didn’t write this blog.

Confluence, book three in the Linesman series was released yesterday for us, today for some of you in later time zones.

So far, people have said nice things about it.  Which is a relief, because no matter how much you, the author(s), might like a book, the real test is in what other people think of it.

We’ve tweeted a lot.  (Authors tend to do that around publication day. Surprise.)

We’ve also been featured on some blogs.

To date:

  • SFF World, asking how you know if your side is the right side in a war. Which, let’s face it, most of us don’t. In the Linesman books, we naturally side with the New Alliance, because Ean does. But how do we know it’s the side that should win
  • Plus we’re over on Unbound Worlds talking about why we like space opera
  • Over at the Book Nympho where Anne reviews the book, and hosts our article about music in the Linesman series
  • And we did an author interview over at MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape. where we talk about writing the series, and give a little hint of what’s to come next.

A number of people have asked when the audio version will be available.  Recorded Books plans to record it some time this week.  We don’t know when it will become available on Audible.  (Funnily enough, we do know when the CDs come out, but they always come months later.)

Meantime, if you’re reading Conflunce, we hope you enjoy it.

First sighting in the wild

The first glimpse of our latest book -- in the wild, as it were.
The first glimpse of our latest book — in the wild, as it were.

It’s just under three months until Confluence is released.

And look, advance reader copies are starting to surface.

 

Getting close to a book

Look, it's a typeset book, with crop marks and all. Just fyi, for Alliance, this is also the version we used to create the copy to read online. We'll probably do the same for Confluence. Just need to get an okay to put it up.
Look, it’s a typeset book, with crop marks and all. Just fyi, for Alliance, this is also the version we used to create the copy to read online. We’ll probably do the same for Confluence. Just need to get an okay to put it up.

The digital proofs for Confluence arrived the other day.  This is a PDF of the typeset book.

It looks like a book.  It’s the last stage before the books are actually printed.  From this we get the green galleys—uncorrected proofs—that we can start sending out to people to read.

We do one final read.  (Optional, according to the publisher, for they have someone doing the final read as well.)  In our case, Sherylyn does the final read.  She does nearly all the editing from the copy edits on.  (It’s great to have two people with different skill-sets working on a book.)

You can’t change anything at this stage, only pick up errors.

Meantime, we have moved onto the next book, and there has been time between our last copy edit and this typeset document arriving, so this is the first read in a long time that we actually have some objectivity reading the book.  Beforehand, we have been so immersed in the story we have no objectivity at all.

There are a few things we’d change. Clunky paragraphs here and there, repeated information. But overall, Sherylyn’s enjoying the read.

Which is nice.

Working hard on Confluence edits

Well, Sherylyn is, anyway.
Well, Sherylyn is, anyway.

Our editor sent back further edits for Confluence.  They’re due  on Monday.

Around this time in the editing process Sherylyn does most of the work.  I get to relax (mostly), and every so often follow along to see what the edits are and whether I agree with them.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes. Sure. That sounds good.  Hmmm. Not sure about this one. I’m going to change it. Are you okay with this change?  Yes, yes, yes, yes.”

The book is off to the copy editor on Monday.

We’re far enough removed from Confluence now to see some things we’d like to improve, but we don’t have the time.  I think every writer does that, can’t let the story go.  What is the definition of done?

This final tidy up has cleaned the book up nicely, though.  It’s good.

Last night over dinner we had a long chat about what we learned writing these three books, what we’d do again, and what we’d do differently next time.

I might put it into a blog one day.

Nearing the end of the first round of rewrites

The edits on the first hundred pages of Confluence.
The edits on the first hundred pages of Confluence.

First round of edits

Mid-February our editor, Anne Sowards, returned Confluence with marked up with comments and suggestions for revisions.

Sherylyn and I talked through the main changes she suggested—storylines to cut/add, suggestions for improvements—and agreed on the basic changes we planned to make.

Then we started work.  Sherylyn went through the story and added comments and highlights about the changes we wanted to make. I came along behind and started making those changes.  When Sherylyn finished the initial mark-up, she went back to the start and began editing the changes I had made.

When I finished my changes, I went back and started editing her changes.

We do this in a single document.  It’s shared on OneDrive.  We show all revisions and comments.  We have Anne’s comments scattered throughout as well, so there are three different reviewers that we’re trying to keep track of.

At the end of all this, we send two copies back to Anne.  The first copy shows the revisions and the comments (just in case she wants to see what we’ve done and where).  The second is a clean copy, with all revisions accepted, and all comments deleted. We’ve never asked if she wants the first one, we just send them both.

Hassles with Word

Around this time in the novel writing process we stop saying nice things about Microsoft Office and how handy the cloud is and start swearing at Word.  And we save every five minutes (which makes things much worse), and swear at Microsoft again.

I like Word. I prefer it to Scrivener and any other word processing software I know of. As a co-author, I also like OneDrive, and the ability for multiple people to work together on the same document.

Word is incredibly powerful.  It has its problems, however.

It struggles with a full 120,000-word novel with mark-up.  Especially when the revisions and comments add at least another 30,000 words. And when the mark-up is across three people.

Toward the end of the revisions, which is where we’re at now, the changes we make are small.  A couple of minor mods on every second page, say.  But they add up, and we might do fifty or more pages in a day.  That’s each person doing that.  If we lose our work we can’t get it back. So we back up frequently.

Every night.  Once onto the hard drive, once onto a flash drive, and once a week onto OneDrive itself.  Paranoid? Us?  Very. We have learned the hard way.

Word’s little foibles

I don’t even want to talk about syncing.  Suffice to say, OneDrive gets itself into a twist occasionally and mixes up which file is the latest.

It doesn’t like people touching the same part of the document.  If Sherylyn adds some text, then I update it by deleting part of it, next time we open the document Sherylyn’s text is back in all its glory. Along with mine.

Or if one of us adds a comment, saying, “Maybe we could fix this by …” and the other agrees, makes the change and then deletes the comment, next time we open the document that comment is back.

Lovely.

We’re nearly done

We’re almost complete. We’re about to change Australian spelling to US spelling. That’s scary, but the last two times we didn’t do it, and the poor copy editor had a lot of words to fix.

Once we send the rewrites off (due early April) we’ll start again with a nice, clean copy, all revisions and comments accepted, for the next round.