davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Just noting I've started adding my book reviews to Goodreads, see them here. The recent batch are up, I'll go through and add the older ones eventually.

I still plan on posting them here, so it won't make any difference, but if you have a goodreads account they're now there as well.

(Some of my fellow Pitchwars types have had suggestions it's a preferred form of web-presence when agents/publishers are evaluating new clients, so I've been meaning to do it for a while).

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

So yesterday was taken up with ‪#‎DVpit‬. I squeezed 13 pitches into the 12 hours of the event, last one squeaking in seconds ahead of the 'And we're done', and got 4 likes from agents, which for the purposes of #DVpit meant 'I'm interested, send me your initial query'. It finished at 1AM UK time, so I hit the sack almost straight afterwards, I wanted to finish the chapter I was writing, and slept for pretty much 12 hours. And woke up to find a 5th like from that 13th pitch :)

That final pitch was thrown together on the spot when I noticed quite a few people were using comparison-based pitches, I've got quite a strong comparison in "Rivers of London meets Hill Street Blues" so I switched it in for the weakest of my planned pitches and got a like both times I used it. I'm glad I decided to make the pitches live, rather than scheduling them in advance.

All my Pitchwars peers who were participating seemed to get a decent response, including two in the high teens with likes, though Beth Phelan, the agent who organised #DVpit, reports there were three pitches with over 50 likes, which is just astounding.

I've just finished researching everyone's requirements and sending out my submissions, minor panic because one agent chose today to change her twitter account, but I'd noted her agency and traced her through their web page. Requirements ranged from just a query letter, to the first 5, 10, or 50 pages. Fortunately both pages 5 and 50 finish on fantastic cliffhangers for provoking further interest and I squeezed in the first line from page 11 so that page 10 did too (it's in the body of the email so it doesn't show).

So now it's fingers crossed!

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
So my usual response to being stressed is to find something I can obsess on instead in order to distract me. And I actually have several projects I can use for this, basically alternate military history stuff that can absorb however much time I throw at it.

The end of Pitchwars means I've now got a manuscript that needs sending out to agents. The idea of discussing a professional working relationship with someone (in the event they actually like Graveyard Shift), is stressful enough that the one request I had for a copy reduced me to a hyperventilating panic attack and a final desperate lunge at the send-key.

So I took some time off, which was sensible, and turned to one of my projects, which possibly wasn't. And then my lovely body decided to throw in its recurring trick of 'You've done too much, I'm going to fall asleep NOW.' Which wouldn't be so bad if it didn't reset my body clock to the idea it should fall asleep at whatever point that happens, usually in the afternoon. And unfortunately I'm not talking naps, I'm talking full-on 8 to 10 hours.

Which means I'm back to being nocturnal - though admittedly I've done so much on US-time during Pitchwars that I may just be used to it by now. Annoyingly I've twice thought I've gotten back to daylight scheduling, only for my body to do the Nope, falling asleep now trick on me, most recently this afternoon, slept from about 2PM until Midnight.

I'm gradually trying to shut down the obsession project again, so I'm not tempted to 'well, I'll just sieve all the relevant information out of this 200 page historical document and then try to sleep', but it's a slow process - and I need something to do when I'm awake at Oh, God, No! O'Clock. I've actually started work on a new novel, but it's largely at the thinking and plotting stage and not quite to where it can displace obsession.

Buried under this is the recognition I really do need to discuss anxiety and panic attacks (and their intersection with possible neurodivergence) with my GP, but ironically that's making me more anxious, especially as I'm stuck being nocturnal which makes scheduling an appointment bloody difficult.

And so that's why I've been fairly quiet for the last fortnight. Now excuse me while I go bury my head under a pillow!

davidgillon: Text: I really don't think you should put your hand inside the manticore, you don't know where it's been. (Don't put your hand inside the manticore)
 Best spelling mistake ever!

Unfortunately it's mine, and the second last line of Graveyard Shift (bar the epilogues). Fortunately I have an irritatingly good line-editor.

I got the line-edits late Saturday, the house has been echoing to cries of "How did I miss that?" ever since.

The answer for the handful of spelling mistakes is probably I really do need bifocals. The answer for the logical problems isn't so simple, but it's an interesting exercise in how ingenious a fix can you dream up on short notice.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
 Got my feedback on rewritten chapters 1 and 2, and a deep line-edit taking out about a thousand words, mostly one or two at a time.

The good news is the rewrite was on target, the bad news, if you can call it bad news, is not being the author lets Katie be a ruthless editor, and she wants me to throw out my babies.

Oh, most of the times (75%-ish) I agree with her, and the rest of the time it's usually flagging that she isn't reading things the way I intended, which means it needs rewriting to be clearer. There were one or two points I disagreed with, mostly around some weird holes in her English (she's Australian, with an English mother, but living in America, so actually quite a handy halfway house to pick out pure English-isms), I sort of expected 'played merry hob' not to work, and easy enough to change it to 'merry hell', but she didn't know 'sea change', which I thought was in pretty universal use (and wiki confirms it is in US use). I'm sticking with that one.

But - wah! - she wants me to lose 'don't poke the evil demigod' which is one of my favourite lines. And, damnit, I can see it makes sense for the pacing of the paragraph as a whole. So it's going, but only as far as the start of chapter 2, where there's a 'next time, don't poke the evil demigod' shaped hole.

I'm about two thirds of the way through integrating these, so should be finished today, and back to applying the process to the rest of the novel, but I'm worried about pacing, she wants the draft rewrite by end of the month, which is less than a fortnight, and, while we've only been at this a week, I'm going to need to kick up the pace if I want to meet that deadline.

So back to the grindstone!

ETA: dammit, I just decided I have to lose the werewolf saying "I screwed the pooch" as well :(

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
So I settled down for a mammoth #Pitchwars editing session yesterday, and procrastinated.

For six hours.

It's just possible that I'm feeling some anxiety over this.

Not only did I make a meal, play two games, read a book, and spend a good chunk of time on the net, but I also completely changed my writing environment, so that rather than use the couch to lie on I'm using the spare bedroom in a sort of day bed arrangement (I can't sit comfortably enough to write, so do it lying on my back with laptop on chest).

Anyway I did eventually manage about four and a half hours worth of editing and made some solid progress, cutting about 600 words from Chapter 1 (i.e. a couple of pages worth), though that doesn't reflect the amount of change, which I'd say is probably about triple that - there's the text you cut, the text you rewrite, and the text you cut, and then replace with completely new text saying different things.

In embarrassing observations, I realised that I had never introduced my protagonist by rank and surname before people start using them, whoops. (Well, originally I did, but that chunk of text got cut about a year ago), so immediate scrabble to find a place I could put that in, and it actually let me say other stuff I probably should have said about what was going on.

And then I saved the file, and promptly fell asleep, with the laptop on my chest (it actually went, I think, save file, put laptop on floor, half nod off, think of further changes, pick laptop up, implement them, fall asleep).

Fortunately the laptop was still there when I woke up, unfortunately I'd also done what seems to be an increasingly common problem with my sleeping and drawn my legs up so I'm lying in this splayed, inverted frogs' legs sort of position, and moving my hips out of that damned well hurts. I'm trying to think of a solution that doesn't involve tying my legs together and not getting very far.

And now, back to the editing, Chapter 2 awaits.

Well, once I'm done procrastinating.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
I had my first chat session with KT Hanna, one of my two Pitchwar mentors today.

Apparently I have a voice.

Apparently it says things, interesting things, but says them repetitively.

Apparently I also have a problem with the passive voice and a tendency to overtag speech.

Interestingly the problems differ between which character's POV the chapter is written from (rotating first person POV), apparently one character does more telling than the other.

KT talked a lot of sense, and the problems were ones I was aware of, I just haven't been as successful in dealing with them as I thought I had, but she seems really enthused by the story and convinced we can turn it into something stronger.

The repetition problem is one you can probably see in my writing here. I'll say something, then wonder if I've made it entirely clear, so add another clause, and then I'll take another look, and add another clause still, and end up with an incredibly complex sentence saying the thing four times over.

I have wondered if it's neurodiverse in nature, a problem with being unsure about understanding the way other people will parse and understand the sentence and trying to belt and braces a solution. I mentioned that to KT and she noted a friend of hers, both an author and possessed of an AS diagnosis, does have similar issues.

So basically the plan is I use the next three weeks to do a complete redraft taking into account what KT says, killing passive voice and repetition, retagging speech and adding in physical description where needed, then KT will go in and do a line edit. But first I rework chapters 1 and 2 as a prototype by Monday (I suspect it'll be by Friday).

I also had feedback from Julie Sondra Decker, one of the mentors who turned me down, which I wasn't expecting. Mostly overlapping with what KT said, but with some really good structural advice on my query. I even agreed with her reasons for turning me down (she doesn't read detective stuff).

Slightly nervously contemplating the new draft....
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
So yesterday brought my Athenian odyssey to a close. My body was ready for it, I've pushed it rather further than it was really happy with, but there's always that element of reluctance to end a holiday (particularly when flying from mid-30s to 16C).

I checked out of the hotel about 10:30, waddled down to the Megaro Moussikis metro with bags on the chair (given a couple of kerb-cut-less corners), bought my 8 euro ticket to the airport and then had a 20-odd minute wait for a train going that far. I initially didn't think there was a wheelchair space (I'd worked out they were the first and last carriages, but not all trains had them marked, and the airport service was one of them), but then realised I was sitting next to it, it just  happened to have had most of the wheelchair symbol scuffed away. I'm not sure the three tourists standing in it realised what they were doing, but it would have been a faff to access, so I just stayed where I was.

I got to the airport just gone noon, unfortunately my flight wasn't til four, so I had time to waste, in fact Ryanair sent me away again the first time I tried to check my bag, but eventually I got myself checked in and again I was allowed to keep my own chair as far as the gate. Assistance turned up as scheduled and I got my first experience of boarding via an aisle chair - not a fan! (Mostly I was using assistance to avoid being trampled in the rush to board, technically I guess I could have walked aboard, but without sticks or crutches it was easier to take the ride, and no need to explain myself).

Straightforward flight back to the UK, the pilot kept putting the seatbelt sign on every half-hour but we never actually had any turbulence. Then assistance off at Stansted, which was interesting. I could have taken over once they got me off the ambulift, but with no idea where to go I let the guy pushing take charge, and he only had one speed, flat out. I'd assumed with the flight due to land about 6PM I'd be lucky to be on the Stansted Express before 7:15 at the earliest, he got me on the 6:15... (okay the flight landed half an hour early, but I was still last one off the aircraft). One slight complication when we managed to trap part of the ramp onto the train between wheel and pushrim, but fortunately it came free when I had him reverse. Then Stansted to Tottenham Hale to Stratford to Stratford International to Chatham, separate trains for each leg, longest gap between legs about 7 minutes, arranging assistance on the fly, and not a hitch - they only seem to screw things up if you give them time to! A last taxi-ride up the hill and that moment of relief when you realise the house is still standing.... (What? Doesn't everyone assume it'll have burnt down/blown up/blown away in their absense?)

And the wheee!? I checked my email before heading down for breakfast at the hotel, not assuming there would be anything there, and there was an email I wasn't expecting until later, and it wasn't the 'sorry, but' I'd conditioned myself to expect. It seems I'm through to the second round of Pitchwars, with author KT Hanna and editor Jami Nord helping me beat Graveyard Shift into better shape for attracting an agent's attention over the next couple of months (1500+ entries, 125 'mentees' going through, I ended up with two mentors as KT had two pitches she couldn't decide between, mine and another, so got a wild-card space for me with Jami co-mentoring, I've yet to hear their thoughts on what needs changing, though KT noted in one of the emails she loves the voice, but thinks it's too wordy in places).

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
So I've been psyching myself to submit to Pitchwars, whose submission window was today (actually they opened the window early, late Friday but I was relying on having 'til today to finish stuff)

This involved:
1) Finishing the latest novel draft (10 hours yesterday)
2) Switching it to submission format (6 hours today, it was taking out that blank line between every para that was a bugger)
3) Picking my 5 chosen potential mentors from the 108 on offer, which was mostly done.

And then I went to look at my analysis of the mentors, and realised that Windows had rebooted itself, and the file had never been saved. 108 mentor bios (each on their own website) to re-read through* to find the ones who would consider an Adult Urban Fantasy/Police Procedural crossover, with a deadline of Midnight EDT (5AM BST), and I didn't get to that until after midnight local.

Fortunately I only really had six mentors who would consider my MS, and one of those didn't mention SF/F, so the choice was simple, but finding them was a race.

Submission finally made at 3:30AM, and all the holiday prep I was supposed to do tonight didn't happen, so the stress roles on into tomorrow.

*And some of them were almost unreadable, this doesn't strike me as the greatest advert for their skills. There were a couple I never did work out the age range they were covering (and that's a mandatory match with your MS)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Yes, minus.

I just finished all the work I had planned for the current draft of Graveyard Shift, my novel in progress, which ended up taking 5600 words out of the manuscript (though the actual changed wordcount is probably more like 15kwords, a couple of major chapters had very substantial rewrites). The structural changes, mainly deletion of a major character, worked pretty well, unfortunately it's still overlong (128kwords, target length 120kwords), so I need to look at a different approach. I've got some ideas, but it's a tough ask. On the plus side I'm writing regularly again after this year's health stuff got in the way for much longer than anticipated.

The other thing I'm thinking of doing is submitting it to Pitchwars, which may interest the other writerly types around here. Pitchwars is a sort of contest for people with unpublished manuscripts, where you pitch a query letter and first chapter to 5 out of (this time) 100 mentors (assorted published and due to be published writers and editors) and if your submission catches their interest they'll mentor you through a new draft, with the possibility of picking up an agent at the end of the process if any of the ones who come to watch decide they like your newly polished pitch (hence Pitchwars).

You can only pitch to five mentors, though, and there are restrictions, each mentor specifies an age range (MG, YA, NA - new adult, or Adult) and will only consider manuscripts aimed at that age range, while individually they can specify as many additional personal wants or restrictions as they wish (romances only, no romances, no magic, no kids in peril, etc) so that they end up with pitches they're comfortable handling, so you have to research your market (every mentor has a link to an appropriate web page). Unfortunately for me, Adult tends to be the category with fewest mentors, I've been through 25 so far, and only 1 will even consider Graveyard Shift.

And the other problem I have is timing. Submissions have to be made in a 24 hour window on the 17th, which isn't an issue, but over the next couple of weeks the mentors may then request synopsis, additional chapters or the full manuscript, and generally email you to see if they think you and they will work together. Which wouldn't be an issue most of the time, but just happens to cover the week and a half I'm in Greece sailing/visiting Athens. Getting online shouldn't be too much on an issue in Athens, but in little fishing villages might be more of an issue! Hopefully people will be flexible enough to work with me to get around that if they're interested.

If anyone is interested enough to want to look it up for themselves: Twitter hashtag #Pitchwars and explanatory web page here, with list of mentors here.

Minor content warning if you follow up and start going through mentor pages, there seems to be an internal competition amongst the mentors for who can include the flashiest, gaudiest embedded gifs. If you're at all photosensitive you probably want to disable loading images!  I'm not and I still find some of the pages almost unreadable.


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David Gillon

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