My apologies: it’s been a while since I last posted anything, but there’s been plenty happening on the novel behind the scenes. For the poetically challenged amongst you, you’ll want to know I’ve finally found an editor! Mr Allen Stroud has bravely stepped into the breach and will be gamely beating my prose into shape over the coming weeks. He’s actually a jolly nice fellow, and you can find out more about him and why he decided to take on this project in the interview below.
Otherwise, I’ve been revising and, boy, is that so not exciting. I could share with you a blow-by-blow of my mistakes and my efforts to rectify them, my page counts, errors per page, lists of plot holes and character inconsistencies, and malaprops, but they’re no more gripping to read about than they are to fix. All you need to know is that I’ve swept through once, and now I’m targeting literally hundreds of individual mehs and crushing them under my revisarial jackboots. Don’t look so shocked – the alpha draft was only a couple of steps beyond a brainstorming session in terms of readability and polish. Reaching those heights is a whole new battle: one hard-fought in the trenches, the weapons of choice being persistence, time, and whole lot of chocolate.
As my writing weathers the first complete salvo from my alpha-reader, I am emotionally preparing for a second onslaught of comments and suggestions. It will be savage and brutal. There will be casualties. But, by the time Allen has finished, there will only be The Story left standing. Here’s a little more on how Mr Stroud intends to enable it to hold its head up high: loud and proud…
1) Did you agree to work with T. James out of:
b) Pure love of Elite.
c) A sense of duty and responsibility to the Elite community that would not let you sit idly by and watch T. James butcher your beloved franchise.
d) Reasons of your own.
Please expand below:
I can’t really claim ownership of the franchise, but I certainly have a deep affection for it and a passion to see writing produced that does it justice. I think TJ is very capable of that and any offer I can make to help, is an extension of my love for all things Elite.
2) Does the prospect of working with T. James fill you with:
b) Mortal dread for your sanity.
c) A toasty altruistic feeling the talented get when helping the less able?
d) Feelings of your own.
Please expand below:
I think my sanity disappeared down the rabbit hole long ago. I’m looking forward to reading what TJ’s written. I was fortunate enough to see some of his early ideas for the Thargoids when we were developing the wider fictional guides. For me, the whole process of developing the associated fiction with Elite Dangerous has been a wonderful experience and helping another author with that is a part of it.
3) T. James was acting upon an epiphany: a luminous heavenly vision that filled his mind with light and his heart with a warm squishy feeling. He chose you as his editor. How would you persuade his backers that he made the right choice?
I’ve taught writing for ten years, specialising in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I’ve taken copy edit courses at Book House, have a Masters degree in writing and am currently working on a PhD in the same. I regularly tutor dissertation students on extended writing projects for novels and feature film scripts as well as edit my father’s children’s stories. I’ve also been heavily involved in producing the guidance material for all the official fiction writers.
4) Elite has long been the passion of many small boys with facial hair, diminishing numbers of cranial follicles, and steadily growing intestinal girth. Lacking obvious physical evidence of any of the above, what aspects of your life are you willing to divulge to support your claim of being a fan? What Elitey fingers have you been dipping into the Big Pie Frontier has been baking us all these years?
I think the best testimony to my passion for Elite is, when I was asked to put together campaign information for the writers and the game, I spent so much time sat on the sofa working on the guide books that the springs in the upholstery broke, leaving me sat in a crater.
5) The common perception amongst writers is that editors are not human: they live simply to find fault and make the writer’s life difficult. What evidence can you offer that you are, indeed, a human being and not one of the cold undead and creature of the night?
As a writer/editor I am able to maintain my humanity and ‘lead from the front’.
6) Rumour says that you have aspirations beyond the shredding of others’ prose. What gives you the right to claim the epithets of writer and author. What proof can you offer?
Your mind powers are extensive.
Ah, a subtle hint: Allen, being a modest man, must want me to do the bold, brash pluggy bit. Right, engaging Mental Super Suggestion: You will go and buy his books; all of his books. Today. Thank you.
7) Every editor has their favourite sacrificial cows—those dumb bits of a writer’s work that are only fit for slaughter and making into handbags, shoes, and glue. What are the three things you hate to see most in work you edit? What will be my punishment be if you find too many?
“had” “that” and “was”. After completing my own manuscript edit, “it” is walking to the gibbet to join them.
8) The relationship between a writer and their editor is about maintaining the correct balance of power. How are you planning on keeping me in my place?
Revealing such a plan is what an overconfident super villain does in a moment of triumph, before being cast to oblivion. I’m still here and intend to be, long after words fade and paper rots…
Having established that Out of the Darkness is in good hands, below I offer my readers/backers the opportunity to make suggestions and demand things that they would like Allen Stroud to extract from me (in terms of writing! Bodily parts and fluids are not on offer—unless Allen is certain it will improve the final book). Please leave your comments below.
In the meantime, all that remains is the customary ‘thank you’ to Allen for making an appearance and answering my probing quesions. He will have ample opportunity to extract his revenge as he presents me with his revisions and recommendations. I must now leave you all: it is time for my warm milk, and to suck my thumb and cuddle Blankey in an effort to stave off my nightmares of The Imminent Stroud.
Image, “Knight With Lance Riding Horse”, courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, and, ‘Allen Stroud, reclining’, courtesy of Allen Stroud (Duh!).
A great step T.J. every story needs a second set of eyes at the minimum and you have a good quality set there. Just remember that this is your story and although Allen’s comments will be of the highest quality and are there to make the story better and more readable you still need to filter them through the T.J filter. “Is this right for MY story?” “That is how Allen would fix the problem but I am T.J – how can i tweak Allen’s fix so it is a T.J fix?” Of course 90% of the time it’ll be “Good Idea Allen I’ll make that change right now!”
You make a good point. I have the greatest respect for Allen’s experience and expertise, but there are differences between our preferred writing styles. In some cases, what I have in my rough draft is just plain wrong, and I take Allen’s correction and incorporate it without alteration. There are times when I’ve even been so audacious as to ignore Allen’s suggestion (sorry, Allen), or re-read a paragraph and decide I don’t like either way of doing things and re-write it completely.
What I do think will work is the tension between my naturally ‘fuller’ style and Allen’s economical – my hope is to combine the strengths of both so that the final revision of Out of the Darkness has a unique colour, but the read is still tight and pacey.
Wish me luck, and Allen plenty of patience!
I think everyone involved in editing knows its a two way process John. TJ’s got his publication plan mapped out and my part in it is to read over his work and make suggestions. I don’t think anyone would go into this process and switch their brain off!
I do have a plan, and the main part of that is getting this book up to scratch. Thanks for your input so far, Allen. The chapter one edits are insightful and definitely got me thinking. I’ll be looking through each chapter as it arrives, just to check for problems that might affect the ms as a whole. The time-eater will be the line by line on the second sweep.
It would be nice to switch my brain off. Is there a zen-like transcendent state that promotes simultaneous editing and sleeping? You seem to get so much done I assume you have perfected it. I wish to learn the trick, O Wise Wringer of Words.