Reading Aloud

September 28, 2009

Listening to David-Rees Thomas’s excellent reading of my story, “The Waters of Meribah” the other day, I was struck by just how awkward some of the sentences were.  This is not the fault of David’s reading, I should explain, but my writing.

No false modesty: I can give two reasons for this.  Firstly, and I’ve heard many other writers say this, when you read any piece of your own work once it’s published on publication, its always the case that every mistake and piece of bad writing becomes glaringly obvious in a way that it never did when you were still redrafting.

But secondly, and this is the main point here, back when I wrote  “Waters” I hadn’t yet learned the trick of reading my stories aloud when redrafting.  I don’t always do this now, if I’m honest, mainly due to pressure of time, but it’s a good trick to learn.  Reading aloud makes you more aware of the rhythms in the dialogue.  It exposes wordy sentences and unnatural expressions, and it makes you realise just how awkward some of your sentences are prose is.

Most importantly though, you experience the story via another input stream and this gives the brain a different perspective on the work.  (Similarly, some writers re key in the entire final draft of a story in order to send it through the brain in a different way).

By way of experiment, I just went through the above text reading it aloud.  I’ve marked my deletions using strikethrough.

See?  It works.


Blood and Iron

September 16, 2009

Follow this link to my website to see Jon Sullivan’s amazing cover for Blood and Iron, published April 2010.


September 13, 2009

Julie, a friend of mine, came up with a perfect description of the process.

She said that when you first write a story it’s like a baby:  perfect and precious in your eyes.

After a few redrafts it grows into a young child: you see that  it has its faults, but you love it anyway.

But as  you keep rereading and improving, a story becomes a teenager, lurking in its bedroom and complaining that you don’t understand it anymore. Catch it on a bad day and all you can see is its faults- everything about it irritates you.   If you’re honest with yourself, you realise that you’ve both been in each others company too long: you’ve both changed.

By that time you’re looking forward to the day when your story can go out into the world and start earning a living.  That’s when you can both see the best in one another again.

Blood and Iron

September 7, 2009

The sequel to Twisted Metal will be titled Blood and Iron.

For most of the time of writing it was known as Untitled Robot Book, and that’s the name that appears on the contract, but the title itself caused me more problems than any other story I’ve written.  Odd really, bearing in mind I’ve had the novel plotted since before I started Twisted Metal, and the characters virtually wrote the story themselves.

But I just couldn’t figure out what the title was going to be… until my agent advised me just to read through the MS.  “You’ll find it there in the text,” he said, and he was right.  Right in the middle of Chapter 10, in a meeting between humans and robots, there was the phrase Blood and Iron.

This time, unlike with Twisted Metal, I looked up the phrase on Google.   Coincidentally, Bismark used the phrase (or almost used it: he said “iron and blood”) in a speech confusingly known as the “Blood and Iron” speech.  Further checking showed there was no “Blood and Iron” video game.

None of that mattered, really.  Blood and Iron felt right. I knew that was the title.

I’ve seen the Jon Sullivan’s black and white rough for the cover, by the way.  It looks amazing.  The plan is to have the background in blood red, the foreground character in iron grey.

I’m currently thinking about starting book 3.  To me, it will be “The Book of Robots” but that’s not a very commercial title.  I’ll let you know what I come up with.