Category Archives: Editing

Situation Normal, All F**ked Up

SNAFU: An anthology of Military Horror is out in the world! This massive tome, put out by independent Australian publisher, Cohesion Press, is the first in an annual military-themed antho. When owner and editor in chief, Geoff Brown, got in touch and asked if I’d like to be involved, I responded with a hearty HELL YES.

It’s been a good couple of years since I’d worked on an anthology (the last being Midnight Echo Issue 8) and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed working with a slew of authors to weave a theme through their stories. And what a kick-arse bunch of stories they are. While I was only involved on the editing side of SNAFU, with over a thousand submissions, Geoff Brown has done a remarkable job in his choices for the anthology, and the stories within are a testament to the writers themselves. There are some cracker tales in this book, covering all manner of conflicts, time periods, and monsters. Ooh, we can’t forget the monsters! There’s a plethora of ghosties and ghoulies, born right out of your nightmares.

SNAFU cover art

With a veritable who’s who of the genre, there are stories from best-selling authors Greig Beck and Wes Ochse, plus a gritty Joe Ledger story from the master Jonathan Mayberry, and if you’re a fan of James A Moore (that’d be me), there’s a new Jonathan Crowley novella inside. But it’s not just about the big names, the stories from all the authors in this anthology are fantastic and I had a great time working with them and their tales – it was real pleasure, and if this is the mark of authors moving through the ranks, then the publishing and reading worlds are the real winners here.

The ToC is below, and if you’re looking for a great read, you really can’t go past SNAFU:

Blackwater – Neal F Litherland
Little Johnny Jump-Up – Christine Morgan
Covert Genesis – Brian W Taylor
Bug Hunt – Jonathan Maberry
Special Operations Interview PTO‑14 – Wayland Smith
Cold War Gothic – Weston Ochse
Making Waves – Curtis C Chen
The Fossil – Greig Beck
A Tide of Flesh – Jeff Hewitt
Death at 900 Meters – Tyson Mauermann
Holding the Line – Eric S Brown
Thela Hun Gingeet – WD Gagliani and David Benton
The Shrine – David Amendola
Ptearing All Before Us – Steve Ruthenbeck
A Time of Blood – Kirsten Cross
Blank White Page – James A Moore

And for those of you wanting to write some military-based horror? Keep your eyes on Cohesion Press for the next call for submissions.

 

The Creative Proce$$

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
—Mark Twain

Aah, words. How I love thee! They hold a power, a magic all their own. And Mr Twain speaks the truth – for a writer, there’s nothing like finding that right word, the right turn of phrase that will paint a world, a character, a scene with such vivid detail. It’s what has us rewriting and reworking until we hit that perfection.

Words are the life-blood of a writer. We love weaving them together to create wonder and enchantment. We want to take you places, leave you there for a while if we must, and have you take a little piece of it away with you.

We invest in our work, invest in ourselves to create that work. Time and learning our craft is the biggest investment a writer makes, but there are also times where dollars are invested. I’ve done it, and it was money well spent. Five years ago I joined the Australian Horror Writers Association crit group – the crit group was free, but a yearly membership of $20 was paid and worth every cent. Not only did I find a bunch of writers who helped me see where I was going wrong, and who supported and bolstered me and my writing, but more than that, they were (and are) some of the best people I know.

AHWA_logo

When the opportunity arose for a mentorship, I jackpotted again and was mentored by the extraordinarily talented and extraordinarily lovely Kaaron Warren (read her work, it’ll take you to some very spooky places). What I learned from Kaaron was invaluable, and the $165 I paid for the mentorship was a pittance compared to the experience and knowledge she passed along to me.

My writing improved a thousand-fold after working with Kaaron. Even my first drafts were not quite the crap they were previously (and we all know first drafts are crap), but the skeleton was stronger on which to build. It still meant rewriting and reworking that first draft, of course. It’s the investment of time. Time.

So when I came across a “book” professing a foolproof way to write your own book in less than a week, I was more than a little sceptical. More promises followed: six figure income in twelve months; will turn you into an expert in your field. Yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. And let’s not forget the “seminars” and “master-classes” (for more money, of course). Oh, and before you ask, qualifications? Pfft! Who needs those!

Now I have a healthy dose of cynicism, and could see right through this rot (note: I will not provide links to this so-called book, as… well, it’s a load of bollocks), but it’s not aimed at someone like me, someone who can call bullshit on their claims. It’s aimed at the most vulnerable of our writing community: the newbie. (Or as the book proclaims: “for the budding writer”)

bullshit

We were all newbies once; caught up in the romanticism of writing, of creating, of being published. And we still are. Those of us who have been writing for a while now understand the amount of work, the struggle, the yearning and the passion to create. There are no shortcuts. You can’t wave a magic wand over a first draft to turn it into literary gold. It takes rewrites and redrafts, rereads and reworking.

It takes time. Time to make those words that will resonate with a reader; time to learn your craft; time to make your story the best it can be. Can it be done alone? I haven’t come across any story (be it flash, short, novella, novel) that’s stuck with me that hasn’t been passed past another’s eyes, a professional, before publication. When I see someone professing to hold the golden goose out to new writers, I get mad. Duping up-and-coming writers to make a quick buck is unconscionable. These parasites make a mockery of my profession, of my passion, and do so with little regard to those they target. There’s a special kind of hell waiting for those who cash in on the dreams of a new writer, I’m sure of it.

When challenged on the veracity of the content and title of that scam-book, the “author” bid a hasty retreat. Another took up their cause, which ended in an interesting discussion on the creative process, and this person’s flat-out refusal to ever engage beta readers or a professional editor or proofreader – their work didn’t require it.

facepalm

As a professional (qualified) editor, I know this is not the case. All work, regardless of the author, needs another set of eyes passed over it (more than one set if you can manage it). It doesn’t need to cost a fortune, it doesn’t need to cost anything but time: reciprocity is a great foundation for beta readers, and also builds relationships with other writers (who are really quite astute readers).

Can a book be written in under a week? 10,000 words a day for six days gets you 60,000 words – the basis of a novel. Would you send it out in the world? Please don’t. Please, please don’t. You owe your potential reader more than that, you owe yourself more than that.

Can you make a six-figure income within twelve months on said book? Realistically? No. And promising a budding writer such is not only fraudulent, but downright despicable.

The creative process does cost, but most of those “costs”—time, sweat, and yes, sometimes tears—a writer is willing to invest. But those costs shouldn’t line the pockets of scammers trying to bilk money from those who are just starting out.

There are organisations—reputable writing centres, writing associations, writing groups etc—that are found easily enough on the ‘net. Invest the time to search for a group or association that fits your needs. There are a lot of genre associations who would be happy to point you in the right direction. Don’t be taken in by “books” that promise the world. Remember, if something’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Ramblings of a Serial Killer

I’ve killed off short stories in the hundreds; stuffed their rotting carcasses into dark nooks with nary a backward glance. I’ve hacked and slashed words with the impunity of a serial killer, and razed worlds like an unforgiving god. Cast them into the abyss and never looked back. Easy.

But the novel, aah, what a different beast it is! It fights dirty. The two main characters—Wren and Cy—make me pay for the wrongs I’ve done them: taking them on needless journeys; giving them pointless back-stories; creating traits that downright didn’t suit. They mocked my attempts to reason with them – they knew best. But I’m stubborn, and as they traded conspiratorial whispers at the back of mind, poking and nudging me toward the right path, I ploughed on.

Each time I gutted a draft, they sighed with relief; each time I severed a chapter or two or six, they goaded me to be harsher (they can be mean). And after the murder and evisceration of four drafts, I’m finally at a place where Cy is happy to move forward; Wren, reluctantly so.

blood spatter

“You had to work for it,” Cy told me, “it was the only way you were going to get us right.” His smile, as always, is never fully realised. “Experience is a brutal teacher.”

Wren snorted and gave us both the finger; her trust issues run deep.

With time in the Black Friday Wager very quickly winding down, I made the decision (although it was blindingly obvious) that I wasn’t going to win the bet with my mate Marty Young (read his stuff – it rocks!) to get this first draft finished. It’s a bitch; I don’t like losing bets, but it’s been far from a waste.

When I break it down all autopsy-like, I’ve written a total of 149,496 words; two in-depth character sheets (four pages each—longhand); chapter summary/outline (six pages—longhand), and one page filled with a stream of curse words (possibly my best work). The two words I’ve failed to write, however, are: The End. But that’s okay, I know where Cy and Wren have come from, I know where they’ve been and where they’re going. They don’t quite know all that’s in store, but if they’ve taught me anything, it’s that they won’t make it easy.

Novel writing is new to me, and the learning curve has been incredibly steep, and at times seemingly insurmountable. I hated and loved it in equal measure; I raged and cursed, floundered and despaired, but the stubbornness that drives me forward (and drives my husband to incoherency) meant I could butcher my drafts then pick through the remains and rebuild.

bloody pen

Not all of those 149,496 words were crap. There’s some great stuff in there, bits and pieces that I’ll use in later chapters; other sections I’ll rework to fit this new incarnation; parts that are quintessentially Cy and Wren.

Don’t get me wrong, this killing spree hasn’t been easy – at the time, each slaughter of the next draft has felt like a massive failure on my part. But one of my writing pals, Devin Madson, (read her work – she paints with words), told me I was lucky I could see it wasn’t working and could cut my losses and begin again; that I didn’t drag it out and waste both time and words. In my head that makes sense, in my heart, it’s like a dagger.

It wasn’t just my characters and their voices that had me struggle with my novel; work cut into my writing time, but I don’t begrudge that. I love being an editor; I love helping others with their work, their stories and their characters – it’s why I chose to get my qualifications so I could provide the best advice and expertise I could to those who love to write as I do.

As an editor, I’m trained to see where others’ novels require work: pacing, clarity, cohesion et al. This doesn’t, however, transfer to my own work – like I tell my clients: you can’t have objectivity with your babies. It’s insane to think you can.

And when the time comes, when I finally type: The End, (then do at least two rewrites – I’m a perfectionist, sue me), I will engage beta readers, then rewrite…and rewrite, and possibly rewrite again, before finally passing it on to an editor – someone who has the objectivity I no longer have.

It’s taken six months for me to fully comprehend the scale and heartache involved with writing a novel, but it’s been six months well spent. Do I wish I’d been able to get this “first” draft done? Hell yes. Do I wish I could have typed: The End? No doubt! Do I wish it was Marty buying me books instead of me buying him scotch? Yes (but I love Marty, so it ain’t all that bad). But the big question is: have I grown as a writer? And the answer to that is a big fat YES. And that, I reckon, is worth more than a bottle of scotch.

gone-writing

Planet Word

Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

With today being the last day of Women in Horror Month, I thought I’d sneak in one last post on gender. Today’s topic? Words. Gender-specific words. (It’s true, they exist.)

As an editor of both fiction and non-fiction, I spend a lot of time immersed in the words (and worlds) of others. For fiction, gender-specific words work – your characters are female or male (as yet, I’ve not worked with an author on a story containing a transgender character), so there are very few instances where gender-specificity becomes an issue. With non-fiction and copywriting, I’ve often found it to be a minefield of exclusivity.

What started out as a discussion with an editor friend of mine, Geoff Brown, about gender-specific pronouns grew into a Facebook experiment (here and here), where I posed a question and asked for replies on whether there was an error. The question was simple enough:

If a doctor doesn’t bulk bill, should he be required to work longer hours?

Out of fifteen responses (and a lot of fun had along the way), only five picked the gender-specific pronoun. Why should the doctor be a he? Why indeed. Another pointed out that when the word ‘nurse’ is used, most think ‘she’. While historically these professions have been gender-defined (with some wonderful exceptions here and here), they are no longer, but so ingrained is our concept of gender-identification that we allocate (mostly subconsciously) language that suits individual ideology.

What’s wrong with that? Well… plenty. Let me set the scene: I have two children (a girl and a boy – both amazing kids); now, using the example above, if my kids are to only ever hear me refer to doctors as ‘he/him’ and nurses as ‘she/her’, am I not reinforcing (however subliminally) gender-discrimination?

words have power

Even writing this, I wonder if I’m making a mountain out of a molehill (and I’m sure some might believe I am), but language is powerful, and studies show that from the womb, we’re attuned to it. From birth, we’re encouraged to speak (nothing beats the first time my kids said ‘Mumumum’); children pick up nuances of language – they mimic, they learn, they apply.

As a writer, I love language. I love words and what they can do. I love using them to create people, worlds, cultures, beliefs; to create monsters, gods, conflict, harmony – the possibilities are endless. As an editor, I have a responsibility to ensure language is inclusive (linguistic inclusivity). As a writer, I do as well – why would I limit my audience?

But surely a simple pronoun wouldn’t do that. I ask you this: as a woman, if you were to read a piece of copy or non-fiction where the only pronouns used were ‘he/him’, would you feel it was written for you? As a man, if you were to read an article or non-fiction piece where the only pronouns used were ‘she/her’, would it resonate with you? Would you notice? Does it matter?

Call me crazy, but to me it does. Words matter. Context matters. Inclusivity matters – be it gender, ethnicity, age, ability or disability – it matters. Words; wield them well, my friends.

words