Science fiction and fantasy                                            



Critique Circle: Shaping Fabulous Stories





   

Musings and rants

Nine Political Books That Change The Conversation
Following news that Simon and Schuster plan to publish an inflammatory commentator, here are nine political books that deserve more attention.

Penguin Random House Withdraws Union Recognition
Penguin Random House have decided not to recognise Unite and the NUJ as a result of staff negotiations, leaving the publisher with a stain on its reputation as an employer.

Authors Support Stop Funding Hate
Some authors have had enough of divisive and xenophobic elements in the British press, and are willing to make an ethical stand.

Women In SFF: Indie Edition
A list of indie and self-published women writing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative fiction genres.

Amazon Finally Makes KU Appealing For Novelists
The new per-page payout for the Kindle Unlimited subscription service makes it a much better deal for authors of longer novels.

Thoughts On The Sieghart Report On Libraries
The Sieghart report on libraries missed its mark by miles. Yet the real cause of the decline of the UK library network is depressingly obvious.

A Shout-Out For The Good Guys
When nastiness dominates online conversations about books it is time to appreciate the well-behaved authors.

Where Shall I Point This Pitchfork?
Some thoughts on Jonathan Ross, Loncon, and the twitchfork mob.

Reading Is Not A Race
Why I will be abandoning annual reading challenges in 2014.

What Book Discovery Is Missing
The current state of book discovery is narrowing our reading choices and squeezing out midlist writers. How can it be fixed?

An Explosion Of Discovery Tools
New book discovery engines are popping up all over the web. But which ones will come out on top?

Blog Tours From Both Sides
Blog tours are the lastest marketing fad. But what are the pros and cons of this kind of publicity?

It's Not Your Story Any More
When a book is published, authors lose control over how the story should be read. They should let go the reins and enjoy the ride.

Same Old, Same Old
Are current methods of book discovery pushing us further away from original literature?

Female Protagonists In Genre Fiction
A list of recommended SFF books for adults which feature a female as the main character.

Is This The End Of Sweeping Vistas?
Do recent trends in fantasy art styles and the constraints of online book discovery mark the decline of landscape cover art?

A Rising Tide Floats All Boats
Authors: stop thinking of other writers as your rivals. They're not the enemy.

Reviews Are Useless Without Context
With so many review blogs, quick ways of understanding their authors are more important than ever.

Great Scriptwriters: Sometimes Overlooked, Always Vital
Sometimes it seems like the only way to get known as a scriptwriter is to do something else entirely.

The Going Rate For Fake Reviews
Now you can buy your way to critical success, at least until you get caught.


4th September 2014

Diabolical Taste  
I haven't posted here in a while. I only posted once in August, and even then it was a quick review of a graphic novel. Although Castle Waiting is superb, you should really go and read it if you haven't already.

My reason for this slackitude is one of the best: I've been polishing my next book, Diabolical Taste, for release at the end of September. It's the second part of my Kenssie series, and as a short novel rather than a novella. This book has been complete in first draft since early spring, but it's the stages of editing that always take me a long time.

Getting critiques on my work in progress is always the most anxious part of the process, because before I show my story to anyone else I don't know how much of it I'm going to have to tear up and start again. And some opinions are just a matter of personal preference, so it's often useful to get a range of them before getting handy with the delete key. It could be that those five pages contemplating the shape of a teapot is just what the story needed to give it philosophical depth, right?

Critique Circle

In February I discovered Critique Circle, and I was like a kid in a candy shop. The website works in a reciprocal fashion, so you have to offer up critiques before you can post up your own work for comment, and the more active you are the more likely other members will be to pay you back in kind. Conversely, if you don't stick around and critique back, it's entirely possible to get no critiques returned in a week.

I could spend thousands of words describing how the credit system works and other aspects of the site. But I won't, because there's a FAQ for that. Although it's pretty long, I found it easy to grasp how things work after I experimented a little. No, what was difficult wasn't using Critique Circle, but keeping off it once I realised there was an audience of willing and like-minded writers eager to offer criticism.

Top secrecy

I met (virtually) some fantastic writers on Critique Circle. I've also come across some astonishing novels in progress, which I'm bursting to tell people about. Unfortunately, I can't. My lips are sealed. Because everything on CC is a work in progress, it would be grossly unfair of me to discuss any of it in public. All I can do is flail excitedly and hint that, yes, really good stories are on their way.

Of course, not every writer pours forth perfect first drafts, and the website has members with a range of abilities, from newly starting out to professional. But since every member is there with the aim of improving their craft, the standard is definitely higher than average.

The dreaded Hook queue

Once a month, there's a rather special critique event, in which anonymously-submitted story openings fight to the death compete to attract the attention of anonymous readers. The submissions are meant to "hook" you into the story, but I prefer to think of the name as inspired by Captain Hook, because it's a brutal and villainous system. They're not joking when they say you should only post to The Hook if you have very thick skin.

It's also a great way to get intensive feedback from a lot of people about what is and isn't working in a book's opening. And because it's anonymous nobody pulls any punches. That's wny I love The Hook.

You'll have to wait and see. Stop making that face.

The main disadvantage to CC is the amount of time it takes. It's increasingly expensive in credits to post more than one story at once, so most members only post a chapter or two a week, and it's rare for anyone to post more than six thousand words at once. It can take months to get through a decent-sized novel.

So that's where I've been lately, and why I've cut back my blogging. I may not have been reviewing much, but it's often more satisfying to get in before a book is published and suggest improvements.

In September you'll be able to compare The Secret Eater, which I wrote before discovering CC, with Diabolical Taste, and judge the difference for yourselves.