science fiction and fantasy writer

Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

Telling Tales cover revealed!

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Clarion West has revealed the cover for the 30th anniversary anthology, edited by Ellen Datlow and published by Hydra House – and featuring my Writers of the Future-winning story “Bitter Dreams” in some quite exalted company.

The full table of contents is here.



On word frequency analysis and advanced procrastination for writers

In Uncategorized on April 15, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Another guest post, this time at Al Baxter’s blog, on the limited utility of word frequency analysis, procrastination and writing in your character’s voice.

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A few weeks ago, fellow CSFG member Phill Berrie wrote a post about word frequency analysis, a tool he uses in his work as an editor. In his post, Phill included a link to a free online word frequency analyser. Plug the text of your story in and it spits out:

  • the total word count of the story
  • how many different unique words you’ve used (afewweeksago, etc)
  • and how many times you’ve used them (a=36, few=5, weeks=2, ago=2)

Since I had set aside that weekend for working on the final draft of my novel, I decided instead (see “advanced procrastination”, above) to plug a few of my stories into the online analyser and see what the results were. After plugging all of my stories into the analyser, it told me a bunch of stuff that I already pretty well knew:

  • I’m using less adjectives and adverbs than I used to.
  • I have developed a habit of overusing the word as to join two clauses in a sentence.
  • I somehow don’t write stories between 3,000 and 4,000 words long. Like, ever.

What it also showed, that I hadn’t realised before, was that the number of different unique words that I use has fallen by about 20-25% since I first started writing. For stories over 6,000 words, my number of unique words per thousand has dropped from up near 300 to under 230.

So, why? Read more…

Guest post on turd polishing

In Uncategorized on April 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I’ve just done a guest post on the CSFG blog on polishing your turds (or, editing your first-draft stories). I’ve recently started taking a much more structured approach to editing, which seems to be reaping awards this year in terms of sales.

I’ll be teaching a workshop about it at Conflux 9 on 26 April.

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On Polishing Your Turds

The first drafts of stories tend to be turds. That can be a difficult thing to admit about your newly completed masterpiece, but it’s okay: Mythbusters have proved that you really can polish a turd.

The easiest way to figure out how to polish up your first-draft turd is to get someone else to read it and give you critical feedback. Not your mum, or your spouse, or anyone else who might be more concerned with protecting your feelings than telling you what you need to know. If you want your story to be the best it can be, then you need to be prepared to receive and act on criticism of your work.

Ideally, you want your story critiqued by several someones, so you can get an idea of the spread of views and which opinions are shared and which aren’t. If you get six critiques and four people say that the ending of your story doesn’t work, you should fix up the ending. If you get six critiques and only one person says there’s a problem with the ending, then you can take or leave their comment depending on whether it makes lightning strike your brain, or not.

Read more…

Sale! To Asimov’s! Again!

In Uncategorized on April 11, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Golly, I just sold another story to Asimov’s. That’s doubled my sales there in the space of a month. I gotta write me some more science fiction!

This one’s called “Extracted journal notes for an ethnography of bnebene nomad culture”