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Guest post by Jo Zebedee: what does being published teach you?


My first novel is being published in a few days. Eeee and all that there. But what does it actually mean, to be published? Has it changed how I approach new projects? Has it made me more aware?

First, a wee bit about the journey to publication – I underestimated how much work was involved. I’d done the getting-an-agent (for that matter, I’ve done the losing-an-agent bit), I’d prepared a mss up to submission-quality, I’d copy-edited shorts for publication, I’d been critted and edited. I thought, from a practical level, I was pretty set to go.

I have bad news, oh aspiring writer friends. There is a whole end of things you haven’t seen yet. The edits are tougher. They don’t pull punches. There’s no massaging of egos – the editor has an investment in this book. Step up. And then step up again. And again, until it’s right.

This time, the edit will focus on the stuff that isn’t right because it’s damn hard for you to write it. You’ll be gritting your teeth and mushing your fists against your temples, trying to figure out how to make something already good, and written about fifty times, better. Best to hope you get on with your editor when you get there, and that you absolutely trust them – both went a long way to making the process easier for me.

And then there’s a copy-edit. Reviewing comments over 560 pages of a mss. Considering how to change things to keep your voice and tidy up a section just so. Musing over comma changes and colons and semi-colons, and having to woman up and just change the darn things. It’s like a red-penning in school, just when you thought you’d nailed the grammar bits and pieces. It gave me a headache.

Some things have changed. For instance:

Critting – I don’t do much of it anymore. Mostly because I don’t have time. (The one thing I’m working on is going so slowly, the writer is having to exercise amazing patience waiting for me.) But I’m also doing less of it because I don’t want to wallop confidence. When it’s another aspiring writer saying Fix that, or Think about that, we can ignore them because they know no more than we do. But I have always thought of published writers as knowing what they’re doing, which might add more weight to a crit than I’d like. Because I really don’t know more now than I did last year.

In fact, I don’t know what I’m doing now anymore than I did five years ago. Sure, I can whack out a better first draft and I’ve probably killed most of my horrors. I even know where to put most of my apostrophes. But I still have trouble shaping a story without howling plot issues. I still rely on beta readers to help me in the early stages – I need wise eyes to make it better. I don’t think I ever won’t.

Peers – my peers haven’t changed much, but I rely more closely on a smaller group. We’ve mostly grown together and, believe me, if my regular critters and brain-stormers haven’t been published yet, it’s only a matter of time. Because they can all write at least as well as me, often better. That’s the way of the writing world, and some of it is about the breaks, and some about the time we have to write in (I churn out more than most), and some just about what we want from the game.

I still have the same – mostly – set of central beta-readers. But, unlike with my first book where I asked for loads of opinions, and needed to find trends to understand my writing, I mostly stick with a more limited number of opinions these days. (Mostly the same three saints.) I think it’s because I’m more confident and need only the odd prod rather than wholesale changes. Or it might be a trust thing – they’ve been right about most things over the years, so I know to listen. But, mostly, I think it’s the growth thing – we’re on the same curve. None of us are static as writers or critters (even if we don’t all write at the same pace, or the same amounts).

I need those peers. Because being published doesn’t mean I magically spit out stories. It doesn’t mean I plot any better. It doesn’t mean I don’t angst about what the first scene should be, or if that sentence makes sense, or if my characters work. All of that might get easier – in the sense that I figure I’ll get to the end somehow since I did before – but it doesn’t go away.

Which brings me back to the first question – has being published changed things? For me, the answer is no, not materially. It’s made me more respectful to published authors. No matter how horrid the book, they’ll have worked for it. Most for no pay at the start, just speculation and hope. It’s also embedded best practice into some of what I do – the honing of sentences earlier, striving for strong words in the right place, a little more awareness.

But, essentially, I’m still the same writer, fumbling in the dark for a story, driven by something I don’t entirely understand, hoping things will work out at the end. And you know what, they do. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I look at my new project and wonder what it will be in a year or two’s time. (Did I mention I’m more patient. I am. Because publishing is slow: enjoy the journey.)


Jo Zebedee writes science fiction and fantasy. Her first novel, Abendau’s Heir, book one of the Inheritance Trilogy will be published by Tickety boo press on 31st March. She does have a life outside writing, which involves not-so-young-children, animals, jobs and a spot of gardening.


Review: The Queen’s Necklace — Teresa Edgerton (beware! spoilers!)

I’ve lazily copied my review from Goodreads! That’s efficiency for you…

The Queen's NecklaceThe Queen’s Necklace by Teresa Edgerton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, now I’m at the end, I need to gather my thoughts…

I really enjoyed the book. I liked the rich and complicated world and characters and I loved the idea of the goblin machines that were needed to support the existence of life. The frozen society that had been created as perfect and held that way was an excellent background to the characters — few of whom were actually what they seemed to be, and none of whom did what they were told.

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Whose responsibility?

Actually, I was wrong yesterday. Lord Ashcroft did say this on Twitter:


(I checked at about 9pm on 20/09/2014 and the tweet above had been deleted — it has been replaced with one that was much more reasonable, showing that 51% of 16-24 year olds voted “Yes” (*). Because my ranting doesn’t make sense without the original tweet, I put a copy of the original above).
And was retweeted almost 900 times, spreading the totally unfounded idea of radical teenagers.

I don’t know how many 16-17 year olds voted for independence because no one does. I do know that research before the referendum suggested that 16-17 year olds were actually the group most likely to vote “no” after the 60+ group, so this would be a surprising turnabout, though not impossible if turnout was skewed/ people changed their minds.

I’m sure someone will do the research and bring out more accurate figures, but what are the chances that anyone will believe those now?

What’s bothering me today is whose responsibility is it that hundreds (at least) of people now believe this story. Should Lord Ashcroft have made the claim above (especially without telling anyone his margin of error)? Should everyone who retweeted have waited for the full data to be released? Should everyone who makes these claims be able to calculate what the figures really mean?

Presumably Lord Ashcroft knows how polling works, and knows that 14 is too small a sample to make those claims about. So why did he make them?

And now, apparently, an SNP chap is citing this data on TV so even more people will believe it. Argh.

This makes me sad :(


But just because I can’t let something go, the 16-24 year old group was 98 people, which is an error margin of 10%, which makes a 49%/51% split almost completely meaningless anyway…







Where DO you get your ideas? — guest post by E.J. Tett

Here’s a guest post by one of my fabulous writing friends, E.J. Tett, who (as Emma Jane Tett) has two (!) novels coming out in 2014: Otherworld (co-authored with Liz Powell) from Torquere Press (November), and Shuttered from Dreamspinner Press (December).

She has also published many, many, many short stories — here’s a link to her blog, which contains a full bibliography.


Whenever people find out that I’m a writer, I often get the question, “how do you think of all those stories?” I usually just shrug and say (very eloquently) “I dunno.”

Because I don’t know. How do I think of stories? They just seem to appear in my mind – it starts as a feeling usually, an itch to write something. Sometimes I’ll sit down and start writing with only that itch and let the first words which come into my mind out on the page. Other times, the feeling will develop into a personality for a character. It’s like somebody’s pushing to take me over and wants me to move out the way so they can get to the keyboard and write their story down. With Otherworld, all I could see was a character vomiting into a toilet but I had a sense of his personality and a feel for how he spoke and moved. This was my posh boy Liam, and for a while, he was very loud. And so the opening to Otherworld starts with Liam throwing up. Why is he throwing up? You’ll have to buy the book and find out.

Sometimes, I’ll get an idea from a dream. I’m of the opinion that our dreams are always more interesting to ourselves than they are to other people, but I have plenty of odd ones (most of which are too odd to turn into anything) but sometimes you can get a little snippet out of it which can be used in a story. I once dreamt of fighting skeletal creatures on a ship and I took these creatures and used them in The Kingdom of Malinas. I left the ship.

I guess I’m influenced by things I’ve seen, too. TV shows, films, real-life events. Other things I’ve written. For example, I have a story called My Life and the Pigeon (published in Static Movement’s Literary Foray anthology) where the MC could communicate with a pigeon. I liked the character’s voice and I liked the idea of being able to talk to just one animal but not really knowing why, or if it was really happening. It inspired me to write Shuttered where my MC, Daniel, can communicate telepathically with his dog.

Once I have a vague notion of what I want to write, I just start. Sometimes it goes somewhere and sometimes it doesn’t. Usually, fairly soon after starting (if it’s a goer), I’ll get the end scene come into my head so, even though I make it all up as I go along, I do have an end goal in mind. Though this isn’t always the case – I have no idea how my current work in progress is going to end.

I’ve always loved reading, and telling stories and being told them. I want to tell stories so that people can feel what I’m feeling, I want to share the experience.

How do I think of all those stories? I dunno. It’s just the way my synapses fire.