Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Think fast: outlining a novella in two hours

So what happened was this: after posting about my idea of writing a story based on a character like Captain Katanga in the Indiana Jones movies, I was discussing details and possibilities with my friends online.
Stuff like who’d be part of the crew, would they operate only in the Mediterranean or extend their activities to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, would they kick Nazi ass exclusively or would they also punch some other occasional colonial bad guys… stuff like that.

And one of my publishers dropped me a line…

“You know where to send this one once it’s finished, right?”

And so, considering the pitch had already happened and worked without me doing nothing, I went and sent him a proper proposal and an outline for a 30.000-words novella.
Straight away.
No barrier between thought and action.
That sounds damn smooth, but first I had to put together a 1000-words/4 pages outline, and do it fast.

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An evening with Mr Shunn

A story bounced back, about one hour before dinner. Polite, cold, standard editor’s mail: good story, not our genre, worth keeping on the lookout for a publisher, good luck.
Oh, well, it happens.

As we dined it started raining again – there’s storms passing across the skies of Astigianistan – so no after-dinner walk tonight.
I sat down and started tweaking that story – it’s been so long I had forgotten a lot of things. I revised it. Cleaned it up.
Cut about 150 words. Nothing major, on an 8000-words number.
Tightened the dialogue a little, made some minor adjustments.
Checked for American vs English spelling.

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Revision time

Tonight I spent about three hours revising my story Bottled Up, following the extensive notes I received a few days back from the project’s editors.
It was quite interesting, because revising took me almost twice the time writing the story had taken.
As I mentioned elsewhere, working with an editor is always a great opportunity to learn something new, and this was the case.

I cut mercilessly the excess text from the opening, and then expanded the action scenes, making life for my protagonist a little harder. In full agreement with the editors, I also shortened the sentences and clarified a few points. The only suggestion I did not follow 100% was about the ending. First, because the editors had reached a split decision about the effectiveness of that last half page, and second, because in my opinion it works and gives the story a nice symmetry.

And there’s not much you can do in 2500 words – but I actually cut 400 words and added 450 new words, so I am well pleased with what I did.
The short story is already on its way to the editors, and it will be out – hypothetically – this summer.

And over the weekend my Patrons will have a chance to see the opening paragraphs of the story, before and after the editing, with some of my observations.
Because it’s good to be my Patrons, or so the story goes.


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The pinball effect

On the 19th of October 1903, at the Princess Theater in Manchester (UK), Ellen Terry opened as Beatrice in Bill Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, that happens to be one of my two favorite Shakespearean plays, but this is another story.
Admittedly, a Beatrice somewhat long in the tooth, considering that Terry was born in 1847 and was therefore 56 years old at the time.

This bit of information is particularly interesting because I am writing a story – called The Adventure of the Manchester Mummies – set (also) in Manchester in the late autumn of 1903 – and knowing that Ellen Terry was in town with a Shakespeare play has absolutely nothing to do with the story I am writing, and I doubt I will ever use the information, but is the sort of strange fact that surfaces while one is looking for something completely different – train timetables, in this case.

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Weird Western, First Draft

My weird western story is done, in first draft: two sessions, about four hours, 1600 words – which is fine, considering the call is for stories between 1000 and 5000. This call was different than usual, because it asked for a story to fit a pre-existing setting – it came with a set of characters, a place, a bit of background.
It’s hard, but I like working this way, once in a while – it’s a good exercise, it’s good for discipline.
Also, considering the proposed rate of payment, I needed to make it fast, or it would become anti-economic.
I guess I did it.

Now I’ll let it rest for the night, and have a go at it tomorrow morning – a little editing, and an extra 200/300 words because there is a point I know needs some expanding for both structural and narrative reasons. I’ll add a scene, and balance the story. Add some flavor too.
Maybe 150 words to cut, also.
And I’ll need to find it a title.

And then it’s off to the editor, and fingers crossed.
It’s not my usual kind of story, but it has potential.
All I can do is wait and see.
But it’s been a good day, despite the rough dinner and the day-long wind and rain.


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The tipping point

This week marks the moment my work on my new novel gets real. So far it’s been just playing, warming up, tossing ideas about. Now it gets serious.
I have no ETA, I have a poor excuse of an outline and a fair idea of the two main characters. And the general concept, of course, but that’s been there waiting for years. I don’t even have a date for the actual start of the writing. But now I know it’s about to begin.

I know it because today the postman delivered a book I needed for my research. It’s been a sort of hunt – I spotted the book while browsing Amazon and went “hmm, might be interesting to slip this bit, too, into the story…”

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