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Captain's Log III

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Writing Date 9409.8 (pm)

Hi folks, how’s it going? Hope your storytelling motors are all purring away, keyboards clicking as you race along those open arcs and winding plot-lines. My own writing engine could do with a good run out, truth be told. I’m at the tail end of things now; thinking about cover-art and ‘Kindle Direct Print’ (which can’t be that complicated – loads of writers are using it). Must admit, this ain’t my favourite end of the process. But you just have to roll your sleeves up and get the job done sometimes, don’t you? Sooner it’s all out of the way, sooner I’ll be back to stories – can’t wait!

While my own work may not be a barrel of laughs just now though, there’s been loads of other stuff going on to keep me in good spirits. First up, back in December, Kelly Sue DeConnick (she of Bitch Planet and Pretty Deadly) took over the writing of Aquaman, and though I’ve never been much of an Aquaman fan, her take on the fishiest of DC’s golden age heroes has been … great! Then The Expanse turned up on Amazon Prime - FANTASTIC! For me, the way this show brings old 1950’s space opera bang up to date makes it THE BEST on-screen sci-fi we’ve had since the original Bladerunner.

The launch of Marlon James’ Black leopard Red Wolf got me buzzing too – an African Game of Thrones with shades of the X-Men written by a college literature teacher who won the Booker back in 2015 … WHAT!? Did they dig up Aladdin’s lamp and make some crazy wish to the ghost of Robin Williams!!?? I’m half way through Part 1 and, so far, to mis-quote those ol’Long Island rappers, “Do believe the hype!” - it’s an extraordinary piece of work.

So, the mood was already pretty good. But then, just a week after the launch of the Captain Marvel movie (yet another reason for rejoicing here at Busby Towers), the most unexpected and mind-bogglingly marvelous thing EVER, happened - the New York Giants traded their 14thlevel Paladin, Odell Beckham Jr. to the lowly and long-beleageured underdawgs - the Cleveland Browns. And where anyone Stateside will immediately understand how ridiculous (and fabulous) that is, for the rest of us – it’s like Samuel L. Jackson suddenly turning up in Coronation Street or Neighbours – completely unbelievable.

I’m still reeling from that last bit of news. But even so, though I’ve obviously not been completely focused, I have managed to get some work done – mainly proofreading. Originally, my kid sister was on the proofing case, but she volunteered for another job, and I had to do the last half dozen chapters myself. So, I can now proudly proclaim that Vol.1 of my trilogy is 100% ‘proofed.’ Every one of its 100,200 words has been pored over for spelling, grammar and continuity clangers, and all I can really say about that is …PRAISE THE LAWD!!!

Never in my life have I been so happy to get a chore out of the way. Of all the jobs we have to do as writers, from brainstorming to world-building, through research and plotting to actually getting the thing typed out, proofreading has got to be the worst. I would, honestly, rather spend an afternoon with a financial adviser going through the incremental percentage and tax advantages of a mixed portfolio than have to proof another chapter ever again – even one of my own!

But don’t go getting excited or anything– just coz proofing’s out of the way doesn’t mean we’re done and dusted. I’m sorting the manuscript out for beta-readers now. And funnily, where I hated the last job, I’m really looking forward to this one. I say ‘funnily’ because, until quite recently, I thought putting your own writing up for complete strangers to rip to pieces was madness on a par with tying your hands behind your back then walking into an MMA sandpit with a sign round your neck saying, ’Please feel free to hit me just as hard as you like.”

But I’ve changed my mind about that – for two reasons. First, my teenage daughter (latest fanfiction - 82,000 reads) sat me down and laid down the law on beta-reading. “How do you know your stuff’s any good if people haven’t gone through it and told you what they think?” she said.

“Your Mum’s read it,” I told her. “She thinks it’s great.”

“That doesn’t count!”

And … she’s right. My wife’s been reading odd bits of my book every few months for the last 20 years. And where, in the early days, I think she was honestly impressed; she’s now seen so many different versions of the various rewrites, she’s totally lost track of who’s who, who did what, and why any of it needed doing in the first place. These days, I’m sure she smiles and says “Yeh, that’s great, hon,’” in the vain hope that I’ll actually stop writing for a bit and go and do some ‘proper’ work.

So I put a questionnaire together

And who was the first person to fill it in? That fabulous kid sister o’mine. Having already gone through most of the manuscript as a proofreader, she read it all again to decide whether she actually liked it (way above the call of duty – I know). And the feedback I’ve got, just from her, is MAGIC: some things I thought were clear as day, she’s still scratching her head about; a few bits that made me laugh out loud, she found deeply offensive, and writing one of the main characters with an Italian accent? BAD IDEA! None of which effects the main plot, or the general flow, or the overall style … so, now I know

Beta-reading – brilliant! (So glad I thought of it).

I’ll let you know how I get on next time.

Thanks for reading.


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