Archive for January, 2012

It Started With The Orange Tree

So now that Gaia’s Engine is on the back-burner for a while, I’ve changed the look of the place. Nice? Good. But why the sci-fi theme? Simple — I’ve been watching that stargazing show on the BBC and I have a thing for black holes and spatial anomalies right now. Besides,  it fits nicely with the theme of my novel The Soul Consortium which is near the top of my agenda at the moment (more on that soon – lots happening).

Anyway, seeing as this site will no longer be dedicated to just the one novel, I can tell you a bit more about what else I’m up to in the writing world.

This week I’ll tell you a little about this year’s project. I’ll be work-shopping a completely new story which I’m calling ‘It Started With The Orange Tree’ (until I can think of a better name). This isn’t going to be a massive novel, in fact it may only be a novella. What’s the difference you ask? Well, the difference is in the word count. One source says this…

  • Epic – 250,000 words or more
  • Novel — 40,000 words or more
  • Novella — 17,500–39,999 words
  • Novelette — 7,500–17,499 words
  • Short Story — 7,499 words or fewer
  • Flash Fiction — 1,000 words or fewer

My novella will probably land in the region of about 35,000 words. At least, that’s the plan; my books usually end up larger than that. Writing a novella isn’t the norm for me, but it’s necessary to write something smaller this year because—aside from the fact that I’m working on a non-writing related project—I’m finally getting around to challenging a concept that’s been accepted for quite some time in writing circles, and a bigger word count might be biting off more than I can chew. The concept I’m challenging is conflict: it’s generally accepted that conflict is essential to telling a good story, but I don’t believe that.

I think conflict is just the dark child of a larger parent: contrast. It’s contrast that makes life interesting and it can come in many forms, conflict being only one of them. Contrary to what many believe, I don’t think you need to have evil to appreciate good. You just need to have ‘difference’. Expressing the bad to highlight the good is very effective but it’s just a quick and easy path – the dark side, (yes I did just say that in a Yoda voice).

So there’s my challenge – to write a story that has no conflict in it. Of course, conflict is part of everyday life. Even internally we often have to deal with opposing points of view, so any story I come up with must have a strong fantastical element to make it work. To that end, I’m having a crack at a sort of urban fairy-tale. I’ll try to hold the reader’s interest by weaving in and out of strange and bizarre concepts as the narrative unfolds, and that’s going to involve diving into a modern-day fantasy world where new miracles are thrust upon the characters in each new chapter.

Here’s the blurb:

“The Earth is growing tired and the world we know is about to change. Dramatically. Angel Goodsun recounts the days when the miracles began, when the sky grew bright with the light of two suns and wars ceased. When death and sickness fled, when soul-splitting began, and when Nature took pity on humanity instead of revenge. In the midst of the unexplained phenomena that are systematically restoring the planet into a place of unspoilt beauty and impossible harmony, Angel begins his pilgrimage to seek out the Green Man, and learn the secrets connecting him to the miracles. As the answers unfold, Angel discovers that the truth is even more astounding than the miracles themselves, and his destiny equally profound.”

The first couple of chapters have been seen by some of my group at WriteClub, and so far, the feedback has been positive. I’ll keep you posted. This isn’t going to be easy, but hopefully, it’ll be fun.


Time for a change…

So it’s a new year with new projects. WriteClub has got started full speed ahead and I’m writing a new novel, or possibly a novella. It’s going to be a busy year – The Soul Consortium is already available for pre-order ready for its 1st July release date, and I should be receiving the updated and edited manuscript ready for me to make final adjustments in the next couple of weeks or so. I’ll let you know how that goes.

In the meantime, if you were following my progress with Gaia’s Engine, you might be curious about what’s been happening with that. Well, the submission went in, Medallion asked to see the full manuscript (which is always a positive sign), but then it was rejected. Was that a gasp? Don’t be shocked – rejection slips follow writers around like shadows. It’s quite uncommon for a publishing house to explain why they rejected a manuscript too, but on this occasion, they were gracious enough to explain, and they’ve given me permission to share this with you…

“Thank you for the opportunity to consider Gaia’s Engine. While your writing is superb, we’ve determined this particular work is not a good fit for Medallion Press. I’ve attached the formal notification for your records.

For your review, the following are some of our concerns:

1. We feel the manuscript should be tightened up, word count reduced, pacing increased.
2. We feel the orbs themselves aren’t graphically haunting enough to carry many scenes. People can certainly relate to them, however, so they are crucial in the beginning of the MS and should be used in moderation throughout. However, the “possessed” humans do quite well capturing the imagination and maintaining suspense and carrying scenes.
3. We are not certain that the references to the specific religious culture alluded to in the MS will appeal to a broad enough audience. For example, will Christians accept that a believer would embrace a fourth deity? Will others understand the significance of certain phrasings and actions specific to niche Christian culture?
4. We felt the events of the small town—the deaths and strange sightings—would have a bigger impact on the outside world. For example, how would national media and the government respond?

We would love to see more submissions from you in the future. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to partner with you to publish The Soul Consortium and The Beasts of Upton Puddle and also to review this manuscript. We wish you the very best with placing Gaia’s Engine.”


So there you go, that was the response. So how should you respond to a rejection? You should respond graciously, especially to a rejection as nice as this. Whilst this might seem like common sense, I have heard and seen examples where the rejected writer has responded badly. I suppose it’s natural – you can pour your life and soul into a manuscript and invest months of time on it, so there’s no question you’re going to feel bad. But place yourself in the editor’s shoes for a moment – what must it be like to tell someone (and they have to do this many times every day) that they weren’t successful?

So what’s the plan now with Gaia’s Engine? The plan is a re-write. But not just yet. Usually, to stop after one submission is unthinkable. Some writers I know send off to hundreds of different places before their work is accepted, and I’d be confident that a publishing house somewhere would take this novel, especially after following Medallion’s advice, but the more I think about the book, the more I can’t help but think the story belongs in the 19th century, with a first person perspective. So I’ll go where my gut tells me. It’s unlikely I’ll do that for at least another three or four years though – I have too many other projects on the go and I’d like to give this one chance to breathe for a while.

Next time I’ll share some plans about what I’m writing next…