String City – Teaser Trailer

 

Regular visitors to this blog will know I have a new novel out in January 2019, titled String City. To keep your appetite whetted, I thought I’d treat you to a teaser trailer, which features original music by my good friend Pete Riley. Thanks, Pete! Watch out for the full book trailer coming later in the year. Here’s the blurb:

String City by Graham EdwardsIn an interdimensional city full of gods, living concepts and weirder things, a gumshoe – a “stringwalker” who can travel between realities – is hired to investigate an explosion at a casino.

He ends up on a frantic chase to track down and retrieve an unimaginable power source, while staying one step ahead of the ancient Greek Titans, an interdimensional spider god, and the mysterious creature known as the Fool. If he fails, all things – in all realities – could be destroyed.

Just another day in String City.

String City will be published by Solaris Books on January 24, 2019. Preorder your copy now.

String City – Coming Soon

"String City" by Graham Edwards - draft cover. Illustration by Vince Haig.

January 24, 2019 – put the date in your diary. Why? Because it’s the publication date of my new novel, String City. Huzzah!

Yes, I know, it’s months away, but the darn thing’s just popped up on Amazon, which means you can preorder it right now. Or, at the very least, admire the first draft cover design, which features a rather gorgeous illustration by the deeply talented Vince Haig. Can’t wait to see the finished thing in all its glory.

If you want to know what the book’s about, you’re in luck. My splendid publisher, Solaris Books, has prepared this tantalising blurb:

String City is a hard-boiled, interdimensional detective romp of high suspense and action. China Mieville meets Dashiell Hammett.

In an interdimensional city full of gods, living concepts and weirder things, a gumshoe – a “stringwalker,” who can travel between realities – is hired to investigate an explosion at a casino. He ends up on a frantic chase to track down and retrieve an unimaginable power source, while staying one step ahead of the ancient Greek Titans, an interdimensional spider god and the mysterious creature known as the Fool. If he fails, all things – in all realities – could be destroyed.

Just another day in String City.

If you’re a regular reader you’ll know a little bit about the strange metropolis of String City already. It first appeared in my series of novelettes known collectively as The String City Mysteries, which chronicle some of my dimension-hopping detective’s earliest cases. If you’ve never read those original stories, don’t worry. The novel stands alone.

I’ll have lots more to say about String City over the coming months. Stay tuned.

Ghostwriter Diaries – Way Ahead

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Yesterday, 21 October 2015, was Back to the Future day. You know, the day when Marty McFly arrives in the future version of Hill Valley in Back to the Future II. That must be why things have turned out the way they have. Time’s just gone a bit screwy. It’s the only explanation.

“Explanation?” I hear you cry. “Explanation for what?”

Simply this: today I delivered Act II of the novel I’m ghostwriting. Nothing weird about that. What’s weird is that I delivered it THREE MONTHS EARLY.

How has this happened? I’ll give you two options and let you make up your own mind. Option A is the aforementioned Back to the Future scenario, in which the quantum fabric of the space-time continuum has become so severely distorted that my fingers have been able to traverse the keyboard of my laptop at approximately ten times their normal speed.

Option B is a scenario in which an imminent career change has enabled me to free up one whole month of moderately free time, during which I’ve pretty much shackled myself to that old keyboard and simply written like blue blazes.

All of which, I realise, just leaves you with more questions: “Is Option A truly plausible?” “Could it be Option B?” “What’s this career change he’s talking about?”

Option-wise, I’ll let you make up your own mind. As for the new job, come back in ten days or so and I’ll tell you all about it.

Ghostwriter Diaries – Aaaaaaaah

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Aaaaaaah …

No, it’s not a scream. Quite the opposite. It’s a sigh of satisfaction. Specifically, it’s the sound of a ghostwriter meeting his deadline, having concluded the 36,000-word first act of a fantasy novel and emailed it to his client ready to be opened bright and early on Monday morning.

In fact, the satisfaction is so great that I’m going to say it again.

Aaaaaaah …

Ghostwriter Diaries – How Many Words a Minute?

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I don’t do numbers. I prefer words. All the same, numbers can occasionally be relied upon to do some funky things.

For example, this morning I finished chapter eight of the current novel, keeping me on schedule to complete the final two chapters of the first act by 30 September – the first of my three incremental delivery deadlines.

It also means I’ve been working on this latest manuscript for almost exactly one month – 32 days to be precise. With a current word-count of just over 28,400, that means on average I’ve written about 887 words a day. Or, if you prefer, 37 words an hour.

If you want the ultimate breakdown, that equates to two-thirds of a word a minute.

Say, maybe this is the way forward. Forget trying to shoehorn the ghostwriting around the day job. Forget scurrying off to some quiet corner of the house in search of a precious hour’s peace and quiet. Forget sleeping. All I need to do is ensure that, every one-and-a-half minutes, I put another word down on the page. Keep that up, and the book will practically write itself!

Wait a second. A word every ninety seconds? That’s child’s play! If I set my mind to it, I can easily do ten words in that time, and still leave space to do other things. Like occasionally breathing in and out. At that rate, I’ll have the damn book finished by the end of the week!

Hmm. I guess there must be a flaw in the plan somewhere. Like I said, I’m not that great with numbers.

Maybe I’ll just stick to the words.

Ghostwriter Diaries – Outlines

Notebook

I want to talk about outlines. For the ghostwriter of novels, the outline represents the brief, the whole brief, and nothing but the brief. It contains everything you need to know about the book you’ve been hired to write.

The outline for my current project runs to nearly 23,000 words. My finished manuscript will run to between 65,000–75,000 words. The reason the outline is so long is that it contains the entire story from beginning to end, broken into chapters, with all the major action blocked out, character motivations identified and even some important pieces of dialogue sketched in.

“What?” I hear you cry. “They’ve practically done all the work already. All you have to do is pad the thing out.”

I understand why you might think that, but it really isn’t how it works. An outline is no more a novel – even a partial one – than a dessert recipe is a baked Alaska melting in your mouth. There are three reasons for this. (Actually, there are almost certainly more, but three will do for now.)

The first point I want to make is that of all the sins a writer can commit, padding is most definitely one of the seven deadly ones. Turning an outline into a manuscript is absolutely not about filling in the gaps. It’s about deconstructing the content, understanding its intent, then creating fresh, invigorating prose filled with all the precision and energy needed to draw a reader into a story, and make them care enough to read to the very end.

The second point is that, however good an outline might be, you can probably make it better. For example, when it came to writing the scenes of magic that fill this particular trilogy, I baulked at the generic outlined descriptions of eldritch glows and fancy lightning. While they served the outline perfectly well, they just didn’t float my boat.

To replace them, I invented character-driven systems of magic based on … well, I can’t actually tell you what I based them on for fear of identifying the books. Let’s just say that the editorial team have given up trying to give me magical direction. They know I’ll only go off-piste. Instead, they just say something like: “The wizard uses magic to repel the invading army – Graham, do something clever here.”

The third thing is very simple: I never actually read the outline.

I’ll say it again, just to convince you that you heard me right.

When I’m ghostwriting a novel, I never read the outline.

“What?” I hear you cry (again). “How can you possibly do your job if you don’t read what they send you?”

Here’s how. When I get the outline, I don’t look at it. Instead, I break it into chapters, and paste each chapter into the “Notes” section of my working document. Only when I come to actually write the chapter do I refer to the next piece of outlined action. I use the term “refer to” deliberately. I try not to read it, just decode its intentions. Then I write.

You may be wondering why on Earth I’d choose to work this way. Doesn’t it make more sense to read the entire outline first – maybe even read it two or three time, just to make sure I’ve got the sense of it? Shouldn’t I at least make notes?

The answer – for this ghostwriter at least – is no. The tremendous value of the kind of detailed outlines I receive is that someone else has already worked out all those tricky moving parts of character and action, setting and plot. Their great danger is that, if I go into the work knowing the story backwards, the words I write will fall dead on the page. I really will be just filling in the gaps.

Here’s the thing. When writing my own fiction, I rarely if ever work to an outline. I prefer to go in bareback, usually with a general idea of where the story’s headed, but mostly blind to what’s actually going to happen until the events begin to unspool themselves. Even the ending is frequently in doubt.

This works for me because it keeps the writing spontaneous. It also gets my pulse racing (if you doubt that writing can be an aerobic activity, you’ve never done it properly). Just like the reader, I really don’t know what’s going to happen next. It makes my brain fizz, because writing blind is like painting a floor with your eyes shut – you’re always at risk of trapping yourself in a corner. It makes my brain fizz even more when, having trapped myself in a corner, I have to work out how the hell I’m going to escape.

In short, when I write blind, the words come alive.

For the ghostwriter, writing blind is next-door to impossible. Not reading the outline beforehand is my own solution to this conundrum. My editors would probably throw up their hands in horror if they learned this – I don’t think they know I work this way.

But, hey, you won’t tell them, right?

Ghostwriter Diaries – The First Draft of Anything …

Notebook

Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.”

Therein lies the eternal dilemma of the ghostwriter. Tight project schedules mean there’s very little time to write anything other than a first draft, before you submit it to the editing team.

That’s fine. The nature of the beast, really. Everyone on the team understands that my first submission is going to have some rough edges. But no writer with any pride wants to submit anything to anyone unless it’s word-perfect (an impossible goal, but we all dream). That’s why the first round of a ghostwriting project feels a little like exposing yourself in public.

Take today. I’ve just finished the prologue to the new novel. It’s longer than it needs to be, peppered with unnecessary background and exposition, and would undoubtedly benefit from a keen editor’s eye and ruthless red pen. A perfectly normal first draft, in other words, one with which I’m actually very happy. Were this a personal project of my own, I’d simply plough ahead in the sure knowledge I can keep the entire manuscript behind closed doors until I’m ready to parade it before the world.

As a ghostwriter, I can’t do that. All I can do is complete my mission, on schedule, and hope I’ll get a chance to do at least one editorial pass on the first draft before throwing it to the wolves. (That’s unfair – my editorial team aren’t wolves. They’re thoroughbred greyhounds. Also adorable puppies.)

Alternatively – and this is my chosen modus operandi – I can give myself permission to edit as I go. The downside is that I have to backtrack and revise much more than I might normally do with a first draft. The upside is that said first draft will be more polished than it would otherwise have been, the editorial team have a tighter manuscript to work with … and my eyes are a little more bleary.

And, with luck, it means the first draft stands marginally more chance of not being shit.

Ghostwriter Diaries – One Last Time Around

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It’s landed! The outline for book three, the final volume of the middle-grade fantasy trilogy is here. Thanks to some judicious schedule-juggling by my awesome editorial team, its arrival is a whole fortnight early. That’s great news, since it gives me two extra weeks to play with. Thanks, guys!

Early this morning, as birds celebrated the dawn and I downed my first strong coffee of the day, I created what will become my working document for the novel I’m about to ghostwrite – a Scrivener project containing all the reference material I’ve amassed over the past couple of years, including character lists, maps, and the complete final manuscripts of books one and two.

Within this master document, I’ll next create a separate text file for each chapter. The Scrivener format includes a “Document Notes” section for every such file, into which I’ll paste the relevant chapter outline. So, each time I start a new chapter, I’ll be faced with (a) a blank page ready to be filled with dramatic scenes of action, comedy, heartbreak and all points between, and (b) an at-a-glance reminder of the storyline I’m following.

Just as important, given the punishing timescales associated with any ghostwriting assignment, is a file called “Schedule”. This one’s very simple – just a list of “week commencing” dates, each marked with the number of the chapter I need to have reached by that day.

By tomorrow evening, all this machinery should be in place. Which will leave me no choice but to start writing. This is the best part really – those few precious days when you heartily believe that what you’re about to produce is going to be the best thing anyone ever wrote. Ever. Waiting down the line, of course, are nothing but screw-ups and tears.

Until then, I plan to bask in the surety that, for this brief moment of time, anything is possible.

 

Ghostwriter Diaries – Unenlightening Pixels

Ghost-Close-1I’ve just seen a beautiful book cover. It belongs to the Czech translation of my most recent ghostwritten novel, and it’s gorgeous. I’d love to share it with you, but I’m afraid the rules just don’t allow it. The best I can do, unenlightening though it may be, is to show you a random bunch of pixels from one tiny segment of the image. You’re welcome.

Ghostwriter Diaries – Feet Up

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Every ghostwriter has to put his feet up once in a while. That’s what I’m doing right now. The trouble with being a ghost, of course, is that your feet go right through the coffee table.

The reason for this self-indulgent behaviour? Well, the first novel of the fantasy trilogy I’m steadily working my way through was published earlier this month. The first crop of review have planted it firmly in the “4 stars out of 5” zone. Which is fantastic.

Best of all, some reviews are coming straight from middle-grade readers – the target audience – via educational blogs designed to give youngsters a safe forum in which to air their views. It’s refreshing to read these. Young people don’t mess around trying to be clever or polite – they just say it how it is. Good or bad.

In this case, the feedback’s generally good. Most readers favour the second half of the book over the first (who’d have thought an action-packed finale would be so popular?), with several citing a preference for the gory bits, fully supporting my theory that kids are suckers for a bit of splatter. If I provoke at least one “Eeugh!” per reader, I consider that a good job done.

Meanwhile, book 2 is safely delivered, which means I’m now waiting patiently to receive the outline for the third and final book. That will land on my desk in September, at which point it’ll be time to gas up with all the good words and put my pedal to the metal once more.

And in case you thought this “feet on the coffee table” behaviour means I’m idle, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m still pumping out weekly articles on movies and visual effects for the Cinefex blog, and also taking the opportunity to (a) organise my vast collection of notebooks, half-baked stories and broken novels and (b) reflect on the shape of this, my sixth writing life.

And before you argue – yes, ghosts do have reflections. You were thinking of vampires.

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