Writing Update 2019 week 3

Mike GristWeekly Writing Update, Writing Leave a Comment

It seems I have stopped blogging apart from these weekly writing updates! Maybe once a week is enough, really, to say everything. If anything important comes up, I’ll say it. Life mostly ticks over…


I finished editing King Ruin, book 2 of the Ruin War series! *trumpet fanfare* Boy, this one was a headache. I recently read a new term that sums it up well – narrative urgency. King Ruin had some really great stuff in it – mostly building out world (skyscrapers buried in the desert and stuffed full of the dead) and character (King Ruin’s debate with Ritry about his deep anger at the world) – but it lacked narrative urgency.

What to do about that? I turn those sections over in my head and try and figure a way to shoe-horn them back in, but a way does not appear. I managed to slot in a brief reference to the buried skyscrapers somewhere, but there’s no room for the extended debat with the King. I have to let it slide.

The upside is – the book is now far more urgent. No lacunas of sidetracking exposition. I’ve started editing book 3 God of Ruin, and somehow it looks to be a lot neater already – like the urgency is already baked in. Interesting, that – I’ll try to figure out why. I wrote these books within months of each other.

Professional Editing

I’ve not trusted the idea of editing ever since 2 bad experiences with early versions of The Saint’s Rise – but I’m looking at it again, at least on a manuscript assessment level.

On one hand, I hired that guy on fiverr to beta-read the new Mr. Ruin and offer structural comments. I hired him for the first 3 chapters and he did a good job, so why not go further? Only $100 to read the whole, deadline 10 Feb. I’ll probably ask him to read books 2 and 3 too.

Beyond that, I’m looking at a manuscript assessment for my thriller book 1. The inciting reason for this is – sadly – it got rejected by the agent who asked for the full. She said both she and a colleague had read it (which implies they thought it had something) but they concluded it wasn’t ‘strong enough for the current competitive market’.

Well. I asked for further feedback but doubt I’ll get it. Now I’m hungry to know why it’s not strong enough. I start firing off queries to editors for a developmental edit. I get various quotes back – $1000, $2000 – some offering a full structural/substantive edit, others just offering a 3-page report on strengths and weaknesses.

$2000 for a 3-page report!?!

Then one lady came in, she’s edited some of my favorite mainstream books, got strong experience generally, and offered to assess for $300. I jumped on it. Yet to receive confirmation from her, but hopefully will go ahead.

UPDATE – just as I was writing this she confirmed she’s game, and will deliver mid Feb. Pretty exciting.


I went to the Society of Authors ‘Novelists in London’ meet for the second time on Wednesday – chatted to Simon Cann (thrillers), my buddy Jon Jon (Victorian Adventure), Barbara Unkovic (editor and memoir), Deirdre (general fiction), Henry (prison fiction?) and Howard (comic medieval monk detective series!).

I asked them all about editing. It’s always interesting to chat to SoA authors – many of the ones I meet are unagented and went direct to small presses. I do wonder why you’d choose to do this in the current climate of self-publishing – I don’t think these small presses are getting you into many bookshops, they don’t get marketing co-op position on front tables, they don’t spend on marketing. They basically run off a print batch and make it available to order.

No one I spoke to had gone through developmental/structural/substantive editing. They generally said editing was great, but must have meant line/copy-editing and/or proofreading.

As usual I check out my fellow authors on Amazon after we’re done, and who of the above batch would you expect to be most succesful? It appears to be the comedy medieval monk detective! More reviews, better sales rank. In fact he told us in the pub that he’d sold 70,000, which is very impressive. My lifetime sales are around 18,000.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *