Hey Eckhart, think about the future!
Still a classic, even over twenty years ago. Jeepers, twenty years. Man, I remember going to the cinema to watch that movie. I think that, and the early nineties animated series by Bruce Timm et al, really cemented my love for the character of Batman, ‘ah… memories…’
Stick with me, dear reader, this isn’t just some sideways tangent about my formative years. It’s actually a reference to the future in general and here we arrive at the point of this post.
With Nocturne out of the way and a few short story side projects also completed, it was high time I started thinking and planning my next few years work. Man alive, it feels weird to say that; I can remember a while back when I was barely beyond my first proper break in writing. I have to admit, my early efforts show stark evidence of me still learning my craft but I’m proud of them all, none-the-less.
Over time, I’ve definitely changed and improved as a writer, or so folks tell me. There’s a maturity and a way of thinking that I know I didn’t possess in the beginning. It’s interesting to mull over and catalysed by a chat I was having with one of my editorial colleagues (Lindsey) in the staff restaurant yesterday. She’s been around my writing for almost as long as I’ve been writing it, professionally speaking anyway. She’d noticed the change too and we got to talking about how writers develop, about their first faltering steps, the initial desire to write more and use long words because you could, and then the shift towards actually looking at story and how that works, paring down rather than padding up, even cutting the verbosity (see what I did there – tee hee) and using simpler, plainer English.
Pace, timing, set-up, characterisation, structure, tricks with expectation and perspective and viewpoint: all these traits become more important.
But there are different kinds of tale too and, analysing the body of work I’ve done so far, I’ve touched on a few of these. For instance, I wouldn’t write a Horus Heresy novel in the same way that I’d write, say, Space Marine Battles. Some books have a very specific brief, some are fairly strict in what you can do with them (I refer to SMB again), some are just good old ‘bolter porn’ as it’s known, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of that but I appreciate it isn’t for everyone. There are longer, epic, mythical tales too (I’d put the Salamanders firmly in this bracket for me) and the more self-contained, easier to control pieces (such as ‘Emperor’s Deliverance’ that appears in the GD Anthology this year). Promethean Sun is an interesting one, because here we have a limited edition product for a premium book line; I wanted to make it good, really good, but didn’t necessarily want to write something that was utterly essential as I kind of felt that wasn’t fair to the thousands and thousands of loyal readers who wouldn’t get to have it until two years after the HB release. Incidentally, did anyone spot the two Salamander trilogy references in that story?
So, being able to appreciate and understand that there are different kinds of story that they need and have to have certain things to make them work, and not necessarily all the same things and in the same order is a useful revelation to have.
I think it’s important to take stock of where you’ve been and what you’ve done, especially when you’re thinking about what’s to come. I feel like I’m on my way now, that my name and my writing style are being firmly established in the BL pantheon. I will definitely go on to write in some other genres and have projects that I’m working on and talking to people about that will stretch my skills further still. I’m looking forward to the challenge.
As a writer you’re developing all the time, learning new techniques, methods of expression, even ways of hitting your deadlines and maximising your time a bit better. Unlike most writers I know, I work full time as well as write. This tends to mean I don’t have the luxury of months and months of naval gazing and planning, procrastinating and so on that some other writers do. But I also like the sense of urgency and purpose that promotes – it helps to keep me motivated and have instilled in me a tremendous sense of discipline and self-belief.
On that subject, I, like everyone else I know who is a writer, am affected by reviews. I always say to my contemporaries, ‘Don’t ever read your reviews’ but sometimes it sneaks up on you a bit. I am not naive enough to believe that every man and his ranting dog is going to like what I do and how I do it. I do find it mildly amusing that such self-confessed ‘experts’ and ‘literary critics’ feel they’re qualified to produce such ‘reviews’ as I’ve seen occasionally, employing whatever GSCE or HND level vocational skills they feel they have in this area and calling it ‘critique’, but now I’m having a rant.
Point is this: I do what I do because I love it; and I do it for me and the people who loved my work. I’m not so precious that I need everyone to love me or think I’m awesome – though it’s nice when people really ‘get’ and respond to what you’re trying to do as a writer. I can’t, and won’t, be swayed by negativity. I have to work long hours, in addition to that full-time job remember, to finish my books and I am damn proud of them when I’m done too.
This isn’t a two-fingered salute to the critics, it really isn’t, it’s a statement of fact that I do what I do because it’s a part of me and I write books how I choose to write them, not how someone whose false sense of entitlement tells them it should be. It’s an interesting setting, actually Warhammer and 40K, and can be viewed through many different lenses. This is mine, and I’m happy to ask anyone along to come and look through it with me. That’s my invitation to the reader, ‘here’s the window into my version of the world, hope you like’.
The future then. So as well as chatting fairly broadly about my writing and my work, I was also able to get some time with my editor, Christian, yesterday. We had a very productive and interesting chat that has pretty much set me up for the rest of this year and next with writing projects. I can’t, and won’t, go into any detail; some of it you will already know if you frequent this blog on a regular basis. I have three more novels coming up (all of which are amazing projects and can’t wait to get stuck in), a pair of novellas and a new audio drama to boot. This has all been nicely scheduled so I can plan my time accordingly (very important when you work full time and have to balance writing and having a life around it – not always easy). I am sure, as I get ahead and opportunities arise, that other things will drop in there too but for now this is the next couple of years for me. Great stuff.
Promotionally, I’ve got a bunch of appearances and signings coming up. Unfortunately, I won’t be at the Doubles Tournament this coming weekend (the 10th, I believe) because I’ve got family coming over, but Nocturne will still be available to buy on pre-release (before anywhere else, as I understand it) and the inestimable Graham McNeill will be there with The Outcast Dead, the latest HH novel (as Graham’s my bud, I had to give him a bit of a plug, right? ). I will be at GW Plaza in October and Thought Bubble in November (?), as well as UK Games Day in a few weeks.Oh, and I believe (and hope) I’ll be at GW Uxbridge very soon too. These guys are probably one of my favourite, if not the favourite, GW store for me. I signed Salamander and Firedrake there, so it seems only fitting to complete the trilogy and do Nocturne too.
Okies then, another rant and some more rambling thoughts about writing, the universe and everything. Thanks for the listening, you stay classy BL readers…