Steven J. Pemberton's Blog

August 31, 2020

August's Writing Progress

I completed the third draft of The Dragons of Asdanund. This is the language pass, or the right words in the right order.

I decided to try something different to help me find spelling and grammatical errors. I've noticed that when I'm trying to read closely to find those kinds of mistakes, I tend to get caught up in the story and start looking for plot holes and continuity errors - which are important, but not what I'm supposed to be looking for.

So I wrote a little program that loads the entire manuscript and outputs the paragraphs in a random order. (I'd like to have reordered the individual sentences, but for boring technical reasons, that's harder than reordering paragraphs.) I thought that if I read the paragraphs in that order, I'd be able to concentrate on the spelling and grammar, because I wouldn't know the context. But it turned out that because I'd been working so closely with the text, I could usually make a good guess as to what scene a paragraph came from. Still, I found five paragraphs with errors that way, which I thought was pretty good going out of 3811 paragraphs.

Something else I've noticed is that most of my mistakes are in sentences that have lots of short words. Most people read by recognising an entire word at once. But the recognition process isn't perfect. If a sentence has a mistake, your brain is prone to substituting the word that it knows should be there. This is more likely with short words than long ones, possible because they have fewer features that you can use to distinguish them from one another. So I searched the manuscript for paragraphs that had two words of two letters with five or fewer characters between them. This picks out things like "on top of", "to save it" and "so I put my". About a quarter of the paragraphs had a match, and I found three more errors (which I'd missed by reading in a random order).

Then I read the whole book aloud in the right order, to catch awkwardly-worded sentences (not wrong, just could be worded better). This found eleven errors...

So once I'd fixed all those errors (plus some plot holes and continuity problems), I sent the book off to my beta readers. Depending on when they come back to me, and on how many problems they find, the book should be on sale in the next month or two.

While I wait for the betas, I started another standalone short story, but I can't tell you much about that at the moment - not even the working title, because it's a massive spoiler...
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Published on August 31, 2020 08:05 Tags: writing_progress

July 31, 2020

July's Writing Post

Early for once...

I released a new bonus short story for my newsletter subscribers, called Theory and Practice. See the previous blog post for more details of that.

I started the second draft of The Dragons of Asdanund. Officially, this is the structural edit - big picture, or as I sometimes call it, the right scenes in the right order. This book seems fairly solid on that front. I deleted a couple of scenes that didn't move the story forward, trimmed a few more that were too long, and fixed a few plot holes and continuity errors. As I might have mentioned with previous books, I track editing progress by keeping count of the number of comments that my critique group and I made on the first draft. When I implement the change that a comment asks for, or decide to ignore it, I delete it, so when I get to zero, the second draft will be done. When I started the second draft, I had 603 comments, and I now have 60.

All being well, I'll soon be ready to start the line edit, which is the right words in the right order. This is where I switch to the highlighting mode in my editing program that flags all the words my critique group tell me I use too much, by printing them in red, and gently weep over how the screen now resembles a crime scene ;-)
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Published on July 31, 2020 03:43 Tags: writing_progress

July 26, 2020

New short story for newsletter subscribers

I just released a short story for my newsletter subscribers, called Theory and Practice.

The police in the city of Tsan investigate an inventor over complaints of excessive use of magic. She's definitely hiding something, but is it a crime, or a new invention, or just an old source of shame? Theory and Practice is set in the same world as The Schemes of Raltarn & Tomaz and the Dragonrider books, but is spoiler-free.

If you're already a subscriber, you should've received an email telling you where to read the story. If you're not a subscriber yet, click here to become one. The welcome message will tell you where to find the story.

Happy reading!
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Published on July 26, 2020 07:07 Tags: release_announcement

July 1, 2020

June's Writing Progress

Halfway through the year already...

Smashwords are having their annual summer/winter sale this month. All through July, you can pick up any of my ebooks there for 50% off. Go to and bag a bargain. The discount should be applied automatically at the checkout. Use code SSW50 if it's not.

While I put off editing The Dragons of Asdanund and Theory and Practice, I started my second Doctor Fung story, The Case of the Missing Spy. I have about 9,000 words of that, and I'm maybe half to two-thirds of the way through it.

Our town was supposed to host a literary festival last weekend, but thanks to the virus, it had to go virtual. You can watch it here: We have appearances from screenwriter Tony McHale, composer and lyricist Alexander Bermange, film historian Paul Welsh MBE, and some members of our writers' group - Lorraine Reed, Rosemary Wiseman, and some hack called Steven J Pemberton. (That'll be why his face is the thumbnail...)

I'm up first, at about two minutes in. I talk about my editing process and read a bit of The Dragons of Asdanund. Enjoy!
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Published on July 01, 2020 16:51 Tags: writing_progress

May 31, 2020

May's Writing Progress

The big news this month is that I finished the first draft of The Dragons of Asdanund. It came in at 112,000 words. I've put it aside for a while before I start editing, to give myself a chance to forget what I think I wrote.

While I wait to forget, I wrote the first draft of a short story to use as a bribe to convince people to join my mailing list. I already have two sci-fi short stories for that purpose, which you can read by joining the list. I decided that this new story would fit into the continuity of one of my existing series or novels. I had to be careful about spoilers, because (depending on how you count them) I have four or five continuities, and no matter which one I picked, at least one subscriber won't have read it. So I decided the story would be about characters who don't appear in the books. It's set in the same world as the Dragonrider series and The Schemes of Raltarn and Tomaz, during the time of the Elangic Empire (which is ancient history in the books), and it explores the development of a magical device that plays an important role in one of the books. I haven't quite settled on a title yet. Early candidates are Theory and Practice and The Gap between Theory and Practice. (Referring to the joke about "the gap between theory and practice is greater in practice than it is in theory.")

While I edit the short story and start editing The Dragons of Asdanund, I'll probably also start writing a second adventure for Doctor Fung and Dan Barrister, my characters in the Fox Universe. I have most of the pieces for this. I just need to do a bit more planning to make sure they all fit together. The working title for this one is The Case of the Missing Spy.

(The continuities are: The Barefoot Healer, Dragonrider, The Schemes of Raltarn and Tomaz, Escape Velocity and Simon and the Birthday Wish. Dragonrider series and The Schemes of Raltarn and Tomaz can count as one, because they're set in the same world, about a thousand years apart.)
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Published on May 31, 2020 13:33 Tags: writing_progress

April 30, 2020

April's Writing Progress

I'm closing in on the end of the first draft of The Dragons of Asdanund. I managed 10,000 words this month, so it now stands at 108,000 words. I thought of a few clever twists that will need to be foreshadowed, so there's a lot of editing in store for the second draft... but I already knew that.

The final instalment of The Case of the Missing Shells will be released tomorrow. There will be more adventures for Doctor Fung and Dan Barrister once I've written them.

Until 31st May 2020, I'm taking part in the "Authors Give Back" sale at Smashwords. You can get any of my ebooks there at 60% off, including The Mirrors of Elangir, book 1 in the series that The Dragons of Asdanund is book 2 for. Just go to my profile on Smashwords and pick up whatever takes your fancy. The discount should be applied automatically. If not, use code AGB60 at the checkout.

Stay home, stay safe :-)
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Published on April 30, 2020 11:15 Tags: writing_progress

March 31, 2020

March's Writing Progress

The day job has calmed down a bit lately, so I managed 9,000 words of The Dragons of Asdanund this month. The first draft now stands at 98,000 words.

Of course, everything else has gone... well, you know. So far I'm still healthy, as is everyone I know (as far as I'm aware). I'm still working full-time, from home. I was a home worker long before the outbreak started, so my day-to-day life hasn't changed much, except that I go outdoors only to get food or empty the bins.

Stay safe :-)
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Published on March 31, 2020 14:23 Tags: writing_progress

March 1, 2020

New genre, new (ish) characters

At last I can reveal the side project I've been working on. Fellow writer Jason Greenfield has created a shared universe where he and other writers can write interconnected stories. I'm one of those other writers.

This shared universe is known as the Fox Universe or Earth-F. It's based on a series of comic books published by the now-defunct Fox Feature Syndicate in the United States from the 1930s to the 1950s. Thanks to the vagaries of US copyright law, the stories and characters are now in the public domain, meaning that anyone can do whatever they want with them.

My stories (or story, since I've written only one so far) are about Doctor Fung and Dan Barrister, a Chinese detective and his American sidekick. They go all over the world, fighting criminals both mundane and supernatural - as if Hercules Poirot had teamed up with Indiana Jones.

My first story is called The Case of the Missing Shells. Here's the blurb for it:

February, 1942. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has drawn the United States into World War Two. Democracy and freedom hang in the balance as the Allies struggle to halt the Japanese advance across the Pacific.

In Los Angeles, master sleuth Doctor Fung and his sidekick Dan Barrister are asked to investigate an apparent case of sabotage at an ammunition factory. It seems simple - almost too simple to be worth the time of such legendary detectives. But Dan and the Doctor soon discover a much larger and more sinister criminal scheme is in play...

You can read The Case of the Missing Shells for free on Wattpad, here: (You might need to create an account before it will let you see anything.) Wattpad encourages writers to post stories a chapter at a time, so I'll be doing that, even though the story is finished. I'll post a new chapter every Friday. There are twelve chapters altogether.

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Published on March 01, 2020 11:57 Tags: release_announcement

February 29, 2020

February's Writing Progress

The day job took up rather more of my attention than it's supposed to this month, and so I've written only 5,000 more words of The Dragons of Asdanund. The first draft now stands at 89,000 words. I started a map of the part of the world where the story is now taking place, only about 25,000 words after I should've done.

I should have another announcement to make soon, about the side project I mentioned in the blog for September 2019. Watch this space...
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Published on February 29, 2020 17:09 Tags: writing_progress

January 31, 2020

January's writing progress

Short and to-the-point this time... I finally resumed writing The Dragons of Asdanund. I managed about 10,000 words this month, so the first draft now stands at 84,000 words. I had to re-read the existing text to remind myself of where the story was supposed to be going, and can see some fairly brutal editing in its future.
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Published on January 31, 2020 17:09 Tags: writing_progress