Word Count 25: Inconvenience, Locus Magazine, handling rejection, Tor open to pitches, She-Hulk finale and more!

by Suw on November 22, 2022

Hi there,

As the weather turns cold and wet here in the UK, we are stocking up on hot water bottles and getting all our blankets out of storage. This house would be really cosy if we could afford to have the heating on all the time, but just like everyone else, we’re rationing it as much as we can. I’m generally happy that we moved back to the UK, but this winter would be warmer and cheaper if we were still living in Cleveland. Oh well. Them’s the breaks.

Tip-top tip: Jill Tew on inconvenience

Jill Tew, adult and YA author and Afronauts podcast host, has a great thread on Twitter about how to add richness to your writing.

I’ve been reading a lot this month, and it occurred to me that there’s one simple thing the best writers do that makes their stories feel real and three-dimensional:

Their characters inconvenience each other.

As has been said before, people are more interested in how your characters’ relationships develop than how they change as people, and having one character chuck a spanner in another’s plans, and then seeing how they react, is a great way to develop the depth and richness your readers want.

Read the rest of the thread on Twitter.

Locus Magazine needs support

Locus Magazine, which covers science fiction, fantasy and horror, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help secure their future. Like many publications, they’ve been hit by the advertising downturn and rising costs. They’re looking to raise $75,000 (£63,000) so that they can pay their staff and contributors, continue to publish a print magazine, and cover their core costs. Rewards start at £4, with just over three weeks left to go on the fundraiser.

Read this: How to handle rejection letters

Journalist Alex Johnson, author of The Book Lover’s Joke Book amongst others, talks about dealing with rejection, something every writer needs to do at some point or another.

My personal favourite, one of the few I’ve kept, was the chap who scribbled on the top of the returned manuscript “This is not a book.” He kindly added a coffee ring on the front page, maybe to drive the point home. Nice.

Opportunity: Tor open to article pitches

Contemporary speculative fiction publisher Tor is looking for new book critics and essayists for next year, and is particularly interested in hearing from marginalised voices. Take a look at their submissions guidelines.

Review: She-Hulk finale doesn’t stick the landing [spoilers!]

If you haven’t already seen the finale of She-Hulk: Attorney At Law and you care about spoilers, then you should probably skip ahead because this section is going to be spoiltertastic.

At the end of Episode 8, we saw She-Hulk at a gala dinner, receiving the Female Lawyer of the Year award (along with, seemingly, every other woman in the room – a nice bit of cultural critique about how unwilling society is to reward women’s brilliance without finding a way to undermine them at the same time). But after anti-She-Hulk hate group Intelligencia hack the backdrop screen to show footage of her having sex, she loses control, smashes up the venue, scares the crap out of the crowd and is arrested.

Now, you’d think that this was all to set up some sort of finale where Jennifer Walters tracks down Intelligencia, brings them to justice, redeems herself and proves her worth (as opposed to the worth of She-Hulk). After all, Walters’s fight for recognition as a woman and a lawyer is what the whole series has been about. She is a woman who has to literally change into someone more masculine – bigger, stronger, musclier, more… green – in order to be taken seriously. Walters herself is not viewed as intelligent, capable or attractive and has to subordinate herself to She-Hulk in order to win any success.

Instead, that is all glossed over in favour of a rather meta exploration of Marvel’s historic storytelling weaknesses via the medium of a shattered fourth wall and some annoyingly self-referential in-jokes. The episode ended up bemusing, rather than amusing. In all honesty, it felt like this was a finale written by the writing room for the writing room, with little thought given to how it would actually land with the viewers. I wish that at some point, someone in the room had asked, “Who, exactly, are we writing this for?”

She-Hulk has been a deftly crafted look at sexism in the workplace and the challenges women still face when they want to be taken seriously in male-dominated industries. It is funny, never feels preachy, and presents Walters as a character many women (and probably some men) can relate to. But just as it is about to tackle the impact of toxic masculinity and incel culture via the Intelligencia attack, it shies away, cracking weak jokes to cover the hole where bravery should have been.

Krutika Mallikarjuna has a great analysis of the flaws with She-Hulk’s finale over on BuzzFeed which is worth your time.

Now, I could go on, but here’s the thing: Endings are the most important part of writing. If your ending sucks, you might as well not bother with the beginning and the middle, because the ending is what people will most clearly remember. If there’s a lesson for writers here, it’s that you need to clearly understand the promise that the first third of your work has made to your audience – not the promise you think it’s made, but the promise your audience actually hears – and then come through on that promise in the final third.

Joining Hive Social

Last week I mentioned that I’m experimenting with Mastodon, so this week it seems only fair to say that I’m also experimenting with Hive Social. It’s a very new social network with apps available for iPhone and Android, but no desktop version (bah!).

If you join Hive, I’m @suwca, so please do follow me. Apparently there’s a burgeoning book community there, so we’ll see if it grows into something worth sticking around for.

Christmas is a-coming

If you’re of a mind to buy books for Christmas this year – whether for other people or, you know, sneakily buying a few for yourself – take a look at my bookshop on Bookshop.org! Every time you buy a book from my bookshop, I’ll get a little commission and you’ll be able to sleep peacefully knowing that you’ve avoided the evil behemoth that is Amazon. It’s a win all round, if you ask me!

Obligatory cat picture

It’s always awful when a pet falls ill. I have a sneaking suspicion that Copurrnicus ate a slug or something else that he really shouldn’t have, because last Wednesday he started throwing up and his stomach liquified.

We kept an eye on him throughout Thursday, but Friday it was clear he needed to see the vee-eee-tee. He had a thorough examination and thankfully there was no blockage, which is the important thing as an obstruction in the gut can rapidly become fatal, and he wasn’t dehydrated. He had an antiemetic injection, which perked him up for a bit, but he was still feeling very sorry for himself on Saturday.

We picked up some probiotic kaolin paste to help settle things down, but that stuff smells so grim that he gagged just sniffing it. It was a bit of a fight to get it down him, but with two of us – me holding him down, Kevin squirting the paste into his mouth, or approximately in the mouth area – we managed. He hated it, but it helped.

Sunday he perked up a bit, but was still wanting a lot more snuggles than usual. This morning he’s pretty much back to normal. Phew!

That’s it for this week!

All the best


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