Abaddon Books

Abaddon Open Subs Month: my submission, Colin Harvey

2 years ago

Not without reason, social media tends to get a bad rap these days. This, though, is an instance where it really came into its own. I’m Facebook friends with Jonathan Green, author of the Pax Britannia series and many other things. (Not that I’ve ever actually met him – I was just a fan boy. Heck, I still am). Jonathan happened to mention in a posting that Abaddon Books was having an Open Submissions round.

Obviously it was way too good a chance to miss. As a big admirer of Abaddon’s very distinctive output – particularly Jonathan’s work and Pat Kelleher’s sublime No Man’s World sequence – I was compelled to give it a go. Over the years I’d had some success with various writing competitions and initiatives (and lots and lots of failures but I’ll come back to that).

I came up with several ideas that I thought would fit the ‘intelligent pulp’ feel that characterises Abaddon’s books. Once I’d chosen the best one, I spent a lot of time honing it. Then I had cold feet and thought hang on, this idea isn’t working, and went back to one of the other ideas. I then honed that idea instead, before realising that – wait a minute – the original idea I’d honed was much preferable, it just needed reworking. And honing. Again.

In short, I spent an awful lot of time finding something that worked and that I felt happy about entering. Of course, that happiness dissipated as soon as I’d submitted it. I spent many anxious weeks thinking my idea sucked, that I should have gone with the other one. And then David Moore’s email came through.

He’d rejected it. But it was a lovely rejection – and believe me, I know a nice rejection when I see one. David wrote me a really thoughtful, generous email in which he said how much he liked it but that he liked something else just that little bit more. I thanked him but then –and this is completely out of character for me – cheekily asked if I could pitch something else. And David, the gent he is, said okay, would I like to pitch for our Afterblight series? (Don’t count on that as a strategy, by the way. If you’re rejected, chances are you really are rejected).

So I went back to the other ideas. One of them was a Western-style adventure built around the character of Ned Kelly but set in Melbourne. It occurred to me that the Afterblight series hadn’t touched upon Australia, and therefore this idea might be something I could rework for this particular storyworld.  And that’s how my psychotic anti-hero Dead Kelly emerged, blinking in the post-apocalyptic light.

In short, then, if you’re thinking about giving it a go, treat it really seriously. Treat it like a professional writing gig, which is what it is. Choose your best idea. Then choose a better best idea. Rewrite it. Throw it away. Pick out the bin. Love it, hate it, all that stuff. And yes, it’s a lot of work, but it might be worth it.

And even if David doesn’t choose it, the experience will have been vital to you. Remember all those failures I mentioned? They’re essential, all part of the process of getting you nearer to being a professional writer. It’s a cliché, but when you’re sipping piña coladas with JK Rowling and George RR Martin (which constitutes a typical evening out for me these days) you’ll thank me.