Thursday, 2 October 2014

Novel delivered

If I've not had much to say here in recent months, it's not because I haven't been busy. In truth, 2014 has been one of the most productive years of my writing life, but other than offering a series of endless progress reports on steadily increasing word counts, I don't find that there's much to say about being in the act of producing another book. Put simply, it's not very exciting. I start my day, I produce my intended wordage, I back up and switch off my computer - and then repeat for eight or nine months or however long it takes. I'm also loathe to talk in too much depth about works in progress. I used to worry about killing my own enthusiasm - now I worry about killing everyone else's.

Still, the book is in. This is the third and final volume in the Poseidon's Children trilogy, and as yet it does not have a title, although a few possibles are floating around. Although the end result might not seem strikingly different to its predecessors, it's actually presented quite a radical change of routine for me. Although I'd been thinking in very general terms about the third book for almost as long as I'd been thinking about the trilogy - going back to 2008 - that's a world away from having a clear sense of the structure, plot, characters and so on.

In October of last year, though, I set about producing a 12,000 word outline for the new novel, a level of planning completely outside my usual experience. I'd produced detailed notes for a few of my earlier novels, but nothing compared to this. In fact, by the time I finished the outline, I felt like I'd put in all the creative effort of writing a book, but with none of the emotional payoff of actually having done the thing. Nonetheless, when I did start work on the novel, I had the confidence of that detailed outline to keep me on the straight and narrow. Not having to worry about where the story was going proved a major blessing, as I personally don't find the working through of plot mechanics all that satisfying. That's not to say that the novel wrote itself - there were setbacks, changes of plan, anxious weeks - but the overall shape of it did adhere fairly closely to the outline, and I always had a clear sense of where it was headed. I started the actual writing in the middle of February, and proceeded with few interruptions right through to the middle of September. Along the way I completed and delivered two lengthy short fiction projects - a 40,000 word novella, and a fairly long novelette, and I also wrote a few shorter fiction and non-fiction pieces for various people. I purposely kept my travel to a minimum this year, attending a science festival in Edinburgh and the London worldcon, followed by a short promotional tour in Sweden, during which I found time to do a bit of writing on the move. I took a few weeks off from writing due to minor illnesses and family obligations, but other than that, I was pleased at how many available days were actually occupied with productive work. It was good to fill in progress on a wall calendar, and see the word count progressing reliably from week to week.

I started work on the 12th of February, which is the date I was able to move into a new purpose-built garden office. We'd had it constructed over the winter - mostly during those long weeks of dreadful rain which afflicted the UK in the early part of 2014 - but it took several weeks to get the interior painted, carpeted, and fitted out for occupation. I made a conscious decision to deny myself internet access, and - speaking only for myself - that has worked out tremendously well. In my previous writing rooms, I have always made a point of not having internet in the room itself but the weak link has been that it is always present elsewhere in the house. However, now I simply don't have it, and the wifi signal is too weak to be useful even if temptation gets the better of me. Surrounded by music, and with a kettle on standby, I find that I seldom miss internet access during my writing hours. If I need some vital piece of research, it can generally wait until the evening. That's just me, though - what works for one writer would be intolerable for another.

The book will now go through the usual round of edits, always more work than I care to remember, but in the meantime I am busying myself with a bit more short fiction, as well as thinking ahead to the next two novels. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty optimistic about the shape of SF at the moment. I came away from the London worldcon invigorated and enthused, and determined to continue adding my voice to this great and tempestuous conversation of ours.

(cross-posted to