Sunday, 26 October 2014

I've Earned A Break

So, where are we?  Late October?  Only I'm writing this a few days earlier, because I'm about to go on holiday (off hiking in the Lake District, to be precise), and since I have no intention of doing anything that might be considered as work next week, and also since I want to go away feeling happy and maybe a little good about myself, here's a post about where all of my ongoing novel projects are currently at.

By way of context, I should mention how I have a bad habit of setting myself crazy targets and then sticking to them, even when there's a chance that doing so might kill me and possibly others in my vicinity.  This is something I'm working on; in the shorter term, I did worry that trying to finish drafts of three novels plus all the other things I had planned for my first year of writing full time might be a bit on the insane side.  As such, if there's one fact I'm glad for right now it's that not only am I on target, it hasn't proven apoplexy-inducingly difficult to stay there.  Nor, for that matter, has it been anything like easy.  Which I seem to remember from some government-mandated training course I did once is pretty much the ideal for targets.

Now I'm cheating a little, because once I get back (which, I guess, is when I'm posting this), there'll still be another week for things to go hideously wrong in; but assuming that doesn't happen, here's where all of my current projects should be by the end of this month:
  • To End All Wars, the World War One-set Science-fiction novel I began at the start of the year, will be half way through its second draft.  And it feels like it's coming together nicely.  Given that my biggest issue with the first draft was its wordiness, it's satisfying to be going at the thing with a bone saw.  That first draft was a little over 103'000 words; I'm confident it will end up somewhere around ten thousand words shorter than that.  Whatever happens, I'm liking it a lot, and I'm still comfortable with saying it's the best novel I'm written so far.  Although that may change at any time, because...
  • Degenerates, the book that began as a rewrite of 2010's difficult second novel War For Funland and has since turned into a whole new, vastly more interesting thing with the skeleton of War For Funland wriggling beneath its muscles, will be finished in first draft.  I'm way too engaged with it right now to be sure what I think of it, except to say that there was never a point where I felt that War For Funland was entirely a success and there's never been a point where I've felt Degenerates was a failure.  I find myself falling back on that word, interesting; and I keep realizing that at this stage I'm absolutely okay with it being that.  I know that in the next draft I'm going to have to hammer this crazy monstrosity into some sort of shape, but right now, interesting is an adjective I'm comfortable with.
  • Then lastly there's The Bad Neighbour, my first stab at writing a crime novel, which will be past its mid-point and well on the way to an end-of-year finish.  Okay, this is the one thing about which I was maybe lying slightly above: as much as I'm on target (and indeed a fair bit ahead), it's looking like the target itself may be off; something that's been causing me a degree of panic since a) I'm pretty clearly obsessed with targets and b) this should not be a long novel.  It's supposed to be a book that jumps out and kicks you in the throat and then runs the hell away, and if it breaks 100'000 words I'm not sure it's going to be that book.  Still, that aside, I'm plenty happy with it.  It's not a bit like anything I've written, and since a large part of why I chose to write it was to see how far I could get out of my comfort zone before I burst into flames, that makes me feel like at least I'm achieving what I set out to.
All of which means there's a solid chance that I will in fact finish three first drafts this year, just like I planned - and perhaps more importantly, that I'll be happy with all three once they're done.  Giving up my livelihood to write full time has been one hell of an experiment, and one that still scares me a little every day.  Until I've got some books ready to sell I've no sure way to judge whether it has a chance of being a long-term success, and in the meantime my only measure is whether I can do the amount and quality of work I feel I should be doing to make a living as a writer.  So it's great to be able to say that right now, by those terms, I'm winning.

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