Rewrites, self-edits, and writing one million words to publish one hundred thousand.
Down week on the blog, personal responsibilities and novel rewrites took priority. Thought I’d give a quick update on where I am with the book, and why. There may be some commentary on the current Pulp Speed debate, but I think I covered most of what I have to say on Twitter.
I’m writing something fiction at least every weekday. It may not be much, it may not be usable, it may not even be intended for use, but I hammer out fiction no less than five days a week. The good news is that it is working. The bad news is that it is still working.
Everyone always wants to know how far along you are with your book. Well, I’m about 300,000 words into a 100,000 word book. No, I didn’t get that backwards, I’ve written far more than I intend to publish, and I’m still not there. Several authors have told me that it takes one million words written to get your first novel acceptable and out the door, and I think they’re probably about right (I’ve got more words than just the novel word count). I also don’t have a draft count for you, it’s greater than one. I have a bunch of chapters saved, you could put a selection of them in order and, with some light editing, have a story. You’d be leaving a bunch of other chapters on my hard drive, unread. And you wouldn’t be printing the story I wanted to tell. But you’d have something.
I’m not in this to write “something.” I have a story I want to tell, and while it is growing and evolving as I write, I know what I want to get across, and I’m going to publish that. As I write, I am getting better at dialogue, my characters are getting better fleshed out, and I am better bringing forth the ideas I want to include.
Part of the challenge is that this is an ambitious book. I’m writing military sci-fi, but it’s not “just” military sci-fi (quotes because the genre never was just high tech action). I’m studying the technology I write about to make it plausible. I’m studying psychology, and history, and military tactics, to make all of the effects of the various organizational structures believable, both upsides and downsides. I’m studying narrative structure, both in literature and film, because my writing background did not include much fiction, and the little it did include was decades ago. I want this to be a book that can please casual military sci-fi readers, military history buffs, veterans, hard sci-fi fans, space opera fans (it’s not a space opera), and even the random reader who picks up a copy off of their spouse’s nightstand, having zero exposure to the genre. A good story, with good science, a compelling vision of the dystopian future, characters you love, characters you hate, characters you grudgingly respect. Dogs with believable inner monologues. Power armor you want to strap on right now so that you can get in the fight. I’m trying to do it all.
Too ambitious? I’ve certainly decided to start running with a marathon. But I feel like it’s possible, as long as I keep going. My writing keeps improving, and my story keep getting more compelling. I’ll stop when it gets where I want it to be. I’ll send it to an editor when I stop making big improvements, or when I think it’s good enough. It’s coming along, fear not. It just won’t be released until it’s ready. Don’t worry, for books two and three I won’t need nearly as many rewrites.
Back against the wall
In danger of losing it all
Search deep inside
Remember who you are
– Arch Enemy, War Eternal