Four drafts and over 360,000 words later, Flight of the Vajra is finally done and off to the printer's. (The e-book version will need some more work and will debut later in September.)
I do not think I have ever worked this long or this hard on any one project that I have actually finished, and it has left me with a couple of convictions. First is that I was right for sticking to my guns about not doing sequels: as much as I loved writing about this universe and it's people, it's now a closed book for me, literally and figuratively. I don't think I could go back into it even if I wanted to.
And a big part of why isn't just because I know I'd like to move on and do other stuff, although that's a major contributing factor. It's also because the process of writing the book has put me in a different place than where I was before I started it. If I sat down now to write something like that, I don't think I would have produced anything remotely like what I have now.
So that's one thing. The second thing I've been convinced of is that I really shouldn't be writing stuff that takes me three years to finish. Unless I have a really, really good excuse to not do so, I'm going to drop back to a one-book-a-year cycle. If nothing else, such a schedule keeps me from getting stuck in the boneyards of my imagination — it forces me to produce, not ruminate endlessly or look for the perfect way to say something. Get it done, close the door, find out what you learned in the process, and move on to the next thing.
(Okay, I lied, sorta-kinda. I do have ideas for books that will easily take me more than a year to work on. But I'm trying to keep them in the minority, to maybe produce at least two "simple" projects for each "complex" one.)
This in turn brings up an insight worth elaborating on in a separate post, but I'll touch on it here for now. All this has led me all the more to understand now why some authors have such a disdain for the word "literary". For them, that one word embodies everything self-indulgent, contrary to good productivity, and flat-out boring. I suspect at least part of that is because of the folks who self-consciously adopt such an attitude towards their work because they don't want to be caught dead being mere entertainers. But you shouldn't have to choose between being either Jim Butcher or Marcel Proust: both are embodiments of extremes, and each approach comes with its fair share of dead ends and cop-outs.
Anyway, my chief point is this. I enjoyed working on the book — if I didn't, I would have bailed on it pretty quickly — but from now on, the less excuses I give myself to spend three years on any one project, the better.
In future posts, I'll go more into what I learned from the process of writing the book.