Last night I came to one of those conclusions I never like to come to, but which are like a gate which walls off progress: if you don't go through the gate, you never get to the next level.
It is simply not possible to finish The Underground Sun on the schedule I have set for myself and make it a good book.
Trust me, this doesn't thrill me in the slightest.
I started working on this book back in 2008, put it aside to work on Tokyo Inferno, and came back to it over the course of this year to try and finish it. At each stage it changed — sometimes drastically, sometimes incrementally — and as I pushed on through the body of the ms. I tripped over and fairly broke my nose against a whole gaggle of obstacles that weren't going to be apparent to me from an outline, or even when I was part of the way through a first draft.
By the time I realized I had maybe a month left to put the book to bed before AnimeFest (which is when I've traditionally debuted new works), I had accumulated several pages of notes that flagged endless little problems with the book. Questions of logic, loopholes other readers would surely chew my ear over, and issues with the setting all leaped out at me like those stray kernels of corn that finally pop themselves and fly right into your face.
Last night, after struggling through a particularly stubborn section very near the end, I stopped and pushed my keyboard away and just looked at the list of Things To Fix I'd accumulated. The first draft wasn't even done, and I was dead certain a rewrite would take more than a few weeks. And the more I looked, the more I found things that I simply could not ignore.
This is not shaping up to be a cosmetic rewrite; this is a full-blown dismantling and reworking.
But this has to happen. If I don't take the time to do this, and do it right, I will not have a book worthy of my name.
I'm fond of the romance inherent in putting out a book a year — look, Ma, I'm "productive"! — but not when it conflicts with the larger goal of putting out well-written books. What I have right now is maybe forty to sixty percent of what it can be, and if it takes me past the end of the year to get it to the 80-90% mark, then so be it. Georges Simenon, I am not.
I've been grousing about this to myself for some time now, but it's really not all that bad. I have two — three — shows coming up that I've never sold anything at, so I'll still be able to release "new" material there. New to those respective audiences, that is. So it's not a total loss; it's just a minor jab.
To that end, I'm going to take a break from working on the book for at least the rest of July. I've got a few other things demanding my attention — real-life stuff with friends and family, a software project I've been neglecting, the Really Great Thing I Still Can't Talk About Just Yet (which could seriously affect my writing and sales activites), a stack of books I owe it to myself to read, and just a whole extended family of other goodies.
The worst part is that the damn book still isn't finished. It feels now more like a tumor to be excised than a creative product to be completed. It's not the kind of feeling I want to have about something that's been so close to my heart for so long.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind