No, I didn't want to spend upwards of two years working on Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, but there you go. Life happens, and a little more of it than I wanted to happened over the last ten to twelve months.
But there's some kind of home stretch in view now. End of September, is what I'm thinking. And then I take the rest of the year off to reorganize the office and read books that aren't mine for a change.
I keep telling myself, next time it's not going to be such a marathon. And I think I have gleaned some clue as to how to ensure that. For one, I'm looking to several books that are as compact and fleet on their feet as possible models for the next one. 150,000 words at the absolute most. Far less than that if I can help it. Summerworld was barely 110,000, and it's still one of my favorite works. Flight Of The Vajra was 350,000 and I kept telling myself I could have brought it in for far less than that.
I know why I break out into hives whenever a project's word count creeps up until it resembles the payout for a Wheel Of Fortune season winner. It's because I'm breaking a personal rule, which is to not inflate a story beyond what it needs to be. Life's short, and if you give someone 100,000 words instead of two and a half times that much, they're going to be that much more motivated to read, finish, and comprehend what you wrote.
One possible comeback is that some stories need to be told at that length. "Need" is such a slippery word; did Game Of Thrones "need" to be thousands upon thousands of pages long? How much of that story is not scope and scale, but lack of focus and discipline? That's the main reason I feel unhappy about a mid-six-digit word count: it feels like a sign that I'm lacking focus or discipline or both, a sign I can't live up to my own standards. It feels hypocritical for me to get on GRRM's case about GOT having more volumes than the Federal Register, when I can turn around and justify another 100K words because it's my story and I'll write if I want to.
At the very least, I haven't broken my one-book/one-story rule: no sequels, no trilogies or tetraologies. Not because I think anyone who writes or reads such a thing is fooling themselves, but because I know that embarking on a multi-volume project would be even worse for what discipline I do have than what I'm currently dealing with. There's excuses enough to make any one book mushroom until it pushes everything else out the windows; god help me if I let myself do that with three in a row.
Again, I hate sounding like I'm against the very idea of long stories. I wouldn't be reading Proust if I was. I just know, through my bones and to the bottoms of my socks, that they're very hard to do well.
I was on the verge of saying they are too easy to write, but I know how most of you would swallow that: Wuddya mean EASY? A thousand pages is anything BUT easy! Okay, "easy" is the wrong word — better to say, it's not the writing of such a thing that's easy but the justifying of it. It's certainly easier than it's ever been to fill a thousand pages. All you have to do is hit keys. It's just hard to fill even a hundred pages with something that matters, and it always has been.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind