Musings on writing

Musings on writing

This time about two years ago I finished the first draft of my first complete novel. I had written maybe a dozen, maybe two dozen short stories before that, all in Dutch, a novella and an enormous amount of fictional non-fiction, rpg write-ups and a book on GUI programming with Python and Qt. The novel was my first bit of fiction in English, and I was pretty proud. So I spent a few months polishing, sent it off to a publisher, and started on the next novel.

That novel is taking rather more time: about two years by now. I have passed the 90.000 word mark, and I may well be close, or already at, the climax. It’s a deeper, technically more ambitious novel — but I’m not sure whether it’s as coherent or fast-paced as the first novel. Maybe because of the slower writing pace, which in its turn was caused by all kinds of interruptions:

  • Developing a tool to help me create a few languages for that extra touch of realistic confusion and culture shock. Probably not necessary, and if I ever sell the novel, I probably will have to take those bits out.
  • My employer going broke, and then rebooting — that kind of thing takes time, and since we rebooted with only half of the people who were still working with the old company, we’re kind of busy.
  • Starting to study theology in a mild and non-university way. I’m not doing as much about it as I should, but what I do, takes time.
  • Going on holiday. Bad move — another three weeks wasted. Probably to be repeated this year, too. Said he, with a grin on his face.
  • Starting this blog. Very bad move… But it helps to vent, now and then.
  • Buying a graphics tablet to make it easier to sketch out campaign lines (this is a novel about an army campaigning…), and then finding there’s hardly any decent software to use with it, and wouldn’t it be nice to start hacking in a new language. Enter Krita.

Ah, well, one gets the idea. So, here I am — two years older, and the publisher I sent the novel to still hasn’t rejected it, after a year and a half. This probably means it went awol, and I should start looking for a new slushpile to clutter up.

But do I want to do that? It costs very real money to submit a manuscript to an American publisher from the Netherlands, with only a very, very slim chance of success. And besides, now I’ve nearly finished novel II, I see all the flaws, warts and ugly bits of Novel I. There are a number of places, particularly in chapter 12, where I show all too clearly that this is my First Novel and that I Needed to get Everything in (I only noticed this after seeing the same in Tipping the Velvet, which is, incidentally, much better than my first novel). Wouldn’t it be better to just hide this particular effort, finish No. II and send that out?

It’s a pity that No. II is in a sense a sequel to No. I. Perhaps I ought to self-publish No. I, make a nice PDF file that’s well suited to reading on screen, and leave it at that. After all, the life of a real, published author isn’t all that relaxed and comfortable — look at Charlie Stross and his schedule…

Oh, well. I’ll find a formula. After Easter, probably. Hopefully Novel II is  done by that time, and I can start on a fresh and light Wodehouse-in-Andal bit of fluff:

   What? Well off? I should say so — I never realized, you know, until that servant girl at the Choive last night did a quick swoon-and-purse-grab when I made to put another thousand or so on the dice. Yes, from her reaction — lovely girl, very sweet, and I don’t begrudge her the money, she played the flute for me, and promised me to keep her evening free, next week — I distinctly got the impression that I have nothing to complain about, in the matter of gold bars stored in the old oak chest. No, nothing. I’m well off.
Unless you compare me with my grandfather, of course.
Old Grandad is perhaps beyond well off. Beyond merely rich. A merchant, or those upstarts, those priests, in Heaven, those chaps are rich. Grandad, he’s… Well, he doesn’t concern himself with politics, or war, or anything. He’s got people who own people who do that kind of thing for him. And… What? How he’s gotten that rich? It’s in our family. He’s the head of it, our family. We own a good chunk of the world, I guess.
Most of it under the sweaty, bunioned heel of the barbarians, of course, but still, there it is. Ours, I mean. And the little presents our servants pass on to us help, too, to fill the kitty. They get those presents from people who do clever things with ships and things, and stuff. Those people are grateful to our servants for passing them the money to buy ships and so on, whatever they need; and they, being completely decent chaps despite being merchants, regularly remember us. And so on.
Not that I know too much about it; but, yes, we’re well off.