Yesterday, finally, I had something resembling a "normal" writing day. I thank the cooler weather, more than anything. I don't believe the thermostat went much higher than about 83F (and I had Dr. Muñoz in the office for a brief spell, so it was quite a bit cooler in here). I wrote 1,165 words on "The Melusine" for Sirenia Digest #31. That's a very decent, if not spectacular, writing day. Word count-wise. Of course, word count is only one way of measuring how successful any given writing day is, and it may be, truthfully, the least important. What matters is that I like what I wrote yesterday, that it was written well, and that I shall not have to do any significant revision on it.
And this brings us back around to the story I linked to yesterday about writers, even us mid-list types, being pushed to churn out a novel a year and the possible effect of this industry demand on quality. By the way, if you're trying to break into this market, if you think you want to be a working author (i.e., an author whose sole income is herhisits income derived from fiction sales, which means largely novel sales), you really, really ought to read this article. Anyway, yesterday jtglover commented:
I read that article and enjoyed it. I found it via a link that indicated that there had been some grousing in some writerly corners of the blogosphere about the article. I'm sure that there are people, even now, complaining about the audacity of any writer to demand the time to try to create art instead of just cranking out the closest-to-good story possible in the super-tight timeframes that All Real, Professional Writers deal with constantly. I get that there are regular timeframes involved when dealing with publishers and contracts and such, but it seems to me that little is more corrosive to a writer than to be told always to hurry, because nobody gets it right anyway, and who's foolish enough to try to "write well" anyway?
To which I replied, Nice. I may address this tomorrow. To which Mr. Glover replied:
I don't want to come across as a sycophant, but that would mean a lot to me. Right now I'm struggling through the first draft of what I hope will be my first completed novel, and I'm regularly torn about how quickly to write. Slowly (4-800 words/day) means I can get inside the characters' heads more easily, but I'm afraid of losing momentum. Quickly (800-1600 words/day) means I finish sooner and can "fix it" in the second draft, but the characters rarely come to life when I'm moving at that pace.
All I can do, of course, is write about this problem from the perspective afforded by my personal experience. I think of myself as a slow writer, though, often, I seem wildly productive. When I was writing for DC/Vertigo, for example, expected to produce a script a month, I sometimes would write three a month. Back then, my daily word count, on novels and short fiction was about 500 words/day. These days, it's up to about twice that, about 1,100 words on average, and my all-time record is something like 2,800 words in a single day. Anyway, yes, all in all, though I write a lot (because I do little else), I write rather slowly, and it is very, very hard, if not impossible, to do this book-a-year nonsense. Partly, this is because I do not write in drafts. I write a single draft, to which I make line edits. That's almost always been the case. What I write the first time around is usually what shows up on the printed page —— usually. First and second and third drafts are fine for people who need to write that way, but it's not the way I taught myself to write. I work on a sentence until it's as close to perfect as I can get it. Same for any given paragraph, and then I move along to the next. Does this slow me down? I don't know, because, after all, it seems to me loads of time is wasted in rewrites by authors who have learned to write in multiple drafts. Below is a list of my novels, to date, and how long I took to write each one:
The Five of Cups (nine months, '92-'93)
Silk (twenty-eight months, '93-'96)
Threshold (twenty-two months, '98-'00)
Low Red Moon (eight months, '01-02)
Murder of Angels (A complicated one, as I started it in '01, then shelved it, and went back to work on the ms. in '03, finishing it that year; offhand, I do not know how long it actually took me to write, but it required about three years to complete the finished ms.)
Daughter of Hounds (about fifteen months, '04-'06)
Beowulf (all told, about three months, '06-07, though the forced rewrites — the "Mordorian Death March" — went on for another three or four months afterwards; and yes, it was a better book before those rewrites)
Now, here you see a great degree of variation, from Silk, at twenty-eight months, to the Beowulf novelization, at maybe three months (I would disqualify the latter, as I was working from a shooting script for the movie and also had numerous earlier drafts of the script and the source material to guide me). Also, my novels usually start out slow, the writing of them, and then I end up doing the bulk of a ms. in the last four or five months, as the pieces fall into place. Point being, for me, the time varies wildly. And I would say, it's all about the time I need to write the book the way it needs to be written. Trying to force a writer to write faster is, in my opinion, idiotic, and it will almost always result in a compromise in quality. I write novels, and whether you think they are good novels or bad novels or mediocre novels, they are novels, not product. This is not manufacturing. There is no assembly line. There is what my mind can do, given the strictures of my health (both mental and physical) and other non-writing concerns and interferences. That's all I can do. If that's not good enough, I'm screwed. So far, it's worked out, though I know my editor would be happier if I could produce more regularly. I know my agent worries about this. I know, in a sense, it has held me back from gaining a wider audience. But it's the best I can do, which is all that can ever be fairly asked of any artist. So, when all is said and done, my advice is take the time you need. Artistically, getting it right is more important than getting it published, even if it means you'll never be published.
However, those of us who have —— I would say unwisely —— chosen fiction writing as a career must to some degree cater to the needs (or perceived needs) of our publishers and readers, and the deadlines they set for us. It is, I would say, a necessary evil, that schedule that comes along with contracts and an audience and money and promotion and actual, printed books. In an ideal world, readers (who i will never, ever call "consumers"), would understand that any given book requires X amount of time to be written, X being an indeterminable variable. So would publishers. And they would be patient and give us the time that is required. This, you do not need me to tell you, is hardly an ideal world. And a working writer must accept these deadlines, on some level, or get out of the game. Unless you're Thomas Pynchon. It's not an issue of whether the publishers are right or wrong. If you are lucky enough to have a publisher (and it is, mostly, luck, luck and perseverance), and if that's where some large percentage of the money that pays your bills comes from, then you accept this and live with it as best you can. I cannot produce a book a year, but I do try. After all, if I could write simply 500 words a day (my old standard), I could write a 100,000-word novel in only 200 days, easy as pie. Much less than a year. Of course, it's not really about the time it takes to put the words down on paper, but the time it takes to find the words in your mind, and there's the wicked, wicked catch.
Not much to say for yesterday, beyond the writing. The cool air was greatly appreciated. I went with Spooky to the market. Pasta salad for dinner. A great deal of unpacking, finally. Just after midnight, I allowed myself to go on Second Life, and I spent most of that time in the library in Toxia, in my usual place on the sofa. That was yesterday. And I need to wrap this up, but I wanted to mention that late today or sometime tonight or maybe tomorrow, I'll be starting our Queerest Auction Ever (QAE; but not, sadly, in the homosexual sense of the word "queer"), which will be two flaps (auctioned seperately) from cardboard boxes used in the move. Bored, I drew on each before we left Atlanta. Monster doodles. Seems a shame to throw them out, especially given how much more the move cost than we'd expected. I'll keep you posted, natch. Also, I want to repost the link to Spooky's Amazon wish list. Her birthday is June 24th this year. And every other year, I suppose...