Thursday 2 October 2014

Novel delivered

If I've not had much to say here in recent months, it's not because I haven't been busy. In truth, 2014 has been one of the most productive years of my writing life, but other than offering a series of endless progress reports on steadily increasing word counts, I don't find that there's much to say about being in the act of producing another book. Put simply, it's not very exciting. I start my day, I produce my intended wordage, I back up and switch off my computer - and then repeat for eight or nine months or however long it takes. I'm also loathe to talk in too much depth about works in progress. I used to worry about killing my own enthusiasm - now I worry about killing everyone else's.

Still, the book is in. This is the third and final volume in the Poseidon's Children trilogy, and as yet it does not have a title, although a few possibles are floating around. Although the end result might not seem strikingly different to its predecessors, it's actually presented quite a radical change of routine for me. Although I'd been thinking in very general terms about the third book for almost as long as I'd been thinking about the trilogy - going back to 2008 - that's a world away from having a clear sense of the structure, plot, characters and so on.

In October of last year, though, I set about producing a 12,000 word outline for the new novel, a level of planning completely outside my usual experience. I'd produced detailed notes for a few of my earlier novels, but nothing compared to this. In fact, by the time I finished the outline, I felt like I'd put in all the creative effort of writing a book, but with none of the emotional payoff of actually having done the thing. Nonetheless, when I did start work on the novel, I had the confidence of that detailed outline to keep me on the straight and narrow. Not having to worry about where the story was going proved a major blessing, as I personally don't find the working through of plot mechanics all that satisfying. That's not to say that the novel wrote itself - there were setbacks, changes of plan, anxious weeks - but the overall shape of it did adhere fairly closely to the outline, and I always had a clear sense of where it was headed. I started the actual writing in the middle of February, and proceeded with few interruptions right through to the middle of September. Along the way I completed and delivered two lengthy short fiction projects - a 40,000 word novella, and a fairly long novelette, and I also wrote a few shorter fiction and non-fiction pieces for various people. I purposely kept my travel to a minimum this year, attending a science festival in Edinburgh and the London worldcon, followed by a short promotional tour in Sweden, during which I found time to do a bit of writing on the move. I took a few weeks off from writing due to minor illnesses and family obligations, but other than that, I was pleased at how many available days were actually occupied with productive work. It was good to fill in progress on a wall calendar, and see the word count progressing reliably from week to week.

I started work on the 12th of February, which is the date I was able to move into a new purpose-built garden office. We'd had it constructed over the winter - mostly during those long weeks of dreadful rain which afflicted the UK in the early part of 2014 - but it took several weeks to get the interior painted, carpeted, and fitted out for occupation. I made a conscious decision to deny myself internet access, and - speaking only for myself - that has worked out tremendously well. In my previous writing rooms, I have always made a point of not having internet in the room itself but the weak link has been that it is always present elsewhere in the house. However, now I simply don't have it, and the wifi signal is too weak to be useful even if temptation gets the better of me. Surrounded by music, and with a kettle on standby, I find that I seldom miss internet access during my writing hours. If I need some vital piece of research, it can generally wait until the evening. That's just me, though - what works for one writer would be intolerable for another.

The book will now go through the usual round of edits, always more work than I care to remember, but in the meantime I am busying myself with a bit more short fiction, as well as thinking ahead to the next two novels. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty optimistic about the shape of SF at the moment. I came away from the London worldcon invigorated and enthused, and determined to continue adding my voice to this great and tempestuous conversation of ours.

(cross-posted to


  1. Is there a schedule for publishing the Poseidon´s Children novels in Germany? Up to now, there are no german translations available.

  2. Congratulations, Al! As always, can't wait. Loved Lachrimosa, by the way, as an RS piece as much a reminder of that killer sequence from The Tree of Life. Anyway, hope the editing phase doesn't run you down too much :)

  3. Congratulations, Al, and good to see you at LonCon 3.

    I'm halfway through "On the Steel Breeze", so should be finished well in time before part 3 is published.

    I agree with the internet temptation: I do a lot of writing in parks, when the weather is fine. Now I need to figure something out for the winter.

  4. I second the desire to see a German translation of your books!

  5. Al, it would be really neat to see photos of your purpose-built garden office.

  6. I´m very sad to learn that there neither german translations of your latest books available nor that you´re interested in answering the questions about it. Well, there is a lot of other sf we can read in Germany.

  7. Good to hear it's done. I have a few lined up, having just starting re-reading Revelation Space.

    It was great fun chatting at Loncon 3 as well!

  8. Anonymous - I didn't have an answer immediately at hand, I've been travelling, and I neglected to respond promptly. No disinterest was intended.