I wrote a version of this post last night, and then WordPress ate it. As you can imagine, I wasn’t particularly happy about that outcome, so tonight I’m in Pages.
Anyway, Sophistication is wrapped. Kind-of-sort-of-mostly. It’s the first draft, which means that any potential agency or publishing partner will have feedback. But there’s a beginning, middle and end, and that means I’ve wrapped two novels. Hurray for me!
Dead Weight, which is about 100,000 words, took me five or six years to write.
I completed Sophistication, 120,000 words, in just under two.
If you’re scratching your head thinking, sheesh, this dude’s really goddamned slow, you have every right. Thing is, the snaillike progress had little to do with my pace and everything to do with my discipline. For Dead Weight, I would write a chapter or two and then I’d disappear into booze, video games, movies—life—for a year and a half. My momentum on Sophistication was better, but I still allowed a dozen or more monthlong lulls.
That’s not how you write books, and frankly, it’s amazing I ever finished the first one, let alone the second. What it’s taken me years to understand is that you can’t step away. If you want to be a writer, you have to write, always. Every night. Even if you feel like you’re forcing it, write. Even if you think your story sucks, write. You could be penning the most offensive trash ever conceived. That’s fine. But write.
It’s when you decide to take a day or two off from the process—and I know this from experience—that the days turn into months and even years. One evening you’ll find yourself back at the keyboard, knuckles cracked, rearing to go, and you won’t even remember what you wrote before because it’s been too goddamned long.
Anyway, deadlines help you find your discipline. Case in point, I wrote the last third of Sophistication—more than 40,000 words—in about a month and a half. If I had kept that pace all along, this novel would’ve taken me four and a half months to complete.
All right, enough about length and time. /tirade
Sophistication is an interesting book and I hope readers and listeners will enjoy it. It’s certainly been a challenging novel to write and very different from Dead Weight. For instance, DW was told from the perspective of a single character and written in past tense. Sophistication, meanwhile, unravels from the perspective of at least five primary characters (plus a ton of secondary ones), and it’s written in the present tense—which, by the way, I love. There’s an immediacy to present tense narrative that is, I think, hard to duplicate with past tense. Finally, one is dystopian fiction and the other is a lot harder to classify. Like, a shit ton harder.
So, it’s done. Now what? Good question—thanks for not asking. Well, the short answer is that I wait. The novel is in the capable hands of a major publisher now and if I’ve done my job well enough, good things will come—I’ll keep you posted. And if I haven’t, I’ll keep trying.
Speaking of, I’m planning to kick off work on my third novel, The Deep, Dark, Down, in the next week or two. (I know, write every night, but I’m between books—cut me some slack.) I’m going to do my best to practice what I preach and keep the discipline. I’d love to finish it by the time the Christmas holiday rolls around, but let’s just say it’ll be done by this time next year. That’ll still be a significant leap over my previous efforts.