November 2012 Archives

I am still trying to stake this damn novel at the crossroads with a mouthful of garlic, but it refuses to lie down and die. I think I'm now just a couple of work days away from writing THE END, but the first draft is going to come in about 15-20% longer than planned. (Yes, my novels are written to a target length specified in the publisher's contract. This is normal in the business. There's a bit of wiggle room, but 20% is pushing it. Also: I do not get paid more money if I write too many words. Sigh.)

Normal service will be resumed as and when the manuscript is baked.

Another thought experiment (to chew on, while I wrestle this goddamn novel to the bitter end) ...

In The Ticking Clock I asked: what would you do if you learned you had roughly five years left to live?

Let me flip the question upside-down.

Still working; wrote 40,000 words since November 1st, current novel around 90% of the way to a complete first draft. (Yes, the day that is Thanksgiving in the USA is just another workday in the UK.) You don't want to hear about my broken foot (healing), head cold (foul) or broken central heating system (engineer working on it), and I'm about out of small-talk right now due to work. Just popping in to say I'm not dead, basically, but aim to have my next book finished eight months ahead of schedule, thereby clearing the decks for 2013's mammoth Secret Project.

Many of us have probably daydreamed at some point in our lives about what we'd do if we had a lottery win land on our head — the sort of eight-digit win that truly is a life-changing event.

But the other day, something prompted me to ask the opposite question: what would I do if, for the sake of argument, I contracted a medical condition that gave me roughly five years to live? (3-4 years in good health, then a 12-18 month decline followed by death.) Think in terms of Steve Jobs, if you like; it's not as rare as you might think — a friend of mine was given a terminal cancer prognosis of three years to live six years ago, and is still coping.

It's fairly obvious what you do if you have a minor lottery win, or (conversely) are given a month to live. You focus on it: blow the money on a vacation (or paying off debts), or make a will, quit work, spend your remaining days with family and people who are important to you.

But what about the big picture?

Five years is too far in advance to do the saying-goodbye thing. There's still time to accomplish a lot. But by the same token, it puts a hard limit on things. If you're stuck in a boring job, do you keep doing it right up to the bitter end just to make ends meet? Or do you try and use the time you've got left to change the world, and if so how?

(Disclaimer: I have not been given five years to live! This is just a thought experiment, folks. Nothing to get worried about.)

Usually when I speculate about the future, I stick to two areas; either the really near future (within the next couple of decades), or the really far future (so far out that signs of continental drift should be glaringly obvious). But what about the medium term?

It's November 6th, 2012, an election day in the USA. (I don't get to vote; I just get to live in a world where the winner's policies defines a whole bunch of parameters for my life. No, I'm not bitter or anything ...)

Anyway, I hereby designate today as National Global Talk About Something Else Day, because nothing anyone says is going to change the election outcome at this point (unless they're an election monitor and the words are something like "oops, what do you suppose this hanging chad means?").

Me, I'm up to my elbows in the next Laundry novel (hoping to pass the two-thirds mark on its notional 100,000 word first draft later today), while fielding copy edits and page proofs—this is the busiest six month patch of work I've had since some time in 2002 or 2003.

So: what are you busy with right now (which has nothing to do with electoral politics)?

If I had to list the misconceptions to which people intent on becoming writers are prone, I think I'd start my list like this:

1. I am an author! This is a statement of my identity and my lifestyle. Respect my authorial mojo! (What do you mean it's a job, you horrible little killjoy?)

2. I could tell you what I'm going to write next, but you'd steal my ideas. (Planet Earth calling: ideas make up 1% of the job, execution is the other 99%.)

3. The world owes me a living. (Do I need to explain this one?)

More below.

Folks, you can stop sending me links to that R'Lyeh paper. Saw it days ago. Reason for non-response: I'm away from home for a few days, trying to help relatives who are dealing with a medical crisis (now under control, at least for the next week). Normal blog service will be resumed after I get home.

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