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In case you were wondering ...

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.

44 Comments

1:

Have you ever thought of selling your books in 2 kinds ? Like the "director's cut" for pictures ? 1 could be sold by the publisher and you'd keep the copyright for the second one and publish it yourself or by another publisher, maybe only for e-readers?
I don't have an e-reader because it's no use for me (I've got plenty of room left to stock new books) but I would probably buy one if I could read some books with it I couldn't otherwise...
Maybe it's stupid but it looks like a new solution for e-books and for writers, doesn't it
ps : I've read your essays on publishing and understand that it would be more work for you, but wouldn't it worth it ?

2:

But this is a Laundry novel - so more Bob. That can't be bad

3:

but wouldn't it [be] worth it ?

I doubt it. Doing an 'extended edition' is only worth it if people are willing to buy it as well as the original, or for a higher price than the original, or would buy it but not the original. Otherwise, it just involves extra work for less reward than if he were writing new stuff.

The contractual implications on their own would be horrendous: "Let me get this right, you're selling us non-exclusive publication rights?"

4:

Write a Perl script cuts out every fifth . I'm sure most people still get the general.

5:

...and good luck with finding an analgesic (or anti-inflamatory) strong enough to deal with that headache.

6:

Methinks you need a copy editor. With experience in precise, concise, Scientific writing. I.e. me. XD

7:

I'll swap a headache for my current tootheache.
Find your own codeine, tramadol and hydrocodone - mine are worth their weight in gold.

8:

I'm OK, I've got a couple of weeks worth of Diclofenac left.

9:

I've got co-codimol (in case of emergency only thanks) and ibuprofen.

10:

You take that garlic, crush it and rub on a nice sharp stake. Take a heavy mallet and apply to chest. And for good measure, make like Yael, and take another stake to the head.

11:

@ 5 - 9
I have Diclofenac on repeat prescriotion!

Charlie - assuming you do stake $Laundry_Novel down, I assume a celebratory libation will be poured?

12:

Diclofenac is pretty weak in my experience.
Can't beat opiates.

13:

Well, I'd like my inflammation to subside, rather than just to stop hurting. Like, you know, treating the cause rather than the symptoms.

14:

Writer's Director's cuts.... I still have some bad memories of Stephen King's The Stand

15:

It sometimes happens in the US, at least, for a book to have small press "premium edition" on sale simultaneously with a major publisher's mass market release. For example, Ellen Kushner's "The Privilege of the Sword" was simultaneously released in paperback from Bantam, and in hardback from Small Beer Press. So, the purely legal contract issues don't seem to be insuperable.

Of course, whether the business case makes sense in any particular instance is a different question entirely.

(Another place one might want this sort of arrangement is with electronic editions packaged as apps with interesting extra functionality --- interactive maps, or whatever --- where the major houses might just not be equipped to do the production. But given the general neophobia of Big Six executive suites these days, negotiating something like this might get really awkward.)

16:

It sometimes happens in the US, at least, for a book to have small press "premium edition" on sale simultaneously with a major publisher's mass market release.

It's relatively unusual. Less uncommon is a limited-edition signed premium hardcover, released in parallel (well, officially a day or two early so it can be the "first edition") with the regular hardcover. Examples of mine include "Halting state" and "Glasshouse" -- both in tooled leather with gilt trim from Easton Press, in a run of 1000 copies. The right to publish these specials, essentially posh book club editions, are usually sold via the main trade publisher (but they pay a fat royalty which ends up in the author's pocket eventually).

There may also be staggered releases from different publishers. I sold US hardcover rights to publish "The Jennifer Morgue" to Golden Gryphon, and trade/mass market paperback rights to Ace, who waited 12 months then ran the trade edition. (The high-priced premium hardcover didn't really eat into their market segment.)

But it's a bit odd, and you'd need a cult following, to successfully launch a premium hardcover product and a mass market edition simultaneously from different publishers.

The app thing you suggest is entirely possible, but the trouble is, the big six don't really have app development arms. They're book publishers, not software houses. If I approached my publishers with the idea of doing this they'd quite possibly be enthusiastic -- as long as they didn't have to do the unfamiliar heavy lifting job on the software side.

17:

"And he woke up and it was all a dream"

There you go, job done.

"Front and centre! - Take this manuscript to Tor"

18:

Your true fans will pay premium prices for Strosshide bound editions signed in your own blood. Probably Laundry novels.

19:

* Quantities severely limited.

20:

If (when) you do manage to cut out that 20%, is there any chance that some of it may be coherent or self-contained enough to publish / make available online - as an extra (not even necessarily a story)...?

Or will you save it for the next book?

21:

If the manuscript is too long, why don't you just rephrase something so that it uses fewer words?

For length, why not rephrase less wordily?

22:

Ahahahaha.

Manuscript is over-long because novel is cunningly articulated and over-complex.

Rephrasing is rather hard work, on this scale. And cutting complexity makes for a less satisfying read.

23:

Manuscript is over-long because novel is cunningly articulated and over-complex.

Too many ideas to fit in a well-plotted, tightly-written novel? Not our Charlie!

That's the problem with series novels. To this amateur, it seems like the choices are:

  • Take an "issue of the week" approach to plotting and have very little character development (e.g. the Travis McGee novels.)
  • Have a major narrative arc over the series (Merchant Princes.)
  • Take excursions into the setting and characters (Kage Baker's Company novels, with gratuitous deus ex machina blowout.)
  • Have the series slowly decline as all the good ideas are mined out and the characters/setting are fleshed out and set in stone ("peak plot" if you will.)
  • Use a stylistic gimmick to keep things fresh without major character development, such as writing each book in a different author's style (what the Laundry novels promised to be, but surpassed.)
  • Start series with good writing skills, then have each book be at least as good as the last through constantly improving writing skills and sheer effort of authorial will.
  • Speaking of which, it's a shame the Laundry wouldn't let Bob sod off to a Basque mansion and live in a Trevanian novel.

    24:

    Don't think of it as writing too much. Think of it as giving your editor a large shot selection.

    25:

    Charlie's said he plans for seven Laundry novels, and events in Apocalypse Codex convinced me he's borrowing his basic structure from Harry Potter.

    26:

    Taking out the periods should shorten it up a bit.

    27:

    Damn, having been on that stuff I can only express my sympathies for whatever forced you onto it for good.

    28:

    Can't do much else besides puke and sleep on opiates either.

    Dic's great for normal life, except the whole risk of internal bleeding thing.

    29:

    Yay, finished Nanowrimo this year. Now I can concentrate on turning it back into good writing, at a somewhat slower pace. Go writers!

    30:

    Dirk@ 12
    Diclofenac is an anti-inflammatory.
    Opiates are painkillers - VERY different.
    Ask Charlie - he used to be a Pharmacist, after all!
    See also Bellinghame's comment.
    Ditto for me - if the cause of pain is an inflammation, get rid of the inflammation!
    Opiates play hell with your bowels, too - tighten them up to the point where even a pint of green Abbott won't shift it, sometimes!
    Hence the old-fashioned remedy for the drop-outs (well I remember it from my childhood) ... "Kaolin et Morph. 2 teaspoons, twice a day, shake well before use".


    31:

    Wrong.

    I have plans for a nine book story arc, with additional side branches and entrypoints. Which looks like it just went out the window due to book #5 (actually book 4.5 -- it was meant to be a side branch) deciding to merrily go in a different direction.

    Also: while I slogged through the first three Harry Potter books I really don't like the millieu or style and gave up 50 pages into book 4, and have avoided the movies entirely. I have no intention whatsoever of borrowing anything from J. K. Rowling (apart from her bank card -- oops!).

    32:

    NB: I am not done yet -- motored past 110,000 words last night, still writing.

    33:

    In that case maybe you should feel out to your publisher about how much wiggle room you can get. 10% - 20% shouldn't affect production costs too much since you can fiddle with the fonts if everything else fails.

    34:

    I believe Ms. Rowling does not have bank card.
    She has a bank.

    35:

    I already know how much wiggle room I've got and I'm well within it.

    If the novel really overruns (unexpected at this point) then I may have to sacrifice the additional essay I was planning to tack on the end of this one. But if I do that, it'll just end up on the blog for publication week -- you'll still get to read it.

    36:

    You gotta be jealous of fantasy writers. They don't care about length...

    37:

    Fair enough. You'd said seven books a while back, but apparently the thinking has changed, which is certainly your prerogative.

    The climax of the fourth Laundry book parallels the fourth HP book closely enough that I'm surprised it wasn't deliberate.

    38:

    Nope. The thinking was never seven.

    I haven't read the fourth HP book.

    39:

    Apparently my memory is fuzzy, or maybe you said seven more books instead of seven total. It was a while ago. Apparently I got the wrong impression.

    40:

    Will there be a Charlie Stross archive, future scholars would be interested, I would unlikely
    To peruse it unless we get some form of life extension, but the ability to see the evolution
    Of one your books through various drafts would be nice

    41:

    Supposedly, James Ellroy had to cut down the MS for *The Black Dhalia* and decided to cut every 7th word rather than ax whole scenes. He credited this with giving him his blunt, choppy style.

    42:

    I imagine an articulated novel is hard to reverse.

    43:

    I now have this burning desire to know what the novel equivalent of a fully laden road train would be. (No, fat fantasy trilogies - or worse, Robert Jordan's offerings - don't count; they're generally not fully laden.)

    44:

    Ref #12 - I agree with both Greg and Bellinghman (this may be a first): Diclofinac and ibuprofen are anti-inflamatories which reduce inflamation, and hence reduce some types of pain at source. Examples being arthritis (either form), the various gouts (I think there at least 3, cause by differen enzyme imbalances)...
    Salisates and opiates are pure pain-killers which are really only applicable for pain from broken bones, nerves or post-operative.

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