You're probably wondering why I haven't been blogging lately.
The answer isn't terribly complicated. I spent October rewriting two novels, and I'm now busy writing the first draft of one before I switch over to re-writing the second half of another. Yeah, it's a really busy time for me, work-wise! But hopefully I'll have a rough cut of "The Delirium Brief" in another few weeks and a shiny rewritten version of "Invisible Sun" not long thereafter, and you'll thank me for it ... eventually. (Or, on past form, just tell me to "write faster".)
One thing I've been leery about talking about is that both these books are pushing me into what for me, as a writer, is terra incognita: "The Delirium Brief" is the 8th Laundry Files book, and "Invisible Sun" is the 9th in the Merchant Princes series (although the new books are sufficiently different that they're getting a new series title). In each case, I'm working on pushing forward a project I began in 1999 and 2001 respectively, and both series are now around the million word mark. How do I keep it all straight in my head?
The simple answer is, I don't. I can't, and I'd be astonished if any writer working on such a project could claim otherwise. A million word narrative is a fundamentally different beast from a novel, both in structure and in the planning and execution. The Laundry files as envisaged in 1999 was a single short novel. Then in 2005 (circa "The Jennifer Morgue") it was going to be at most a trilogy. Now it's (sticks thumb in air to test the wind) a 12 book story arc, with optional side-branches in the same universe. But even as recently as 2013 I had no idea that one of the novels would be told by Mo, not Bob, much less that the series was going to go multi-viewpoint.
The Merchant Princes was originally pitched as a tetralogy of 600-800 page doorsteps, but got sliced and diced and reassembled: the first omnibus volume reflects the first book in that embryonic plan, but the second story arc spans the next two omnibus volumes (it grew in the telling). The new trilogy drives off the map in a direction I simply had no idea of back in 2001, so that tetralogy plan is basically dead.
A side-effect of this is that if you push a project along for 15 years, inconsistencies creep in—and are frozen in print in earlier books. In the Laundry Files I accidentally stumbled into a really smart decision early in the game by explicitly declaring that Bob is an unreliable narrator, and his workplace journals reflect the state of his current understanding of events at the time he's describing. In the Merchant Princes I wasn't so lucky (I didn't exactly plan to make Dick Cheney the uber-villain; but by the time I realized what I'd done in book 2 I was well into writing book 3 and book 2 was already typeset). I planned to work around the consistency problem in the new sub-series by drafting it in rough form before the first book went to press: it's possible to keep a 1200 page narrative self-consistent (with difficulty) aa long as you have the luxury of being able to go back and fix errors in book 1 while you're writing book 3.
But when I finish these novels? Sitting down and writing something entirely fresh on a clean sheet of virtual paper is beginning to look really attractive.