Please excuse the shortage of blog posts. I'm up to my elbows in a novel that's eating all the keystrokes I throw at it then belching and asking for more: it should be done—at least in first draft—in another week or so, but in the meantime I don't have much energy for other writing.
Novels are pretty much the most complex form of written fiction you can work on, unless you're the kind of glutton for punishment who goes in for long series works in which each novel is an episode. Of which I'm guilty: the current millstone tied to my neck is book eight in an ongoing series with a lot of back-story, so I'm constantly weaving long-term plot threads together. And a side-effect of scale is that with seven earlier books and nearly a book's-worth of short stories to draw on, there are a lot of loose strands that ought to tie in somewhere later on. One of the cruel paradoxes of such series works is that they take so long to write that the author is doomed to age-related declining memory function just as the work becomes so complex that they need the voracious retention capacity of a young adult to grapple with it. I wrote "The Atrocity Archive" when I was 35; I'm now grappling with "The Delirium Brief" at 51, and I reckon I need to finish the core of the Laundry Files series before I turn 60 lest I lose the plot completely somewhere in the final volume—provisionally titled "The Alzheimer's Tract".
(That was a joke, by the way. Ha. Ha. Ha.)
Another problem with series works is that, unless you were at pains to plain the thing as a unitary whole when you started it, the background expands like Elephant toothpaste (or maybe Mercury(II) thiocyanate decomposition in the case of the Laundry Files). "The Atrocity Archive" wasn't so much planned as it just happened—a one-shot short novel written with no thought of sequels. In fact, the only way to make sequels work was to make Bob a horribly unreliable narrator (a role at which he excelled). By the time I introduced other viewpoints into the series (Mo in "The Annihilation Score", Alex in "The Nightmare Stacks") I had a pretty good perspective of what the world was about, and a rough idea of the trajectory of the 12 book story arc. But I also had so much back-story to keep track of that bits kept dropping off my radar, because middle-aged memory is not my friend.
Do you want to know the real reason George R. R. Martin's next book is late? it's because keeping track of that much complexity and so many characters and situations is hard work, and he's not getting any younger. But George has pioneered some fascinating coping strategies for the authors of long series works, which can probably be summarized as Martin's Law: "When the plot metastasizes, the best form of chemotherapy is to massacre your protagonists". (Personally I find a bijou nuclear apocalypse works best, or failing that, having an Elder God return to dine on everybody's soul.) Next, you've probably heard of playwright Anton Chekhov's rule: "if a gun is placed on the mantelpiece in the first act, it must be fired in the third". To which I'd like to add an observation of my own: if you're writing a series work you're allowed to leave the guns on the mantelpiece between books, but sooner or later you need to pull all the triggers or your readers will forget about them.
So that's what I'm doing right now: I'm running round the metaphorical house, pulling guns off all the mantelpieces and firing them wildly. Ahem: most of them. And I'm taking care to position a couple of new guns where I can find them for future books (or, in one case, a Chekhovian tactical nuke). And that's why your weekly blog essay is delayed.