So yesterday I got to type THE END, at (oddly enough) the end of a book I've been writing since last April. "Ghost Engine" is due out in July 2018, so having a complete draft is a bit of a relief, to put it mildly. (It takes 12 months for a book to work through the production pipeline, because publishers don't publish books, they operate a workflow process that runs in lockstep across multiple books in a pipeline.) Typing THE END doesn't mean it's finished, of course. It's currently with various trusted readers for comment, and I'm probably going to have to rewrite chunks of it. However, experience suggests that most of the work is now done. My books usually expand slightly as a result of the editing after they've emerged in draft, so it's pretty much a dead certainty that this will be my second-longest delivered novel (just longer than "Accelerando", at 145,100 words, shorter than the original Merchant Princes doorstep which finally saw the light of day in its original shape as "The Bloodline Feud", at 197,800 words). (For comparison, "Dune" weighs in at 188,000 words; one paperback page is approximately 330-350 words.)
Here's the funny thing about too much work: it feels as if you're spinning your wheels and not making progress at all. This year so far, I redrafted two novels, wrote about 45,000 words of fiction, checked one set of copy edits, checked two sets of page proofs, did a bunch of promotion for a book launch, and went on a one week business trip to New York and Boston. But until I typed THE END, yesterday, it felt as if I was losing ground and not getting anything done at all. Those two words, however significant they may look, are absolutely trivial: but psychologically, being able to draw a line through a to-do item (
write GHOST ENGINE) makes all the difference, and I finally feel I can relax a little.
So, what am I doing next?
Well, "Dark State" (the second Empire Games book) should be in production imminently, which means I have to check copy edits and page proofs. And by the end of this year I need to deliver a final version of "Invisible Sun", the third book in the trilogy. (It's written, but the ending needs tightening up. Not to worry, I have a plan.) I've also got a short story to write for Wild Cards because that's been on my to-do list for, oh, only a decade.
But the manic to-do list (five books in production!) that has been my constant companion and cause of sleepless nights since 2013 is finally coming to an end (three books in production, dropping to two by August) and I can finally think about new projects again for the first time in about five years. After I take the rest of this week off work to recover—time off in lieu for working over the Christmas/New Year holidays, I guess.
Here's a lesson I learned the hard way: once you're over 40, you should never commit to work-overload five years in advance. You'll be five years older, with worse health and less stamina, trying to keep up a pace dictated by your younger self. Over-work is fine—in brief doses. But as a continuous lifestyle for half a decade, it really sucks.
Meanwhile, I've got a bunch of convention travel commitments coming up this summer, including Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, and possibly even Nottingham, England! I've also got speaking gigs at the Edinburgh Science Festival and possibly the Edinburgh Book Festival, and there might just be some sort of launch event for "The Delirium Brief" in July. I'm going to put together an omnibus announcement on Friday (I'm awaiting an announcement from one of the conventions in question first).