Escape from the Empire State

One hundred and six days and 100,615 words after I started, the first draft of Empire State is finished. True, there were some wobbles along the way. True, it needs a fair amount of work at the second draft. But for now, it’s done. I’ve written three full-length novels.

Empire State began it in November 2009, with the intention of getting half the book done as part of NaNoWriMo. That didn’t happen. Nor did I meet my first self-imposed deadline of December 31st. Or the second deadline of January 31st. Or the third deadline of my birthday, February 2nd. But hey, that’s life, right? My average daily wordcount over the writing period is a quite shockingly low 949 words – way, way off my target of 2,740 per day for 2010. But as I’ve mentioned before, some odd things happened between November and now. Suffice to say my output is much higher now – in fact, on Sunday, the day I actually finished Empire State, I clocked up 5,379 words. It’s amazing what a little motivation – like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel – can do.

Now what? Well, Empire State joins Dark Heart and Seven Wonders in a dark drawer. I’ve got a Big Fat Plan for this year, which involves taking one of these titles – along with book four – and working it up into a proper second draft fit for my beta-readers. I have a feeling it will be Empire State, although Seven Wonders might give it a run for its money.

But having written three books, I’ve noticed a change which is both logical and obvious when looked at from the outside, but which was still noticeable and even surprising as I experienced it from the writer’s point of view.

Empire State is a much better book than Seven Wonders. And Seven Wonders is a much better book than Dark Heart. Not just in style and technique, but in depth of story, character and theme as well.

Or, to put it another way, I’ve got better.

Okay, that should be obvious, right? As I write more and more, I learn more and more, and I get better and better. It’s like anything, be it starting a sport or learning a musical instrument, the more you practice, the better you get. I had a couple of odd conversations about this recently with people who expressed not only surprise but mild shock and disgust when I suggested that to be a good writer you had to bust your ass. Huh. Some people think writing is easy. Suffice to say, these people are not writers. Kevin J. Anderson had something to say about this the other day. Personally, I’d listen to him. He’s written more than 100 novels. The swine.

Having realised that I’ve improved, and having actually recognised the change in my writing since I began with Dark Heart a few years ago, it gives rise to a slightly odd feeling about book four.

Ludmila, My Love is a science fiction ghost story, but unlike the previous three novels, what came to me first was not an idea or a plot, but a theme. Having always associated theme with Proper Writing, I was quite chuffed to be able to think of Ludmila in these terms even before I had the plot nailed down. In fact, I’m still outlining now, and I don’t expect to start actually writing the thing for another week. But this is good, because along with the satisfaction of finishing Empire State came a mild depression – having lived with the characters of one book for so long, it’s always sad to leave them behind. However, in this case the sadness was short lived as it was quickly overcome with excitement for the next project.

So, a week of outlining, then two months of writing. I’ve got a good feeling about this one. Wish me luck!

  • ronearlphillips

    Congrats! When I hit trouble, that's usually when the manuscript goes in the virtual drawer. Half a dozen are in there now. Need to take one out and finish it, so I can feel accomplished.

  • Impressive! Three books in the drawer. I really hope they will leave the drawer soon and find their way to my shelf 🙂 Good Luck for Ludmilla, My Love.

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