I try not to make promises. Because I always fulfill them. Obligations rattle around in my ribcage and bounce off the bones.
Foolishly, I committed to finishing a novel in six weeks. Not just any novel: the sequel to Queen & Commander. The pressure to make it good (since the original won an award), the ever more complicated plots…. FOOLISH!But it was Clarion West’s Write-a-thon, where people raise money to help the workshop by getting sponsors for writing projects. (And someday I’m going to attend the full workshop.) Besides, I had my plot outline (except for the C-plot with Olivia in a Dyfed prison, but there was the plot workshop with Connie Willis and Paul Park to help with that). And I was super excited about this new character I referred to as “the robot Texas Ranger.”
So I wrote, drank coffee, and wrote some more. I was coming off a writing high—shipped a videogame in June, wrote a pick-me-up novella in July. Surely a novel in August was doable!
During this time, I attended a number of readings from Clarion West instructors. Super interesting. But at one—Samuel R. Delaney—in the cold amphitheater of the Seattle Public Library, watching this long-bearded man talk about sex and barbeque, I had the horrible epiphany: he was the penultimate instructor.
That meant I only had one week left, and I was spending half of it at a friend’s wedding in Chicago. (At this point, I still had two-thirds of the book to write… plus that pesky plot C.)
I didn’t see as much of Chicago as I might have done. I drank Intelligensia coffee while I wrote. I ate deep dish pizza… and hammered out the C-plot. My friend’s wedding was unexpectedly spiritual, which made me feel like an atheist (a sentiment that worked its way into the novel).
I finished the draft on the plane returning from Chicago. One day to spare. It’s out with alpha-editors now, and you might hear more about it in a few months.