7/10/2009

Ideas

About a week back, deep into the edits and rewrites, I got to the point where I couldn't take any more and crashed to a halt. Saturday through to Monday I could barely speak or walk, and reacted to any queries, statements, or requests with a glassy-eyed stare. Don't ever let anyone tell you writing isn't hard work.

But I wasn't finished, so once I'd recovered a little I spent the next week doing more editing, mostly running through the now-completed manuscript to check on what I'd missed and, surprise surprise, finding lots of things that had me yelling "how the hell did I miss that?" In a better world I'd stick it in a drawer once it was completed and forget about it for six months before revising it yet again, but unfortunately modern publication schedules don't work that way.

Now I have to think of future projects, a wee hint at which is in that screengrab I posted up here a couple of days ago. There are several ideas for books floating around in my head, but not all of them are suitable for Tor.

It's worth taking just a moment to define exactly what I mean by 'suitable'. In that same better world, an author would be entirely unrestricted in their choice of subject matter - well, actually they're free to do that in this world too, but you run the risk of making your life a bit harder (unless you're a King or a Stephenson or someone like that, because then you're the goose that laid the golden egg, baby, and your editor is a less likely to nitpick about your latest novel idea ... unless the follow-up to your bestselling vampires and werewolves romance series is a collection of meditative haikus on the subject of Minoan pottery - then, maybe, you've got a problem). Some get away with it, some don't. Some are just damn lucky. Dan Simmons and Iain Banks are both annoyingly talented and damn lucky, in that they get to cross genre borders pretty much at will with a permanent get out of genre-jail card.

But for the rest of us, we mostly stick to a fairly specific area of subject matter. That's just fine most of the time, because mostly we really like that subject matter. But it's not just a question of your publisher expecting a detective story, or a science fiction novel, or a romance book. No, your detective stories are all set in Stalinist Russia during the '50's; or, your sf novels all have a strong emphasis on action, intrigue and interstellar travel, with a soupcon of aliens; or your romance novels all feature time travel and lots of Celtic mythology.

The requirements really can be that narrow. Come up with something else, and your publisher will likely balk. One way to get past this to write one kind of book for one publisher, and another kind of book for another publisher - quite possibly in an entirely different country, and sometimes under a pseudonym. I have a *lot* of ideas for books I'd like to write, and only some of them are full-on space opera (although nearly all are very definitely science fiction).

I've promised myself that at some point I'll try and write a different kind of book from my usual, althought it's going to have to be arranged not to interfere with the stuff I do for Tor. It would be 'on spec', written without a pre-existing contract. And only when I have the time.

To that end, I've been thinking about planning out a short novel and then writing a first draft at speed when I have a spare month at some indeterminate point in the future. When I say 'short' I mean about sixty thousand words, or half my usual book length. This decision to write something so relatively short was recently bolstered by reading Cory Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe, which clocks in at only fifty thousand words (it's very good, too: you can download it for free at craphound.com) and it's lean and mean with not an ounce of fat on it. If the book was an animal, it'd be a greyhound. But it would be nice to have something I can jump to when I'm not working on other projects.

To my surprise, I've even been working on some short story ideas. I used to find short fiction very hard to write - still do, if I'm honest - but not quite so hard as it might once have been. I think, more than anything, it's just nice to be writing something that doesn't feature either Dakota or Trader.

Other news: I mentioned a few weeks back that Stealing Light is doing very well in Germany (where it's known as Lichtkreig). To that end Heyne, my German publisher, have also bought the rights to Nova War, so you can expect to see that in translation before too long.

6 comments:

Boris Legradic said...

Shouldn't that be Lichtkrieg?

Cheers,
Boris

rockitboy said...

Ohgod ohgod ohgod - I understand the post-MS brainmush syndrome, utterly. Although I've finished the 1st draft, I still have to type up the bugger. Still got a coupla days to go befoe I can go into downtime mode, and focus on playing Fallout 3 till my eyes bleed....

Daniel Livingstone said...

Hi Gary,
Cant believe I have to wait till sept for Nova War! Just read the short blurb for the book on the front page of the blog here, and getting all excited...

Good to hear about the success in Germany, well deserved!

gary gibson said...

Thanks Dan, nice to hear from you. And Boris ... oops.

Martin said...

Just bought and started reading 'Stealing Light'

I wondered why 'Piri Ries' - I know...Turkish admiral 16th century.Fantastic Map - 'Alexander the one horn'. I even a copy of have Charles Hapgood's 'Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings'. But what made you choose that name for Dakota's ship?

Martin

gary gibson said...

Martin - it's been a few years now since I actually wrote Stealing Light, but I do remember stumbling across the apparently probably apocryphal story of Piri Reis (or the apocryphal stories he told, I'm digging from distant memory here). The idea of Dakota's ship being named after a sailor with a habit of telling very big fibs about places he'd sailed to (again, vaguely recalling here) tickled me, since I'm a teller of big fibs (ie a writer), and Dakota gets to go to some far-out places. So the name fitted, for me.