writing update

Book update: the sequel to Stealing Light is almost at the halfway mark on the first, rough-ish draft. Draft is a misleading word in some ways, since it creates an image of an author bashing away on a manual typewriter until he has a complete manuscript, then marking it with a pen and then typing it out again, with appropriate adjustments. On a computer, things are much more organic, in that as you add new details into a constantly growing text file, you often take a step back into earlier parts of the story, adjusting them to fit the new material, and making various minor or major tweaks as you go (at one point during the writing of Stealing Light, I ripped out twelve thousand words of Dakota backstory that weren't working for me and brainstormed a brand new backstory over the next couple of days. It's easier than you think, once you get some practice: just open up a new file, call it 'rough notes' and type out whatever ideas come to mind until you have the germ of an interesting subplot).

I'd say there's about three phases a modern manuscript goes through - there's a first 'draft' of the appropriate length. Then you rework it from the start, chopping and changing sentences and paragraphs, trying to make everything clearer and more dramatic. Then a third run-through just to see what you missed the first two times. Then you find someone foolish enough to volunteer to read it and make comments. Phil Raines was one of the few people who read Stealing Light before it got emailed to the publishers, and the suggestions and comments he made definitely influenced the final shape and outline of the book. So then there was another short period of making adjustments, and then off to Pan/Tor.

In terms of time, you've got: full rough manuscript, eight to ten months. Redraft, maybe two months. Final redraft, two weeks, tops. Post-comment adjustments, two to ten days.

And then the publisher reads it, and you're into the unique hell that is the editing process. Word by word, line by line, paragraph by paragraph. I'm very glad to say I'm a long way from that on the new book.


Anonymous said...

Interesting to see your process Gary. Just out of curiousity, how often do you spend writing per day/week?

Anyway, I'm reading Angel Stations at the moment (slowly!) and really enjoying it - I've already got Against Gravity, and Stealing Light is on the way.

Gary Gibson, science fiction writer said...

Glad you like the books, Mark. If I can manage it, maybe two to three hours a day of writing. It doesn't really take that much time, because the way it works for me and a lot of people is, the ideas are stewing away in your brain even if you're not directly thinking about them. Then I sit down, since I've already got a few ideas about what's going to happen next, and bang out anywhere between three hundred and two thousand words, depending on the scene. It's an incremental process - getting from point a to point a.2, then a.3, so on ... Other days I don't write at all because I'm feeling braindead, but somehow I manage to make it up the next time i sit down.