or, I decided to start writing regular blog posts and this happened
I used to be much faster.
The Second Death of Daedalus Mole took years to finish, but I knocked out the first draft in a matter of months. I spent many late nights huddled over an (inexplicably dusty) laptop, tapping out shaky dialogue and abortive plotlines, often not going to bed until four or five in the morning, if at all. It clocked in at about 88,000 words.
That’s done now. I’ve put it in a box and am resisting the urge to go back and eviscerate it, throwing good time after bad time. I often hear that the second book happens more quickly – which confuses me. Taking my life now and carving a second book out of it seems like an impossible prospect. How did it take me months to draft something at university, when entire days slipped by without obligation? I could chain myself to my desk, work ten-hour writing days, and yet I somehow only wrote one book? Now I’m a real person, with a job and a flat and what feels like no time at all.
Nonsense complaints aside, there is a real problem. When you sink so much of yourself – your feelings, your perspective, everything you’ve ever wanted to say – into a two-inch high stack of printer paper, and then the world doesn’t immediately catch fire, it’s easy to feel drained. I did it, I think. I took a scalpel to my brain and made a book out of the giblets. Now I’ve used up all my tasteful analogies and there’s bugger-all left for me to say. What next?
There’s a slightly realer problem than that real problem. I’m currently out on submission. I have three bits of writing to work with. The Second Death, while flawed, is a fun read with interesting bits. It’s currently sitting in a large pile of open submissions at a publishing house, waiting to be read. Gitt is the beginnings of a murder mystery set on a bleak island in the North Sea. Executive Nine is the first couple of chapters in a weird mix of The Terminator, Mad Max and Dune. A proposal for Gitt is currently with another publisher, and Executive Nine is hovering in the in-between, unsure whether I will return to it.
I don’t know which to work on. Gitt feels more commercial, and more like a real book someone might buy and read, but it’s loose and mysterious, and I don’t know where it’s going. Executive Nine feels more like me. It has structure, and a plan, and a robot. The protagonists of the two books feel like two sides of the same person – one surviving, one falling apart.
One of the books might turn out brilliantly, the other might fail miserably. Which one I choose could decide the next five years of my life. Which story will survive, and which will fall apart?
I find myself hesitating. I’ve always just… done it. I’ve sat down and written words until they line up and become a story. I’m not used to hovering. I don’t like it. Things have slowed right down, and I can’t see a way forward. Like this, in this muddy headspace, the last few weeks have felt strange… I feel unanchored, like a blog post without an ending.