Answering some questions I’ve gotten in the wake of finishing Zoe’s Tale, in comments here at Whatever:
Alan Kellogg asks: “What about revisions and rewrites?”
To date I’ve not had to do any significant revising or rewriting once I’ve turned in a novel, and Zoe is no exception to this: PNH sent me notes on things he wanted clarified, and I duly clarified in the text, but the overall change in the text was minimal, and it had no effect on the direction of the story. I sent in all the changes last night; the text is now, I assume, off to the copyeditor (we will know it’s been received when we hear the screams upon the winds).
This is less a reflection on my utter brilliance (alas) or my status as a writer who sells so well he no longer has to sully himself with dealing with editors (ha!) as it does with the fact — as I’ve mentioned here before — that I do a substantial amount of revising and rewriting as I write, and before I turn in the work. I’ve discussed this before, in the context of how computers can make the idea “drafts” obsolete:
Here’s an interesting fact: All my novels to date are first drafts that weren’t outlined in advance. Why? Because the computer makes that possible. I can edit on the fly as I write so many of the major tasks of additional drafts of a book (polishing of the text, sanding down plot lines, etc) occur as I go along. The rewriting I’ve been required to do for my novels (so far, at least) has been minimal because by the time I write “The End,” most re-writing has been done as I went along. I suspect it’s not accurate to call the draft I send to my editors a “first draft”; it’s more of a “fractal draft,” in that it incorporates several waves of on-the-fly editing, emanating backward from various points in the text, terminating at the point of completion.
Doing this sort of “fractal draft” would not be impossible on a typewriter (or on a pad of paper), but it would be difficult to the point of distraction, which is why writers did have second, third and subsequent drafts of their work. Drafts are an artifact of the technology. Now, I’m aware that many writers still make two or more drafts even though they use computers, and I won’t gainsay them for doing so — the writing process that works for you is the writing process you should use. But I’m glad I don’t have to do that, and I’m glad I work on technology that allows me to write in a manner that is both comfortable and natural to me.
Mind you, and also as I’ve noted before, if PNH came back to me and said “we have a big problem here,” I would revise and rewrite. I like that I haven’t had to do it so far (it makes me feel shiny and competent), but I like putting out good books more, and my experience with PNH has been such that if he said to me there was an issue, well, you know, he’s almost certainly right. Dude won a Hugo for editing, you know. May have a clue what he’s doing.
To be clear, none of this should be implied to disparage writers who turn in manuscripts and then do a chunk of revising off of editorial notes. I know a number of very excellent writers who turn in books and say to their editors “now help me fix it!” — i.e., they very much look forward to the editor’s involvement at that stage. And they should, because that’s what works for them. For me, I prefer it the other way, and so far, I’m happy to say it’s worked, in no small part because my communication with PNH is good enough that a lot of potential issues are sanded down before they even get into the writing.
Erik asks: “Regarding The High Castle, how is that coming?”
It’s fine; I have a couple things on my plate before I get to it. But I’ll be getting to it soon; it’s going to come out in early ’09.
Neil asks: “any amusing end of project rituals?”
Aside from sleeping? No, not really. I was going to buy something stupid and expensive, but then I remembered that there was nothing I really wanted to buy, and anyway not having a regular income means spending only when you have money in hand. Stupid fiscal responsibility.
One thing I did do, that I often do at the end of a writing process, is make a couple of print-on-demand copies of the manuscript, so I can have a printed and bound copy of the text to read and refer to (I don’t have a printer, so I don’t have a physical copy of the text). You’ll recall I auctioned off one of the bound copies of The Last Colony last year in order to benefit the Mike Ford Book Endowment, and that did pretty well; I’m likely to do the same thing this year with Zoe, although probably with a different charity as the beneficiary. I’ll let you all know about it when it happens, obviously.
htom asks: “Book tour in the fall?”
A full-fledged book tour seems unlikely, I would think. Tor just gave me one last year, and I suspect they have other authors they might want to promote, too. I’m game for doing whatever appearances Tor wants me to do, but I suspect it’ll be trade shows and one-off appearances rather than a full tour.
Any other questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments.