Follow-up on Finishing The End of All Things

Because it’s always fun to do a post-mortem on one’s books when one is finished writing them.

* First, some of the fiddly bits: This book is a direct followup to The Human Division and continues the scenarios, events and characters found there. It also wraps up the larger story arc begun in The Human Division (i.e., you will find out who is behind all the cliff-hangery stuff and why), so those of you worried that there will be some things left unresolved and to be dealt with in a third book: Relax. It all gets settled.

Like The Human Division, the book is made up of smaller, discrete episodes — four novellas this time. Also like that previous book, those episodes will be released electronically first, with a print/combined eBook version to follow (for those of you who preordered the book, you’ve preordered the print/combined eBook version). There will also be an audiobook version, which will be the complete version; I don’t believe Audible plans to do episodes this time around.

The print publishing date is August 11; the episodic releases will be shortly before that. The print/combined version may contain extra material — if it does, that extra material will be released online as well (free!) so that people who buy the episodes will not feel left out in the cold. We learned from the last time, we did.

* As to the novellas that make up the book, I will be stingy on the details except to say that two are from the point of view of major characters in The Human Division, one from a previously minor character, and one introduces a brand new character who I think is very interesting indeed. The novellas average just under 25,000 words, with the longest at 33,000 words and the shortest at 17,500. They feature the usual action, adventure, explosions, aliens and snappy dialogue, in various percentages depending on events. And yes, the actual end of all things is a very real concern in this novel.

I’m quite happy with the novellas and with the arc of the overall story. I think fans of the Old Man’s War universe are going to like where this story goes, and where it ends, and what it means for the universe in general.

* For those of you concerned, the title The End of All Things does not mean that I am forever done with writing in the Old Man’s War universe. I’m not one of those writers who declares he is never going back to a universe he created, only to do so at some indefinite point down the line with some slightly embarrassed rationalization. I might come back to the Old Man’s War universe! Sometime! In the future!

However, The End of All Things ends this particular story arc in the OMW universe, and at the moment in time there are no other OMW books planned. I have other things I want to write and do, and six books is enough for now. My philosophy behind writing the OMW series (which I expect I will extend to any series I do) is only write books in the series if I enjoy the process and have someplace new to take the universe. Grinding out books in a series is a drag for both writer and reader. I have better things to do than crank out books in a series just for the cash, and you have better things to do than to read a book created in those circumstances. So while I never say never to more OMW books, for the moment, this is it.

* This book took longer to write than any other novel I’ve done so far. I announced that I was officially starting it on May 12, 2014, and I finished it on April 3, 2015, so there’s a total travel time of eleven months there. That bests the previous record-holder, Zoe’s Tale, which if memory serves took nine months. So what happened?

The answer I gave here at Swancon (the convention I’m current attending in Perth, Australia) is that the thing I find hardest to do with novels is to begin them: I fiddle, I hem, I haw, I try out different approaches and basically I bang my head against a wall until something works. Usually, with any novel, I only have to do this one time. But with TEoAT, I had to “start” the novel four separate times, because as it happens my writing process for novels and novellas is very much the same (short stories I don’t have this problem with, it seems). So that put a dent in my schedule.

I also had a pretty substantial false start to the book. Those of you who saw me during the Lock In tour remember me reading an excerpt from TEoAT, which I mentioned was an excerpt from the third chapter of the novel. Well, that excerpt is no longer in the book at all; neither are the chapters immediately preceeding it, nor the ones I wrote after it, either. It’s not that those chapters were bad (they weren’t) or that what I wrote was not telling a good story (it was). It was that the story I was telling there just wasn’t the right one. So out it went. Repeat this process at several points.

The End of All Things is 99,000 words long, but for the book I wrote about 140,000 in total — basically the equivalent of another long novella (or very short novel). All of that extra writing was necessary, but none of it is in the novel. Writing it, chucking it, reconfiguring and starting again adds time to the schedule.

The other thing is that quite honestly I did not manage my time as well as I should have while writing this. I have a lot of things going on and I ended up letting myself be pulled in several directions and not being as disciplined with the writing as I should. Normally this isn’t much of a problem — once I get going I write very quickly and generally hit the deadlines that I set for a project — but this particular novel, with its four beginnings (and one major and a couple of minor false starts), was more difficult for me than others.

What I’ve learned: Writing a novel comprised of four novellas is difficult (for me, anyway) and that if I do it in the future (which I don’t plan to), I need to both budget more time into my writing schedule and do a better job managing my distractions. Also, my next novel will definitely be, like, a normal novel. Maybe.

The difficulties with the novel meant that for the first time, I blew a book deadline, which kills me, but more unfortunately, also puts pressure on the folks I work with at Tor to rush to get the book out on schedule. I’m very annoyed with myself that it happened and that other people will now have to deal with my lateness. So, Tor folks: Sorry. I’ll try not to have it happen again.

* As an aside, I noted a while back that when I turned in The End of All Things, I would be out of contract with Tor, which is to say contractually I owe them no more books. This comment has apparently led people with more spite than brains to allege out there on the Internet that Tor’s dropped me, possibly not amicably, possibly because of low sales, etc. Let’s just say I find this a very amusing interpretation of events. It’s also a reminder that people say stupid things online, often about me, with remarkable frequency.

* Which segues into: What am I doing next? Well, for the next couple of weeks — not much! I’m going to finish my trip here in Australia and then I’m going to be in LA. I think I’ve earned a break. After that, yeah, I have several projects lined up, none of which I want to tell you about until they’re done. But they are all very cool. I will say that yes, I do have a novel planned to write later in the year, which would then presumably be out in 2016. Is it with Tor, which has dropped me because of low sales?!?!? We shall see! Suffice to say I don’t believe you will be at a loss for entertainment from me.

This Year’s Lenten Observance in Review

For Lent, I gave up ego searching, i.e., checking Google and other places to see if people were talking about me, and if so, what it was they were saying. I thought giving it up would be difficult, but after the first couple of days, it was actually really no problem at all — although I will admit that it probably helped that I removed my search bookmarks, and likewise the search for un-@-ed references to my name on Twitter, so that if I wanted to do a search, I would have to type it in manually. Seriously, who has time for that.

As I said, I thought I would miss it, and I was really surprised to find out that I don’t. Not knowing what everyone else in the online world was thinking of me at any particular moment was… surprisingly restful. Not knowing also did not materially change my life in any substantial way as far as I can tell.

Now that Easter is here, I can start ego surfing again, but I don’t think I’m going to — or at the very least don’t plan to do it with any regularity. I think I’ve reached a point in my life where I just don’t really care what the Internet thinks of me. Scratch that: I think I reached that point a while back, and I was just clicking on the searches out of habit. Stopping for Lent gave me a nice long time to break that, and now I don’t see what I would want to go back. Thanks, Lent!

(Also: Happy Easter, folks.)