October 18, 2011

The Announcement You Don’t Want to Hear


A few of you already know this, and I’m sure some of you have guessed.  That doesn’t make the official announcement any more fun, for you or me. 

            PEG II is not coming out in 2012. 

            The reason I’m guessing a fair number of you have figured it out is because there has been a notable lack* of eager queries about how I’m getting on.  And while a lot of you don’t know that it (usually) takes about a year for a book to grind through the publishing process and appear on shelves and e-screens near you, quite a few of you do know.  And is there any screaming red doolally chance that I wouldn’t have told you that I’d turned PEG II in?

            No.  No chance, screaming red doolally or otherwise.  It’s also true that I sent PEGASUS in several times, trying to hang onto the schedule of getting it out last year, so that my editor could keep an eye on its progress and warily hold space in the schedule open for it as I ran later and later and LATER over deadline.  I think the final version went in in December—occasionally having a fading memory is a comfort—I remember more than I want to of the heart-bursting race to finish.  Some authors produce a beautiful new book every year and never break a sweat.  Some of us develop hernias and sunspots** over every adjective . . . and don’t produce a beautiful new book every year.

            The story thus far:  PEG II has been an indescribable, demon-infested nightmare pretty much from the minute I sat down to go on with the story after PEG I was accepted and passed into the publishing machine.  I had quite a lot of story left over from when I whacked PEG I in half—well, in two-thirds and one-third.  I knew a fair amount of the remaining one-third was going to need rewriting because PEG I had moved the goalposts around in some pretty significant ways.  But that was okay;  I was still ahead.  I wasn’t starting from zero the way I usually am when I begin a new novel.  And it’s true I wasn’t starting at zero:  I was starting at minus forty-six bazillion, but it took me a while to figure this out.

            Anyway . . . writing PEG II has been gruesome.  It’s been so gruesome that I’ve had a few of those dark nights of the soul when I wondered if I was, you know, broken somehow, and couldn’t write.  These moments were very, very bad.

            Very, very, very, very bad.

            So.  It’s August.  I have kind of given up, but I don’t know what else to do except try to keep writing this thing that won’t be written.  There’s all kinds of stuff going wrong—I know where I should be headed but the plot line keeps twisting out my hands and slogging off somewhere else.  People and sub-plots emerge and disappear;  the landscape shifts and blurs;  the words won’t come, and when they do they’re the wrong ones;  it’s bricks without straw, and there’s a gritty, crumbly mess where there should be a story.  And then I’ll hit some scene, some conversation, some development that is absolutely clean shining crystal clear . . . amid so much fog and muck I don’t know what to do with it or how I got there or how I get on to the next thing.

            Despair.  I start thinking about alternate careers.  Ditch-digger or something.  Maybe Jenny can use a stall-mucker.  She’s usually short on staff.

            I don’t know when, if I weren’t so adamantly set against any such idea, the truth would have occurred to me.  In hindsight I should have known pretty goddam soon, because of the way PEG II wouldn’t let itself be written.  But hey, I never claimed to be intelligent, only imaginative.  But there was this sense, if I hadn’t been too stubborn to see it, of cramming several gallons into a pint-pot. . . .

            PEGASUS is a trilogy.  That thing I said I would never write.  Arrrgh.  Also eeeeep.  And yaaaaah.

            Oh, and the second book ends even worse than the first.  The second one is called*** EBON, which should more or less answer the burning question all of you who have read the first one have, but having dealt with that little matter something even more appalling happens.  Well, slightly depending on your idea of more appalling, but . . . mmmrmmph.  You’ll see.  But you won’t see next autumn.

            The third book is—I think—called THE GOLDEN COUNTRY.  That’s what it’s called at the moment anyway:  that’s what it introduced itself as.  And . . . um . . . I hope the frell that’s the end.

            Meanwhile . . . my first reaction to this revelation of a third book (even if that did mean trilogy) was relief.  Gigantic, overwhelming relief.  I wasn’t broken!  I was just—stupid!  I can live with stupid!

            It still took me about a month to tell Merrilee.  I was sure she and my editor would hate me forever, and who could blame them?  Schedules are schedules and publishing is a business.  Dither.  Haver.  Twitch.  So I did what any sensible having-found-out-she’s-still-an-author-after-all writer would do.  I started another novel.

            Listen:  I can’t face PEG right now.  Cannot.  It needs to relax out of the knots I made of it.  I’m going to have to go back to the beginning of PEG II and unpick the strands, thread by thread, and lay them out flat again and try to see what they are this time.  I’m going to have to rewrite it . . . pretty much as if this last year never happened.  (Siiiiiiiiigh.)  And first I have to get my breath—and my courage—back.  So does poor PEG, I suspect.  The Client Complaints department of the Story Council has probably heard a lot about my shortcomings this last year.  Well someone could have told me. 

            So, I started this new novel.  And it actually went, like a novel should.  My first drafts are always fairly painful, but they should accumulate, paragraph after paragraph.  Like this one seems to be doing.  Like PEG II never did.  After about a month I told Merrilee what had happened.  I knew something was up with you, she said.  I just didn’t know what.   She promised to tell my editor while I hid under the bed.  And then my editor was wonderful about it.  Oh, a new novel, she said.  That’s terrific.  When can you hand it in?

            Have I mentioned I’m running out of money?  I was supposed to turn PEG II in, oh, last month or so.  I need to get paid.

            Well, I said to my editor, I was kind of hoping to have it in for spring ’13.

            Great, said my editor.  I’m looking forward to it.  I need it the end of January.

            It takes me a year in a good year to write a book.  A good year when I have some idea what I’m doing and where the story came from, and haven’t spent the previous ten months believing I’m broken.  And I’m presently trying to write a book that I had barely spoken to before the middle of August . . . in less than six months.

            So, am I even more totally over the edge crazed than usual?  Yes, I am.

            To be continued. . . . 

* * *

* For which I am extremely grateful 

** Sic.  It’s a very rough life, being this kind of writer. 

*** I think.  At the moment I’m trying not to be too categorical about anything.  My poor editor tried to announce this a while back and I said NO NO NO NO NO, which again in 20/20 hindsight, or possibly 751/751 hindsight, was a precursor to all the other eruptions and meltings down and chemical metamorphoses unknown to science and literature that were about to occur.  The second book has always been called EBON, since the moment I knew PEGASUS was going to be two (cough, cough) books.  The reason I lost my nerve, I think, was that I hadn’t yet seen there was a third beyond it.


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