Work Ethic

This interview with Tim Lott in The Guardian about his writing day resonates quite strongly with my own experience, although I still get marginally stressed out because I'm not pounding out scintillating prose from dawn to dusk. Like Tim Lott, I don't really average more than a couple of hours a day of writing when I'm actively working, particularly on an early draft. Sometimes I get crazy/busy, usually on the run up to a deadline. I had a last minute marathon working on River of Light that saw me write six thousand words in one day, but that's very, very unusual for me. Usually, when I hit  two thousand, something just goes 'pop' in my head and more words refuse to emerge. But I'd been working towards those last six thousand words for a long time. I knew exactly what was going to happen, and it moves at a pretty brisk speed, so I kept up the momentum. But like I say, not a typical day.

I can't remember where I read it or who exactly said it - it might have been Nick Mamatas, perhaps on his blog - but fretting about not having done 'enough' writing each day is just the part of your mind formed by the Protestant work ethic that thinks if you're not constantly slaving away, then you're not really doing your job. Which is, of course, untrue. It doesn't matter how long it takes you to do the work. It's the quality of the work that matters, regardless of whether it takes you an hour or half a day. It's worth remembering that Stephen King, one of the most prolific authors of our day, reputedly works only four hours a day.


Book titles

The process of naming a book isn't always that easy. My first novel, Angel Stations, had that name essentially be default. It was the working title, and I couldn't think of anything better, and so it became the actual title. I suspect I might have tried to come up with something arty-sounding, but in the end people told me the name in fact had an air of mystery about it that they liked. So in the end, keeping that working title was a good thing.

Against Gravity was a difficult one, partly because I completely forgot to include the Paolo Soleri quote at the beginning that would have given the title context, and the line that essentially related that quote (about architecture - and thereby all of human effort - being a constant struggle against gravity, by building higher and higher) wound up getting deleted during the edits. So it wound up with that title because a) I thought it sounded really cool, and b)again, I couldn't think of anything better.

Stealing Light, however, I'm fairly proud of. That title had resonance with Promethean legend, stealing fire from the Gods and so forth; and indeed the basic story was a variation on the classic Promethean myth of stealing from the Gods, or at least the Shoal. I got stuck for at title with the second book in the series, and offered various options to the publisher - one idea was Night's End. Instead, they came up with their own title, Nova War. I'll be honest; I've never been that crazy about it. If I'd thought of the title 'Empire of Light' earlier, that would have been a great title, but that again would have left me with the question of what to call the third book.

(I recall that at one point I considered keeping the word 'Stealing' instead of 'Light' in each book of the series. Hence book two might have been Stealing Fire and the third Stealing...something or else. But in the end, I realised just how naff that sounded.)

Final Days and Thousand Emperors I pretty much had the titles for from the get-go, and I still like them, particularly Emperors or, as I sometimes like to call it, 1kE.

The working title for the book I just handed in (and which I'm currently once again editing) was River of Light. It's a continuation of the Shoal books - a stand-alone, not a direct sequel by any means, and with an entirely new cast. However, the current thought at my publishers - and I've reluctantly come to agree with them - that the name River of Light implies that it continues directly on from the previous books, rather than being a stand-alone, and so that title might put off those potential new readers who believe they need to have read the previous three books in order to understand what's going on. It's my hope that they won't have to at all, although inserting relevant details of the previous books without swinging into full as-you-know-bob-ism has certainly been a long and intricate process.

The working title for River of Light was Core - 'core' referring to the core of the Milky Way. Then I came up with A River Across the Sky, except the faux-poetics of a title like that don't necessarily reflect a book which is in many ways an action-driven space opera. Then it became River of Light for, well, obvious reasons.

Myself and Bella, my editor, swung briefly back to Core. But coming in late is a new title contender: Marauder, this being an entity that plays a crucial part in the story. Marauder is growing on me.

First person who mentions a certain Blackfoot album gets slapped with a wet fish.