Saturday, March 24, 2012

Journal of the Monkey Years

By rights, and with an infinite number of damn fine monkeys at my disposal, turning out word-counts to order should be easy as peas. Picture me (and I’m sure you do, having no better ways to fill your time*), and I’m certain you picture a one-man manufacturing process, like something from the peak period of the Manchester mills, streaming out vast yardage of words that are pneumatically wound onto bales and then taken to Liverpool by dray for wholesale use in a million everyday knick-knacks, such as novels, superhero comics, shopping lists and emails.

All the while making a deafening clickety-clackety noise.

Well, it’s not like that. For a start, a lot of my time is taken up with secondary but vital parts of the writer’s craft, such as hunting for tea-bags, and inventively swearing at telemarketers (“Cock the fuck off, Arse-bag!”). Also, staring out of the window with a rope of drool depending from the corner of my lip takes a fuck of a long time, okay?

It’s also worth noting. No, seriously, it is. Really useful, I’ve found.

The thing is, writing [insert stupid number] novels doesn’t hone your craft. It just multiplies the ways you can find to write books. It’s not like I got to [insert smaller, but nevertheless still stupid number] novels and thought, “that’s it, then. That’s how it’s done. That’s The Method.” Each one has been a different experience. There’s not a single trick, tip or shortcut I learned writing any one of those [insert original stupid number] that proved to be remotely helpful with the one after.

The novel writing process used to be all about productivity, and charging along, milling out words while heading for the glorious horizon. Plots were like napkins at the drive through. You take them, even though you won’t actually need them unless there’s a seriously messy upset.

Nowadays, writing is a lot more thinking up front. Thinking, and notes. For weeks, even months. Then there’s a frenzied, almost feverish period of writing. That’s how Know No Fear was. I’m wondering if that’s how Pariah will be. The me that wrote Necropolis or Riders of the Dead would in no way whatsoever recognise the me writing Pariah. Or my process. The process is like a live snake. Every time I add another book to the [insert stupid number and add one], it squirms around to find a new way to slip out, a new way to break free.

I don’t blog enough. There! I knew there was a point to this. I don’t blog enough. It ought to be really easy to put out a few hundred words every few days, especially given my mill full of monkeys. I should barely notice a blog. But it doesn’t work like that, and I’ve worked out that it’s because of the process. I think of myself as very disciplined, focused and regimented, at my desk early, working away, but in truth every book, every day is the start of an mysterious adventure. Adding in something else like Write A Short Blog Every Day to the "To Do" list, and it’s just one more thing that, at the end of the day, you can look at and sigh, “Shit, that didn’t happen.”

Nik’s managing to blog every day. It’s incredibly impressive (I’m referring to the frequency of the output, but the blog itself is also impressive and I urge you to check it out). I look at myself and see that the monkeys have written Could Do Better in red in my margin.

So I wrote this blog post to tell you that I’m absolutely not going to be writing a blog every day. Writing a blog saying I’m going to try to write a blog post every day is tantamount to failing before you even start. It’s tempting fate.

But let’s see if I can do it slightly more frequently, shall we?

*Standard irony engaged, Captain.


Duke_leto said...

While I would love to see more b/vlogs answering all my fanboy questions - if it were a choice between b/vlogs and novels/shorts/audiodramas then I will take the shooty death kill anytime!

Big said...

You Da Man Dan! i agree with The Duke mate. If your quality of writing has this price.. then i would gladly pay it ;-)

Will Wright said...

The Monkey Overlord says less Blogging More Writing
Gonna say it again because it really fits this post.
I love when Dan does not blog for a month at a time.
Means he is writing the stuff that matters(Such as Know No No)
That would be a great title for a dog training book :p

Tiff Pazet said...

Thx for best book in universe Warhammer 40k. U fan from Russia Republic Sakha Yakutia. W8 new books :)

Elizabeth Bramwell said...

If you are feeling bad about lack of blog output, go check out the literary project. I haven't found the time to update for nearly a year, other than posts to apologise for the lack of posts. And I'm not producing cart loads of awesome books, or even crapy ones for that matter. In fact, my writing output is almost non-existent. If we have to choose between bloggage and books, well let's face it, we want the books waaaaay more.

I have to go re-read Riders of the Dead now. I almost forgot how much I love that book.

Anonymous said...

Thank you

Dan Abnett said...

Thanks for the generous and support comments regarding the lack of blogs, guys. It makes me feel a great deal better about the long gaps between.

Didn't stop me blogging again this morning, mind ;)

Anonymous said...

Wait, who are you again?

aaronspuler said...

I've heard that John Ringo is like that, where he thinks about a book for 4-5 months and then goes on a bender and pounds it out really quickly. I believe that 'Live Free Or Die' was something that John though about for about 6 months and then sat down and wrote the novel in a week.

Jonathan Green said...

Don't worry, Dan. I've got the daily blogging thing in hand. ;-)

(Thing is I don't blog every day. Some days I don't blog at all. Other days I blog a lot, but I schedule when they'll appear. And, of course, I'm not writing Pariah or Horus Heresy novels.)