As someone who has never thought of himself as a fast writer, I had certain trepidations about this Predator novel gig, exacerbated by being sick for a couple of weeks when I'd planned to work on it and unexpected but lovely distractions (like Utopiales in France). The result is that I basically wrote Predator: South China Sea in two months. I had more than six months to work on it, but only spent about eight weeks at the computer and writing longhand. I'm almost hesitant to mention this because I think some readers and writers equate length of time spent on a project with quality. And it's certainly true that some ideas, some novels, require a long gestation period and an equally long time in which to revise, revisit, re-envision.Read the whole thing. What strikes me most about VanderMeer's concrete and very helpful advice is not so much the speed with which he wrote the novel in question, but the structure and preparation he put into composing it. Ask the average man on the street how big-name writers write, and you'll probably get a nebulous answer referencing "muses" or "inspiration" or "tapping life experience" or "just being born with it." And, yes, writing isn't exactly the same as accounting or plumbing. But it requires the same sort of skill, a dogged determination to apprehend arcane knowledge and master specific tools. It isn't some divine touch that teaches you how to construct plots or create characters. It's old-fashioned effort. First and foremost, writing is a craft, one we master with ink-spotted hands and wastebaskets full of crumpled drafts.
For example, long-time readers of this blog might recall that it took a decade to put together the stories that comprise City of Saints & Madmen and eight years to work on Shriek: An Afterword on-and-off. In my twenties, I was known to spend six months on a single short story or novella. ...
So, here's what I've learned.
(Picture: CC 2010 by emma.kate)