Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

Living Advance to Advance

The First Heretic is starting look like it’ll be longer than I’d planned. This is good, and this is bad.

It’s good because I like long Horus Heresy books. A Thousand Sons was about 3,000,000 pages long, and that was ace. But yeah, regarding The First Heretic? Mostly, it getting longer is bad. Which brings me to another aspect of this “just starting out” lark, and that’s the feeling of those early days where you live advance to advance, jobless in all other ways, watching your bank account erode day by day under the claws of invisible finance goblins.

My original expectation was for this bad boy to be the length of Horus Rising, at a chunky and solid 400 pages, with Fulgrim and its 512 pages as the cushioning fallback option. The problem with me and planning is that I suck at it, and figured I could hit my deadlines with the 400-page goal easily enough. So that’s what I made time for.

512 pages? Naw. Screw that. I’m going to build a desk instead, and go to Amsterdam, and take a week off after Helsreach, and plan some short stories, and start a new blog, and… so on.

Now, in a classic move of swinging and missing on the last stretch of a midpoint deadline, every chapter of The First Heretic is longer than I thought it’d be, and I’m worried that 512 pages is the eventual, inevitable outcome. We’re talking “longer”, not “too long”. If it was “too long”, I’d cut the thing to pieces and spare myself the headache.

So I’ll be approaching my midpoint word count deadline, and only 1/3 through the book, instead of 1/2. A delay at any stage will bombard the works with spanners, clanging them off people’s heads and fucking up the otherwise benevolent flow of their chi.

Helsreach was late. No, Helsreach was Late. Almost Biblically so. Even if my eyes fell out and my hands caught fire, The First Heretic wouldn’t be that late. We’re not talking career-killing levels of intense tardiness, here. But still, if The First Heretic is much later, two things happen. Other people make sad faces at me, and I don’t get other chunks of my advance until it rolls over the finishing line.

Me and Katie took a pretty big risk in the 2009-2010 spread, deciding to live advance to advance until I get royalties. I’m still so new to this that I don’t get royalties yet, and that’s largely okay. She works as well, and is in the middle of what looks like it could be a soul-saving jump to a better gig with better money. But still, we’re talking about my half of the deal. Living advance to advance means I need to work fast, but that’s cool – I always write fast. If I write slow, it tends to suck and I lose my grip on what’s going through my mind. My thoughts outpace my fingers, moving on from what I’m doing day to day, and I’m left in the dust between them both, trying to get them to hug and make nice so I can get my shit back together.

‘Remember the good times,’ I’ll say. Stuff like that. It’s all very emotional.

The First Heretic going slower than planned is a bad thing, and I don’t have it in me to rush – I’m already working eye-bleedingly hard on this, so piss off. I can round out my finances with short stories here and there, and I’ve got some insanely killer ones to write for the Black Library soon, all to be jammed in various sexy anthologies. But doing those – especially to cover for the missing cash of a late novel – is even riskier. They take about a week each, which slows the novel even more, and they anger the pantheon of editorial gods if you spend your time diving after a quick buck instead of finishing the main thing you’re supposed to be finishing, like the professional you’re supposed to be.

Black Library Live 2010 is in one week, and is the deadline for a few things, as well as being a plane-hopping jaunt of intense sociability. I may just be beginning to narrow my eyes in the first, creeping beginnings of terror.

On the plus side, it looks like we’re pinpointing a date for the wedding next year, and the perfect place to do it. There’s also talk of getting my parents over in a couple of months for an engagement party, so the opposing teams of parental units can rubberneck for the first time and swap stories over their spawn bouncing into wedlock. I look down the misty paths of the unwritten future with an expression of manly and rugged defiance. This expression adroitly covers the fact I’m panicking behind my eyes – which, by the way, are a rather handsome arctic blue.

February 4, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,


  1. Yay dates and engagement parties and parents telling embarassing tales and such!

    Oh. And I guess yay book! Boo behind schedule. I need to stop being so ADD and actually get more written on mine…

    Comment by LisOr (see? No numbers.) | February 4, 2010 | Reply

  2. Your blog is living up to its promise of revealing the trials of being a writer. The tears and the triumph …the (insane) laughter.

    I just have to remember when I come along to the BL open day that you don’t like shaking hands …and I mustn’t ask how The First Heretic is going! If I unwittingly trigger a psychotic rage then you’ll hurt your hands as you batter me to a bloody pulp, which will only slow things down more!

    BTW, did you know that Nick Kyme called you a “dubious fellow” on his blog?!

    Comment by Ilmarinen | February 4, 2010 | Reply

    • Nick’s a shrewd guy. You know he chose those words with care.

      Comment by aarondembskibowden | February 4, 2010 | Reply

      • in truth you take as long as you wont (you will anyway).
        I trust you to deliver an epic, and I think you will.

        you have all my support and faith chap.


        Comment by nathan carman | April 26, 2010

  3. But I want 512 pages!

    Comment by Xhalax | February 4, 2010 | Reply

    • It seems that Fate favours you, X.

      Comment by aarondembskibowden | February 4, 2010 | Reply

      • HELL YAYZ!!!!

        (I was going to put something way more swear filled just for you MR. Dembski-Bowden…but it’s much better spoken then typed).

        Comment by Xhalax | February 4, 2010

  4. Fret not. Part of the job is learning how to let a book be what it needs to be. (Nemesis will also run long, believe me…)

    Comment by James Swallow | February 4, 2010 | Reply

    • WOO HOO!

      Comment by Xhalax | February 4, 2010 | Reply

    • And don’t even get me started on Prospero Burns.

      Comment by Dan Abnett | February 4, 2010 | Reply

      • See….now that just wasn’t fair, making it sound like Prospero Burns is going to be 80 million pages long.

        Is it going to be 80 million pages long Mr. Abnett?

        Comment by Xhalax | February 4, 2010

  5. As far as I’m concerned 512 pages is more Dembski-Bowdenesque Horus Heresy goodness which can only be a very good thing. Still recovering from the awesomeness that was Cadian Blood. Best of luck to you sir, I know it’s hard work.

    Comment by Phillip | February 4, 2010 | Reply

  6. I don’t want 512 pages. I want 1024. Or 2048. WRITE THE BIGGEST NOVEL EVER. Do it.

    — c.

    Comment by Chuck Wendig | February 4, 2010 | Reply

  7. Out of interest, roughly how many words are there per page? (Or put another way, what were the word counts of Horus Rising and Fulgrim?). Is there a set font, size and spacing that you use to know how many pages your book will be?

    And I agree completely that the bigger your book is, the better! (I’m happy Nemesis is running long too!).

    Comment by Ilmarinen | February 4, 2010 | Reply

    • ive wondered this; especially since the font in my copy of False Gods is larger than the font in, say, Horus Rising…

      Comment by KarlMkVI | February 4, 2010 | Reply

  8. You have done it !, people have stopped asking questions about the content of ‘First Heretic’. Now they will start to bombard you with questions regarding everything else 😉 😀

    Good luck 😉

    And, thanks again for coming to Amsterdam 😉

    Comment by Jerry | February 5, 2010 | Reply

  9. Well, as a motivator, no more D&D until you’re back on schedule.

    Man, did that ever get my home work done as a kid…

    Comment by G | February 5, 2010 | Reply

  10. I’m going to kick your ass…..HARD.

    Comment by RobAshWhite | February 5, 2010 | Reply

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