Ah, the end of my overdraft. We meet again.
It’s been a while, no? But I remember you from when Helsreach was late. I remember you all too well, knave.
Although things are soon to be looking up finance-wise, we get to enjoy a thrilling dip back into that nebulous realm of being between paydays. Katie just left a job, and won’t get paid for her new one for a bit. And The First Heretic is late, meaning the only money I have is Republic Credits from my Star Wars: Episode I Monopoly. I plan to take several thousand of these to the big city tomorrow, and use them to pay for goods and services. Also, bounty hunters.
In honour of this wondrous moment of poverty-stricken and humiliating shame, I composed a haiku.
“End of overdraft.
Finish the novel fast, or
Die in a gutter.”
— Aaron Dembski-Bowden, 4:51am
It occurs to me that this isn’t an entirely accurate poem re: real life, because a) Instead of just rushing, I actually emailed my editor to say “It’s almost done, need a few more days”, and b) I’m physically incapable of speeding up. “I’ll totally do this one quick” soon became “Here’s Helsreach. Sorry it took 7 months, dude. How about that local sports team?”
Some people would call me unprofessional. Others, a perfectionist. Still others, a rugged, noble renegade on the frontiers of life, who stands tall and bears his teeth into the harsh northern winds.
These people are all correct.
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.