This is my 500th blog entry, which sounds like entirely too many, but over 4 years, that pretty much averages out to 2 a week, a socially acceptable number (or at least so I tell myself).
I had thought I'd hold off on Number 500 until I had an official announcement concerning The Shade Of The Moon, but I'm pretty much in control of when the official announcement will come, and I'm not quite ready to announce.
My publisher, the mostly lovable Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, made an offer for The Shade Of The Moon on Monday. It was, as offers go, only slightly insulting, which, my agent assures me, in this market is to be expected. So okay. I was only slightly insulted, and heaven knows, in my multi-decade career, I've been a lot more insulted on many more occasions.
The real problem (and it is a real problem) is that HMH, having taken over two months to read my two sentence synopsis (not even two sentences with big words, since I don't know any big words) thinks it would be best to publish The Shade Of The Moon in Fall 2012. And to do that, they'd need to have the manuscript in by September 1, 1011.
In other words (not the shrieking cursing kind of words, just the quietly sardonic kind), they take 2 months to read 2 sentences, and then expect me to write 300 pages (at more than 2 sentences per page) in less than 3 months.
A woman could shriek and curse. Both of which I did.
Here are the two problems with writing a 300 page book in less than 3 months. The first is I had other plans for this summer. I was going to read movie star and TV star memoirs (okay, I can probably do some of that, although I always read less when I'm writing). I was going to clear out the outside storage closet (forget that; I never do big jobs when I'm writing). I was going to wean myself off my beloved sleeping pills (totally forget that- writing gives me really serious insomnia). In other words, there goes my summer.
The other problem is that if I'm going to write a 300 page book (all right- maybe 270 pages) in such a short time, I have to know exactly what I'm going to write. It was a lot of fun doodling about with The Offering (which my agent hasn't finished reading, so don't ask where that fits into all this because neither of us know), but I wrote The Offering to distract myself from things I needed to be doing, and it didn't matter if I wrote page 116 thirty seven times (or page 37 one hundred and sixteen times- I've lost track). But with an actual already looming deadline, page 116 had better get written once, and then polished once or twice, and that's it.
Now I admit I've given The Shade Of The Moon a great deal of thought over the past couple of months (not enough thought though on what to nickname it- I guess Shade will do for the time being). I don't lack for material. Indeed, the problem is too much material, too many possible storylines, and way too much backstory. The book takes place 17 years after This World We Live In, and while I may be intrigued by every social and political development of those 17 years, that doesn't mean readers will be. Because they won't. I've learned that much over my multi-decade career.
So I have to clear out the backstory, but weave enough in so that what's going on makes sense. An incident that Juliet experiences at age 8 (to be arbitrary about it) becomes an incident Juliet witnesses at age 16.
I also have to figure out how much of the stuff I just love but doesn't really have anything to do with the book, I can use. My brain has come up with dozens of pages about Gordon Industries (one of the few businesses that has made big money off the end of civilization), but since Mom would never ever let Juliet work at Gordon Industries, what difference does it make?
And we won't even go into which important character is going to die 2/3 of the way through the book and how, because I simply don't know yet. Just that one will.
So all the material has to be absolutely clear in my mind before I agree to the slightly insulting offer. If I don't have absolute control of the plot and characters before I begin writing, then I'm not going to begin writing.
What I have been doing, to determine my control level, is writing out summaries of scenes I have in mind. I did a bunch yesterday and a few today, and intend to keep working on it, before I let my agent know whether the answer is going to be yes or no. I know some of you hate spoilers, but I figure if you go to the effort of reading any of these pages, then you deserve to be spoiled.
As it happens, Scooter loves spoilers. He takes after me that way.
So that's where things are or aren't. I'm going to do some more thinking work today and tomorrow if I need to and the weekend if I need even more time. I think I'll also start reading Sheldon Leonard's memoirs, since I may not have a chance to this summer.
When I'm ready, I'll tell my agent what I've decided. You and my publisher will find out from reading Blog Entry Number 501!