DONE! Er… Almost

The first draft of THE CONCUBINE VECTOR is finished as of this moment. It is roughly a zillion words over my word limit, so I will have to spend weeks and fortnights cutting it down to size.

It runs from AD 11049 to AD 51555.

The first three chapters of the next book, tentatively titled THE ASYMPTOTE OF MAN, are already written. It picks up the action at AD 70220.

The final volume, tentatively titled COUNT TO INFINITY, will have its second-to-last scene set somewhere around 21, 000,000,000 AD

For those of you keeping track of dates.

28 Comments

  1. Comment by The Ubiquitous:

    Just re-read the first two books in this series. I have to say that where the first book reminded me of Doc Smith — fine so far as you can throw him, creaky and delicious in all the familiar places — The Hermetic Millennia was so different it doesn’t even seem to be part of the same series. It’s more different than Speaker for the Dead was compared to Ender’s Game, I recall — by the way, Millennia is easily in the same crisply literary league as Speaker, even if Trillion is only in the same league as, say, Skylark DuQuesne.

    Yes, Millennia has the same worldbuilding, and many of the same themes, but the storytelling conceit itself was so nifty, and the scale so mind-bogglingly large, I almost didn’t notice that structure and ambition and execution was so immensely superior to the first. But it was. I’d rank it as high as the best of Mike Flynn’s novels, and I don’t say that lightly.

    Question: Should I expect something radically different for each of these books?

    Alternatively, do you expect that this series, like The Dark Tower and The January Dancer series, will be told pretty much the same way from installment two until perdition, where the first novel is an outlier and the rest fit together more easily?

  2. Comment by Brian Niemeier:

    Congratulations!

    I know that you’ve completed first drafts of numerous books, but as someone who’s only experienced it twice, there’s nothing like typing “end” on a manuscript’s last page. I share your joy as though it were mine.

    I also share your dread at the prospect of looming revisions. I’ll be praying for you.

  3. Comment by Nate Winchester:

    Dude, spoilers! ;)

    Ok, so fill in a n00b’s ignorance of the industry: you have a word limit? I thought the point of novels is that you’re less restricted in size. Is this a personal word limit or one established by the company?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      It is established by the bookstores, who limit the number of inches a binding can occupy on the shelf. Any author whose books do not sell through finds his name not on the list of books the stores are willing to buy from the publisher. Nowadays, now that bookstores are large conglomerates, the calculation is done by computer with no human judgment involved, so that midlist authors with a fine record of book sales if he suffers one book that was bought in too large a number or made too small a sale, suddenly his books are not bought in as large of numbers by the distributors, and therefore his sales drop again, and therefore his books are bought in even fewer numbers, and therefore his career is over unless he changes his name and writes under a pan name. This has happened to a friend of mine, John Hemry/Jack Campbell who writes the LOST FLEET series.

      What happened to me with THE HERMETIC MILLENNIA is that a staffer made a mistake and over-ordered the production — whether it was too many units or the manuscript was too long was not clear — and so I cannot make my numbers unless I sell out every single copy of the book. That is why I am pathetically begging my readers to go out and buy them all, because I have been informed the publisher will not buy the rest of the series. If the book sells through, I have some hope that they may reverse that decision.

      • Comment by Nate Winchester:

        Oh… I had not realized that. Now I feel bad for getting my copy from you direct. (though I don’t know if I’ve seen it in bookstores… maybe 1 of them)

        My friend (who is just about finished, he’s reached the “snow scene” and had the same thought I did) got his electronically. John, Sarah Hoyt and Ed Trimnell talk a lot about indie publishing and ebooks. I wonder if someday we might see books (perhaps from you?) which are only sold electronically because they’re too big for normal runs.

        Heck, I’d even say this series (did you settle on an arc title? is it as tvtropes says “count to the eschaton”) it would have been pretty interesting in ebook format; a whole sort of… “meta publishing” where you talk about the distant future on the cutting edge of our own tech.

        Now if we could only get this series sold as a TV series on HBO… (though I think you’d have to add more sex scenes to get their minimum)

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          ‘Count to the Eschaton’ is indeed my name for the sequence. I am looking into selling it electronically if Tor books is not interested in continuing.

          • Comment by Finlay:

            Oh, please, oh, please, Mr. Wright, don’t only sell your books electronically! Some of us do not do so well reading on screens… :( I sometimes have to print off your longer blog posts in order to read them. Or if you must sell it electronically could you do so in some format that allows us to print it off ourselves? I will bind the book myself if I must.

      • Comment by Darrell:

        Though not a particular fan of your science fiction (I need for you to write more fantasy) I will purchase THE HERMETIC MILLENNIA as soon as my wife re-enters the workforce — hopefully soon!

        I’d read that, at least at one point, the publishing industry expectation was for each book in a series to outsell the prior book (maybe people borrow the earlier books to catch up). Maybe that is in part what failed to happen in your case?

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          No. In my case the associate editor purchased a manuscript over a given word limit that neither he nor I was aware of, and the way the numbers game works, this means my next book, no matter its sales potential, will be bought in fewer numbers or not at all.

      • Comment by luckymarty:

        Are you saying the publisher has already decided not to buy the series after THE JUDGE OF AGES — even though JUDGE hasn’t actually come out yet — because of an ordering glitch for THE HERMETIC MILLENNIA? That seems odd.

      • Comment by Brian Niemeier:

        I’ve got my copy of ‘Millennia right here. I lent ‘Trillion to a friend who’s deeply enjoying it. I’ll ask him to buy the sequel. I’ll also put out a call on all the social network sites I frequent and my blog.

        I saw Tom Doherty last week at Gen Con. It’s probably good that I didn’t know about this at the time, because the panel would’ve ended with security prying me off of his ankle.

  4. Comment by robertjwizard:

    Mr. Wright was a sci-fi-writer-doo-da-doo-da
    Mr. Wright was a sci-fi-writer-who-blew-my-mind-all-day

  5. Comment by Ed Pie:

    I can understand what it takes to tighten up a manuscript when it’s just a little over the word limit, but what do you do when you’re zillions of words over? Delete whole subplots? Redact chapters that are interesting but don’t advance the plot? Reorganize things so less critical contact might be saved for a future publication?

    I respect economical writing, but I have a constitutional difficulty throwing something away just because I can’t immediately justify having it.

    • Comment by Mary:

      Usually what you do is chop it in half.

    • Comment by Brian Niemeier:

      I distilled a 300,000 word manuscript down to 88,000 using three strategies.

      First I redrafted, making my prose as economical as possible. This approach accounted for most of the reduction.

      Second, I made sure the narrative flowed in linear manner. I don’t mean that the plot itself was linear; just that major events followed a logical chain of cause and effect. A good rule from the writers of South Park: if the only way you can describe the transition between two scenes is with the phrase “and then”, rewrite until it’s “but” or “therefore”.

      Third, I did combine a few characters and cut a few unnecessary scenes. Doing this actually trimmed the MS less than the other methods.

      Hope I helped.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        My plan was to take my table of contents and, without rereading the MS, write a one paragraph description of the chapter, one sentence per sub-chapter, and then go back and cut whatever does not fit into the outline thus defined.

        • Comment by Brian Niemeier:

          Now that’s an interesting method. I primarily used the discovery writing approach on my first two books, but I’m trying a full outline for my current project.

          Good point about not rereading the first draft. During the aforementioned rewrite I only referred back to the original MS for the first few chapters. I had my doubts but got excellent results.

  6. Comment by Malcolm Smith:

    I’m reminded of R. Lionel Fanthorpe, who wrote 180+ sci fi and supernatural books over a dozen or more pseudonyms. He would sit, sometimes under a blanket to aid concentration, speaking the story into a tape recorder. Often he would pad the story to make up the required word limit. Then, the typists would phone and tell him he had just 3 or 5 pages to go to reach his limit, and he would quickly wind up the story with a sudden, “with one jump Jack was free” type ending.

  7. Ping from An Appeal to Fans of Proper Science Fiction | Brian Niemeier's Web Journal:

    […] come before you to plead on behalf of John C. Wright, a marvelous science fiction¬†author whose work I greatly enjoy. My fellow nerds, the time has come […]

  8. Comment by sator:

    I can’t wait!

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