The Point at Which We Start to Lower Our Expectations

I handed in Echopraxia (aka Dumbspeech) yesterday.

Hold your applause; I still don’t think it’s ready. I am very happy with parts of it. Other parts are so clunky I’d have to kill you if you saw them. A couple of elements have become gratuitous in light of recent changes to the story; they’re still cool conceptually, but they don’t advance the plot and I think I’m going to cut them. (The good news is that at least one of those elements would fit better into Intelligent Design anyway, so I can still explore the theme.) I’m even contemplating cutting a quarter of the book entirely — it’s mainly just setup anyway — and squeezing its essential bits into other places.

There’s also the inevitable case of Bioshock 2 syndrome — the bolt-between-the-eyes punch line has already been delivered, so how can any followup be anything other than denouement? I’m dealing with that by using that punch line to inform new themes — the role of humanity in a post-human world, the ass-backwards premise that god might exist after all (albeit in not quite the way the guys in the funny hats have told us). Whether that sleight-of-hand is sufficiently distracting, only time will tell.

In an ideal world I would continue to experiment: move pieces around, try out different scenarios, tweak and twiddle until it was as perfect as I could make it. There are other considerations, though: other projects on the go, a publishing schedule, a new editor who has been more than patient and insanely gracious over all my delays. And I’ve been too close to this book for too long for anything approaching objectivity;  I’m even beginning to hate the good parts. So I’m going to have to be content with the fact that I have at least crafted a coherent story, if not a consistently compelling one; that it says what I wanted it to, if not as eloquently as it could; hand it off to an experienced professional and let him do his job. Hopefully, a few months down the road, the diagnosis will be in, my eyes will be less glazed, and the prognosis will be good. Right now I’m just gonna let someone else deal with the fucking thing for a while.

If it’s any consolation, this was pretty much the way I felt about Blindsight at this stage.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday November 02 2011at 05:11 am , filed under Dumbspeech, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

35 Responses to “The Point at Which We Start to Lower Our Expectations”

  1. the ass-backwards premise that god might exist after all (albeit in not quite the way the guys in the funny hats have told us).

    *clunk*

    (Hljóðlegur falls over on the floor)

  2. Congratulations!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDajqW561KM

  3. Hurrah! Lookin’ forward to it.

  4. \m/

    Congrats! Yay for other projects. And yay for this one being that much closer to done.

  5. also re “the ass-backwards premise that god might exist after all (albeit in not quite the way the guys in the funny hats have told us).”

    in the words of Bill and Ted MOST EXCELLENT.
    I am afraid, in a good way. : D

  6. squee and hurrah.

    I wish we could have a big party. I like those for when I’ve done a big project. You could have a party know, and then a launch party too. here, have some virtual treats and cookies and things.

    trust in your editors and fellow writer peoples. you’ll be fine.

    the cutting room floor — gnaws on broom handle.

  7. Ps. Intelligent Design and Sunflowers?

    Pps. I hate it when I type ‘know’ for ‘now’. stupid fingers.

  8. If it’s any consolation, this was pretty much the way I felt about Blindsight at this stage.

    That’s actually one hell of a lot of consolation; or at least, reason for optimism. This is a book I really want to read.

  9. Has anyone ever told you that you would make a great Time Lord? Call BBC up and see if they’ll let you. :)

  10. Huzzah! It’s happening!

    I think we had a discussion previously about the title. Is Echopraxia final, or are you just using that as another working title?

    Also, for those of us not too familiar with the publishing world, can you provide us with a brief outline of the process from here?

    I assume that your editor will read the book and then suggest a number of changes and enhancements.How many rounds of iteration with this go? Are there any defacto rules when it comes to this stage in the process (i.e. six months from handing in first draft to publication)?

    Nevertheless, I’d like to buy you a beer. Please go and purchase the libation of your choice and send me the bill.

  11. Yay! I’m looking forward to it! and many many congrats!

  12. Coolness. Sounds vastly intriguing. I’m sure it will all fit together.

  13. ken: Nevertheless, I’d like to buy you a beer. Please go and purchase the libation of your choice and send me the bill.

    And then have one on me. Actually no, have two.

  14. Good things all around I suppose. Any word on those new/on-going other projects? State of the Union as it were?

  15. You sound like a severe perfectionist if the writing of BlindSight is any comparison.
    Even if you still think lowly of parts of it, you still managed to get in bits of hard science that made me feel I should be doing a hell of a lot more reading.

    I envy your seemingly endless knowledge on subjects of biology and whatnot, and dammit if I’m not looking for more from you.

  16. To echo Sheila’s comments above, Intelligent Design and Sunflowers? Is there any more information you could give us on these? And yes, I know we must appear the worst kind of dissatisfied fans after one project has just (mostly) finished, but… Whatever.

  17. RE: “…I still don’t think it’s ready.”
    To be fair, Pete, you would probably put another decade into it and you would still feel the same way. I’m sure it’s brilliant. And besides, any flaws that exist would simply give your critics something to yap about (which is a good thing!)

    Felix

  18. I’m sure the prognosis will be good! You’re like a chef or a theatre director, you know too much about how it was put together.

  19. This pleases us.

    Good work.

  20. To clarify from Jeremy’s comment — I don’t want to appear like a dissatisfied starving fan or anything. I figured since you brought up the title-sounding snippet in this post that you wouldn’t mind being asked about it. I HOPE.

    party on dude

  21. Fantastic!

  22. It’s a massive consolation: Blindsight remains my very favorite book.

  23. Felix said: To be fair, Pete, you would probably put another decade into it and you would still feel the same way. I’m sure it’s brilliant.

    Totally. And if it’s not brilliant, it will be interesting, which is nearly as good, and you know we’ll still buy it no matter what the critics say.

    Besides, ultimately, art is for the artist! If the audience gets it or enjoys it and/or the artist makes money, yay, but Van Gogh painted for himself and never made a real living from it. He followed the dictates of his Muse and left us a fabulous interesting slice of his worldview. Art’s mission accomplished.

    As always, YMMV.

  24. Progress is always wonderful news!

  25. Curiosity is good (although suspense and uncertainty are good too). So for those who asked:

    Intelligent Design is the next novel project on the list, and I’m pretty excited about it on a number of fronts: its content, its appeal, and its potential independence from the usurious deal-breaking contractual demands of increasingly-desperate traditional publishers. (Note use of the word “potential”. I may yet continue to be the industry’s bitch, depending on how things break along other axes.)

    Sunflowers continues to be a dream project on the horizon. I may well write another installment or two of the sequence in 2012 — a couple of editors have approached me with future anthos in mind — but the potential scope of the project extends beyond written prose and I’m not ready to give up on that dream just yet. So I don’t want to jump in too early.

    It looks like there might be another non-novular project in the offing, which I won’t go into just yet except to say that it’s next in the hopper, before ID. More to come when/if things get signed.

    “Echopraxia” is my choice for final title, at least. So far. I always liked it, but hesitated to commit because the malady itself only shows up very briefly in the novel. Now, though, it occurs to me that it’s also a wonderful metaphor for the central predicament facing the protagonist, so I can justify it on firmer grounds than “It’s a cool-sounding word”.

    Now I must get prepped for Caitlin’s book launch this afternoon, since I doubt the sight of me in a thong and dressing gown will do much to improve sales. Any locals without other plans might want to show up at Bakka around threeish. I am told there will be cookies.

  26. “Now I must get prepped for Caitlin’s book launch this afternoon, since I doubt the sight of me in a thong and dressing gown will do much to improve sales.”

    I don’t know about that, it might get someone’s attention.

  27. Glad to hear you’ve reached this particular milestone.

    So, how long was it between Blindsight being in this stage and Blindsight getting on the shelves? I know it’s likely to be an intolerably long time, but it always helps the waiting (for me at least) to have some idea of how long the wait will be so you can watch it being whittled down.

  28. Didn’t mean to be overly nosy re Sunflowers. had never heard about Intelligent Design hence was wondering if it was the work formerly referred to as.

    (non-novular: not a story about an uvula. I take this means that the YA collaboration with Caitlin is not next in the pipeline. disappointed)

  29. (you had mentioned something about Caitlin writing a YA series starting with kidneys, right? I just realized that if I was remembering that wrongly that my uvula comment up there is going to be a bizarre non sequitur rather an absurdum to an earlier joke about a YA series)

  30. Now I must get prepped for Caitlin’s book launch this afternoon, since I doubt the sight of me in a thong and dressing gown will do much to improve sales

    Hee hee. Hee.

    Mommy, what is that man wearing?

  31. Congratulations on finishing Echopraxia.!

    I’m very excited about all you upcoming projects.

    Hope Caitlin’s launch went well!

  32. I’d have been happy with Mutespeech but I suppose Echopraxia will do … heh, I’m just fucking with you. It’s lovely and, hey, I learned a new word. That hasn’t happened in a while. Bonus! All that and Intelligent Design too? I could shit rainbows, I’m so pleased.

    This is very good news.

  33. Yeah, baby! Way to go, Peter.

  34. Awesome news, cause I just finished Blindsight for the second time, and started reading Starfish for the third time with plans to read the whole quad-trilogy again (also for the third time) cause its awesome (Lenie is one of my all time favourite literary characters).

    I read Starfish when it first came out and I’ve snapped up everything else as soon it was released so this news has me stoked! Can’t wait.

    You rock dude, keep up the great work!

  35. Just please let us know where we can actually pay to buy a copy once it’s out for distribution.

    Dr Watts, you should get paid.

    Besides, I rather like hardcopy on the bookshelf.