Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Beginning of End of the Century

After two abortive attempts, one in December and one earlier this week, today was the first full day of work on End of the Century (the previous two attempts abandoned due to illness on the part of Georgia, both of which turned out to be easily treatable with antibiotics). I got a slow start, both because I had a lot of historical context to salt into the narrative, and because I'm always slow off the blocks at the beginning of a project.

I've stayed out of this whole "fast writing"/"slow writing" farrago, since neither really describes the way I work. I have a strange process, which I usually call "Measure Often, Cut Once." End of the Century is a case in point. If things go as planned, I'll have the manuscript done and ready to send off for my editor's review in another five weeks or so. But the actual writing represents only the last, and shortest, stage of a lengthy process. I started noodling with the idea of the novel a bit over five years ago, started making notes a couple of years later, and started researching and assembling an outline last spring. So what does it matter that writing 100K or so words of finished manuscript takes me four or five weeks, when I spent ten months or more putting together the 20K word long outline that forms the story's skeleton?

The only advantage to my way of working is that different projects can overlap, so long as I'm at different stages of each. My brain isn't big enough to allow me to write two books at once; however, with only a little effort I can outline one project while writing another, and researching and note-taking can be done anytime. I started the research for End of the Century while writing Further: Beyond the Threshold last spring, did the outlining while writing X-Men: The Return last summer, and did some final tweaking to the plot last month while writing the expansion chapters of Set the Seas on Fire. At the moment, while writing End of the Century I'm fiddling around with the outlines for Iron Jaw & Humming Bird and The Dragon's Nine Sons. And later this year while I'm writing those, I'll be researching and outlining the next projects, whichever those turn out to be (most likely Firewalk, but don't quote me on that).

In any event, here's the meter for the day. I did 3,497 words today, which tacked onto the 3,222 I managed to do in my two partial days previously brings the total to 6,719.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meterZokutou word meter
6,719 / 100,000
I probably won't be including very lengthy samples here, unless my editor chimes in and encourages it, but here's one little taste. This is the first bit of "Twilight", one of three plot threads that weave through the novel. It may also be the start of the book, but I haven't yet decided.
It was late morning when Galaad first caught sight of the city, looming in the east. The trip from Glevum should have taken six days, but with the winter’s cold, it had taken him nearer ten. Ten days of icy bridges over sluggish streams, the ground hard and cold beneath his thin woolen blanket at night even when he went to the trouble of clearing away the snow, freezing rain sometimes falling from the unforgiving gray skies, and harsh winds blowing when it didn’t. Had he ridden, he’d have made the journey in a fraction of the time, but he’d not been on a horse since the accident, and couldn’t conscience doing so now.

Many of the hobnails from the soles of his caligae marching boots were missing, knocked loose and left along the roadside as signs of his passing, and those areas of his feet’s skin not already thickened with calluses were now blistered, bloody, and tender. His left knee was swollen and sore, from a fall two days before on an icy patch of road, but while the joint did not have a complete range of motion it could support his full weight, though lances of pain shot up and down his leg when he did, so that he was able to continue, though with a pronounced limp.

The bundle on his back was lighter, if nothing else, now that he’d eaten nearly all the supplies of food he’d brought with him from his home in Powys, though of course that meant that had he not reached his destination soon he’d have begun slowly to starve. But it was a point not worth dwelling upon, so Galaad pushed it from his thoughts.

Galaad had never before been this far from home. He’d been born in the municipality of Glevum in the kingdom of Powys, twenty-one years before, and had seldom strayed far from the banks of the river Sabrina. The western kingdoms had been largely spared the ravages of the Saeson invasion of Britannia, so that throughout most of his childhood, Galaad had known peace. By the time he was a full adult with a child of his own, the rest of the island knew peace as well, and had one man to thank for it. But as Galaad’s steps had brought him further east, the more he saw upon the land the scars of the Saeson occupation.

In much of the west, the old order of the Romans had remained. The towns still survived, though their populations diminished, tenants paid landlords, community farmlands were tended. But as Galaad had walked through regions where the war with the Saeson had been close at hand, it was clear that the public authority had collapsed. Towns stood abandoned, farms gone to seed and houses left to the elements. The remaining Roman nobility had fled across the channel to Gaul, ahead of the advancing Saeson hordes, while the peasantry had retreated to the rural areas of the west, watched over by former town magistrates who now styled themselves as landholders and kings.

But one man was bringing order back to the island, restoring authority and the rule of law. The same man who had driven the Saeson back to their huddled enclaves in the south and east, and established his court in the former Roman capital that lay between, to hold the two groups of Saeson apart and to act as a bulwark against them for the rest of the island.

If any would know the meaning of Galaad’s strange visions, the young man was convinced, it would be he. Perhaps then the phantom that haunted him could be laid to rest.

Limping, his feet blistered and bloody, his legs and back aching, Galaad approached the high city walls with a prayer in his heart. At the end of a long journey, he had finally reached Caer Llundain, home of the Count of Britannia and victor of Badon, the High King Artor.

Galaad, for his sins, did not know that his journey was only beginning.

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