Daily life: Wordage, The Three Lands, and the Epic of Gilgamesh

"The most important thing is habit, not will. If you feel you need will to get to the keyboard, you are in the wrong business. All that energy will leave nothing to work with. You have to make it like brushing your teeth, mundane, regular, boring even. It's not a thing of effort, of want, of steely, heroic determination. (I wonder who pushed the meme that writing is heroic; it must have been a writer, trying to get laid.) You have to do it numbly, as you brush your teeth. No theater, no drama, no sacrifice, no 'It is a far far better thing I do' crap. You do it because it's time. If you are ordering yourself, burning ergs, issuing sweat, breathing raggedly through nasal channels that feel like Navajo pottery, you're doing something wrong. Ever consider law? We definitely need more lawyers."

--Stephen Hunter (via Advice to Writers).

Thank you to all of you who sent your best wishes concerning Jo/e. He's out of the hospital now, feeling fine. The exploratory surgery revealed absolutely no problems with his heart. He's still having periodic chest pains, so he's going to be exploring with his doctor what are causing those.

Wordage and The Three Lands
16 June 2017

I had a good day this week:

Word counts.</a>

11,919 words in one day breaks my all-time daily wordage record. My previous record was 11,340 words on 5 October 1995, when I was writing Law of Vengeance (The Three Lands). Contrary to what you might imagine, I did eat and sleep on Thursday. In fact, those 11,919 words only represent six hours of work, spread out into four writing sessions. The rest of the time I ate, read, and got ten hours of sleep.

As for what caused this avalanche of wordage . . . Do you remember me saying this a little while ago?

"The Lieutenant, who's an utterly shameless scene-stealer, keeps enticing me to write more scenes with him in it. It's a good thing that he's not the sort of character I can write another sequel about (a prequel would be too depressing), because otherwise he might entice me into writing eight novels with him in it . . ."

Oh, dear. Famous last words.

I don't know whether I'm writing an alternate-timeline novel or an alternate-timeline series, but it's definitely an alternate timeline to The Three Lands. There's a particular passage in Empty Dagger Hand (the Three Lands novel in which the Lieutenant first shows up) where, if the protagonist had chosen to take a different road than he did, the entire novel - the entire civilization - would have gone very differently. I found myself musing upon that fact as I wrote scenes in Empty Dagger Hand . . .

. . . and the next thing I knew, my protagonist and the Lieutenant were headed off on that road not taken.

I can't change Empty Dagger Hand because I've already published stories that come after it. I wouldn't want to change Empty Dagger Hand because I like it the way it is. But I like the alternate timeline too, and my best efforts at stopping my Muse from writing down that road-not-taken story resulted in the above-mentioned wordage explosion on Thursday. Muses just do not take kindly to being told to shut up.

The Epic of Gilgamesh
18 June 2017

Part of the reason I've been writing so much is that - having caught up for the moment with stories I could edit while eating - I've been reading other authors' novels a lot during the last couple of weeks. First I finished rereading Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana, the sort of massive epic that always leaves me limping with weariness and eager to reread the book right away. Then I started on Megan Whalen Turner's Thick as Thieves, which kept me up to all hours to find out what happened next.

Thick as Thieves led me in turn to read The Epic of Gilgamesh for the first time (the Andrew George translation, since that was the most literal translation I could get my hands on at short notice). I'd never realized that Gilgamesh was so very fragmented, and that new fragments are being pieced together all the time. It's difficult imagining Gilgamesh to have been written four millennia ago; it has wonderful imagery such as, "The sons of his city who had gone with him / like little puppies lay shivering at his feet." It makes me want to go back and read or reread a whole bunch of ancient stories to see the parallels and differences between those early literary cultures.


June 2018



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