Archive for the ‘the magician’s land’ Category

The Book Is the Arrow

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Remember when I said the book was done and locked? A couple of weeks ago Viking surprised me with a second set of page proofs to review, to make sure the changes I made to the first proofs went through OK.

So I marked those proofs up too and sent them back. I forgot that finishing a book has a bit of a Zeno’s paradox feeling about it: the book is the arrow that can never reach its target.

But I think now it really is done. Or at least it’s asymptotically approaching done-ness.

It’s even getting reviewed, though so far only in what we call “the trades,” meaning book-industry magazines like Publishers Weekly that cover books a couple of months before they come out. The feeling is unnerving—The Magician’s Land still seems like an intimate part of me that I can’t believe people are actually looking at. Reviews so far have been really great, which makes me happy. But still.

Meanwhile it’s time to get the promotional apparatus up and shambling. (For some reason I picture it looking something like the giant steampunk spider in Wild Wild West.) A lot of people kind of lament the promotional part of being a novelist, but I don’t really mind it. I’ve got a product to sell, I’m not going to pretend it’s special just because it happens to be a novel.

I’m not very good at selling it. But I don’t mind trying. Most of the time I actually enjoy it.

A giant spider that has Kenneth Branagh inside it

So my summer’s filling up with events, most of which haven’t been announced yet, and I’m probably not supposed to announce them here, so I won’t. But I’ll be popping up all over the place and then touring properly in August. For now I’ll just mention something that’s happening at Rutgers on May 1 that involves Catherynne Valente, so you know it’s going to be quality.

And on May 31 I’ll do a public conversation with Deborah Harkness in New York as part of BookCon. Again: quality.

And if you’re anywhere near Brooklyn, scrawl August 5th on your calendar. That’s the official pub date of The Magician’s Land, and I’m planning an event that night that should be be a bit special.

Our Revels Now

Friday, March 21st, 2014

On Monday I turned in The Magician’s Land, well and truly and for good. After they copy-edit your book you get one last shot at it: they print out the typeset pages, and you can mark them up in red pencil. It’s like your last vacation with somebody you really like but who you know is about to break up with you.

This is just a painting by my favorite artist, Caspar David Friedrich. I used to look it a lot when I felt like I was losing my way with my writing

I had two weeks of that, and by the end those pages were reduced to a tattered bundle of raggy, crumpled paper covered in red. But I made my last marks and handed them over, almost 10 years after I started the original Word doc in which I wrote The Magicians. I still have the file — it’s called  “The demon in the mirror was smo.”  (It’s supposed to go on: “-king a cigarette” but for some reason the Finder cuts it off; the name refers to a scene that ended up going nowhere.) It shows a creation date of June 19, 2004.

It’s a pretty emotional moment for me. Like most big moments in life it had no soundtrack. There wasn’t much drama. I handed a plastic envelope with the pages in it to my editor’s assistant, in the lobby of the Penguin building, then hit the subway because I was late for an event. But in my head it was a big moment.

And that’s my news. Oh, and I have an event Monday night in Manhattan. I’ll be reading something autobiographical and embarrassing. So there’s that.

And if you’re currently enrolled in a creative writing graduate program, think about submitting your work to this. I’m judging this year.

The Accidental Poetry of the Copy Editor’s Style Sheet

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

On the schedule it looks like nothing. You send the publisher the book; a copy-editor fixes grammar and typos and whatnot and sends it back; you have a week to look over the changes and OK them or not; the end.

JefferiesTube

But in practice when you’re dealing with a novel-in-progress, no contact is ever minor. Any time you can make changes to the book means you’re going to end up rereading the whole thing, rethinking it, staying up late agonizing over a line, the whole agony-of-creation business. That’s been my last week.

Fortunately it’s now over. The text I handed in yesterday morning is the text that will be bound in Advance Readers Copies, when they get printed. It’s not final, but a lot of reviewers work off those advance copies, so it has to be pretty good.

The best part about this phase is that once your book has been copy-edited, they send you the “style sheet.” I’ve never known exactly what a style sheet is for, but it seems to be a list of all the slightly eccentric non-standard words you use in your book, in alphabetical order. Just that. It’s sort of a linguistic fingerprint—it reads like somebody took your book and reduced it in a sauté pan to just its sticky essence.

This for instance is what’s under “d” in the Magician’s Land style sheet:

dammit
Darkling Woods
Darras House
deal-breaker
dearticulated
décor
Deeper Magic
deorbiting
de trop
Discipline
Dockery House
Dodgson, Charles (Lewis Carroll)
doppelgängers
DoubleTree (hotel chain)
dream-city
dream-logic
Drowned Garden, the
dwarfs

Or here’s an excerpt from “c”:

cosm
counterspell
course-load
craquelure
Crom
Crusader tank
cryptomancy
Cthulhu
Cunard–White Star Line

I think I cut “cosm” from the finished book—it was de trop even for me—but still, it’s a weirdly evocative list. As a last example, here’s the oddly poignant entry under “j,” in its entirety:

Jefferies tube
Jersey Turnpike

Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

I’ll see you at the 92nd St Y on March 2 for my talk with Lauren Oliver. Or at this excellent panel at the New York Public Library on March 17. Or at a couple of other things I haven’t announced yet.

Up for Air, Briefly

Friday, January 10th, 2014

The Magician’s Land is currently at Viking for copy-editing, which means I get a breather. It’s not done, but it’s very done-ish. Done-esque. Meaning that my editor has ruled the current draft final enough that it won’t need any more major surgery, and has given it to a clever person who knows about dangling participles.

portrait of the artist as a submarine

That person will go through and fix the grammar and spelling and catch the bits where I say “all six of them” when there are actually seven characters in the room. (Hopefully. To this day there’s still one of those in The Magicians. A No-Prize to whoever spots it.) The process is always a little painful, because I like to mix colloquial constructions in with the shmancy literary ones, and they get flagged as incorrect, and then we have a big fight about it.

Also I repeat words slightly more often than most writers, because I think the clunkiness of it is funny, and I hate the artificiality of  when you’re writing a paragraph about horses and you keep having to come up with ever-more-elaborate synonyms for “horse” (“steed,” “mount,” “equine beast,” etc.) to avoid repetitions. Just say horse again already! But no. Against the rules.

This is why my manuscripts come back with a lot of “repetition intentional?” in the margins.

For now it’s a relief to spend some time not-writing, or rather just writing journalism. I love writing fiction, it’s the greatest kind of work I know, but even I get tired of constantly watching the clock, figuring out when I’ll next have a sliver of free time (meaning time with no children, and no work, when I am reasonably well-rested and also not drunk) in which to move the chains on my book. My family is definitely tired of it. Enough living a double life. I’m sticking with a single one for a while.

At least till the copy edits come back.

p.s. fun event with Lauren Oliver in March

Post Haste

Friday, November 29th, 2013

This is a hasty post. The last couple of months have been really really intense with work. As is the present month. Also this one coming up is going to be pretty hardcore too.

A lot of the work has been for Time: there’s been a lot of book reviewing, and some serious interviewing, and I wrote some quickie posts about things like the Nobel Prize and the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s death. I also edited a special section (in the process reminding myself  why I must never be placed in a management position, ever).

Plus I co-wrote two cover stories. And that’s just the stuff that’s come out already. There’s more stacked up waiting to be published. It’s a little nuts.

Though really the thing I’ve written this fall that I’m most proud of is my pep talk for NaNoWriMo, which sums up a lot of my thinking about why novels are hard to write, and why you should write them anyway.

There’s another reason this post is late and hasty, which is that I’ve been waiting to write it because there’s a couple of things I want to announce, and I keep  thinking I’ll get the green light … but I haven’t got it yet. So I’m posting now, and I’ll post again when I can share. At least I can show you the cover of The Magician’s Land, if you haven’t seen it already:

brrrrrrrr

What do you think? I have limited control over what goes on the covers of my books, but I can honestly say that personally I adore this image. I just get lost in it.

Like the other Magicians covers it’s a work of constructed photography by Didier Massard. We talked about using it for the cover of The Magician King, but I’m glad we saved it. It circles back to the cover of The Magicians—those trees have a strong family resemblance—but at the same time it pulls back the frame, like we’re catching the last chopper out of Fillory, as some kind of apocalyptic Fimbulwinter sets in…

On sale August 5, 2014. Assuming I get it done. I need to turn in a draft for copy-editing on December 18. See you then.

 

Stepping Away from the Vehicle

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Well, here we are at a funny in-between moment.

I finished a complete draft of The Magician’s Land.  Then I revised it till my eyes bled and I lost all understanding of what it was I was trying to write about in the first place. At that point it seemed like time to turn the draft in to my editor. It was also  a good moment because it was a week after my contract said it was due.

I don't know if anyone can tell that this is a ship being launched. It's a metaphor

But you don’t want to hit these deadlines right on the nose. Creates the wrong impression. I’m not a trained monkey here. I am an artist monkey!

Now all I have to do is go as long as I can without looking at the manuscript. This is the stage of novel-writing that Zadie Smith calls “step away from the vehicle”:

When you finish your novel, if money is not a desperate priority, if you do not need to sell it at once or be published that very second — put it in a drawer. For as long as you can manage. A year or more is ideal — but even three months will do. Step away from the vehicle. The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer.

So here I go. I will fill up the upcoming weeks, months maybe, with going to work and seeing my family and working on other projects, all the while vigorously trying to forget whatever it was I spent the last two years writing. When next I see The Magician’s Land, we shall meet as strangers.

Australia, LeakyCon, Etc.

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Hello all. I apologize for having been so silent for the last … no, I can’t even look at the date of my last blog post. Nobody look. Let’s all just agree it’s been long enough.

I spent the past month in Australia, where my wife is from, and which is getting to be a kind of second home to me. This was the first time I’d brought all my kids with me, which resulted in some valuable life lessons, which I will now pass on to you:

1. If your toddler throws up on you during a snorkeling cruise, they will give you a free shirt

2. In any father’s life there will come a moment when he is asked to open a coconut. It is best to prepare in advance

I began this post on a cross-country flight to Portland for LeakyCon, which is a kind of Harry-Potter-centered but basically pan-fandom convention, and it had a whole part in it about how much I was looking forward to it. Now I’m on my way back, temporarily becalmed in Seattle, and I’m thinking about how deeply, deeply excellent it was. It was my third time, and I’m here to tell you, LeakyCon is a special thing. It is not like anything else.

There are not many conventions where you can watch Anthony Rapp in a money-blowing booth, Amber Benson wriggling through a play tunnel, and Maggie Stiefvater playing bagpipes, and that doesn’t even cover what happened at LeakyCon in the space of 90 minutes yesterday afternoon. (For example you could also have seen me face-plant into a ball pit.)

But more to the point, LeakyCon feels authentic to me in exactly the way that massive commercial events like Comic-Con don’t really, not anymore. (LeakyCon : Comic-con : : PAX : E3, roughly, if that means anything to you.) Basically if you have any interest in seeing a bunch of smart, funny, kind, weird, interesting people who love the same things you love and want to talk to you about them, there is no better place to be. I respectfully recommend that you go. It will give you hope for the future.

In lieu of actually updating my Events page—which I would do except that I have developed a nasty allergy to raw HTML—I’ll give you a short list of places you can see me this summer. After LeakyCon I’ll be at Readercon in Massachusetts in July, then at the Decatur Books Festival and Dragoncon in Atlanta at the end of August. Oh, and I’ll be at Tor.com’s 5th anniversary party at Housing Works on July 24th.

OK, that was even shorter than I thought it was going to be. But I’ve been turning things down in order to work on The Magician’s Land. It’s due at the end of the August, and that’s not a deadline I want to screw around with.