Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

A novel in nine months

with 5 comments

So how do you write a book in nine months? More specifically, how do you write a 100,000-word sequel to a complex novel that took almost two years to write in the first place?

The short answer is that I don’t really know. I do know, however, that it needs to happen, or so my contract tells me. As for the specifics, you’ll be hearing a lot about them between now and this coming September. In the meantime, though, here’s a general sense of what to expect:

On Tuesday of this week, I’m scheduled to deliver a fairly detailed proposal for the sequel to Kamera to my agent for comment and approval. This proposal, which is about seven double-spaced pages long, will then go to my editor at NAL, who will hopefully like what he sees. (Among other things, I receive a third of my advance on acceptance of the outline.) Once I get the green light, I can dive more deeply into the writing process, which so far has consisted mostly of a lot of structured daydreaming.

At that point, the real fun begins. I always try to start the research process by casting my net as wide as possible, so I’m going to begin by mining a few large nonfiction books for inspiration, among them The New Cold War by Edward Lucas, The Sword and the Shield by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, and The Icon and the Axe by James Billington. (These titles may give you a sense of the territory that this new novel will be exploring.) Once I’ve finished my first round of reading, I’ll then begin to drill more deeply into areas that are directly relevant to the story at hand.

My current plan is to spend a couple of months on this preliminary research, which may also include a trip to London, after which I’ll start outlining the first part of the novel. Hopefully I’ll begin the writing itself sometime in March. I’m aiming to have a decent draft ready by early August, at which point it will go out to readers. I’ll then spend two months on revisions before delivering the manuscript to my publisher on September 30. (Since the novel isn’t scheduled to come out until the end of 2012, I expect that there will be quite a few more rewrites in the interim.)

Can I do it? Yes, probably. But it’s going to be an intense and interesting year. Stay tuned for more updates.

5 Responses

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  1. Best of luck on your sequel. Sounds like you have some hard work in front of you, but the fact that you have already published a novel is an awesome achievement. One word at a time, right?


    January 1, 2011 at 10:08 am

  2. Thanks! The fact that I’ve done it once makes me think that I can do it again. But it’s still hard to get past that first blank page…


    January 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm

  3. Just have your cigarette and glass of something ready for when you finish. I forget what you need to hit Kathy Bates with, though.


    January 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm

  4. In the book, he hits her with his typewriter! I forget what he does in the movie.


    January 2, 2011 at 12:33 pm

  5. Hrm… So the pen is mightier than the sword, and the typewriter is possibly mightier than Kathy Bates. Noted.


    January 2, 2011 at 1:41 pm

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