On Writing "A Rational Arrangement"
... That aphorism doesn't apply as well as I thought it would.
ANYWAY, three times makes it a trend and not just a pair of isolated datapoints.
This is the fastest I've ever written a novel, by a large margin. The rough draft of Prophecy was 25 months (from the time of reboot -- I worked on it for several months in 1991-92 and then re-started it in 2002). The rough draft of Silver Scales was 38 months (15 of which overlapped with work on Prophecy.) RA was a zippy 11 months 10 days.
I intended for RA to be "standard novel length", and once again wrote a behemoth instead; it's in the same ballpark with Prophecy and SS. So it didn't go faster because it was shorter.
It didn't go faster because I liked it better, either. I am very fond of RA: I have re-read bits of it many many times over the course of writing it, and I'm looking forward to reading the entirety of it now that it's a whole book and everything. (!) But I love Silver Scales even more.
ursulav was noting that she finds romance hard to write as a genre, so I am not going to say "romance is easy to write". But I do think that romance was easier for me, specifically, to write than the other genres I've tried: world-saving epic fantasy, mystery, the genteel action/adventure of SS. (All my stories are fantasies. I like fantasy. But fantasy to me is about setting, not plot, and my plots have come from various genres). In all of those, I felt like I needed to get my characters into these convincing, harrowing, difficult situations, and then have them come up with brilliant ways to resolve the crises. Also, all of this needs to be forseeable by the reader, but in a way that doesn't make it so obvious to the characters that the reader wants to smack them upside the head for not seeing it sooner.
I have never felt equal to this task. I do work at it and my characters end up in bad spots and they show some cleverness in getting out of them, but I never feel that this is my strength, and figuring out the foreshadowing and the problem and the solution is definitely not the fun part.
The fun part is pride and prejudice: it is writing sympathetic characters crashing into each other's stubborn streaks and false assumptions. The private fears that lead to foolish secrets, and the uncovering of both. The anguish of making a terrible choice because they cannot perceive any good ones. I love writing that sort of thing, and romance is all about it. Yes, romance often has subplots, and so does A Rational Arrangement, but knowing that these weren't the central conflicts made me feel less stressed over the details of them. I did still end up stressing over them, and there were points where I was writing so slowly I ran my buffer to zero. But I never stopped. I never put it aside for a couple of weeks thinking "this is too hard, I'll work on it later". The longest I went without working on "A Rational Arrangement" was five days -- during which I was on vacation in Seattle, visiting terrycloth. Next longest: four days -- for ProgPower. In retrospect, I am astonished by the consistency with which I not only worked on this story but wanted to work on it. Until I looked back at my activity log, I would have guessed that there'd been at least one or two weeks I didn't add anything to it. Nope.
As with Silver Scales, I wrote faster as I neared the end: 32,721 words in the last 30 days. Unlike Silver Scales, I didn't have the sense of skiing down a mountainside: all speed, excitement and adrenalin. I was excited to read the ending but less thrilled about having to write it.
I don't want the takeaway from this to be "just write romances", although that's very tempting. Certainly this isn't going to be the last romance I write. I am still thinking about what goals I want to set next, but that will be another post.