Somewhat appropriately, this post marks the one year anniversary of this blog! Thanks to all my lovely readers!
Extraction is the latest iteration (hopefully the final iteration) of the very first piece of fiction to which I ever contributed or thought of as my own. As you can see in the infographic above, this current incarnation of the story now known to me as Extraction took 11 years to produce. It is the product of four separate drafts—and when I say separate drafts I mean four different raze-it-all-to-the-ground-and-start-from-scratch rewrites, each of which took several months to complete. A grand total of 437,606 word were written over the course of said 11 years*.
Now, there are many, many reasons to write your very first book and promptly abandon it. Most writers never publish their first completed novel; some sound advice is to treat your first novel essentially as practice. Let it languish in the desk drawer and use the experience to become a better writer next time around. And, if you read the infographic above, you can see that actually what became Extraction began as a short story penned by my partner, Jon. It wasn’t even my book to begin with. So why the commitment to this particular work of fiction? Why the dogged need to write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite it again? Especially when the evolution of the story makes it so that the book is practically unrecognizable from one draft to another.
One reason I’ve kept plugging away at this book in particular is because the heart of the story—that individual choices in a war are almost always morally ambiguous—is worth exploring. The problem was that it took eleven years of writing practice (and of that only the last five or so have been years where I’ve been Seriously Writing For Realsies) to get to a point where I could get the story where I wanted it. I think most of us who write start first as readers. And not just any kind of reader, but highly attentive and engaged readers. It took until the last year or so where I would say I’m as good at writing a narrative as I am at reading it. So, I wanted to write this story, but it took a lot of patience to keep working at it until I got my chops where the story needed them.
Another reason is that I’m, perhaps, unduly attached to it. It would feel…perverse to publish a bunch of fiction over the years and for the spark that ignited the bonfire never to see the light of day. I think Extraction will see the light of day, and when it does, its debut will come with a great sense of resolution on my part.
In more practical terms, there are logistical reasons why it makes sense to polish this book up until it’s fit for public consumption. I write most of my books in the same secondary fantasy universe, and Extraction explores a set of pivotal events in that fantasy universe. The events outlined in the book’s narrative have direct links to things that happen in a bunch of my other books—notably, Resistance, The Prince of Norsa, Sound and Song and Ariah. The events here are essentially the pebble dropped in the narratological pond and the other books I’ve written are the ripples radiating outward. It would leave a weird, gaping hole in the Aerdh books taken as a whole not to get this one out.
I think it’s done. This draft needs polishing, it needs correcting, but I think this is the last wholesale re-draft. Extraction, it’s been a fun ride.
*This count is derived from the final word counts of each draft—it does not include the reams of text used for planning or excised texts and is such a frighteningly conservative figure.