Sunborn–What Took So Freakin’ Long?

Ah. Yes. People have been emailing me for years, asking when the devil the fourth Chaos book is going to be out. Not to mention, my editor and publisher, who have been patiently checking in from time to time, hardly ever mentioning the fact that my deadline is so far in the past it’s nearly red-shifted out of sight. (Thanks, Jim. Thanks, Tom.) Guilt, guilt.

Well, it’s not because I meant to take so long, or haven’t been trying. The first thing that happened was that I had another book to do under a prior contract, which was going to take me a year or two to write—and then I’d get right back to the Chaos series. As it happened, that book was way harder to write than I ever imagined, and longer, and it took nearly five years to get finished. (That was Eternity’s End, and I’m happy to say that it’s met with a good response, and earned me my first and only Nebula Award nomination.) By the time I came back to the Chaos universe, the trail felt a little cold. I had to reread the first three books myself. (I’m rereading them again now, to keep the story clear in my head. You forget things, after a while.)

Basically, three things happened at once, as I worked on Sunborn:

  1. I undertook a book that was way, way harder to write than I thought when I outlined it. (Lots of really cosmic stuff, sentient stars and so on, but at the same time a deeply personal story, always told on a human scale.)
  2. My life as a parent was becoming increasingly full, with lots of activities and competing needs filling the days; and, as well, a need to do consulting work as a writer/editor to help pay the bills. (This is a good place to acknowledge the debt that I, and you my readers, too, owe my wife for bringing in a steady income through her work. Thanks, kiddo. I appreciate it.)
  3. Doing all this other work made it really hard to keep the novel centered in my mind, so that even when I had time to work on it, I couldn’t concentrate.
  4. I’ve been wandering in something of a creative desert for the last few years, trying to find the inspiration to turn this into the book I envisioned (and promised you, my readers) years ago.
  5. Like many of my writer friends, I was trying hard not to feel depressed about the state of my career, the state of the marketplace, the shrinking sales of our books compared to the way they sold 15 or 20 years ago, the loss of readers to competing forms of entertainment (movies, TV, mega-bestsellers, the internet, blogs [oops]). One always tries to appear upbeat in public, but it wasn’t always convincing on the inside.
  6. I began to lose my ability to count.

Somehow, though, I kept at it. The constant support and cajoling of my writing group was invaluable—as was other forms of support, from people who cared enough about my ability to keep writing to help in significant ways. And always at the back of it all, the feeling that God had given me a certain gift for writing, and I wanted to make good on that gift. (Plus, all those promises I’d made to you my readers over the years.)

And so, here I am at an important milestone in this project. As I said in the last post, I have a lot still to do. Probably two more complete drafts, anyway. But it should go faster now, and with much greater feeling of hope.

I’ll keep you posted on what’s happening.

But for now, I’m feeling pretty good.

11 Responses

  1. Anonymous
    | Reply

    What th’? I stop reading your blog for a couple of days, and you finish a novel?? If only it were really that simple. 🙂 Looking forward to Sunborn!

    Ann Z.

  2. Anonymous
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    I waited so long for the next installment of the Chaos Chronicles I got worried that one or other of us would perish before reaching the end. Just finished rereading Eternity’s End and decided to do a search to see if you were still in business! Delighted to see you looking young and relatively fit. Keep up the good work.
    dsodonoghue

  3. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    I was worried that I’d perish before it was done, too. Come to think of it, there’s still a lot to do–so maybe we’d better keep on worrying!

    (Nah. Patience is better than worry. Right? *Right?*)

  4. Anonymous
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    Hello there.

    While I am delighted to hear about the completion of Sunborn, I hope you won’t mind a request that I (and many other readers have, I suspect): could you please keep the page count down and the next few books not too long?

    Brevity is the soul of wit, it has been said, but you would not know that from the lengths of some novels written these days. A clear example of this would be the recent novels in the “Harry Potter” series: the first three were mercifully short, but the last three (especially numbers four and five) were seriously over-long.

    Anything over six hundred pages seems to be awfully excessive, though I appreciate the need to express & impart a lot of information in a very short span of time and space.

    I hope you won’t be too upset if an editor calls for deletion of one or more critical sequences in order to “tighten up” Sunborn. I have no idea of what details went into it, but the size you quoted [706 manuscript pages, though it probably corresponds to fewer pages typeset] made me wince.

    Looking forward to seeing it come out …
    Yet another fan of the Chaos Chronicles

  5. Anonymous
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    I am among many known Harry Potter fans who wished that the recent sixth book had been longer, and appreciated the length of the fourth and fifth, even if at times they were known to drag. I love indulging in a fat book that lasts a while, and length is only personal preference.

    It is also likely to hurt a story if necessary scenes and connecting parts are taken out. “Tightening up” can create a novel with scenes crushed on top of each other and no breathing room.

  6. Jeffrey A. Carver
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    Dear Anonymous — I appreciate your support of the Chaos books (and your sentiment about overly long books in general). But I had to wince at your comment: “I hope you won’t be too upset if an editor calls for deletion of one or more critical sequences…”

    There are a couple of mistaken assumptions in that statement:

    1. My editor would never call for deletion of a “critical sequence” just to make a book shorter. Any editor who did that would be a hack, and my editor ain’t no hack.

    2. You perhaps assume that writers don’t listen to their editors. In fact, I listen carefully to every suggestion my editor makes. Sometimes I disagree, but I never ignore. (And sometimes he asks for additional scenes, not cutting.)

    You also may not be aware that asking a writer in advance to change his book is not very good form.

    Nevertheless, I believe your comments were well intended. I hope you noticed in my post that I was wincing myself at the 700+ pages of mess. As I said, a lot is going to change before this thing ever sees the light of day. And if I get too wordy, I guarantee you my writing group will let me know in no uncertain terms.

  7. Debbie from Illinois
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    Please, more chaos!!! Love the books, love the heros and the stories. I’d love to read 700 pages or more!!! At least I now know where to check to see when Sunborn will be ready. In the mean time I guess I will check out Eternity’s End.

    Do not be discouraged, I am one of the avid SciFi readers out here and I am always pleased to find a great space opera writer. I love to follow characters that I have grown to know and love through a series of stories. Keep writing for us.

  8. Jeffrey A. Carver
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    Thanks, Debbie. I needed that!

  9. wisebeard
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    Jeff,
    I wrote that I hope I live long enough to see # 6 published. No more hoping, I refuse to go until I’ve read #4, #5 and #6 in the Chaos Chronicles. I’m sure He listens to me. However, now I have to read Eternity’s End
    wisebeard

  10. Anonymous
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    Wow, about time!

    Just kidding, I am currently filling my time finishing rereading the first 3 books of the chaos series for the 3rd time since Neptune Crossing came out. Love the stories and sure as hell cant wait for the next one, let alone the next 3 coming. So hurry up already!

    Steve – Canada

  11. Anonymous
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    We all need your new books. Set up a donation section on your site. I’ll be the first to contribute. We have to keep you in money so you can spend more time writing!!!

    Bob

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