Week 705

What’s this? I’m blogging about my work on a weekly basis – a simple way to track and archive whatever it is I spend my time on.

I’m happy to announce that last week I signed the contract for a two-book deal at Uitgeverij Atlas Contact!

It’s the result of an effort I started late last year, when I sent a frustrated email to my literary agent, in something of a final attempt to breathe new life into my mostly forgotten career as a fiction writer. I told him that even though life and work had made it hard to do long writing projects, I wanted to give it another try, but that I needed a contract, an advance and a deadline, otherwise I would never write another novel. It was a statement of fact, not a threat.

We spoke with a couple of publishers, and in the end I was glad to find one that’s not only happy to publish both my fiction and nonfiction books, but that will also let me work with a single editor, a single sales team and a single PR/marketing team, even though its fiction and nonfiction branches have their own dedicated people.

If all goes well, Uitgeverij Atlas Contact will publish De verdwijners early next year, and a book about games late next year. Now I only have to write them!

Otherwise, I continued work on my upcoming big Minecraft piece for Bright Magazine.

For the same publication, I wrote a short article on Wii U.

On Tuesday I visited Two Tribes, where two Valve employees held a short presentation for employees and other Dutch game makers. They spoke about the Steam service, including the Greenlight initiative, which will allow the Steam community to help decide which games will be sold in the store. It’s interesting how this continues the trend of (smaller) studios being encouraged to sell their ideas long before they’re done developing. See also: Kickstarter.

On Wednesday I went to The Hague to meet with my old buddy Richard Borgman. He’s also a freelance journalist, a gamer and a father, and our friendship goes back more than a decade, so it should come as no surprise that we had a lot to talk about.

That afternoon, I had coffee with Inger Boxsem, my new editor at my new publisher.

On Friday I wrote all day and made a lot of progress.

The framework of De verdwijners is pretty tight: it consists of 12 chapters, sequentially starring 4 characters in 3 settings. So each character has 3 chapters, and each setting is used 4 times. Plus there’s a 13th chapter that recaps everything from a slightly different perspective. The main events and emotions have been plotted out in a big spreadsheet, so I’m not joking when I say I only have to write the book. Though obviously a lot of new stuff comes up while writing, so I guess I’m joking after all.

My process is that I do a quick draft for a new chapter over a couple of days. I do this as fast as possible, just throwing it out on the page. Then I let it rest for a while. Next, I comb through the chapter paragraph by paragraph, trying to fill all the open holes. After that I print the chapter and do a careful reading on paper, trying to find and magnify the structure, and to detect and scrap unnecessary parts. Finally, it’s labeled ‘first draft’ and I am not allowed to touch the chapter until the book is done, except for quick continuity fixes.

I start a new chapter before this cycle is finished, so I have multiple chapters in various stages going on at any given moment. At the same time, I try not to rush ahead, mostly writing in a lineair fashion. This seems to be going pretty well, as it should: I have about a month left to deliver my first draft.

Getting to a readable first draft as soon as possible is very important to me. It will be a prototype of sorts, that will allow me to realistically reflect on the book in its entirety, and I’ll even be able to get some test readers involved. After that, hopefully, the second draft will make a good book amazing.