Getting better, always better
Neil Gaiman said something that I'm going to paraphrase quite liberally here. Or maybe it wasn't Gaiman. You know, let's say it was a writer you've heard of and respect, and that way I can be lazy and not look it up. This person said something along the lines of "I haven't learned to write books. Each book I finish, that's the end of my education on how to write that book. And for the next book I have to learn how to write that book, kind of from scratch."
That sounds like Gaiman, doesn't it? I don't know. Anyway. While I think this nebulous yet famous author was generally right, I also think they were exaggerating. There are things I've learned from each book that I write that informs the next book. Honestly, sometimes those things are detrimental to the next work. You can learn bad habits, or crutches that cover up some of your weaknesses without ever addressing those weaknesses. But you also learn something about process, and discipline. Mostly you learn that you can write a book. It's not some impossible task reserved for the elite. Look, here's the proof. A book!
But mostly I become aware of the areas where I'm limping by. I see the ways I can write better, and with each book I try to address those things. I get better with each book. I can say without a doubt that Dead of Veridon is the best book I've written to date. But honestly I think it's only marginally better than The Horns of Ruin, which in turn was marginally better than Heart of Veridon. And I'd like to make one of those commitment moves. I want the next book to be significantly better.
I started that process by sitting down and writing out everything I felt like I could improve, and how it could be better. I made a plan. And that general sketch became a structure, and that structure became an outline. And this thing I've been working on in notebooks and laptops and big sketch pads has slowly solidified into something solid. And now I have ten thousand words that do nothing but describe the book. An outline. A backstory. Characters. The map for this book is written. And I'm now passing it around to people I trust to see if it makes sense, to see if there are any "What the hell?" moments for someone coming to this story for the first time.
Anyway. I've been working on it feverishly (literally. I've been sick.) for a while now, and I wrote the last word well after midnight last night. I think it's good that a week ago, when I was legitimately quite ill, I woke up and said "To hell with it. I'm not working on the book today. I'm going to take cold medicine and watch some racing, and take a lot of naps." And that lasted about an hour before I was at the table, working on the book.