Work in Progress

My dear, lovely friend and sometime editor Lyz Schulte just tagged me on Facebook and challenged me to post the first seven lines of my current Work In Progress (WIP, for us author types). She posted the first seven lines of hers, which are solid.

I am posting this to tell her that I cannot acquiesce to her request (although I am inclined to, thank you very much). This is not because the first seven lines of my WIP are embarrassing–although they are–or that I do not do posting chains on Facebook–although I don’t–but because I have absolutely no idea which of my current projects qualifies as my “current” WIP.

Last month I attempted something insane for NaNoWriMo. I’m a six-time winner–have never failed an attempt, actually–so I know I can write 50,000 words in a month. I did it every month for a year, even, a couple years back. But–possibly not coincidentally–I have paying book contracts now, and that means writing a lot. In fact, it means that writing a lot just won’t cut it. I have to write more than a lot. I have to write pulp speed. Mamma’s children are hongry. I gotta get paid.

So I set a goal to write 80,000 words for NaNo, just shy of Pulp Speed One. And then I wrote in my journal (no, those five thousand words a month do not count) that I was going to actually hit Pulp Speed One, a million words in a year. Ten novels.

At that speed, you better have many more than one WIP. You actually have to, if you count any work that isn’t published as a WIP, which I think I do. Any work that has not been delivered to a customer or received payment, is the usual definition. Oathbringer is no longer a WIP, though there had better be several other books that are, Mr. Sanderson. But none of my books has seen print in that way (I’ve never actually published a novel). Therefore, technically, all of my books are WsIP.

But if you leave aside the finished books, the ones I consider finished, anyway, which means lightly-edited first draft stage, and yes I know that is not FINISHED in bold type, I have, right now, ten WsIP. There are, written in the dim past of four or five years ago, two novels I will not be doing anything with, because they’re too bad to be edited into pub shape, and will only be published after I die by my children trying to wring a miserable buck from my corpus. [That’s a pun, Dad. I know the difference between a corpse and a corpus.]

If I leave aside the books I’m not editing because I just don’t have time, and only count those that are in the active, ongoing, writing and editing process, there are eight: Trinity Flynn and the Five Points Gang; The Repairers; Cheating Death; Lies that Bind; Their Poop Don’t Stink; Army of Outcasts; a book I can’t tell you about; and another book I can’t tell you about. The books I can’t tell you about I’m ghostwriting, so I can’t tell you about them. But I wrote one of them in 51 days, the most complex and impossible project I ever undertook, and I’ll finish the second one by New Years, 36 days start to finish.

All of those, surely, count. Do I also count the books I’m writing, but not actually writing, orphan books crying out periodically for completion, that I just abandoned for one reason or another? (yes, I hear you Building Eighteen and Don’t Call Me Josephine) I think not. After all, P is for progress, which is not being made on those.

Which is “my WIP”? If you only count those that I am actively writing, on which I’ve put word count this week, there are still three. I can’t pick. There’s no rationale. And I’m busy, Lyz, writing more words. I don’t have time for your little Facebook games.

What’s that? I had time for this, so I have time for that? Well that’s just…I mean…you have to consider…


Tell you what. I’ll give you the first few lines of each of the eight, how about? Then I don’t have to pick based on some arbitrary criterion.

Trinity Flynn:

Trinity Flynn rapped on the door marked “Service”. One smart knock, and a fervent prayer that no one would come around the corner to see what the noise was about.

A fumbling, and the door cracked open. A bloodshot eye peeked out. It widened in shock when it saw her.

“Trinity! What are you doing?”

“Let me in, you fool. I’m as good as dead standing out here.”

The Repairers: 

Alvaro Hernandes dragged his injured leg up the hill, chasing his herd. Dull ache had long since given way to stabbing, wince-inducing pain. Mother will say it is God’s punishment of me. If there were a God, she’d probably be right.

Cheating Death:

Happiness has a half-life. The first time I died, I didn’t get that. But I learn fast.

Tuesday I did not have any happiness, not before the stupid argument in the diner, and not afterward, after the warning shot went right across the top of my skull and should have killed me. Did kill me, somewhere, somewhen. Couple magic words, though, and I walked out of the hospital on . . . well, I was gonna say “on my own power”, but that’s nothing like what it was.

Lies that Bind:

Akoto sat, brooding, staring down onto the Lower Market from a perch on some hydraulic piping fifty or so feet above the steel decking. From below, the steaming odors of hundreds of sweat-soaked people, of thawing fish and roasting vegetables, succulent meats and overripe cheeses floated up and mixed with the scents of the station: machine oil, brimstone, off-gassing plastics, making a pungent stew that Akoto would have recognized as the smell of home, had he given any such thing a thought. But he didn’t, because he was watching someone and had no attention left for anything else.

Their Poop Don’t Stink:

Provo, UT, May 2016—The Harmon Brothers asked me to write a book about how they’re not the kinds of people that have books written about them.  

Let’s start with my meeting with Neal Harmon, the first meeting after I agreed to take the assignment. By this point I have already tried to talk the Harmon Brothers out of having me do it, but they have insisted. All I can do is my best, so here we are, in my first—my first ever—interview with an eye toward writing a nonfiction book. Fortunately, Neal Harmon is charming, easy to talk to, and paying for breakfast. 

Army of Outcasts:

Sarge put his slippered feet on the antique Chinese coffee table. Probably, such a thing would have had him executed in the Ming Dynasty. But his feet needed propping. The table sat there in front of him on the rough wooden veranda. And the gleaming table was low enough that his feet didn’t block his view of the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, summer haze made the crystal blue difficult to see even with his size eleven loafers out of the way. He reached over to the table next to him, picked up his saucer and cup–18th-century French, not Chinese–and began to noisily sip his tea.

An object hurtled past, plucking the cup from his fingers as neatly as an English butler.

One Book I Can’t Talk About:

“You made sure to pack a jacket, right?” Mom said. “You can’t be too careful. You’re going to be in strange situations and you never know.”
“Yes, Mom,” [redacted] said. “Two jackets. One light and one heavy. We have sixteen different changes of clothes and extra underwear, too. You checked all that. More than once.”

Another Book I Can’t Talk About:

[redacted] lifted a spoonful of sludgy goodness to his mouth. He savored the slightly crunchy, just-starting-to-get-soggy deliciousness of the Captain Crunch, and pretended that if he didn’t open his eyes, he could stay in a world where his mother had not spoken.

“Did you hear what I said?” Mom asked. “We’re going to drop you two off at grandmas for a couple weeks around the Fourth of July.”

Nope. Didn’t work.

There, Lyz. Happy?

I’m not tagging anyone else, tho.

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