Did I unfollow you on Twitter? Don’t take it personally. You didn’t offend me.

Like most of us, after 21 months of pandemic, I’m tired. I don’t need to go into the reasons why: we all know them.

Social media is both a blessing and a curse; a place to connect and relax, and a place to be embroiled in controversy. A place where I find readers, and researchers to connect with, and things about archaeology and late-antiquity/early medieval history I didn’t know, and a place to find authors and books to read.

But there is just too much of it. My Home feed isn’t giving me what I’m on Twitter for, primarily. I have to search for the people I want to interact with, whose tweets I want to read, with whom I want to check in. It’s not that you’re not all valuable members of the Writing Community – it’s that I don’t have enough mental energy left to appreciate you all. I need, for a while at least, to focus on history, archaeology, birding and nature, and the writers who write and/or tweet about these subjects. Mostly.

So I am culling who I follow down to fewer than 2000. How many fewer, I don’t know. Already my Home feed is looking better, frustrating me less, giving me the connections I’m looking for.

I probably – almost certainly – have unfollowed people I didn’t mean to. I hope I’ll figure that out over the next few weeks. If you’re upset by what I’m doing, I apologize for my actions inducing those reactions in you – but not for doing what I need to for myself.

Social media’s not the only place I’m pulling back. I’m not planning on doing any serious work on the WIP for a couple more months. Too many responsibilities, some self-imposed, others not, have come together just now. I’ll be culling those, too, as I can.

Let’s hope 2022 is a better year for us all.

Framing and Finishing: Of Housebuilding and Writing.

Saturday morning at a few minutes past midnight, I completed my work-in-progress, Empire’s Heir. Or at least, the first draft. The first draft of a book is like a house under construction: the foundation is poured, the framing’s done, the walls and windows and doors are in, and the roof. (And you hope it doesn’t leak.)

But inside, it’s a mess. The detritus left by the workers is scattered all over. The floors are plywood; the walls not yet wallboarded, the wiring and plumbing roughed in.  There is a lot of work left to do.

And so it is with a manuscript. It’s as messy and incomplete as the house. The garbage needs removing: the scenes that don’t add to the story, the plot line that complicates or goes nowhere, the characters who add nothing.

Walk through the house with a critical eye. Maybe a framed wall is in the wrong place; maybe you want a window where there isn’t one. Changes can still be made, although they’ll add time and take work. Better now than later, though. Later is much harder (ask anyone who’s renovated: a house or a book.)

Then it’s time to complete the plumbing and wiring, the connectors that link themes and plot and story together, often mostly unseen, and get the wallboard up.  Inspectors – or structural editors – are a good idea at this point. (Actually, the inspectors are almost certainly legally required, the structural editor isn’t – the analogy’s not perfect. But you get my drift.)

And then it’s time for the finishing. The painters and carpet layers, the cabinet makers, the tile installers, making sure the colours blend or contrast, the fine carpentry is precise, the transitions from room to room, carpet to hardwood to tile, are smooth. Another place a designer, or friends with good eyes and aesthetic sense, can help. Maybe your first choices are too trendy, too minimalist, too overblown. Is every space used well, not too crowded, not too empty? In the manuscript, I – or my beta readers, or my editor, or all of the above – are checking description, dialogue, and the cadence and flow of language, looking for monotony, purple prose, repetition, and a host of other things that affect the story.

Now the finishers are gone. Time for a thorough cleaning: they’ve been careful, but they can’t help leaving some mess. Sawdust in a corner; carpet threads; a dropped finishing nail or two. Time to sweep, to vacuum, to wash all the counters and floors. Time for the proof reading, and like sweeping and vacuuming and washing, use more than one technique: hire someone, listen to your book, change fonts. (There will still be one or two nails on the floor, or a drop of paint somewhere: it’s inevitable, just like the typos that slip through.)

And now the house – and the book – are done. While the finishing’s been happening, so has the exterior. You know your neighbourhood: what works?  Brick? Siding? Shingle? Stucco?  Same with the cover. Neighbourhoods and genres have their conventions, and you probably want to fit in without looking identical to every house on the street, or book on the bookstore shelf.

Right now, what I have is that mess: something that looks like a book, but inside is an unfinished jumble. There’s a lot of work to do before Empire’s Heir is a book someone will want to live inside. I’m letting it settle, and then I’ll start.