MaxBarry.com
too cool for school

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Mon 16
Feb
2009

Machinations

Writing I have a problem. Lately I’ve been happy with my writing; I don’t want to make a whole big thing out of it, but the words have been good words. I like them. They make me happy. One day, not too long from now, I hope other people will see them, and be happy, too.

I haven’t mentioned this recently—by “recently,” I mean, “for the last 18 months”—because I got myself into the slightly embarrassing situation of publicly declaring my excitement for a book that, in retrospect, didn’t quite deserve it. I don’t think I had gone through the essential “falling out of love” stage, which must occur so that an author can stop making goo-goo eyes at her new baby and start dismembering it, to build a new body around the interesting parts.

Also, I figured it’s frustrating to hear an author talking about how great his writing is going when he’s not putting out any frickin’ books.

But clearly this has backfired—or at least run its course. I first got an inkling when a friend sent me a podcast on “Writers and Procrastination.” Then there were the growing number of emails and comments, like this one from Ian:

What do you do all day? I read Twilight for frack sake. I’m so bored. And you….watch movies and grow facial hair? Books! WRITE BOOKS! Short stories…..anything

People think I’m not doing anything. It’s a little strange, because if I’m on book tour for some paperback edition, people seem to figure I’m at least keeping busy. But if I bunker down and write, they assume I’m sipping daiquiris in the Bahamas.

I decided to tally up the number of words of fiction I’ve ever written. It’s 1.5 million. My finished novels tend to wind up around 80,000 words, so that’s about 19 books. Since Company, I’ve written about half a million words, the equivalent of seven novels.

But not seven good novels. I’m a pathological rewriter: I believe that if a book hasn’t had more words cut from it than it is long, it needs more work. Right now, I have quite a lot of fiction that is promising. Some of it is almost there. But not quite. And I do not want to give you a bad novel. I never want to do that.

So here is my problem. Even if I escorted a manuscript to my publisher tomorrow, it would be a year, minimum, before that thing reaches your hands. It would make you happy, I think. But it’s a long time to wait. It’s too long.

So I am going to do something. I know what the something is. It will be good. And it will be in March.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Michael Crider (#3054)

Location: Colorado, United States
Posted: 1891 days ago

Max, you just made my day. And considering it's almost 1 AM and I have a final project due in two hours, that' saying something.

I wait with breath considerably bated.

Machine Man subscriber Bushra (#36)

Location: Fremont, California
Quote: "www.caffeinatedmuslim.com"
Posted: 1891 days ago

Thanks for the update about your writing Max. I'm really looking forward to whatever it is you have in mind for March. So after that, maybe a novel a year from now?

Machine Man subscriber Stygian Emperor (#2947)

Location: Austin, TX
Quote: "Hope is but the first step down the path to disappointment."
Posted: 1891 days ago

I know you've been keeping busy. Renting chickens, growing mustaches, eating bad potatoes... It's a wonder you have time for anything at all.

But now I'm excited. Can't wait for March!

Jak (#2464)

Quote: "The Straight-Jacket makes it hard to type."
Posted: 1891 days ago

Seriously Max, I was beginning to think you had retired. Its good to hear that we, the fans, will get something to tide us over 'till the next book.

On a side note about the twilight series rubbish, a link to what I think other fans will find amusing(may contain spoilers): http://www.cracked.com/article_16878_if-twilight-was-10-time-shorter-100-times-more-honest.html

Phill Sacre (#1822)

Location: London, UK
Quote: "Computers are like air conditioners. Both stop working, if you open windows."
Posted: 1891 days ago

Max, you take as long as you want - we can wait. I'd rather you put out something you were happy with than rush something out (obviously 'rush' in this sense being a relative term...)

Looking forward to whenever it does come out though, and whatever it is that you're doing in March :)

Kx (#1449)

Location: UK
Quote: "inspirewithhope.com"
Posted: 1891 days ago

Oh, how exciting!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

*is excited*

Kx

Picto (#64)

Location: United Kingdom
Quote: "Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light? - Maurice Freehill"
Posted: 1891 days ago

Is it too soon to be writing an autobiography?


Oh.


Shame.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 1891 days ago

Dear Max,

If you don't post some new writings in March after this enticing blog, I will de-friend you on facebook. Yep...the ultimate facebook insult.

sincerely,

-adam speicher

Ruth (#288)

Location: Bath, United Kingdom
Quote: "Only the insane have strength enough to prosper. Only those who prosper may truly judge what is sane."
Posted: 1891 days ago

Max, you're such a tease!

Machine Man subscriber Barry Mitchell (#1001)

Location: Saukville, Wisconsin
Quote: ""A hamster's like a small camel" - Ben Katz"
Posted: 1891 days ago

Cool. Looking forward to it. I saw you in Milwaukee on Company book tour and you read from a work-in-progress. I was hoping to see that, but I'll take this next cool thing, whatever it is.

Brittany O. (#1688)

Location: Montana
Quote: "My love calls me Boom..."
Posted: 1891 days ago

March. Sweet glorious March.

Tommy Mandel (#2554)

Location: nYc
Quote: ""You want me to sign this now?""
Posted: 1891 days ago

Good luck, Max. Glad you are happy with what's coming out now. When I played with Ian Hunter (from Mott the Hoople) we in the band got exasperated, cuz during one period, he rewrote PATHOLOGICALLY! I mean, he had this great song called "Captain Void and the Video Jets" (in the mid 80's) - it had cool words, attitude, great feel, good beat, etc. So we're in the studio to record it, and all of a sudden he wants to bang the chorus up a half step modulation, which absolutely ruined it! It was like, "woa! where'd the song go? what's this?!?"
Just a word of warning. But a great metaphor you gave about putting the baby's parts back together after dismemberment.

Tommy Mandel (#2554)

Location: nYc
Quote: ""You want me to sign this now?""
Posted: 1891 days ago

PS. I just reread Jennifer again. And passed it on to a colleague. Really enjoyed it! Reread Wm. Gibson's Idoru too. Blame it on my age, but much of a reread feels like it's the first time. Argh! that sounds like a Foreigner song. I really AM 80's.
Would you say that one of the biggest challenges to a successful writer, is writing more stuff, unselfconsciously? Oops, I said that. Another wannabee reveals himself!

Yubi Shines (#1664)

Location: Canada
Quote: "HOPE RIDES ALONE!"
Posted: 1891 days ago

Woo! Best birthday present ever!

God, I turn 20 in March. What have I been DOING?

Emily (#609)

Location: New York
Quote: "When in doubt, fuck it. When not in doubt, get in doubt!"
Posted: 1891 days ago

Like all awesome writers you have a flair for building suspense.

Duly excited!

Machine Man subscriber Lowly Worm (#3028)

Location: Loves Park, IL
Quote: "Insert witty quote here."
Posted: 1891 days ago

OOOOH! Something!!! I love something!!!!! And a March something is EVEN BETTER!!!!

John Reynolds (#2534)

Location: New York, USA
Posted: 1891 days ago

Oh goodness, how exciting! I guess I'll have to fill in all the days of March on my calendar with "Something from Max Barry today?"

Aaron the Evil HR Guy (#2252)

Location: Denver
Quote: "'The HR Department is a breeding ground for monsters' Michael Scott"
Posted: 1891 days ago

That's great Max! I haven't stooped to Ian's level but I am trodding through a rather cheery book about the Black Death so I need a departure. I for one never assumed you were doing nothing -- I figured you were busy singlehandedly putting out the wildfires...

Daniel DiFranco (#243)

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Quote: ""I do not think that word means what you think it means.""
Posted: 1891 days ago

It moved a little when I read the end of this post.

Kevin (#3826)

Location: Calfornia
Quote: "(Insert Clever Quote Here)"
Posted: 1891 days ago

I find it a little funny when a writer talks about how many words he has put down on paper. I can see them sitting at their computer counting the pages they have drafted and then saying to themselves, "Oh goodie 160 pages, I guess I can wrap this story up now"

When I noticed that Paul Auster started doing that, his novels got smaller and smaller - just barely big enough to be considered a book I guess, and they all pretty much suck compared to Mr. Vertigo, which is I guess what you can expect when you count words.

If you are writing just for the sake of drawing another paycheck, then knock yourself out and good for you, I'm jealous. I do want to point out though, that the corporate culture seems to be seeping back into your life now that you are a monkey at a typewriter working for the man.

Draft some memos, read some reports, file some paperwork and keep yourself busy until 5:00 rolls around. As long as you look busy, then you are busy, and the boss won't catch on.

Anyway, my days consist of playing Age of Empires, so who am I to complain? I'm the smart ass in the next cube that is single and gives dating advise.

Kevin (#3826)

Location: Calfornia
Quote: "(Insert Clever Quote Here)"
Posted: 1891 days ago

By the way, leaving a 200 word comment on a blog doesn't give me 200 points towards writing a book.

Machine Man subscriber M.I.Minter (#347)

Location: Houston Texas, USA
Quote: "When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading."
Posted: 1891 days ago

This is the kind of post I can get behind.
Like a trail of bread crumbs that leads to me (gladly) giving you money, that’s what this site should be.
I didn't know that you had to build the granite rock that you then carve "David" from. Your process is fascinating (honestly) and I'd love to hear more about it.

Thanks for quoting me and making my year. I hope I didn't hurt any feelings. If you're ever in Houston Texas (and no, I'm not Texan, so do not reread previous posts with an accent, I just moved here) I'll buy you a beer.

I'm sure you know this but, no one ever finishes anything, they simply run out of time.

Cheers,
Ian

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 1891 days ago

Well I'm curious to what this surprise will be, but March is a mere ten days away, and I wonder whether this is long enough to edit and procrastinate over whatever it is. Assuming that this was all triggered by Ian's comment on the last blog, and not all some long-planned conspiracy that's been waiting for the best time to strike... I find it hard to picture you as a magnificent bastard Max, don't ask me why.

Personally I haven't been that bothered by the lack of new books. I mean, new books would be nice and all, and ultimately I'm here because I read Syrup way back when. But I still haven't read Company, because it's not out in the UK (considering I imported the other two, this might be a weak argument) and I haven't wanted the hassle of trying to find somewhere reputable to import from. I really lucked out with Syrup, getting a first-edition signed hardback from a speciality online book dealer in the US. Jennifer Government however, was a total pain in the hole to get hold of, with various failed attempts at getting it from eBay and the like, until finally Amazon UK decided it would import the US paperback edition.

Also, I'm not unfamiliar with writer's block and procrastination. I've been writing for years now and have yet to publish more than a single collection of short stories that was only read by 3 people, or so I gather from how my old publisher dropped me. I've written masses of stuff since, though I haven't been counting words, but nothing seems to have come out of it, and I've been working on my first novel for four years, so far through five complete rewrites. I would be a monumental hypocrite to bug my favourite writers to produce more, and besides, I like your blog. Sure, you've been writing about 'staches and chickens a lot, but your blogs are always amusing... EXCEPT when you're using them to sell your latest book, when your blog goes all pushy and mercenary telling people how awesome it is, and can we go buy it. We already like you, most of us will buy it anyway, that's why we're here. I'm more interested in reading about how you managed to ride something even better than a walrus in your bathroom, or how Fin has discovered she can get whatever she wants by headbutting you in the crotch.

Machine Man subscriber kmh322 (#3820)

Location: st. louis, mo
Quote: "yo dead bird, get up and fly"
Posted: 1891 days ago

I just discovered you 2 weeks ago and read all of your stuff. I'm thankful you have something new coming out very soon. I'm also exhausted because I'm a tax accountant and the only time I have to read is during the 2 hours I have allotted for sleep each night...oh well, keep writing...love your stuff

Katy (#2345)

Location: Los Angeles
Posted: 1891 days ago

I LOVE March!

Go you!

Michael Ricksand (#2212)

Location: Terra
Quote: "You do not have a right to be stupid."
Posted: 1890 days ago

"I believe that if a book hasn’t had more words cut from it than it is long, it needs more work." was such a good quote that I immediately wrote it down in my Notebook of Clever Things People Say that I always carry with me

Dane O'Brien (#2362)

Location: USA- Virginia
Quote: "No, I don't need a miracle, but I could use a push in the right direction. - RCPM"
Posted: 1890 days ago

Something my other favorite writer (Chris Moore) has done to satisfy his fans has been to release the first chapter of his books via his website a few months before the book is available. This would be an awesome habit to pick up, Max. It's really quite a tease, but a pleasant one.

Richard Thomas (#3828)

Location: Chicago, IL USA
Quote: "What does not kill me makes me stronger."
Posted: 1889 days ago

Right on, way to go Max. Look forward to it.

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 1889 days ago

Wheeeee! Woo!

Machine Man subscriber Kyle (#3321)

Location: Burnie, Tasmania
Posted: 1888 days ago

Curious question for you. Do you have to hold yourself back from analysing the shit of your work as you write it and rewriting every paragraph after it comes out or do you hold off until the end? Something I'm learning to stop doing at the moment after becoming a rewrite addict.

jessica (#3063)

Location: austin, tx
Quote: "You can't start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart."
Posted: 1887 days ago

Yay, Max! At last you have the belly fire that burns you up inside and motivates you to no end. Fuck the naysayers. Rock on with your bad self!

Miles (#3535)

Location: The Internet
Posted: 1880 days ago

"...which must occur so that an author can stop making goo-goo eyes at her new baby and start dismembering it..."

Looks like the use of alternating between genders when speaking hypothetically is spilling out onto your blog. Not that I'm complaining, of course.

M. Kilbain Lazer (#1709)

Location: Holland
Quote: "I guess we're awesome"
Posted: 1876 days ago

March is almost over already!

Machine Man subscriber coolpillows (#3749)

Location: new york general sort of vicinity
Quote: ""It's not working" -- Joseph Clark"
Posted: 1874 days ago

ah, so now i know that the something is the thing that the "This is the something" is about. it's all coming together...that really is something.......

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