MaxBarry.com
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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

Thu 30
Nov
2006

Exceptional

Writing Okay, look, I’m trying to keep low-key about this. I don’t want to make it into a whole deal. But I just finished the first draft of my new book, and OH MY GOD I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

I’ve been keeping my mouth shut about this, because from experience I know the moment I say, “This book I’m working on is going quite well,” that’s the first moment of a week of black, empty wordlessness. You just can’t tempt the gods like that. So I have been very good. I haven’t said anything to anybody, even though I have desperately wanted to grab someone and yell, “It’s the best book ever! It’s the best book ever!

Now I should confess that I often become overly enamored with my own books while I’m writing them. It’s a good thing, because if I saw them objectively, these staggering, newborn first drafts, I’d probably be so appalled that I wouldn’t be able to keep working on them. Blind love at this point is a prerequisite.

And next, I’m sure I’m going to read this draft and discover the myriad ways in which it’s not as wonderful as I thought. But that’s also a good thing: just as I can’t write if I’m in a critical frame of mind, I can’t edit unless I am. So I need to change modes. I need to give it some tough love.

But before I do, I’m just going to say it: this has been the best writing experience of my life.

I did two things differently this time. First, I had a daily maximum word limit. I probably broke this more times than I honored it, but still, I think it was helpful. It was good to feel a little naughty when I wrote 800 words in a day. And it was good to be able to leave it at 200 words when the scene needed more thought, rather than feeling like I should push on with whatever I had at the time.

The second thing I did differently was refuse to plot. Well, I’ve always done that; this time I actively tried to destroy my own plotting. Whenever I realized I’d figured out what was going to happen next, I changed my mind. My goal was to avoid any kind of cruise mode, where I feel that the story is ticking along nicely and I don’t want to screw anything up, so I just let things play out. This time I deliberately kept messing things up. Sometimes that meant I spent most of my writing time looking out the window trying to figure out what would happen instead. And by the time I got to the ending, all I knew was that it couldn’t possibly be what I’d originally imagined.

I’m sure this helped my characters, because I constantly looked to them for the next step instead of trying to nudge them down my pre-determined path. And although I have a bunch of stuff I need to go back and insert to make the stuff I only thought up later work, I think the plot that grew out of this chaos is actually pretty good.

But most of all: oh man, it was such cool fun. I’ve had the best time.

(Note: I know somebody’s going to ask about timelines, so: at a guess, I’ll be ready to show this to my editor in maybe 6-12 months. If he decides he wants to publish it, then add about 12 months before it would appear on the shelves. I know, I know. Sorry.)

Comments

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Leonie (#1816)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: ""The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." - Einstein"
Posted: 4462 days ago

I'm glad I'm not the only one who has that feeling (although I make artwork, not stories...)

congratulations on the first draft. :)

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 4462 days ago

Fri. December 1st, 2006

I WILL NEVER MEET MAX BARRY...

Thanks for taunting us. I'll just add another 12 months to the 18-24 months for another book tour. Then I'll add another 10 years and two more novels to that for another book tour to the midwest. Then I'll add all of eternity to when I will actually meet Max Barry in person, where I will say, "Remember that time you wrote a blog about me metablogger"...to which Max will respond, "Uhh...sure...yeah...I...remember...Do you want a signed copy of my book or what?"

-adam speicher

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 4462 days ago

Well, I'm proud of you.

I fell out of that infatuation level with my novel in the rewrite process, and I sometimes think of ideas for other novels or ways to breathe life into that one and I remember how awful it was when I realized its flaws.

You inspire me to get back on my own novel.

shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 4462 days ago

im guessing this novel....on the back sleeve it will have an updated picture of Max but instead his windows desktop in the background will have the default MS Vista wallpaper instead...
$

Emily (#609)

Location: New York
Quote: "When in doubt, fuck it. When not in doubt, get in doubt!"
Posted: 4462 days ago

That's wonderful! :-)

I hope I get that feeling somewhere down the road of my potential career.

Will try not to get too excited until there's a little less distance between Now and Publication...

Phill Sacre (#1822)

Location: London, UK
Quote: "Computers are like air conditioners. Both stop working, if you open windows."
Posted: 4462 days ago

"im guessing this novel....on the back sleeve it will have an updated picture of Max but instead his windows desktop in the background will have the default MS Vista wallpaper instead..." ... or perhaps the Gentoo command line? :)


Refusing to plot must actually be a good way to write a novel if you want to make it realistic, I might have to try it some day.

Looking forward to your next book already, Max!

Machine Man subscriber Marleen (#2741)

Location: Berlin, Germany
Quote: "I want more expensive shoes in one place than I've ever seen in my whole life."
Posted: 4462 days ago

And there was me thinking "new book soon". Oh Max. Sometimes I just desperately want to grab you and yell, “Write faster! WRITE FASTER!”

mybluemake (#1990)

Location: Houston, TX
Quote: "I'd rather be oversexed or Kurt Vonnegut."
Posted: 4462 days ago

This is a little bit of a come-on. It is as disappointing as when your hooker turns out to be a lady cop. I will await with baited breath, but this one I'll buy used as punishment. I keed, I'll snap it up in pre-sales if Amazon honors you so. Write faster! Write like the wind.

Sven B. (#2792)

Location: Paris, FR
Quote: "If you did not make it, don't try to fix it."
Posted: 4462 days ago

Nice to read news about your next book. But it means I'd better find a way to grab a copy of Syrup and Company real fast, if I don't want to see my "Books I Have to Read" list to get oversized.

Linnea1928 (#2654)

Location: Rosemount, MN
Posted: 4462 days ago

Oh, Max! Why do you do this to us? Now I'm really excited for this new book and I have to wait another 2 years? Uff da, but I'll just have to wait because I totally <3 you. Keep it up! :)

Machine Man subscriber Xavier Desroches (#1840)

Location: Brossard, Qc, Ca
Quote: "Smile, Tomorrow Will Be Worse... - Murphy"
Posted: 4462 days ago

@shabooty: If there is no picture of his daughter or any comment like "To my little poo-machine" just before the preface, I'm deceive!

@Mr. Max: Lets hope you're laughing writing the book as much as I am reading it!

@ The 2200 Others: Sorry, no comments for you...

shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 4462 days ago

i can't wait to be sitting back reading max's new book, between sessions of playing my playstation 4 :)

Justin (#2009)

Location: Halfmoon, NY
Quote: "Max(x) is awesome!"
Posted: 4462 days ago

Yummy! Now give it here, you tease! I've got money! Lots! Ok... maybe not lots... but definitely some! I need my fix!

Kit (#850)

Location: UK
Posted: 4462 days ago

What's it about? What's it about? What's it about? What's it about? What's it about? What's it about? What's it about?What's it about? What's it about?What's it about? What's it about?What's it about? What's it about? What's it about?What's it about? What's it about? What's it about?

I still love your first book, Syrup. I'm going to read it again when I get time, it deffinately resonates strongly with my generation.

Machine Man subscriber Alan W (#1427)

Location: Spokane, Washington
Quote: "Corgis are like potato chips"
Posted: 4461 days ago

Max(x),

Is it really possible to make a living as an author and only publish one book every 3 years? If that is so, I should probably stop writing code and start writing prose! On second thought, that could be a bad idea...

Keep up the great work, we all wait poised for the pearls of literature to trickle down from your keyboard into our local bookstores (or internet mega-marts).

Shawna (#2485)

Location: San Francisco, CA
Quote: ""She is a child of ferocious will. She would question the universe if it could answer." - Anon"
Posted: 4461 days ago

Thanks for that glimpse into your writing process. Glad you're so happy. There's no better feeling upon completion than to feel the process was fun and the product is the best thing ever!

I think I can be patient to see this new book since I have to read Company and Syrup before I can complain...

austin (#2462)

Location: rhode island
Quote: "hmmm...bleh..."
Posted: 4461 days ago

Oh wow. The second I read that the draft was done for the new book, I jumped out of my seat yelling, "YES! ANOTHER MAX BARRY BOOK! YES!!!"

Not even kidding. The book I'm writing now, and all of my other writing is written how you wrote this one: no plotting. I just sit there and let the words flow. I think it makes writing mroe interesting, so we'll see in about 18 months...grr.

Well, congrats nontheless, and make sure to visit the Rhode Island/Massachusetts area during your book tour.

Greg Karber (#1568)

Location: gregkarber.com
Posted: 4460 days ago

I too want to know what it's about.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 4459 days ago

It's about 90,000 words.

Boom boom! Thank you! Thank you!

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 4459 days ago

"I'm my number 1 fan!" -Max Barry

...for some reason, I just now noticed that, and I think it is quite hilarious.

-adam speicher

Robert (#2152)

Location: Berlin, Germany
Posted: 4458 days ago

congrats.

austin (#2462)

Location: rhode island
Quote: "hmmm...bleh..."
Posted: 4458 days ago

90k. Wow. Mine has about 43k...so far...

Peter Larkins (#2811)

Location: Sydney
Quote: "Never let logic get in the way of a good MKTG idea ..."
Posted: 4458 days ago

You know, people say the 'net is a bad thing !

Yet if it wasn't for Wikipedia, I would never have discovered that not only

(A) Max(x) Barry has written & published two other novels in addition to the brilliant Syrup, which of course I now need to read ...

(B) Max(x) also has this blog, which I've now become a member of (yay)

and most importantly

(C) Max(x) now has another book in the works, which I'll hopefully be able to add to my "to read" list once I finish the other two

Yay :)

Peter Larkins (#2811)

Location: Sydney
Quote: "Never let logic get in the way of a good MKTG idea ..."
Posted: 4458 days ago

Oh, and for those playing at home, I should state the 'net bears no responsibility whatsoever for my overuse of "yay" in the preceding comment ;-)

Sven B. (#2792)

Location: Paris, FR
Quote: "If you did not make it, don't try to fix it."
Posted: 4458 days ago

@Shawna : So I'm not the only one who started with Jennifer Government, rather than Syrup ? That's some kind of a relief. I was beginning to fear all users here were "first hour fans" who all read Syrup within days it was issued...

austin (#2462)

Location: rhode island
Quote: "hmmm...bleh..."
Posted: 4457 days ago

I read Jennifer Government first, then Syrup, then Company.

Greg Karber (#1568)

Location: gregkarber.com
Posted: 4456 days ago

Max, you're a hoot. No, seriously, keep it up.

What notation are you going to use to represent the rimshot in this upcoming novel?

/not sexual

Blue (#2857)

Location: Hobart, Tassie
Quote: "There are no stupid questions. Only stupid people."
Posted: 4434 days ago

Yeah, Jennifer Government was my first. Actually, I discovered Max Barry due to a Latin quote, and the wonders of Google. It went like this: *looking at friend's website, spots quotation in Latin* "hmm wonder what that means?" *googles it, ends up on a NationStates region forum where someone has used the same quote* "eh, this looks like a fun game. What do you know, its quite funny and even mentions Tasmania. oh looky, the guy who wrote it has a website" *proceeds to read all Max's blogs, recovers from pulled stomach muscle due to laughing so hard, realises the coder is, in fact, a writer. immediately buys Jennifer Government, being the only one of Max's books available locally*
And yes. I am paragraphically challenged. Its a terrible affliction which has seriously impeded my ability to live a normal life (or at the very least, write a normal letter).

Luca (#2871)

Location: Italy
Posted: 4423 days ago

Ciao!
I just finished The Company. I have to say that you have something in common with Douglas Coupland. Don't ask what because I really ignore it. I know your Jenifer Government has been published in Italy (titled Logoland). Do you ever know if The Company is close to be published too? I'd love to translate it and propose it to a good company... I'm a writer and translater... and from now on one of your readers too. Ciao L

Theo (#2909)

Quote: ""I don't take no stock in dead people"- Mark Twain, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn""
Posted: 4411 days ago

Tsk tsk. 800 hundred words. At the rate of henious violations you're going at, you'll be digging in the flower bed soon.

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