Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

The Long, Long Circus

Whew. Drumlin Circus is done. Or at least complete and intact, if not finished. (Stories are a little like software to me: They’re never finished, not in a truly final sense of the word.) I had dared myself to get it all down by last night, and come four PM I found myself staring at the screen, thinking that I needed a short “resonance” scene to wrap it all up but couldn’t figure out what it might be. (Such scenes are not part of the outline.)

So I sat down this morning and started reading the whole thing through from the beginning. By the time I got through it about 11:00, I knew what I wanted, and fifteen minutes later the words were on the page.

The story came out a lot longer than I planned. 33% longer, in fact: I planned for 35,000 words and my subconscious handed me 53,000. The same thing happened to me in 1998 and 1999: I had intended The Cunning Blood to come in at 90,000 words, and by publication in 2005 was 145,000 words long. Several people have told me that that was a major reason none of the big houses would publish it.

Getting the flu in January slowed me down radically. To make our deadline of introducing it at AnomalyCon at the end of March, I set the completion deadline for March 2. That was a tough one, and in fact, I wrote 25,000 words in the last fourteen days alone. I don’t think I’ve ever written that much fiction in that little time, at least since I was in high school and did little else.

How did it turn out? Reasonably well. It was an experiment on a number of fronts. I’ve never written anything in that length class before. I have a completed but unpublished novella that came in at 27,000 words, and nothing else much past 12,000. It was also a conscious effort to bend the work in a steampunk direction. How that worked I’m not sure yet, though sooner or later people will probably tell me. I wedged in almost every steampunk trope there is, even if briefly: airships, goggles, steam locomotives, strong women dressed provocatively, long-barrelled pistols, and as much brass as I could mention on a planet more or less flooded with intelligent nanocolonies of alien metal. I even tipped the hat to zombies, if only in a metaphor. (Calm down. There are no actual zombies in the story. None.)

I read some Verne and Wells before getting down to business, so that my first-person viewpoint character would sound like an educated city man from 1890, and not like the cowboys and farmers who have dominated the drumlins canon so far. Again, I’m not sure yet how well that worked out. We’ll see.

The story needs some cleaning up, some continuity checking, and as much peer review as I can gather in the next couple of days. Cover art is in progress, and if all the streams collide into the same river, we’ll see Drumlin Circus in book form on or before March 27.

One Comment

  1. Jim Strickland says:

    Congratulations. And since I /have/ had the pleasure of the pages, as an old professor of mine put it, let me say that it’s a killer story. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *