East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Final sprint for the House of the Gods


The clock is ticking – and while I struggle to close two long overdue projects and juggle other engagements1 – the deadline for the delivery of the first draft of House of the Gods looms closer.
I’m pretty excited about this book.
First because it’s a novel, and I’m notoriously a short-fiction sort of guy and writing a novel is an adventure in itself.
Then, because it’s the first job for a high-profile international publisher, so I have to show my best game.
And finally, because it’s a pulpy story full of adventure and dinosaurs and you know how much I love this sort of stuff.


It’s also the first story in which I have adopted a different approach to writing.
I started with a full outline and a chapters breakdown list, but my story was going nowhere.
Lots of blahblah, lots of talking heads. And yet, I have this sort of movie running through my head, and I know what needs to happen, and when…
So I ditched much of what I had written but the first two chapters, that basically set up the situation and introduce the cast – there’s a lot of characters in House of the Gods.
Then, with the characters established and the setting defined, I just went and wrote ten action scenes – ten set-pieces, one for each chapter in the outline.
I wrote each 800/1000 words scene in a single sitting, making it as varied, frantic and fun as possible.
Then, I just filled up the space between these scenes, connecting them, adding dialogues and descriptions and background and everything that was needed – and thus ended up with a lean 30.000 words rough rough rough draft that in ten days at most will have to be polished and brought up to 45.000.

This is the moment for the frenzied last-minute research and fact-checking2, and for the cleaning-up of the action (which means that some of those action scenes will expand and become even more outrageous).
Polishing the action means finding a suitable soundtrack – and as usual the Rippingtons are helping a lot3.

nwpageWill I make it?
Of course I will.
It’s fun, and it’s (barely) paying the bills, and when I groan about the pain in my hands and the headaches and back aches and all the rest, I sort of see this pale ghost of Norvell Page4 that grins and says

“So, you kid… you idolized the old pulpsters, the two-million-words-per-year guys, right? I wanna be like that, you said… Do you know what the Chinese have to say about wishes?”

… and I realize it’s very late and I need to go to sleep, but I’m always pretty proud of slowly becoming part of the tribe.

  1. not to mention my bank and the tax office, two constant sources of inspiration and urgency  
  2. I’ve been re-reading Dennis McCarthy’s Here be Dragons, which is highly informative and fun, and from which I’ll steal in cartloads. 
  3. Nature of the Beast from Curves Ahead is the title-track of my novel.  
  4. or sometimes it’s Walter B. Gibson… 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Final sprint for the House of the Gods

  1. I absolutely loved this post.


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