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At 3:00 a.m. I snapped the picture below.

I’m going to have this post hit two big points. One, although it’s not entirely secret these days (in fact it came out in several publicity interviews for book one), the working title of book two is THE ULTRA BIG SLEEP. I give a nod to a different noir title and a different noir author, the wonderful Raymond Chandler.

The bigger news in my opinion, is that I’ve broken the 100,000 word mark on this sequel to THE ULTRA THIN MAN. And I’m oh-so-close-to-done with this first draft. A couple small chapters and an epilogue is my guess. The first novel went in to my editor at 96,000 words. After edits and additions, the final product came out to be 107,000 words. I can see book two’s first draft wanting to come close to that 107,000 word mark, maybe a bit longer.

To be honest, until I hit 90,000 words with this current book, I still wasn’t 100% sure how it was going to end. That might be scary to some writers out there, and worrisome to readers, but part of this “question markery” is due to my stubborn, organic, seat-of-my-pants writing style.

I’m a “pantser” through and through, throwing my characters into weird, dangerous situations around a thread of a plot idea (all in relation, somehow, to the events of book one). I was concerned that the ending hadn’t come to me when I hit what I thought might be the 3/4 mark of the novel, but I trusted where my characters had taken me. At the end of the manuscript file, I jotted down note after note and bullet point after bullet point about all the things I had to attend to when I went back. Oh yeah, she’s gotta do this back in chapter ten. And This character has to go. Or This crucial point has to come up during this scene back here or I’ll never make this other chapter fly. Or This chapter has to come much later. (Well, that last thing I had to fix before I could go on, but you get the point.)

By 90,000 words I wasn’t worried. It’s why everything’s been going so slow, though. I had to move all my pieces carefully, trusting that the end game was there. Let the chips fall where they may. My subconscious knew the ending, so I didn’t panic. I’d had very few rollbacks writing this. In other words, only twice did I have to back up a half chapter, or a chapter, or slide things around during the process of this first draft. For this book I’m not under deadline. Perhaps a future novel will be, and I won’t be able to afford such a leisurely process.

Still, in comparison to the years (decades?) it took to write book one, I’m cranking this sucker out as if I were at the tail end of an adrenaline-filled, 5-hour ENERGY-fueled all-nighter. It’s like Finals Week. I’ve got to fight to the end, cram and study, so I’ll be more than ready to take the Final.

And then I’ll get to crash. One would say I’ll be able to take a very big sleep.