A number of readers have commented that A THRONE OF BONES is significantly improved, in terms of their perception of its literary quality, over my previous novels. I myself have the sense that I know what I’m doing now in a way that I simply did not 10 years ago, and that while I feel too jaded and indifferent to be writing what could be described as “angry young man” commentary anymore – hence the column retirement – I feel extraordinarily energetic with regards to the novel writing. Producing 7,500 words of fiction per week comes relatively easily now, whereas the weekly 750-word columns that used to flow like water had increasingly become difficult.
So, I found Steve Sailer’s analysis of PG Wodehouse to be very interesting in this regard, as it seems to indicates that one’s forties, fifties, and even sixties are the writer’s prime novel-writing season.
The consistency of ratings over time is the most striking fact. But a
few temporal patterns can be discerned due to the huge sample sizes of
raters. My Man Jeeves at age 37 was a rookie effort, falling 0.13
points below his career mean. Wodehouse hit a long peak from his early
40s into his early 60s with six straight Jeeves novels rated above his
career average, but his ratings slip only marginally in his old age….The peak is probably 1938’s (age 56) The Code of the Woosters. The
topical political satire of Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union
of Fascist Blackshirts, as Bertie’s nemesis Sir Roderick Spode, leader
of the Blackshorts, makes the book stand out.The next novel was 1946’s (age 64) Jeeves in the Morning (formerly Joy in the Morning),
which Wodehouse had a lot of time to work on while he was interned by
the Nazis (he was caught at his beach home in France in 1940). It has
equally high ratings as Code of the Woosters, although fewer raters. In 1982, Alexander Cockburn designated Code and Morning to be the peaks of the series.Ring for Jeeves (age 71) is the most obvious dud, but Wodehouse rebounded well. For example, Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, published when he was about age 81, garnered above average ratings from over 3,000 raters. That’s pretty extraordinary.
On the one hand, one could argue that I started writing novels too early. Or, at least, publishing them too early. Wasn’t it Hemingway who said that everyone had a million worthless words inside them that they had to get out before writing anything decent? I’m finally past that point now, and it is encouraging to know that I’m likely on the left side of the career arc, and so long as I put in the effort, can anticipate continued improvement over the next twenty years.