Disrespecting Fans By Not Publishing Crap . . . And Other Stuff
It looks like entitled whiny “fans” have stopped saying (for the most part) that authors “owe” them books on a certain timeframe.
Alas, this does not mean that they’ve stopped being entitled whiny “fans”. Far from it. Instead their new tactic seems to be to whine that the author is “disrespecting their fans” . . . even when the author has said the book is delayed because he had to cut a large piece out and put it back together. In other words, even when the book in its present form is a piece of shit!
So as far as I can tell, this alleged fans think it’s perfectly respectful for an author to release a book that sucks on the date it was first supposed to come out, but horribly disrespectful to wait and release when it doesn’t suck.
That’s some damn special logic they’re using there. Like it has less acquaintance with Earth logic than some of the things my five-month-old kitten* does. I mean, I’m pretty fucking sure I’m not unique in preferring to spend money on books that don’t suck regardless of how many years I have to wait for them! How the hell is it disrespectful to only want to give your fans a good book?!
You know, I don’t think I’ve seen this in any other field. I can’t think of a single time I’ve seen a music album delayed and the fans went “They should just release it as it is now; it’s disrespectful to us to make us wait any longer!” Or a movie.
What makes books different? Why do people see authors as just content creation machines, churning out books like a factory churning out socks?
I have a theory on that, one I’ve brought up before. My theory is that since anyone who’s bitching about a book being late can write — i.e. make marks on a page that represent words, they assume that writing fiction is simply a matter of sitting down and writing word after word after word for eight hours a day, five days a week, until the story is done. Which is, to be fair, how some authors write first drafts. (I do two hours a day, five days a week, of which only about ninety minutes is spent writing. I get more done this way then writing for longer periods, as I don’t burn out nearly as badly or as quickly.)
I was just watching a video where an author is explaining, in response to a fan question about why the book is taking so long, his revision process, and still there are lots and lots of comments about how he needs to just write for eight hours a day, five days a week “because it’s his job”!
I’m not sure how much clearer anyone can make it that there is so much more to making a good story than just getting the words out. Hell, I write pretty fast. In that ninety minutes of actually writing a day I mentioned earlier, I average around 3000 words. (Many professional authors — some rather famous ones even — consider 2000 words enough for the day.) Three thousand words a day times five days a week means I can write fifteen thousand words a week. When revising, unless I happen to be working on one of those places where the first draft was golden, I average about eight hundred words of progress in the same amount of time.
And I usually need to do three or more revision passes.
So, let’s look at something the length of one of the books by the author that’s “fans” inspired this post: 399,000 words. I could write something that long in about 133 days, but each revision pass would take about 499 days! So, let’s assume four revision passes. That’s 1996 days. Plus the 133 it took me to write it in the first place. So that’s 2129 days to finish the book. That’s — remember, this is working five days a week — about eight years!
And that’s assuming I never take an extra day off. Or hit a really crappy section revising. Or lose a chapter to a hard drive crash. In other words, that’s assuming an absolutely ideal set of circumstances which would never happen.
So, obviously, the solution is to do as these people say the author should be doing and write (and presumably edit) eight hours a day, five days a week. Then I’d only need two years, right?
Well, no, actually. In all likelihood what would happen if I tried to work on any one thing for that long every fucking week, I’d never get through with it. Because, in my experience — and it seems this is true for at least some other authors as well — the longer I spend on it at once, the more likely I am to run out of mental energy and end up doing things that are just plain stupid. Which means I then need to fix those. Which means more hours.
I think a big part of the problem right now is that the mystique of being an author is no longer existent with so many so very publicly sharing with their fans their process.** Specifically the number of authors who stress that if you want to be a professional author you have to treat writing like a job, when job in too many people’s minds means “thing you do eight hours a day, five days a week for money” instead of “thing you take seriously and don’t treat like a hobby if you ever hope to make money at it,” which I assume is how most authors mean it. So these “fans” assume that any author who isn’t turning out books at a steady pace is clearly not taking things seriously at all.
I’m not really sure what can be done about this. I regularly see authors who work slower explaining why their books come out at a less steady pace, but yet this attitude, and the misconceptions that feed it, persist.
And, now for an update on my own slow book:
No More Lies hasn’t been touched in months. One of the problems is that I realized that I cut too much of the bits that were just characterization and setting flavor out in the last revision, so it’s a lot drier than I want it to be. So I’ve got to put those back in. And fix the last of the timeline problems. So . . . it’s probably going to need another revision pass after this one, as much as I hate the idea.
If I work on absolutely nothing else (which won’t happen), I could have it ready to publish in about a year. My current best estimate is that it will be out in 2020. That’s six years after I finished the first draft, and five years after the first release date I proposed.
But it will be a much, much better book for the wait.
But I guess this means I’m disrespecting the one or two of you who were eagerly anticipating it. I’m sorry I’m not charging you money for a shitty book, I guess.
Oh, right! I was going to work into this rant an example of why revision can take so long! Pretend there’s an intelligent sounding segue here:
I started writing No More Lies as a short story in 2011. I switched it from third to first person and started over. Then I started it over as a novel. (Well, it was supposed to be a novella, but it didn’t get the memo.) Throughout all of those attempts, and the first revision pass, the first paragraph barely changed. I’d switched the pronouns when I switched it from third to first person, and I’d rephrased things slightly because I was getting a headache trying to figure out how to punctuate a sentence, but other than that, I hadn’t touched it.
Then I reread it after ignoring the story completely for months.
It wasn’t right. There was no other way to put it. That first paragraph that I’d loved so much, that I’d read over and over for six years, wasn’t right. It didn’t sound like the narrator. It sounded like I would say it, not like Bobby would. So I had to rewrite it.
This is how an author can expect to have a book ready to publish in one year and then end up revising it for nearly ten. Something can seem perfect the first several times you read it, and then one day you realize it’s all fucking wrong. Oh, maybe it’s technically perfect, but there’s a lot more to writing than technical skill. Hell, many of the changes I’ve been making this year in No More Lies have been to make the narration less perfect because it fits the character better. Even in third person, the narrator has a voice of their own and needs to be consistent, and that can be hard to manage. (I remember a fantasy novel I once read that was mostly written in a very prosaic and down-to-earth style, then, wham, a beautifully poetic passage in the narration. It pushed me out of the story because it was so jarringly different. Someone should’ve caught that before it was published. It was technically perfect — I’ve reread that passage a few times just because it’s so beautiful and well-written — but it didn’t fit at all with what was around it.)
Pretend there’s another clever segue here:
So, I’m doing Nanowrimo again, this time aiming for ten thousand more words than it takes to “win”. Why? Because fifty thousand has gotten too easy and I like a challenge. Or because I’ve taken leave of my senses. Jury’s out.
Halfway into the month, and I’m at 280 words over halfway to my goal. Because I’m me and as allergic to working on one thing at a time as I am to having marketable story ideas, this word count is spread out over four stories. One of these stories was inspired by a dream I had the morning before I started writing it, another is a reworking of something I wrote eleven years ago, one is something I started last Nanowrimo, and one is something I started last winter some time.
The one inspired by a dream I’ve written around five thousand words of and suspect it will be the first book of a series. Which is just fucking wonderful when you revise as slowly as me. I’m going to have to deal with some of the sort of “fans” I’ve been ranting about if it gets popular at all. Yippee!
The reworking of the old thing is about ten times it’s previous length at almost nine thousand words. I used to have a tendency for my stories to sound more like summaries than stories, you see. I’m stuck because I got to a point I’d been picturing for years and suddenly realized it wouldn’t work with the way Sweytzian society has developed as I’ve worked out more about the setting. Fuck.
The one I started last Nanowrimo is over thirty thousand words long, and I’ve just gotten to the second month of a story that takes place over two years! I’m a little worried I’m going to end up with something Game of Thrones’ length here. But I’m having a lot of fun with it because the narrator is possibly more sarcastic than me. (Okay, more like she says in the narration the sort of stuff I think but don’t say because I’m a coward, and she’s a Kavaliro so is possibly genetically missing the whole “fear response” thing.)
And the last one I’m twenty-nine thousand words into and need to read back over and make notes so I can make sure I get all the subplots I’ve introduced tied up — or at least left open in a dramatically interesting and potentially sequel hook-y way. I think it’s almost done, though.
And then there’s the three stories I’ve been meaning to work on this month but haven’t gotten to yet . . .
Oh, and the secret project I alluded to a few times last year — not the one I couldn’t discuss, that one was cancelled by the publisher because of internal problems they were having, the one I was just saying I wasn’t ready to talk about — has been delayed because I’ve spent so much time this year writing instead of revising. I, at this moment, expect it to happen next spring or summer.
I, being your mother, probably find this rant perfectly understandable. Being someone who has always written for fun understand totally. I have a story I’ve been writing off and on for nearly thirty years. Which went untouched at one time for nearly ten years, before I changed one paragraph and wrote two pages, it’s been sitting in its box for three years this time, reread it last week. Need to change about the last seventeen pages the storyline veered off course.