February 27th, 2009


This is not a zero-sum game.

Man, the whole topic of discussion regarding books being late (where GRRM is the flagship of reader bitterness) just won’t go away. So having resisted for several days, I can’t resist anymore, although I trust I’ll be preaching to the choir. Nor, mind you, do I have anything very profound to say, except books, despite a writer’s best intentions, don’t always behave. This job isn’t a science, and when a book is late I’m pretty sure there is nobody on the earth who wants it *finished* more than the writer does.

Really. Even the slavering drooling screaming fanboys who are beating their heads against the walls waiting for that book to hit the shelves, do not want it done as badly as the writer does. Not *nearly* as badly. It is not a millstone hanging around *their* necks; it is merely something to shout about. They may be living with the *results* of characters not behaving, story arcs doing unexpected things, entire plotlines requiring revision or deleting, but they’re not living with the struggle of actually trying to make all of that *work*. Readers are not the ones having a sobbing breakdown in the middle of the sixth rewrite of the novel because they’re exhausted by writing and throwing away and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting and are still unsure if they’ve gotten it right*.

I honestly can’t help wondering what all the people who are so upset over GRRM (and others’) ‘broken promises’ about delivery dates for books would be doing if this was 15 years ago and nobody had instant access to 1. hundreds or thousands of other people also wanting the next book, and 2. the author himself. I’m sure a few of the particularly rabid ones would write real physical letters wailing about the lack of book five, but mostly I imagine they’d be doing what I always did (and frankly still do): going to the bookstore, looking around hopefully, saying, “Well, darn,” and buying something else, until the wonderful day when OH MY GOD THERE IT IS! when they can seize it and tear home and read in six or twelve hours what it took two hundred or three hundred or fifteen hundred hours to *write*.

I mean, really. THE PRETENDER’S CROWN, at 171,000 words, is the longest and most complex book I’ve ever written. If you pared it down to the absolute shortest time I could have spent working on it, it would be about 220 hours, and it was realistically more in the 300 hour range. That’s 8 weeks of 40 hour weeks, assuming it worked that way, which it really spectacularly does not. It’s excrutiatingly unlikely that it’s going to take anybody that long to read. This is not a zero-sum game. Every author out there is doing his best to get you a book that’s worth reading as fast as he possibly can, and there is, at best, a timeline in which you *hope* you’re going to get that done.

For example: anybody who reads this blog knows I write fast. Anybody who reads this blog also knows that right now I’m rewriting words 50-60,000 on my current novel for the third time. You may also know, or perhaps not quite realize, that I’ll be turning this book in late. Only a couple of weeks late–it’s due Friday, and will be in by mid-March, but what you probably don’t actually know is that I haven’t turned a book in on time in the past two years. I’ve only been *doing* this job for four. The first and most spectacularly late of them was six months, which wasn’t enough to screw up the publishing schedule, but it was certainly enough to screw up turning several more books in on time. And then this one, well, you read me wailing about it here. I didn’t have the story right, and I had to go back and fix it. That makes it late. And I’m only trying to write a 90,000 word book that’s the first of a duology with two point of view characters, here, not the fifth in a series of books that individually probably clock in around a quarter of a million words, and which have literally more viewpoint characters than I could name without keeping a spreadsheet.

We do our best. GRRM is doing his best. He’s not lying when he says “I think the book will be done by the end of the year.” He’s hoping. I realize that for ‘hope’ is not generally considered a good business plan, but it makes up for a large part of this job’s structure.

And now I’m going to stop ranting and go finish my chapter. Or, well, gosh, I hope so. :p

*This was me, not GRRM. Just for the record.

(x-posted from the essential kit)

2009 release schedule

After I ranted, someone in comments said:

you were talking about the idea of going back to repitch the Inheritor’s Cycle as something longer than a trilogy to the publisher. I’m sort of curious if the story was spread out across a longer series — if we wouldn’t only see more detail of this nifty world, but possibly make things easier on you as being able to encapsulate smaller story arcs within each volume…and thus, you know…more frequent release dates? :)

which I thought was interesting enough to write a blog-length response to, so now I’m reposting it here. :)

We still haven’t made a decision on how long that series will be, but I’m guessing 5 books, assuming I get to keep writing it. A couple of things happened to make it longer:

- THE QUEEN’S BASTARD, as pitched, would have been about 235,000 words long, which was very nearly twice the size my editor would have liked it to be. We ended up making some revisions to the story and cutting it in a different place, so the point I think of as the *end* of TQB is nearly a hundred thousand words into TPC. As it turned out, cutting it where we did was incredibly good and important, because the story needed some point of view shifts to be told properly, and having a new book to do that in worked really nicely.

- I began working on the synopsis for the third and theoretically (although I was already pretty sure it would not actually be the) final book in the series. The first three or four paragraphs of the synopsis could potentially be the prologue for book three.

They could also be a very solid book of their own. The more I struggled with the synopsis, the more I realized that part of the reason I *was* struggling was because in my heart of hearts, I really want that third book to be the story outlined as the prologue. So that’s kind of what I think will happen, if sales justify continuing the series (I sure hope they do).

It will not, however, mean more frequent release dates. :) This is the last year I am writing more than two contracted books; I’ve been writing about 3.5 books a year on average for the last four years, and I’m worn out. Next year TRUTHSEEKER and WAYFINDER (or books with different titles but which I am currently calling TRUTHSEEKER and WAYFINDER) will be out (and if my editor’s interference with the ideas of that explodes far enough, perhaps there will be a third book as well, tentatively titled WORLDBREAKER. But that’s pure conjecture, as not only is it not plotted, it’s not sold. Anyway.). In 2010 there will also be the fifth Walker Papers, and from there on out it will be (hopefully) one Walker Papers a year until the series is finished (in 2013, assuming all goes well) and one Inheritors’ Cycle (assuming they buy more) and then one something-else from Del Rey after that series is done. If more books come out I’ll be writing them on spec and sell them after they’re done. :)

And, because he and other people asked, prompted by the ranty post, I am now getting around to posting my release schedule this year. It looks like this:

March: A FANTASY MEDLEY (anthology featuring a story of the Old Races)

May: THE PRETENDER’S CROWN (book two of the Inheritors’ Cycle) (there’s a teaser here)

June: mass market paperback re-releases of URBAN SHAMAN, THUNDERBIRD FALLS, & COYOTE DREAMS (books 1-3 of the Walker Papers)

September: WALKING DEAD (book four of the Walker Papers)

October: mass market paperback re-release of WINTER MOON (anthology featuring “Banshee Cries”, a Walker Papers novella); also, THE PHANTOM QUEEN AWAKES, a mass market anthology with an original short story about the Morrigan

November: TAKE A CHANCE graphic novel, compiling issues 1-5 of TAKE A CHANCE, my new superhero comic currently being released as monthly issues

Frankly, I’m exhausted. :)

ytd wordcount: 65,700
miles to Minas Tirith: 68.3
ytd km swum: 21.2

(x-posted from the essential kit)