Every once in a while something mind-bogglingly awful happens during or even before the creation of a book, and that something means the book will never be written. Sharon Lee has just made mention of such a book. Fairly recently the third novel of Melanie Rawn’s Exiles trilogy, another such book, was mentioned in comments. Sharon Lee says it seems to be something readers have particular difficulty understanding, and that it must just be a Writer Thing that writers must beg patience for.
I think she must be right. As a reader, man, I would go to great lengths for the third Exiles novel. I don’t know what exactly happened in Ms. Rawn’s life during the creation of that series, but I had it from her that there wouldn’t be a third book due to Bad Association, and as a writer, boy can I sympathize with that. It makes it somewhat easier for me to let the hope of the book go (I’ll never entirely give up hope, but nor do I have any actual expectation at all that it’ll come to be).
I have, though, talked to non-writers whose brains do seem to kind of cramp up at the idea that there’s something sufficiently awful about what happened around the production of a book that it could keep a writer from ever ever ever wanting to go near it again. God knows writers do continue to write through horrific events, so even to me there’s a kind of “well what could possibly be THAT BAD?!” aspect to it.
And honestly, of course, I don’t know. Everybody’s got their own personal bounce-back level. I know people who’ve written books through the deaths of multiple family members and bad divorces; I know JK Rowling went through a terrible, terrible bout of writer’s block when she was dealing with legal matters during the writing of the fifth Harry Potter book. She eventually (obviously) finished the book–but not until after the case was settled. Lee & Miller went through a tremendously awful publisher meltdown. I have friends who’ve had sufficiently bad agent experiences to stifle their writing. Individual threshholds lie in different places. But I think to me, these kinds of things are perhaps most of what constitute real, honest-to-God writer’s block.
Because let’s face it. All of us who are out here writing books on a professional level are doing a job. Writer’s block–the poetic, O No, The Muse Is Not Moving Me thing that people talk about–isn’t really an option. We have bills to pay, and waxing romantic about muses doesn’t get it done. *Believe* me, if something in a writer’s life has created such a bad association with a book or series that they can’t open the file, can hardly bear to think about the series at all, that’s going to be legitimate, because writers can’t afford–usually literally, nevermind figuratively–to feel that way.
I’ve written a book that went so badly I had a wee emotional breakdown while writing it. It’s two years later and I still don’t want to even really think about writing more books in that world. If that’s not writer’s block–just the flat out “no, I am not prepared to do that” at the idea of revisiting that world in book-length fiction–I don’t know what is. And at the same time I figure I’m fairly lucky, because I think someday I’ll probably be happy to go back to that world and write more books in it. It’s just, you know. Not any time in the next oh, several years, thanks.
I think readers are generally aware that, yeah, writing is a creative process. But since most of the time what we as readers see is books on the shelf–or more frustratingly, not on the shelves–without any explanation as to the whys or wherefores of being there or not, it’s sometimes hard to remember that there are real people behind them, and that creating worlds in your head and getting them written down isn’t necessarily a cut-and-dried process.
(x-posted from the essential kit)