Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On The Sacred Cow's Dry, Dry Teats

I read something the other day that terrified me.

A writer who I respect and enjoy has taken a god's age to produce book two of his Big Fat Fantasy Series. Now, it's not as though the world is clamoring for more Big Fat Fantasies, which abound and are rich in Books Twos and Fives and Sevens. But, from someone who consumes the BFFs like milkshakes, this particular Book One had stood out for me, and so I was starting to get irked and wonder why in the world his second book hadn't come out.

I poked around his site and found his "Official Statement On Book Two."

What I saw there affected me. Actually, it affected two of me.

It affected the reader me, who said, "Oh, for f-wad's sake. I read Book One in 2009, people. Just put the damn thing out."

But it made writer me peed my pants in horror.

It seems that he had turned in his first draft, written quickly and dirtily, to the editor. The editor gave one of those responses that always show up in Hollywood writers' lives: "I can't do anything with this. It's terrible." Or something to that effect; he requested sweeping changes.

So said author, like the voice in Shel Silverstein's poem, wrote a new book. (If you don't like it, blame the goat. Or the editor.) But the new book, well over two hundred thousand words, was apparently too long. So he had to cut it down by twenty percent.

Now let us take a moment to realize that the BFF genre regularly plays host to monstrous books. Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings pushed four hundred thousand words, as did Patrick Rothfuss's Wise Man's Fear, and we won't even start on George R.R. Martin. Publishers don't want to put out huge books because they are a pain, but BFF readers associate big with quality.

This writer was, in fame and name, nowhere close to those guys, who bestride the BFF world with their girthiness. But he wrote a decent book. It sold, presumably, and it featured lots of happy reviews from fellow respectable authors. It garnered a few BFF fans and certainly didn't need a million drafts for people to read the second book.

This hits me where I live, brothers and sisters. I'm at the point where I've sold a few stories. I've even landed one meager little reprint sale. A few years ago I slavered over the thought of ANY sale, ANYWHERE. Now I scour message boards, reviews and anywhere that might display a decent (or indecent!) review of my work.

But I have no novel sale. No massive backlog of short stories. No Hollywood option and big piggybank and all those other great things.

Put simply: I got over that hurdle and now there is so very much that could still go wrong. This guy has slaved and sweated over Book Two, and hopefully the delay has given readers more time to discover the first book. But damn, the thought of having to write a second book, under contract, watching deadlines disappear, THREE times... that's a nightmare.

Excuse me while I cower in a corner, eating chocolate and possibly brandishing an M-16.

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