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.


  • Rivermage

    I totally grok what you are saying! OK, just an aspiring writer on this end…so far! But imagination just doesn’t seem to easily translate from that glittering biochemical vision in my mind and right down into cold and digital 1’s and 0’s on my hard drive. No matter how hard I try and will or wish it so! *GRIN* All I can say is, “Tortoise on!”

  • Laura

    Perhaps GRRM needs to not be so available to his readership….(or tell them to stick it!)

    You are the only author whose blog I read, and if I just liked your books instead of discovering you through your connection to shmoo… I probably would just track you through when your publisher says Book X is going to be released and let it go at that. Much like you describe how it used to be.

    Sure it sucks to be waiting in the middle of a series for the next book, but it beats the alternatives. (No series at all, no books from the author at all etc …) For people who cannot stand the wait, perhaps they should consider not starting a series until it is complete.

    Good books are a luxury, and I just don’t see how adding to an author’s angst while they are writing is going to help the situation.

    That being said.. ZOMG Whar iz teh nex Wallcar Paypars!!!!!!!!1111eleventyone.

  • mizkit

    It’s in an envelope on my coffee table waiting for me to do the very final set of edits on it so it can go back to New York and be released in September. :)

  • R. Francis Smith

    And of course, the people making the most noise about blowing schedules would also make the most noise if the book were in any way less than perfect (say, for example, because it were rushed to meet their schedule expectations…)

    In the great words of Roy from IT Crowd: “People. What a bunch of bastards.”

  • Laura

    The correct response to that *could* have been, “You’ll see it when it’s out and not a moment before. Now STICK IT!”

    Of course that response might have led to me snorting Coke out of my nose at work……

  • Adi

    I admit to getting a little impatient about books. But that is in the privacy of my own mind, not to someones blog because I understand that if it comes out before it’s ready I, the reader, am going to suffer.

    Also I think I’d call it more, excitable than impatient. What I don’t under stand is…don’t these people read anything else? The great thing about waiting for an authors new work is discovering other authors. I discovered your books while waiting for a new GRRM book. I discovered Brandon Sanderson while waiting for anything new of yours to come out. Who knows what I’ll discover next? People should just be patient and visit a gods damned book store. There ARE other books in the world, and some of them are quite good.

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