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So, Fretting in T.O.

Aren't we supposed to develop calluses as we get older?

When my first book, Into the Dark Lands was published, I read reviews of it with interest, and even when they were substantially negative, it didn't bother me. If they were negative, but they were essentially correct, I'd shrug it off; I didn't take it personally. I just figured that I would get better, with time.

Part of this was full-time work in a bookstore (which followed from part-time work in a book-chain, which I started at age 16); I'd seen so many successes and so many failures, and it seemed there was little rhyme or reason in either – huge publicity campaigns went up in smoke – does anyone remember Ushurak? – and brilliant, brilliant books went O/P in such a short time. Having watched it for years (and taken it some of it personally because damn it, I loved some of those books, and I resent bad things happening to things I love), when my first novel disappeared, I was sad – but again, there was distance; it wasn't personal.

I just kept writing.

But ...when Broken Crown was published, I lost some of that sense of distance between me and what was said about the work.

This seems entirely backward, to me.

But I think that Crown was the first novel I'd written where I felt the book was not so very different from the internal book I'd envisaged when I started setting words to page. Failing because I'd failed, I could live with. Failing when I felt the novel was not a failure? Harder.

It was never enough to stop me from writing – and I'm sure some people regret this – but sometime between the first and fourth book in that series, things actually got worse, which is to say, the level of fretting got higher. The fourth book was late for a variety of family reasons, and I submitted it when I could not stand the sight of a single word. (Although it's generally true that I submit a novel when I cannot stand the sight of a single word; I know I'm just moving them around on the page at that point, and it's to no purpose, so I saddle the long-suffering editor with it.)

I was acutely anxious about Sea of Sorrows because I was absolutely certain that my readers would read it and say: I waited two years for this?

I find it much harder, now, to ego-surf. Because of course the things that stand out are generally the negative things. I find it harder to read reviews, for the same reason. Even when I hit long and intelligent conversations about my books, I'm afraid that they're somehow not worthy of the attention they're being given, and people will of course shortly realize this. I keep adding to my several hundred pages of notes, of time-line, and I cringe when little details fall between the cracks – which they will do, because I started the West novels in 1995.

And since Hidden City is the only novel so far that I've written out of chronological order, I'm certain there are things I've missed. And, also: 4 years between this book and Sun Sword.

So... yes, fretting.

And wondering if anyone else finds that it gets harder with time, rather than the easier it seems, on the surface, it should get.

Comments

( 36 comments — Leave a comment )
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amber_fool
Feb. 14th, 2008 03:42 am (UTC)
Well I, for one, will not complain if the timeline isn't 100% right. Really, I'm rarely conscious enough for that anyway. But also because I'd rather have the story, instead of you spending years making sure that event X really happened in year Y. Because I'm reading for the story and your storytelling, rather than your ability to keep track of every single detail of a quite sizable amount of history.

And don't listen to the negative reviews. Your works ROCK.
msagara
Feb. 14th, 2008 04:48 pm (UTC)
And don't listen to the negative reviews. Your works ROCK.

It's not so much the negative reviews in and of themselves, because even the positive reviews occasion the "omg, but they'll really be disappointed in this one" (where this one = the current work in progress, whichever it happens to be).

There are negative reviews which can be all-out ignored because they're just wrong - factually wrong.

The ones that are harder are the ones that you sit on the fence about: they read the same book you wrote, and what they got out of it was in no way what you put into it, and maybe ... you're never going to put into it what you hope to, so what's the point?

Although it has never stopped me from writing; it just makes the writing very painful.
canwolfshadow
Feb. 14th, 2008 03:49 am (UTC)
SNORT~!
You keep on worrying... And yet, almost every book you write, at least in the eyes of us humble *coughcough* fans seems to get a little bit better.

Anyhow... we're glad it's FINALLY coming out. I'll be looking forward to adding another one to the collection.

Hope we get to come down to the store and visit soon~!

Kevin/Chantal
msagara
Feb. 14th, 2008 04:45 pm (UTC)
Re: SNORT~!
Hope we get to come down to the store and visit soon~!

Bring the small child :D
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msagara
Feb. 14th, 2008 04:01 am (UTC)
How I have missed your fretting.

Because, you know, it is so very like mine.


I was just saying to Thomas, while taking a break from sentences, that I really, really miss the exchanged fretting with you while we were in different stages of novel. In particular, the way that you laid down all your worries, and also added "I know I always say this, but this time it's really true", when, in fact, you also always added that last bit.

I find this immensely difficult to say, but stylistically I am pretty sure that Shadow Gate is the best thing I've written. Ever. So if it's not liked much, or received at best lukewarmly, then what does that say about my future? My understanding of writing? My instincts? My craft? Thus, I fret.

I'm really looking forward to reading it -- but I think you've always gotten better (not that there is any envy at all in this); maybe that's the point of all the fretting; it goads us.

Well, that and gives us ulcers and makes our spouses crazy.
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(no subject) - msagara - Feb. 14th, 2008 05:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - msagara - Feb. 14th, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Unrelated to the original topic, but ... - trektone - Feb. 15th, 2008 02:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Unrelated to the original topic, but ... - msagara - Feb. 15th, 2008 02:28 am (UTC) - Expand
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msagara
Feb. 14th, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC)
Oh wow. Yes me too. Me me me me tooooooooooo. And I'm really nervous about the next book. I have never felt good about it. So I'm fretting. And fretting. And did I mention fretting?

I have to ask: was it easier with your first novels? Was there less fretting?

I admit that I never feel good about a whole book when I send it out, and feel even less good about it when I'm reading page proofs -- nothing like searching for errors to make you feel that the book, in fact, is an error receptacle. But there are always one or two scenes which work so perfectly you can't dismiss the queasiness because if you think they're good, then what you think of the rest of the book is probably also true...

I don't read them when I get them as real books, either. I am both incredibly happy to have them, and incredibly certain that they're deeply flawed. In fact, I usually read them much later, often for research for later books. It's on the later reading that I can read them as if I didn't write them; I've forgotten the disconnect between what I thought should be there and what was actually on the page.

Well, and I'm usually working on something new, which I'm certain will be the Worst Book Ever *wry g*
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motteditor
Feb. 14th, 2008 04:41 am (UTC)
Add me to the list of anxious fans awaiting this novel. I love Jewel and the world of the Sun Sword. I'm actually in the process of re-reading the entire series, having just started Riven Shield. I'm realizing I'm going to have to read these last two novels very quickly, or I'll have to wait even longer for the Hidden City.
nicbemused
Feb. 14th, 2008 04:44 am (UTC)
It'll be fabulous and your reads will be so high on "New Book Smell" that the four years will seem as nothing. You have one of the best depths of world I've ever read and Jewel is an engaging character with an approachable and interesting story line.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 14th, 2008 04:56 am (UTC)
I. don't. care. :D

I've waited longer for books, and quite frankly, you were sane to take a break from one story and do another series so you didn't burn out.

I've loved your Sun Sword series since the beginning, so tough. *sticks out tongue* You're stuck with me as a fan.

Neener neener neener. :D
gerriwritinglog
Feb. 14th, 2008 04:57 am (UTC)
Sorry. Somehow I got logged out. That's from me. :)
ciage
Feb. 14th, 2008 05:18 am (UTC)
I may be just a fan, but I think it's generally a well written series. I mean, if Tolkien had to revise his text several times, and just about every other writer I've read make the same sorts of mistakes you're talking about, I think it's okay for minor details to be fuzzy.

I think anxiety is normal too, but all the same, some people go out of their way to be nasty and focus on the negative. To me, if it's not constructive, the person's not looking out for the writer.
thebadlady
Feb. 14th, 2008 07:17 am (UTC)
I am just a fan too, but I think its important for us to tell our favorite writers that when we get your book, even if it is 4 or even 10 years late (which is a matter of perspective anyway :p), we are happy with it because its obvious that you gave that book your all (even if it made you crazy). I am not exactly a patient sort of person, but waiting for a GOOD book is not just bearable, but satisfying.

As for the continuity issues - bah, if you have to nitpick about someone's age in a certain year, or the color of a horse, or equally idiotic things; then you don't deserve to read for fun. I feel sorry for the people who can't just *enjoy* something.

Please don't fret too much - for every jackass who nitpicks or badmouths, there are many MANY others who feel the opposite.

Ah, what a ramble. *goes back to lurking and cheering from the sidelines*

msagara
Feb. 14th, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC)
we are happy with it because its obvious that you gave that book your all (even if it made you crazy). I am not exactly a patient sort of person, but waiting for a GOOD book is not just bearable, but satisfying.

Yes, and as a reader, I feel this way about, say kateelliott's work. I am absolutely certain that her upcoming book will be good. As a writer, knowing that people will be patient for a good book is almost the issue because, well, nothing that I'm writing Right Now seems good enough for very long...

Please don't fret too much - for every jackass who nitpicks or badmouths, there are many MANY others who feel the opposite.

I don't actually mind the nitpicking, etc., because it is part of the way different people read -- I don't mind that people say "OMG I hated this". I know that, as a reader, books that annoy often provoke intense reaction because disappointment does that.

It just affects me all out of proportion =/. I'm not sure why, because it didn't used to.

I would like to go back to the days when it didn't bother me.

Edited at 2008-02-14 05:17 pm (UTC)
thebluerose
Feb. 14th, 2008 08:39 am (UTC)
I am also only a fan, but a fan who has been waiting patiently for your first House Wars book to come out :)

I have got all the Sun Sword books, Hunters Oath Duology and your Cast series and I love them all. I love the way you write, if I *had* to make a comparison it would be a cross between Janny Wurts and Lois McMaster Bujold and maybe a dash of Robin McKinley.

So fear and fret not, there are many of your readers eagerly waiting, and I can honestly say I have never been disappointed with anything of yours that I have read, except for the fact that you keep hinting at all these *other* stories you havent yet told!

FYI I am in the South Island of New Zealand, so possibly one of your more distant fans, but we are reading you (and Kate Elliott) out here in the wilderness :)
starlady38
Feb. 14th, 2008 09:51 am (UTC)
See, I read Sea of Sorrows with great anticipation, having discovered Broken Crown at random, read the rest, and gotten hooked--and Sea of Sorrows was the first time I thought, "Oh snap, this series really is about the end of the world. Damn, the rest of it is going to be AMAZING." I guess my point with this little anecdote is something along the lines of, keep on trucking? Please? More, please?

Although, slightly more seriously, I think that since one's writing does improve with time, it makes sense that one's level of fretting should increase as well, since you've gotten better and thus set higher standards for yourself, since you know you can do better than you could when you started. I can never maintain the impersonal third person anymore.
twiegand
Feb. 14th, 2008 01:42 pm (UTC)
You write, I'll buy. Even your grocery list.
sphericaltime
Feb. 21st, 2008 12:28 am (UTC)
Yup. Even if one book missed, you're still a good enough writer that as a fan I will buy your books to support you so that you will eventually write more.
rasmusb
Feb. 14th, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)
I've pre-ordered it :)
I am so looking forward to this. Jewel is my favorite character. As to the length of time -- we may get antsy -- but the wait is always worth it. :D

Besides you actually submit books of a decent length! As they are a nice thickness -- it takes longer to write them -- so we have to be patient to get our fix. Totally worth it!
ovirginsaint
Feb. 14th, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
*also a fan* Sea of Sorrows was probably my favorite book in the Sun Sword series, mostly because it delt a lot with the history of the world, and it's a very interesting history.

I'm eagerly looking forward to House War next month, and I'm sure I'll love it just as much as I love Sun Sword. As a previous poster stated, if you write it, I'll buy it. :)

PS. Happy Valentine's day!
uneide
Feb. 14th, 2008 05:00 pm (UTC)
You know, there's this ... mystique, for lack of a better word, that artists ( writers, painters, etc) anyone creative HAS to develop a thick skin about their work. I disagree. I think you need to have one, up to a degree - because let's face it, we all deal with rejection on a regular basis as opposed to once every blue moon - but why should we want one?

I can tell you the first book of yours I read - Hunter's Oath. I was on my way to quit a horrible job with no other prospects - and I went to the library a few hours beforehand, to try and calm myself. I found your book, and I can honestly say that it put me in the right frame of mine to quit - with a clear head and heart, if still shaking like a leaf.

I -have- managed not to let critiques of my art or writing really get to me, but only insofar as they are commissioned pieces, of non-fiction pieces. Then I can take the crits and grow from them. My fiction writing and my personal art are a completely different thing.

They -aren't- out there to crit. They're there to share worlds, to allow me to share little pieces of my soul. They are intensely personal, to me.

I don't think you have anything to fret about, because your work is beautiful. It reaches your readers, brings your creations to life.

That being said -- well, I stopped ego surfing myself, largely because I find that while before there were many legitimate crits, the internet these days simply gives allowance to bullies and jerks to say their piece. I'm not about to invite any of them into my home ( figuratively) or my psyche.

Hey, do you ever come our to Writing Festivals? SIWC ( the Surrey International Writer's Conference) is one I attend every year, and I find it does a wonderful job in -building up- good energy. This might make for a fabulous panel - or a good conversation with fellow writers.

<3
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