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There has been some discussion on LJ recently about the speed at which books are written, or the speed at which one expects books to be written, and the question of professionalism and quality with regards to writing speed.

So I thought I'd have a little rant about that. Because it's the internet, and I can :D.

Speaking as a reader, I don't care how long it took you to write your book. I have your book in hand, I read it, I either love it or I don't love it, and while I'm reading it, I could not care less how long it took you to write it.

I couldn't care less whether or not you wrote it standing on your head and eating marmite.

I only care about what I have in my hands, a cover wrapped in some form around words on the page (because I'm a luddite and I really don't enjoy reading fiction on the machine at which I'm shackled when I do work as a way of relaxing). I am a greedy reader, yes, and if I loved your book beyond all reason I will rush out and try to find more books -- but I don't actually care if you wrote those books ten years ago. I don't care what you did to self-promote them. I don't care what you did to get an agent, or what your agent offered you in the way of advice. I don't care what you did to get them published. I may cringe at the cover, but that's so out of your hands, that I can reasonably say I don't care about the cover with regards to you, the author.

There are authors I enjoy who seem to put out four books a year. There are authors I enjoy who cannot manage to put out one book a year. I don't have a calendar in hand, and the only thing that matters is when the book is in said hands, I can read it. Did I cry when Patrick Rothfuss announced that his book would be delayed? Maybe. Do I look longingly at the Connie Willis books on our store shelves and pine at a distance because there are no new ones? Maybe. Do I hold this against the authors in any way? No. I want the books they write, and I am overjoyed when I get them. I don't immediately think they are grossly unprofessional because I do not get them quickly.

I also have no way of knowing, while I am deep in the throes of book-love, which authors are making a living at writing, and which ones aren't -- because it doesn't matter to me as a reader. The books were written, the books were published, and the books were devoured by my little avaricious reader-self. The rest of the attendant clutter is kibble.

I understand that making a living can necessitate a number of things, for writers, and all of these things are of import--to them. I understand that these are amazingly intense concerns, because I have them as well. I even wibble about them here, from time to time, because it's my LJ and they're on my mind.

But confusing my concerns as a writer with my concerns as a reader is something that I don't do. There are books that feel interchangeable, and I read these for fun and light entertainment, although I admit I often confuse them in the muddle of my brain (and attribute the titles to the wrong authors because I am sometimes stupid like that); there are books that no one but the author could possibly write (anything by John Crowley comes to mind instantly). I am happy for both; I do not privilege one over the other because I don't have to; as a reader, both are there, and I pick up the one that suits my mood and my needs at the time.

And as a reader, what I want from the authors I read is that they write their books. Telling other authors how to write their books is not actually something that is relevant to me as a reader, and I am the end consumer in a chain.

Comments

( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
twiegand
Apr. 11th, 2008 01:48 am (UTC)
A-men.
sksperry
Apr. 11th, 2008 02:11 am (UTC)
I find, as a reader, that I rarely notice things like POV change, or whether it's omnicient or not, or whether they used -- instead of..., or any of a multitude of sins writers are often accused of, unless it's very poorly done.

As a writer, however...well to be honest, I still rarely notice it in other's work. I only become paranoid when it's my own. *g*
msagara
Apr. 11th, 2008 02:16 am (UTC)
find, as a reader, that I rarely notice things like POV change, or whether it's omnicient or not, or whether they used -- instead of..., or any of a multitude of sins writers are often accused of, unless it's very poorly done.

It is always harder for me to notice things as a writer that I don't care about as a reader. If, for instance, there's a lot of physical description, I tend to skip it as a reader (not always, but if it's not wed to the viewpoint). However... not having description at all in a book is not considered a strength, and it's hard, for me, to balance.

And, *ahem*, I want you to write that book, because I want to read it.
barbarienne
Apr. 11th, 2008 02:15 am (UTC)
You said it. The reading public doesn't give a crap if you are Nora Roberts, who turns out a zillion books a year, all of which are instant bestsellers, or if you are Harper Lee, who only ever wrote one book.

I believe every author has a "natural pace" that works for them. Some authors spill words onto the page. If they are lucky, those words will be in generally good order from the get-go, at least most of the time. Other writers have to fight the devil, Jesus, and the Incredible Hulk for every keystroke.

Yes, not putting butt in chair is not going to get a book finished. OTOH, putting butt in chair and fighting for hours with the work is not pleasant.

And in the end, the readers really can't tell the difference. The only time they can tell is when an author is writing off their natural pace. Sometimes authors who are one-book-a-year step up to three-books-a-year and it shows.
desperance
Apr. 11th, 2008 09:03 am (UTC)
And in the end, the readers really can't tell the difference.

Neither can the writers, necessarily. I have fluent days where I can write a couple of thousand words; I have grim days where I can't write a couple of hundred, where every word is hacked out with torn and bloody hands. Six months later I'm doing edits, and I have no idea which chapters came easy, which I sweated over. Voice happens separately from pace, apparently...
msagara
Apr. 12th, 2008 02:27 am (UTC)
And in the end, the readers really can't tell the difference. The only time they can tell is when an author is writing off their natural pace. Sometimes authors who are one-book-a-year step up to three-books-a-year and it shows.

cszego said this today as well -- that she's sensitive to the natural pace of a writer, and she can often tell when a book was written off that pace. I'm not sure that I can; I notice other things, because readers are almost as unique in their absorption process as, well, writers are in their writing. But I did find it interesting.

Actually, one of my readers says that all of my books have a natural pace, and he can often guess (sadly with more accuracy than I can) when I have no hope of finishing a story arc in the space I'm desperately hoping it will take. But this is less about my speed, and more about the book, I think.
touchstone
Apr. 11th, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
Obviously, I'm not offended by writers who take a year or two between books...either they need that time to get the book to where they feel it's done, or they have things other than writing going on in their life (gasp!), or whatever. No problem.

Now, the speed at which new books in a series will come out does sometimes affect my buying decisions. If you just released book 2 in a trilogy, and I know it's going to be two years before book 3...it does increase the chance I'll wait for paperback to actually buy it :) For standalones (or, perhaps oddly, installment in /long/ series where each volume tends to be a complete story) that's less of a consideration.
rosefox
Apr. 11th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC)
I only care when I've been waiting for-bloody-ever for the next book in a series, and I certainly wouldn't call a slow writer unprofessional. I am quite capable of not interpreting "I am impatient" as "you are just dragging this out to spite me" or "you can't write". If the author couldn't write, I wouldn't be impatient for the next book!
msagara
Apr. 12th, 2008 02:29 am (UTC)
I am quite capable of not interpreting "I am impatient" as "you are just dragging this out to spite me" or "you can't write". If the author couldn't write, I wouldn't be impatient for the next book!

Me, too. I think I'm more aware of the length between books when I adore the writer and want more NOW, but when I've reached that point with an author, I mostly go into hyper-squee mode when the book is in a catalogue, and then again when it is in my hands.
jessicac
May. 1st, 2008 08:03 pm (UTC)
PC Hodgell epitomizes this for me as a reader. It takes so painfully long for each new book to come out and I am so impatient to have the next in my hands. I treasure each book for the wonder that it is, but then start to pine for the next.
(Deleted comment)
msagara
Apr. 12th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC)
SO agreed. In a slightly different context (an interview for Fantasy Book Critic to be posted sometime in the next week I think) I just said pretty much the same thing.

Can you flag it for us when it goes up there?
owldaughter
Apr. 11th, 2008 12:07 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear!
ginny_t
Apr. 11th, 2008 12:40 pm (UTC)
Hear! Hear!
jennifer_j_s
Apr. 11th, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
Well said. I think that being a writer can sometimes get in the way of my reading experience, though, mostly if something happens just for plot's sake. A well-written character will always beguile.
agrimony
Apr. 12th, 2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
It's mizkit's fault that I read this. But it's also because I have loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooved your 'CAST IN _______' books. (I think maybe there were not enough o's in there to emphasize this point enough.) Beyond the fact that they have a really great unique setting that is somehow both modern and historical feeling at the same time (which they do, and which I love!), they also have /excellent/ pacing. And Kit will tell you, I'm a pacing fetishist. (Not really, but it amuses her to say so and I do find pacing very important in a book).

Of course, most of the stuff I love to read has great pacing, which only makes it easier to devour quickly. That's fine when I've only caught the person several years into their series and they've got several books out I need to catch up on... but then I catch up. And, I'm afraid I have to admit, that I am a greedy, impatient reader. I /want/. I want the next book. I want it now. I don't want it to be a sacrifice of quality, but I do wish most stringently that the authors I love could figure out how to bend time so that they could both write the book to the same quality that I have come to adore... and so that they can do so by next week.

I can't say that I don't care when it takes two+ years for the next book to come out (and I don't think authors really want me to not care, because that's a sign that you can take or leave the books one way or the other -- did that make sense?), but I... grudgingly understand. :) I know there's more involved than just the speed at which someone can churn out a novel. I know there are a lot of elements completely out of the author's control, what with their not being, you know, gods and whatnot. (Very short sighted of them, by the way.)

I wish I could say that I've never arrogantly spouted off that 'I could do it better' opinion after struggling through a particularly disappointing book, but I'd be lying. Luckily, I don't know any of those authors personally. :)

Anyway, I'm probably way off topic here and way, way too wordy besides. But your post just struck something in my and I couldn't keep my big yap shut.

Thank you for the great books.
msagara
Apr. 13th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)
Anyway, I'm probably way off topic here and way, way too wordy besides. But your post just struck something in my and I couldn't keep my big yap shut.

Not too wordy, given the particular LJ (I could hardly accuse anyone else of being too wordy with a straight face). The pacing question is always an interesting one, for me; I can read books that most people consider glacial and plotless because to me everything that occurs on the page is enormously interesting. Because of this quirk, I'm aware that I don't entirely understand what pacing means to other people.

But with the CAST novels, I play with pacing, among other things.
agrimony
Apr. 14th, 2008 06:02 am (UTC)
Pacing doesn't, to me at least, necessarily mean that the book has to move at a speedy, rapid pace. But the reading of it should go pretty smoothly. There's an author I read who has uneven pacing, in that there are sections where it's like slogging through sucking mud in flipflops that you really don't want to lose in sections, followed by sections that suck me in so thoroughly and are paced so well that I'm through them before I know it and back into the bog. Ironically, both these sections probably take physically as much time to read once I sit down to read. But it takes me longer to read the slogging bits because it becomes infinitely possible for me to put the book down and find other stuff to do. Despite the uneven pacing, I can't wait to read the next one.

Good pacing to me can even be a slow, deliberate book (George R.R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice books are pretty darn deliberate - and enormously complicated so they require a lot of hard thinking while I'm reading them), but I still hate putting it down, and I can't wait to pick it back up.

I suppose, really, it's a pretty amorphous concept. I should never start thinking about these things this late at night!

Edited at 2008-04-14 06:03 am (UTC)
sqrrlsrant
Apr. 14th, 2008 04:05 pm (UTC)
Speaking as a reader, I don't care how long it took you to write your book. I have your book in hand, I read it, I either love it or I don't love it, and while I'm reading it, I could not care less how long it took you to write it.

It's something you probably already know, but still I'm compelled to point it out: that's how we fans of the West novels feel. Sure, it may take you a (long) while to get them in our greedy little hands, and sure, it may be that one book has turned into two...three...four...but the wait is always worthwhile.

I've always felt (even before having it confirmed here and on the list) that you knew where you were going with your story. No matter the time between publications, no matter if a part of the story morphed into multiple books - I knew that those stories needed that length of time and that span of books to be told properly and I know that, eventually, we'll get to the climax of the tales and having multiple series tie into the end just makes the experience that much more complete and satisfying.

By contrast, I stopped reading Robert Jordan because I felt that, while he had an endgame in mind, he didn't know how to get there and each new book in the series felt more like an extended "um" (if that makes any sense) than a real addition to the story line. Your books all have a purpose and add to the storytelling experience; his felt like he was floundering for his story and not finding it, which left me feeling somewhat betrayed as a reader/consumer. I love books and will wait impatiently as long as necessary *coughStevenKing'sDarkTowercough* to consume them, but to continue reading material by a particular author I need to feel that the wait is worthwhile.

Well...that's the end of that tangent.
The other Michelle
deire
Apr. 14th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
Here via Jim Hines and taking the liberty of friending. Please let me know if there is any issue.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 14th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
Here via Jim Hines and taking the liberty of friending. Please let me know if there is any issue.

It is never an issue :). Welcome!
msagara
Apr. 14th, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC)
The It's never an issue is from the person who forgot to log in, which would be me...
controuble
Apr. 14th, 2008 06:22 pm (UTC)
Jim Hines sent me :)
Adding to friend list (since you said it's fine to lurk).
groblek
Apr. 16th, 2008 07:03 pm (UTC)
Well said, you've summed up my thoughts as a reader wonderfully. Certainly, in my perfect world, there'd be a new book by any of my favorite authors as soon as I want to read one, but in all honestly, I don't care how long it takes/how it's done/whatever as long as I enjoy the final product.
amber_fool
May. 23rd, 2008 08:05 am (UTC)
(commenting on this a month after the fact because some how I missed it when you posted it, and I was looking through back posts for one to link a friend to)

I agree with most people here - I mean, you're the author! And each author is their own species, with their own gestational period. I think an important thing is having SOME kind of dialog with your readers. Let them know what you're working on. I'm always impatient for the next book if it's a series or author I love, but I enjoy the waiting. The Harry Potter books were a public expression of something that, for me, is standard for ANY book I've been waiting for. Meet with other fans, talk about the book, reread past books in the series, and wait like a kid before Christmas. You know it's coming if you're patient. And you can get things set ahead of time so you can take the time on release day to sit down and read it all at once.

The only time this becomes a problem is when you have a trilogy that is firmly established in that format, and you get to the end of the second one, leaving cliffhangers right and left, and then...stop. Disappear for a while, then start working on other projects. It's like suddenly, Christmas isn't coming any more. You'll get Easter or Halloween, but it's not the same. Melanie Rawn's Exiles trilogy has been like that for me. I understand there was a long hiatus from writing (for health reasons, I think), but even once she returned to writing, there seems to be no hope of a conclusion on the horizon, more than 10 years after the second book. And that's when it starts to really be a problem for me. I am patient, but only if I know it's coming (even putting a general number on it would work: 'I'm working on it, and given my general writing speed, it'll be published in 2010', with 2010 being an over-estimate, so I'm not getting myself excited early, but if it shows up early, it's even better!).
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )