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Acts of faith & entitlement issues

jessicac posted the following in the previous thread, and I wanted to say a little bit about it, so I broke it out here.

 I don't know if you have seen this, but as a writer who sometimes does not have novels magically shooting out your eye sockets and onto bookstore shelves Lo-Pan style every six months, I thought you might find it amusing:

George R.R. Martin does not work for you


I did -- and I both loved it and have some reservations with it, oddly enough. Well, no, not reservations with what was said, because I feel that what was said is all true.

But: While it would be nice if readers understood that we are actually just normal people, with the usual financial and household stresses, and a host of other obligations, many of which will never be made public, I do personally feel as if I'm letting my readers down when I miss deadlines, etc. I do know that my readers will wait. I don't have as large an audience as GRRM or Pat Rothfuss -- so I have never once in my life received email of the type they get from furious and entitled readers, and if I had, I would probably feel differently.

Nor am I claiming anything for any other writer; this is, as usual, my opinion, and it reflects the way I think of my own work, just as my process reflects my individual approach.

So: Buying into the start of a multi-volume* story is an act of faith on the part of a reader. They are trusting me to finish the story.

This is not the same as trusting me to write a sequel to a story that doesn't need it, or trusting me to write a second book with characters they loved when the first book is clearly complete and I have already said there will be no sequel. Those, I think, are separate issues.

In the latter case, they're telling me what to write based solely on what they want to read. In theory I can't actually make a living as a writer if I'm not writing books that people want to read, but in practice, the vocal minority is frequently just that: a minority. I've told the story. I've finished the story. Getting angry at me because you want more of the same thing is, imho, unreasonable, because in all likelihood I have run out of the emotional verve that would make it good, and what I would write instead...

In the former case, though, while it's true that a reader is putting down their 10.00 (or more or less) for the book they now have in their hands, they are also buying into the promise of the rest of the story. Because I know of zero readers who would be willing to pick up book 1 of a series which they know for a fact will never be finished or published. (Unless the author is dead and the book is posthumous, which is a slightly different kettle of fish.)

It is that act of initial faith -- the buying of the first book -- that allowed me to write the rest of the books in the Sun Sword series. If every reader, feeling burned by authors who have not -- for whatever reason -- finished their multi-volume series, had refused to buy my first novel, a totally partial story, until they had proof that the whole thing would be finished, the rest of the books would never have been published. This is a simple fact.

I obviously want to write that multi-volume story. I know where it ends. I know I can get there. (I also know it's 2 books, at least at the start, but that's a different thing *rueful g*). So... I need readers who are willing to make the initial investment. Those readers make that investment of both money and reading time because they think I'll finish the story. Which is the faith part.

I need reader faith and confidence if I'm to write the books at all. Because, as I said up above: No one will buy Book One if they are certain there will be no further books. They'll buy something self-contained, instead. So...

There are all kinds of things that come between me and finishing the book. There are all kinds of things that come between me and finishing a book on time.

And I feel guilty when I miss deadlines for whatever reason, because I'm aware that without the initial act of faith, I wouldn't have a meaningful deadline; I wouldn't be able to write these books, which I love and want to write.

So... it is true that I do not work for you. But it is also true that without enough of you, I would not be able to do this work at all.

I define multi-volume story as an -ology. In my case, it's the West DAW books. The Sun Sword. House War. It's a story that isn't finished until the last book is completed. The series novels--which would be, for me, the Sagara Luna novels, are more like Mystery novels to me, in the sense that each story has the more traditional beginning/middle/end within one set of covers.


ETA: proper lj-cut tags. Sigh.

Comments

domynoe
May. 15th, 2009 10:22 am (UTC)
I have to say how I feel about waiting on a book depends on how long I have to wait. 3 or 4 years? Somehow that doesn't bother me. I know it takes time, and I know sometimes other stories take precedence for whatever reason.

But I know of one author who is now in her...twelfth year between book 2 and the final book of a series. And that is just too long. I've given up going to her website and pretty much given up on the book itself. I'm not interested in reading any of her other series that she has put out because what if she does the same thing and just drops it for other books or whatever. Heck, if it ever does come out, and I reread the other books to prepare for it, I may find myself in a place where I'm no longer into that story. I know some life things got in the way, but she's written other books since then. Note the plural.

So, I think there's a balance: take a break if you need one, but don't leave your readers hanging. And if the publisher pulls the plug, let the readers know. If you've given up on the story, let your readers know.

And yes, I used to be frustrated about this particular book. Now? I don't even know if I'd bother to buy it. Probably would, but I'm to the point of whatever about it. (And since I've moved not once, but TWICE since waiting for this book, I'd probably have to buy at least one of the other books again because things get lost in the shuffle, which also will influence my decision if it ever comes out.) And you're right: if I had known it would be this long between those books, I would NOT have bought the first one until #3 at least had a pending publication date, which we still don't have (and I suspect we'll never have for whatever reason). And now I'm not buying her other books either. I just don't want to be left hanging like this again.

Edited at 2009-05-15 10:26 am (UTC)