Monday, April 23, 2007
Ya gotta love it when....
Ya gotta love it when people who don't write for a living, or even for fun, tell writers how to do their job. Like, a writer should take at least a year to write a book, or else it's not going to be very good.
In my experience, in fact, the opposite is true: the books I've written the fastest have been some of my most well-received, in no small part, I'm sure, because I was so excited and enthused about the heroes (and yes, it's always been the heroes). I simply could not wait to write every day. And revision proved to be minimal.
Sadly, this is not always, or even often, the case, because I cannot simply conjure up such characters with much musing. They seem to just pop right into my head, fully formed. I know how they sound, what their issues are, what's going to make them fall in love. If they don't, it's a much different, more laborious writing process, because I have to construct those characters piece by piece, over weeks. I love 'em all by the time I'm finished, but it's the difference between starting a fire with a match and rubbing two sticks together. Still have the fire, but getting it is a whole 'nuther story.
Another thing non-writers may not appreciate is that you can actually polish a story so much, it becomes dead in the water. You take out all the life, all the energy, by reworking and rewriting.
And then there's the fact that I could have gone in the totally wrong direction, and I'm blind to it, so I'm not going to find out until my editor tells me so. In other words, working a long time on a manuscript doesn't necessarily mean it will be perfect by the time I'm done. It may still need a lot of work.
The other factor to consider is financial. I don't get paid by the hour; I get paid for completing a book,whether that takes me three months, six months, a year or two years. If all you know about publishing is gleaned from newspapers and magazines, it may sound as if I could easily afford to take a year or more on a book. But here's the thing: one reason such stories are newsworthy is because that sort of money is rare. It's certainly not the norm.
There's another factor at work, and authors who do work for a year or more on their books obviously don't share it with me. I would get bored working on the same book for so long. Bored out of my creative mind. I know I'd be doing a lot of other things to amuse me during that time, because I simply couldn't devote hours and hours a day to the same story for that long.
And then there's the matter of the readers. Some readers may be patient and happily wait for years between books. That's great. But by then, many more will have found another author they like, perhaps several. Your next book is no longer the anticipated publishing highlight of the year.
So in the end, what determines how long it "should" take to write a book? It's up to the individual author -- temperament, process, financial situation, life in general. But most of all, I think it's important to realize that a book written over a longer period isn't automatically going to be a better book. It may be.