Tuesday, February 2, 2016

People Need to Get off of Authors' Backs

I need to get something off my chest. This will probably be long, because I want to start at the beginning.

A year or two ago I finally picked up the first book in Patrick Rothfuss's fantasy series "The Kingkiller Chronicle," The Name of the Wind. The book came out in 2008 and I probably purchased the paperback a couple years later. I have a to-read section on my bookshelves consisting of about three full shelves, stuffed and stacked to the brink. Sometimes books jump the list when they come out. Others I just plain don't want to read yet, or I make excuses about why I'd rather not read them yet. I wanted to read Neil Gaiman's new book before The Lies of Locke Lamora, which I finally read ages later and did not even like that much, contrary to all the glowing reviews. I want to read the last book in Leigh Bardugo's "Grisha" series before I reread Brave New World. I have a tendency to pick books with good covers off of my to-read shelf before ones that don't look very distinctive. In fact I only picked up one of my favorite books of all time, Rhapsody by Elizabeth Haydon, because I liked the cover in the now out-of-business bookstore. Someday I will write a blog about how I actually think choosing a book by its cover is one of my favorite ways to find good books.

Anyway, it took me a few years to finally pick up The Name of the Wind. I remember being very concerned about it. The cover didn't really intrigue me (which is unfortunate, because I learned later that the international edition covers were just astronomical). The back cover synopsis didn't really give me a good idea of what I was in for. I was worried I was going to feel meh towards Kvothe. It's a problem I often have with Orson Scott Card novels, where there seems to be a young man who is incredibly wise beyond his years and (generally) amazing at everything and not relatable to me at all. For that reason I have always been a little wary of books with very distinctive main characters who drive the entire plot seemingly on their own. It's unfair, I know, but I can't help that little voice in my brain that says "This guy will not compel you."

As you can expect, I was very, very wrong.

I devoured the book, then ran out to Barnes and Noble the next day for the second book, even though I could've gotten it for cheaper online. Waiting two days for it to arrive was unthinkable at the time. It was there, ready for consumption. So I bought it and devoured that one too.

I can't possibly explain in words just how strongly his writing and storytelling affected me. But I'm not here to review the books or pick them apart. I will just say that I hadn't felt so emotionally invested in a story or a writing style since J.K. Rowling. I cried at beautiful scenes that weren't even sad. There are sentences in those books that made me just drop the book in disgust. Good disgust. Awed disgust. Sure, they aren't perfect and other people (somehow) loathe them, but that's kind of how differing opinions work. Clearly, they affected me, or I wouldn't be here writing this.

And then I learned more about Pat. Upon achieving some degree of fame, he did exactly what I believe famous people should do more often: he wanted to utilize his audience by helping to make the world a better place. So he started Worldbuilders, which works closely with a great charity called Heifer International to end poverty and hunger. Anyone reading his blog even intermittently knows he is highly committed to it.

He is also a human being. I feel highly protective of him when people give him shit for taking a long time to finish the third book. He has a life. Writers aren't machines (unless that writer is Stephen King, who I am convinced is a writing-cyborg). Some write efficiently, work through edits, and get the book out without much issue. Some are perfectionists and this process is not so easy. People think he should write nonstop all hours of the day, because writing is his "job," and how dare he go to conventions and enjoy his life and, god forbid, raise millions of dollars to fight hunger and poverty. 

And I wouldn't be the first person to point out that most people go "home" from work and don't do a single work-related thing all night or day afterward. They don't "work" on the weekends, but they do housework or run errands or, surprisingly enough, actually do something fun with their lives. And the haters will probably just shout back "I BET HE DOESN'T WRITE FOR EIGHT HOURS A DAY THOUGH" and there's really no point fighting with them. It's not worth it. They are just angry people who won't realize that you can't just make people do what you want them to do because you're sick of waiting for a book. You are not Kilgrave from "Jessica Jones." There are eleventy-one billion other things you can do besides waiting for a book to come out. 

I get the impatience. I want the book too. It's been almost five years since the second book came out. I haven't waited as long because of my aforementioned issues with reading books in a timely manner, but that doesn't really matter. Sometimes people are ignorant assholes and you have to ignore them. But what if you suck at ignoring them?

I think I feel all of these things because I know I'm the same way. And if I should be so lucky as to be published someday, I guarantee I don't crank out the next book just a year or two later. I've been writing this same book, in various forms, for over ten years. Only lately has the true perfectionism set in. Only lately have I felt like this is it. This is the last true "rewrite." I am halfway through and when I am done, I will revise and edit, and this will be the one. 

The One. 

There's only so much I could have done with a couple hundred pages written by a sixteen year old. But I couldn't let it go, couldn't let the world go. I rewrote a couple years later, didn't finish it, came back a couple years later and rewrote again. This story is a shadow of what it was when I started, but a lot of the basics are still there. I realize that I will probably do the next book a lot sooner than ten years, especially now that I feel so matured as a writer, that my story has matured enough to be something even remotely "ready" for the public's consumption.

But I don't write quickly and I'm not known for high daily word counts. Some days I don't write at all. I work full time, I'm in grad school (for some reason, don't even get me started on this), and zero people who have ever met me would describe me as "high energy," unless their only memory of me was watching me experience the first two "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" trailers. And I'm ok with that, because that's me. I'm NOT ok with not writing some days, or only eking out a couple hundred words other days, but I am not perfect and I try my best and that's all any of us can ever do.

Could I spend more of my rare free hours writing? Most definitely. I'll admit it. Often I am writing notes or just trying to iron out important details. Other times I'm playing a videogame for an hour because my gaming backlog is horrendous, or just simply relaxing with the cats and my boyfriend. I'm allowed to rest and not write at every free moment. I'm not a machine of words, though sometimes I wish I was, and maybe Pat feels that way sometimes too. There is a 2012 blog entry where he mentions how his editor knew that he couldn't meet the year deadline for book two, because a year just wasn't enough time for him to make it a worthy successor. That's just his process. He needs time.

It's frustrating. Not everyone gets it. For every person who vehemently tells the haters to fuck off because he will finish the book when he's happy with it and that's how they prefer it, there are ten people whining about it. Whining about waiting so long and how they "just can't take it" anymore, like they are physically tortured and need to end the anguish. Whining about how he's always blogging and tweeting about doing "everything but writing," and how dare he do other things. 

I was compelled to write this because of a post on the Kingkiller Chronicle subreddit, someone announcing that they are going to unsubscribe because they are sick of waiting. It wasn't even an angry post, just a "Nothing is really happening around here but I'll be back when the next book comes out" sort of thing. And that's perfectly fine. Then, of course, the comments started rolling in. Some people defended Pat, but more are ripping him apart, and I can't make any sense of it at all. I don't understand this in the same way I don't understand people who think all Muslims are terrorists, or people who think evolution isn't real, or the people who actually support Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. It simply makes no sense to me. Examples:
"Pat is honestly ruining the book for me, he wants to delay his finished book forever to try and bring it to a Tolkien level with suspense of his readers. Meanwhile hes on FB writing short stories and blogging everyday. his book is done, and hes just driving up the suspense of book 3 to all the sheep. pat sucks, and the more I hear him talk and know more about his personal life the more it ruins the books for me." - Some asshole
I have no words for this really. It's just...what?
"Yeah if he's anything like his online persona them he's a giant dick head" - Another asshole
Again...what? How is this even...? Why are you even here? Are we even talking about the same person?

But the people who understand, the people who matter, they come out in force. They make ME cry, and it's not even me they're addressing. And I don't know how he feels, but I wouldn't want assholes reading a book they spent years bitching about. It probably won't even be good enough for them anyway. That's the funny thing, though. They'll complain endlessly for however much longer it takes and post mean comments from the safe haven of their little desks where no one can find them, but I bet most of them still buy and read the book when it comes out. It would be great if they changed their minds, just let the guy go through his process, live his life. But some people just want to get their grubby little fingers on whatever they want, as soon as they want it. "It's all about me me me and what I want." 

Maybe I'd understand peoples' frustration more if he wasn't one of the nicest people I have never actually met in my entire life. He's got shit to do. He's a goddamn human being, a father, and someone who has probably done more for OTHER PEOPLE than you will ever do. He's not perfect and I don't want him to be. He's getting there. Leave the man alone.

GRRM also deals with this and wrote quite a bit about it lately, but I don't really feel as protective of him, so he doesn't get his own post. But for the love of the old gods and the new, get off his back too. 

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