Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick RothfussFrom Rothfuss’ blog:

This manuscript is about 200 pages longer, and about 500 pages different than the last one I took a picture of. I’ve fixed plotting, tweaked characters, cut scenes, added scenes, re-written, re-organized, re-read, and re-re-organized sections of it so many times that I couldn’t even begin to give you a number of versions it’s been through.

Now last time I posted up a picture of a manuscript on the blog, people got all twitterpated. They saw that big stack of papers and said things like, “Yay! That means the book will be out next month!!1!” and “Wow! How are they going to bind something that big?!?”

So before we all go leaping to a bunch of unfounded and erroneous conclusions, let’s talk about a few things.

First, this manuscript is printed in….(wait for it) manuscript format. That means it’s one-sided, double spaced, and printed in courier new font. That’s what makes it look so big. Typesetting the book comes later in the process. That’s one of the many, many steps that comes later.

That said, The Wise Man’s Fear is going to be bigger than The Name of the Wind by at least 100,000 words or so.

Second, let’s discuss what a draft is. A draft is a version of a piece of writing. Almost always it is an early or preliminary version. You can have things like a rough draft, which is… well… rough. A second draft, which comes after the first draft. Or you can have things like a final draft, which is… well… final.

Is this going too fast for anyone?

This is not the final draft of book two. If it were, I would have said something like, “This is the final draft of book two.” But I didn’t. So it’s not.

But it isn’t a rough draft either. The one I turned in several months ago was rough. There were some bad plot holes, some logical inconsistencies, pacing problems, and not nearly enough lesbian unicorns.

This draft is tighter, cleaner, and all around better. I’m really pleased with it, but it’s not quite perfect. Not yet.

What happens now?

This manuscript goes to my editor, Betsy. She reads it carefully, maybe twice. She makes notes, then we talk about what she thinks might need to be changed/tweaked/fixed.

Then, depending on how much work we think it needs. We put it into the production schedule. That means we’ll have a publication date. Which I will tell you. On the blog. With words.

Then I do another set of revisions. Or more likely, several smaller sets of revisions, as I’m a freak like that. Luckily, these next sets won’t be nearly so extensive as my last round.

In metaphorical terms, the last round of revisions was like an organ transplant. Invasive, complex, labor intensive, and with a long recovery time. The revisions I do after this will probably be more like cosmetic surgery. Or an appendectomy at worst.

But first, I get to relax. I’ve been working on this fucker nonstop for months. And now, finally, I get to take a break while I wait for Betsy’s feedback.

So…. that’s the news. The book is going well. There are parts of it that I’m so proud of that I almost can’t help but talk about them here. It’s coming. Be patient. And rest assured that I’m not just lounging around, doing whippets and eating the cotton-candy underthings off nubile young catgirls.

Good news, no? Complain all you want about Rothfuss’ release schedule, at least we know that he (and his editor) are striving for a book that is as good as it can possibly be. Give that it’s a trilogy, I’d certainly rather wait 10 years for a sublime, genre changing piece of work than four years for a series full of wasted potential. Just the fact that he’s added 100,000 words (which is longer than the novel I just finished writing, for some reference) is telling of how much work needed to be done on the story, and proof that he’s been hard at work since the release of The Name of the Wind. In recent years, Rothfuss has talked less and less about his writing, so it’s nice to get such a juicy, honest update from him. He goes into even great detail (concerning what this means and also what it doesn’t mean) on his blog.

Oh, the things I’d do to get my hands on that manuscript.

From The Guardian:

Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

- Elmore Leonard

You don’t always have to go so far as to murder your darlings – those turns of phrase or images of which you felt extra proud when they appeared on the page – but go back and look at them with a very beady eye. Almost always it turns out that they’d be better dead. (Not every little twinge of satisfaction is suspect – it’s the ones which amount to a sort of smug glee you must watch out for.)

- Diana Athill

Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.

- Margaret Atwood

Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments.

- Roddy Doyle

Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue.

- Helen Dunmore

Beware of clichés. Not just the clichés that Martin Amis is at war with. There are clichés of response as well as expression. There are clichés of observation and of thought – even of conception. Many novels, even quite a few adequately written ones, are clichés of form which conform to clichés of expectation.

- Geoff Dyer

Only bad writers think that their work is really good.

- Anne Enright

Don’t drink and write at the same time.

- Richard Ford

Never use the word “then” as a conjunction – we have “and” for this purpose. Substituting “then” is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many “ands” on the page.

- Jonathan Franzen

A story needs rhythm. Read it aloud to yourself. If it doesn’t spin a bit of magic, it’s missing something.

- Esther Freud

Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.

- Neil Gaiman

Never complain of being misunderstood. You can choose to be understood, or you can choose not to.

- David Hare

Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.

- PD James

Defend your work. Organisations, institutions and individuals will often think they know best about your work – especially if they are paying you. When you genuinely believe their decisions would damage your work – walk away. Run away. The money doesn’t matter that much.

- AL Kennedy

Nothing fancy this time around, no commentary from me (really, could I add anything of value?), just some great advice from some great writers. The Guardian wrangled up the group and tasked them with coming up their 10 rules for writing and I chose my favourite from each author. The one I find most necessary to myself as a writer is to put pen to paper and find those right words. The rest will come in time.

From Sanderson’s blog:

TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT is going very well. I’m very pleased with how it’s turning out, and I’m confident it will be ready in time for a release later this year as promised. It will be longer than THE GATHERING STORM, which is another reason the progress bar stopped. I’m just not sure how long the book will end up being, so a percentage is harder to judge right now. The actual length of the book right now—after putting together all the pieces I’ve been working on over the last six months—comes to 291,294 words. THE GATHERING STORM was around 300,000 words. I estimate this one at around 320,000 or so after revisions and edits. (It might get as high as 350,000, then get sliced back down. I always trim a lot off books in later drafts when I tighten up the language.)

[Another] thing that happened in December to slow me is that production from Tor started to get anxious because they didn’t have THE WAY OF KINGS (book one of my new series, The Stormlight Archive) in final form yet. So I had to spend a lot of time working on another draft of that book, along with getting some of the interior artwork done.

Sanderson’s a damn workhorse, there’s no denying that. It’s obviously good news that he’s within the final 20-50k words on Towers of Midnight, though, as he mentions, his revisal methods are incredibly in depth, so its hard to put a finger down on just how close to completion the novel is. It’s almost bizarre to consider two Wheel of Time novels being released so close together. Still, with his work ethic, it looks likely that The Towers of Midnight won’t have a problem hitting its Spring, 2011 release date. One wonders if it’s not too late to sneak it into the 2010 Holiday season (which Sanderson hints at). Big bucks, there.

What I’ll be curious to see is how his production continues once The Way of Kings is released, and he has to start writing his original material alongside the Wheel of Time novels. One can only assume that we’ll see a bit of a gap between The Way of Kings and the second novel in The Stormlight Archives.

From the twitter of Deborah Beale, Williams’ wife:

SHADOWHEART is scheduled for hardcover release in November, simultaneous with the trade paperback for S’rise….

Great news! Originally Shadowrise and Shadowheart were meant to be one volume. But, in traditional Tad Williams fashion, it got too damn long and the trilogy found itself as a tetralogy. Given that they’re written, it’s nice to see DAW releasing the final two volumes of the series so near to each other, rather than shoving Shadowheart into 2011 due to scheduling concerns. It’s certainly a good year for Tad Williams fans.

 

It was a dark and stormy night.

The young farmer sat at the bar, a watered beer wrapped in his hands. The Wizard beside him, beard long and grey, was fidgeting in the worst way, making the country bumpkin even more nervous. This was all more than he bargained for.

Lightning flashed outside, setting sparks to dancing in the Wizard’s gimlet eyes.

“You’re a Wizard, Larry,” said the Wizard.

The young lad gawped at the old man. Could this day get any worse? His family had been killed by orcs, and now this Wizard was telling him that he was the only hope to destroy the Evil Dark Lord™ by finding the mythical magical weapon, which was lost further back in time than even the memories of the oldest crones stretched.

“I can’t do this!” said Larry. “I can’t even read, but you expect me to defeat the Dark Lord, who has enslaved entire races?”

“Of course. You are the only one who can. You have a hidden legacy, passed to you from your royal ancestors.”

Larry shook his head, resigned. It was going to be a long day.

 
 

We all know them. When subverted, they work to the authors advantage, when let run wild, they bog down a story. If an author approached an editor or agent with a story like the one I wrote above, they’d be lucky to have the first page of their manuscript read… yet, when a book does get picked up, and it moves down the line to the marketing department, it often comes out the other end with a cover riddled with cliches. What’s the deal with this? Clichés within a novel are bad, but clichés on the cover help sell more novels?

So, my question for you:

Why are clichés shunned in the text of novels, but often embraced on the cover? Should publishers look for the same originality in their art departments that they seek in their authors?

So, great readers, writers and publishers, what are your thoughts on clichéd novels and clichéd covers?