Entitlement, yet another post on it

22 Jan

The following is a non-specific but repeated conversation between authors and their adoring public (aka fangirls of both the crazy and not-so-crazy varieties):

Reader to writer: Oh, I love your work!

Writer to reader: Thank you so much, I’m glad to know that.

Reader to writer: Yes, I’ve read everything of yours—twice—and I’ve been waiting to find out what happens to/with character (fill in the blank)

Writer to reader: Thank you…

Reader to writer: You know, you should write faster, dammit, I want to know what happens in the next book of the series! Now!

Writer to reader: I am writing, as fast as I can!

Reader to writer: Oh no, you are not—look, the last book came out six months ago, where’s the next one????

Writer: …..

The thing is that most readers who say this—or any of the many variants—are mostly, kinda, joking. I mean, we want the next book now, but we also understand that we won’t always have what we want, when we want it.

Then there are those who seriously feel they are (here it comes) entitled to what they want when they want it—and preferably, the way they want it too.

Which invariably makes me think of the wonderful Neil Gaiman’s piece, the heart of which is: George R. R. Martin is not your bitch. (If you haven’t read it, please do go ahead and do so now—wonderful barely starts to describe it. Go on, I’ll wait.)

My only quibble (you know there had to be one of these, didn’t you?) is that that piece doesn’t address the many many things and steps between writing the story and having it published. In the past couple of years I have been granted a small glimpse of the life of a writer and the process a story goes through from conception and creation to the hands of the readership.

First draft. Second draft. Beta reading (which, depending on the number of readers and their availability, can eat up some time). First revision. Editors’ input (which, depending on their availability, can eat up quite a bit of time). Revisions (and a writer is lucky if there is only one round of these). Copy edits. Galleys.

Then you have all the production issues—cover, blurb, printing, distribution, promotion—all things that have nothing to do with the story but that are part of the process of producing a book.

After that, you have the publisher’s schedule—which is absolutely outside of the author’s control or, most often, influence. And sometimes a book that has been scheduled a year in advance gets bumped back—for whatever the reason—and the author is powerless to do anything about it.

So even if the seven or eleven books in a series were written consecutively in a period of six or ten months, that wouldn’t mean that they would be in the readers’ hands in three or six or ten years—that is in the hands of the publisher, not the writer.

So that tired rally call, “write faster”? Not only hollow, but often mindlessly cruel.

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