Friday, December 21, 2012

Erin Bowman takes the truth

Today, I'll be tackling a truth submitted by Alyssa S:

Today, especially with the ebook market, readers want authors to write faster. One a year is suddenly too long. While I have no problem waiting one year or four (Hello! Bitterblue!), what is your stance on this? As an author, what kind of pressure does this put you under?

This is such a great question. I have certainly noticed an increase in "extra content" being released between books (novellas, alternate/deleted scenes, etc) to hold readers over between installments in series. And I know how painful it is to wait between books as a reader (Bitterblue, indeed!).

BUT.

But.

As a writer, I can't imagine a case where I would want less than the standard year between contracted books.

Why, you ask? Let's take a look at my process:

My sweet spot for drafting a novel (and I'm talking the "shitty first draft" version as coined by Anne Lamott, not the "critique partner ready" version) is about 2-3 months. For TAKEN2, the first book I wrote under contract, I had five months to write and submit the draft to my editor. This worked out perfectly for me. I wrote my "shitty first draft" in about three months. I revised on my own for a month, then send to my crit partner. Revised again and sent it to my agent two weeks before the deadline. Revised one last time, and turned it in.

What follows that first draft is 6-9 months of revisions, line edits, and copy edits. (And I'm not actively "writing" for all that time. There are periods where my editor has to read, digest, compile feedback, etc). Then the book gets typeset. I'll see pass pages. ARCs will be made. (etc, etc...you know the rest.) In short, the book is often worked on behind-the-scenes for longer than a year, but because of how schedules sync up, the reader usually only has a twelve month wait.

Knowing how much time my story spends on my editor's desk as much as mine, I can confidently say that if release dates were tighter between books, my stories would suffer. Greatly.

Writing is a weird thing. Some days the words flow and I can't type fast enough. Others my muse decides to go out sight-seeing while I sit at the computer, struggling and lost without her. The unproductive days are stressful but they are still work. I'm picking away at my to-do list. I'm getting closer to The End Goal, and so I'm doing the right thing.

But I think that less time between book releases (read: tighter deadlines) would only add more stress and worry to the already emotionally draining process of writing under contract. Not to mention the fact that it is layer upon layer of revision that allows me to turn out a polished, strong manuscript. And those layers take time.

Look at Bitterblue, which Alyssa mentioned in her original question! A prime example of a book that the author had to write and scrap and rewrite (and revise and revise and revise) before it became The Story. (Kristin Cashore's post about this is fascinating if you haven't seen it.) I, for one, am so glad she took the time to write the story as it needed to be written. The wait was worth it. If she'd plowed ahead, blinding sticking to that year standard, I might have been disappointed with BITTERBLUE. Instead I was impressed beyond measure.

Particularly for last books-in-a-series, it seems that authors often step back and ask for a bit more time. (Veronica Roth and the final DIVERGENT book, for example.) It's hard work to conclude an epic tale, to wrap up all those loose ends. Authors want to put the strongest, best version of the work in front of their readers. A few extra months to polish and fine-tune can make all the difference.

So yes, the standard year wait can seem long. Painfully long. We writers feel bad making readers wait, but we know it's worth it. We can only hope, that when you finally get your hands on the end product, you agree.

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Erin Bowman is a YA writer, letterpress lover, and Harry Potter enthusiast living in New Hampshire. Her debut novel, TAKEN, comes out from HarperTeen in April 16, 2013. You can visit her blog (updated occasionally) or find her on twitter (updated obsessively).

15 comments:

  1. I think more authors need to do what Veronica Roth did—write up a really good rundown of what happened in the last book and post on their blog with spoiler warnings. By the time a sequel comes out, I'm struggling to remember what happened in the last book. I don't have time to re-read every series prior to a sequel's release. A quick and dirty listing of key characters and events can help combat issues with forgetting.

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    1. Totally agree! I really appreciate when authors do that because like you, I can't reread every book I want to in preparation for the sequel. Roth's recap post was such a nice, crash-course refresher.

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  2. Such a great post! I agree that it's better to take the extra time than publish something before it's ready. Readers can almost always tell when the author was rushed, and they are never satisfied, especially with end-of-series books.

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    1. "Readers can almost always tell when the author was rushed, and they are never satisfied, especially with end-of-series books." <-- Yes. Yesyesyes. :)

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  3. YAY! Thank you for taking the time to answer my question! I have always been amazed at how fast author can write - because as you said, authors don't take the whole year to write the book, but about half the time (or, in your case, LESS!). It just makes the book so much more worth it! <3

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    1. My pleasure, Alyssa! It really is amazing how different each story is. Sometimes that year is plenty of time. In other cases, not nearly enough. Flexible schedules are an author's best friend, I think, but they're unfortunately not always a reality.

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  4. Love this post. I think sometimes the behind-the-scenes parts feel shrouded in mystery to the readers. I'd rather them know exactly how much work goes into putting that book in their hands. And, more importantly, that it being in it's best shape matters to us, as authors, as much as it does to them. :)

    Great post, Erin! :)

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    1. So true about the behind-the-scenes. In fact, I still love getting a look at it for other author's processes, because it seems every single book is different.

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  5. Erin - I have to agree with you completely - and I have to add that the year flew buy and didn't feel "painfully long" at all! there was just too much to do!

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    1. Totally agree, Ellen! How is it nearly 2013 already?!

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  6. Great post! For me as a reader, honestly...would it be weird to say I kind of like the wait? I love speculating and wondering, coming up with theories and reading other fans' ideas on what might happen next...the anticipation can be so much fun!

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  7. Great post, Erin. Totally agree. I would much rather read the best version of a book than read the "fast" version and if that takes a little longer to produce, I'm fine waiting. :)

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  8. As both a reader & a writer, I could not agree more. It's not that the process CAN'T be rushed, but that often it shouldn't. We've become a society obsessed with speed, with instant gratification. And yet those quick pleasures are so often the most fleeting. Best if we can take our time to enjoy the truly worthwhile things. Vacations without internet. Long walks in the park with our dogs. And yes, the wait between books, where we're left with our own imagination to fill in the blanks and make guesses about what's coming next, where we can reflect back on the story so far, the characters' growth (or lack thereof). These parts are as important to the reading experience at the words themselves!

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