Author’s Vicissitudes

I had another big job to do to a very short deadline through the latter part of May and the beginning of June. I developed an outline, got it approved, and wrote 40,000 words, in four weeks.

At the end of last week, I had an email discussion with the editor which went, paraphrased, like this.

Him: I’ve decided I don’t like the outline I approved any more. I want you to massively rewrite this, in two weeks.

Me: No.

Him: Er, OK. I see your point. What can you do in two weeks?

Me: Well…

And then we got into a much more sensible discussion, which has now resolved into a plan for getting the revisions done within the timescale.

Actually, I agree with the revisions he wants. As I was writing, I was thinking “This outline isn’t working as well as I thought it would. How can I make it better within the outline and deadline I have?”. My changes were clearly on the right lines, because we’re now going to make them much more central to the chapter, essentially restructuring the chapter around it. Had the deadline been more sensible, I might have been able to do it without completing a draft first. That would be ideal, of course, because obviously I don’t get paid for the revisions; I only get paid the original amount.

This is all normal in creative work, as far as I know. Outlines not working out is certainly normal. I think it happens less as I get more experienced, and the quality of the my outlines is, I think, getting better in general, but I suspect it will never go away altogether. I’d bet that even Shakespeare had occasions of thinking “No, this scene sucks. Start again”. (I’d also suggest that Titus Andronicus is what happened when his deadline didn’t give him time to do that.) I suppose if you’re a salaried employee of a company, and writing, they don’t stop your salary while you’re doing revisions, but I think that’s standard practice for freelancers. Arguably not ideal, but being on the publisher side as well I know perfectly well that the economics of RPG publishing simply won’t allow for handing out more money.

Oh well. The book will be better for the revisions, I’m sure.

New Book

My latest book has now been announced. I contributed to Monster Manual V for Dungeons and Dragons. On the one had, this is just a handful of monsters in a big monster book; it’s not a book by me in any reasonable sense, just one I contributed to. On the other, I have now written for Dungeons and Dragons. This will be immensely useful to me when people ask what I do, because “Oh, like Dungeons and Dragons?” is quite a common response.

I can now just say “Yes, one of the games I write for is Dungeons and Dragons”, rather than having to say “Yes, like that, but not actually D&D”.

Also, D&D is the original RPG, so there’s a sense in which I really wanted to get a D&D credit under my belt. As a bonus, the process was easy, and Wizards pay well and early.

Once I know which of the monsters I wrote made it to the final book (they paid me for all of them, which is promising), I’ll add a books page for D&D.

Ego Boost

This post on the White Wolf forums has made me feel all warm, fuzzy and competent.

So, obviously, I have to tell everyone about it. Look! Look! I have a fan who isn’t my mother!

OK, more seriously, this is one of the things that makes writing worthwhile. The Guardian had an interview with Keira Knightley, in which she said that, if she believed the good stuff, she’d have to believe the bad stuff as well, so it’s better not to believe anything. While we’re in very different situations (like, she’s actually famous), I can’t agree with that position.

I think one of the things that’s hardest to learn, really learn, when going into a creative industry, or just being creative, is that you can’t please everyone. I mean, everyone knows that. It’s a cliché. On the other hand, it’s remarkably difficult to really understand and accept it on a gut level. You can’t please everyone. That means, in concrete terms, that there will be actual people who do not like your work. In this age of blogs, mailing lists, and internet fora, there is a reasonable chance that they will tell you so. Possibly at length, and almost certainly in terms of objective failure.

All this tells you, though, is that you really can’t please everyone.

On the other hand, I’m not creative purely for myself. Some people are, but I want to give pleasure to, and maybe inspire thought in, at least some other people. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with creating purely for yourself, and I do it sometimes; there are files on my hard drive that are not intended for other people to see (and not exclusively because they’re about sex, either). But it’s not what I’m doing in the material that I have published.

Thus, the appearance of people, like the poster in the thread I referenced, who like my work to the point of describing themselves as a “big fan” of it, means that I have succeeded. Obviously, the more people who think that way, the better, all else being equal, but if there’s even one such person, I haven’t failed. I’ve merely chosen a minority form of expression. (If there were only one, I’d have failed commercially, but that’s a different issue.)

So, I think you can believe both the good and the bad. The bad tells you nothing new, just that you can’t please everyone. The good, on the other hand, does tell you something new. It tells you that, in at least some cases, you have succeeded. It tells you that your work was artistically successful.

And that, I think, is well worth knowing.

Busy, busy, busy…

So, I’m a bit busy at the moment, largely due to having a touch under 30,000 words to write in the next ten days. Other than that, I think I’m fine, but I’m getting a bit behind on email, especially the non-urgent kind.

Lots has happened while I’ve been busy, which is one of the reasons I still have 30,000 words to do; we been back to the clinic and seen our baby again, dancing to the ultrasound. (So the 3D photo is a bit blurry, because Yudetamago just wouldn’t sit still.) One of my US cousins has been to visit. Yuriko’s art fair happened. Yuriko’s brother came to visit, for the art fair. Teaching has still been going on. And did I mention the tens of thousands of words in not very long at all?

So a short blog entry before I go back to work. (Actually, 5,000 words written today, so I won’t be doing any more writing today. I might be burned out tomorrow as it is. And I don’t have time to be burned out.)