Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Writer Zen: Just Right is Hard

Technique Tuesday

Most aspiring writers are at the stage where it's a struggle to get some attention-- any attention-- for their work. If someone suggests there might be such a thing as too much attention, we often quip, "That's the sort of problem we'd like to have."

I read a note from Brandon Sanderson shortly before his new epic, The Way of Kings, was released that reminded me how difficult it is to get just the right amount of attention: too much can be as bad as too little.

[This, by the way, is an example of why I generally like what Brandon has to say: it's rational, well-thought-out, and, most importantly, grounded.]

Here's part of what Brandon had to say about his upcoming book The Way of Kings:
POINT FOUR: However, the book is just a book.
My editor, bless his heart, compared THE WAY OF KINGS to DUNE and LORD OF THE RINGS in the catalogue copy that he wrote. He's a wonderful man, but I cringe when any new book is compared to masterworks like those. DUNE and LotR have proven themselves over decades, passing the test of time. They had monumental influences on their respective genres.

No new novel has the right to claim such a comparison out of the gate. If you go into KINGS expecting the next LORD OF THE RINGS or DUNE, you will be disappointed. I am not Tolkien or Herbert. I am what I am—a largely unproven writer still in the early days of his career.

Early in my drafting process for this book, I fell into some traps by putting too much weight upon the future of this novel. I began to think that KINGS would be the book that would define my solo career, and I began to worry (with all of the recent eyes that have been watching me) that this book needed to be something incredibly jaw-dropping and earth-shattering, otherwise it would be a failure.

That's a bad way to be thinking as you write a book, and probably an even worse way to be thinking as you start reading a book. The Wheel of Time didn't start to really make its mark until book three or four; it was the same for Harry Potter. Series like this take time to build. Beyond that, you can't go into a series with the mind-set that it needs to be a huge blockbuster to be successful.

I'm not sure what I want people to think about this book. I want them to read it, enjoy it, and say nice things about it. I want them to anticipate it and talk about it on blogs, waiting for the day it is released. But in the end, it's just a book. Let's not hype this thing to death.

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net