Category Archives: Ask the Author

Worldbuilders Stretch Goal: Book 3 Q&A.

Hey there everybody,

As many of you know, one of the final stretch goals for Worldbuilders was a book three Q&A.

Generally speaking, I avoid talking about book three for the simple reason that when I do, a disproportionate number of people start whining at me about how it isn’t out yet. Shockingly, that’s not something I particularly enjoy. Hence my silence.

The other problem is that I’ve answered people’s questions about book three in the past. Done interviews and written blog posts. And you know what happens? Two days later people ask me the very same questions. The result is that I end up irritated, exasperated, and feeling like the whole thing was a waste of time.

So again. Silence.

Still, people *have* been asking for some time. So I was happy to offer it up as incentive to help Worldbuilders hit $2 million in donations.

Scheduling was difficult after the fundraiser, as I had a few unexpected trips to LA this month to talk about Hollywood stuff. But now we have a date for the Q&A: Friday, February 3rd from 3pm to 5pm Central Time, live on my Twitch channel.

(If you head over there now, follow the channel, and set notifications to “on” you’ll get an e-mail when my streams go live.)

Pat Streaming(Actual Footage)

If you have a Twitch account, you’ll be able to participate in the chat. If not, you can submit questions via the form below.

(If you want to share the link to the form elsewhere feel free, the link is right here)

I’ll take questions from the chat as well, but if our turnout is good the chat will be lively, and there’s a fair chance that your question will scroll off the screen before I can see it. And yes, we’ll be putting the chat in slow mode so you people can’t spam your question over and over. So if you *really* want your question answered, your best bet is to fill out the form.

Now, for those of you who have never done a live Q&A with me before, someone at PAX South recently suggested that my Q&A’s should more appropriately be called “Questions and Anecdotes.”

This is very true. People ask questions, and I tell a story. It’s usually somewhat related, but by the time I’m done telling it it’s possible I won’t remember what the original question was. The same will likely be true for this Q&A.

A few facts about the Q&A:

  • I will be accepting questions on other subjects, too.

Like some of the Hollywood stuff that’s been going on. I know everyone’s curious about that.

That said, I’ll be giving questions about book three, the revision process, etc, priority.

  • It will be spoiler-free. (In regard to book three.)

I’m not going to be spilling any secrets about what’s coming up. Anyone who knows anything about me knows better than that.

  • The twitch chat might NOT be spoiler free.

The questions and comments people ask in there might contain information about the first two books. Not to mention speculation about upcoming books. So if you’re vehemently anti-spoiler, you might want to just watch the video and skip the chat.

  • There is no release date yet.

If there were, I would already have told you. Serious people. Why would I sit on that news?

So yeah. Submit your questions and tune in for the show. I plan on drinking a bunch of coffee beforehand, so it should be a good time.

See you soon,

pat

Also posted in Worldbuilders 2016 | By Pat25 Responses

Comic-Con Schedule and a Chance to Ask Your Questions.

I’m a couple days away from leaving for San Diego ComicCon. Since I decided to scale back on my conventions this year because of Oot, this is one of the few big cons I’m hitting this year.

Since San Diego is big to an insane degree, I figured I’d post up my schedule here. Normally when I go to a con I do a dozen panels and signings and such. But at ComicCon I’ve only got a handful of events, so it would be pretty easy to miss me with all the background noise and residual coolness.

Thursday –  July 22:

1:30- 2:30 pm

Panel: Once Upon a Time: Epic Fantasy, Bigger Than Life Heroes/Heroines

Location: Room 24ABC

Notes: I’m pretty excited about this panel. It’s got Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, Lynn Flewelling, Christopher Paolini, and Megan Whalen Turner. And me, of course. Should be a good discussion.

2:30 pm-3:00 pm

Autographing session

Location: Table AA1

Note: The AA table number designates a table in the convention’s Autograph Area, upstairs, under the sails.

Saturday, July 24:

1:00 — 1:50 pm

Signing at Mysterious Galaxy (Booth #1119)

Note: The folks at at Mysterious Galaxy will be selling copies of The Name of the Wind and The Adventure of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle. If you buy your copy of the Princess book there, you’ll also get a copy of the sticker I mentioned a couple weeks ago on the blog.

Further note: Apparently this signing will be a ticketed thing. So if you want to make sure you get a place in line, you need to show up at the Mysterious Galaxy booth at some point on Saturday and get a ticket. Sooner is probably better.

Additional Further Note: Mysterious Galaxy will be selling The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle all through the convention. They’ll probably be the only ones that have it. That way, even if you aren’t able to make one of my signings, you can still stop by their booth and grab a copy of my book.

Sunday, July 25:

3:00 – 4:00 pm

Reading and signing with Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, and Brent Weeks.

(I’m guessing 3-4 is the time for the reading itself, with the signing directly afterward. Rest assured I won’t be bugging out right at 4:00. I’ll stick around until everyone’s books are signed.)

Location: Borders 668 6th Ave

Facebook event here.

Note: While this event is happening at at San Diego, it’s not part of the convention itself. That means you can show up for the fun even if you aren’t attending the con. It’s free and open to everyone. There also aren’t any tickets to this one, so if you miss me at the convention on Saturday, you can catch me here on Sunday.

Further Note: To add some extra excitement, Brandon, Brent, and I won’t just be reading our own stuff. Oh no. Far too pedestrian. We’ll be reading each others’ stuff. Honestly, I’m stuck between excitement and terror just thinking about it.

Last but not least, we’ve got something for those of you who won’t be at the convention.

Last year I did a video interview with Shawn Speakman at Suvudu. It was fun, so this year I’ll be doing another.

Gentleman and free-thinker that he is, Shawn is taking suggestions for interview questions. So if you have something you’d really like him to ask me in the interview, you can post it in the comments below. The door’s open, folks. Thrill me.

Later,

pat

Also posted in appearances | By Pat64 Responses

Fanmail Q & A: Advice For New Writers

Pat,

I know you’re busy, so I won’t take up much of your time. I want to be a writer (Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to read anything of mine.)

I was just wondering if you have any advice for new writers. Just one piece would be really helpful…

Love the book,

Becky

Heya Becky,

Over the last few years, I’ve heard this question a lot. It comes up in e-mails and interviews with clockwork regularity.

Despite that, it’s a question I never mind answering. I like giving advice, and I like talking about writing. So this one’s a twofer for me.

That said, my answer tends to change. If I’m reading something that irritates me, my advice might center around how to avoid that particular irritation. Sometimes it just depends on my mood, or what I’m working on in my own revisions.

But I’ve also noticed a slow change in how I think of this question as time goes on. Sometimes my answer centers around the nuts and bolts of the craft: revision, or character, or how to comport yourself professionally at a convention.

But more and more, I tend to answer this question in more practical terms. While these snippets of advice tends to be much more universal and useful that talking about managing POV, interviewers seem to be put off by it.

I’ve come to realize that when an interviewer asks me, “Can you give one piece of advice for new writers?” what they’re really looking for is something pithy and encouraging. They want me to say “Reach for the Stars!” or “Never give up!”

But that’s not really good advice. I mean, you could really hurt your shoulder reaching for the stars. Good advice is occasionally disheartening. “Come to grips with the inevitability of rejection.” Or “Don’t quit your day job.”

Once, I had a lovely 30 minute phone interview that ended roughly like this:

Thanks for the interview, Pat.

My pleasure.

In closing, if you could give one piece of advice to new writers, what would it be?

Live somewhere cheap.

I beg your pardon?

Odds are, it’s going to take you a long time to finish your novel. Then it’s going to take you a long time to break into the publishing world. That means you’re effectively going to be working at a job that will pay you nothing, and you’re going to be doing it for years. So you should live somewhere cheap.

I was thinking something more along the lines of worldbuilding….

If you live somewhere like Seattle or Manhattan or LA, you’re going to have to shell out thousands of dollars just in rent. If you have to work three jobs just to pay your rent, when are you going to find the time to write?

Do you know how I managed to keep working on my first novel for 14 years without starving to death?

Student loans? Some sort of trust fund?

Shit no. I learned how to live cheap. Up until 2005, I never paid more than $225 a month for rent.

Wh– how?

I’m a good bargainer. And I had roommates. And small-town Wisconsin is a cheap place to live.

Also, I lived in some real shitholes from time to time. But you know what? You can write in a shithole. You can’t write when you’re working 70 hours a week.

[chuckles nervously] Well, I think that’s about all the time we have….

Hell, I was so poor for a while I qualified for low-income housing back in 2004. Those places were pretty nice, actually.

Remember to turn in next week, folks. Thanks again, Pat.

Did you know that if you boil a paper shopping bag long enough, it makes something that’s almost like soup?

[Cut to static]

Okay, I made up the part about paper bags, but the rest of it is true.

The nice thing about being a writer is that you can do it pretty much anywhere. If you want to be a Hollywood actor, you have to live in LA. If you want to be a professional pianist or a ballet dancer, your options are pretty limited. But if you want to write, you can live whereverthehell you want.


For example, back in 1994 I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with a shared bathroom down the hallway. The rent was $135 a month, everything included. My friends called the place: “The Pit.”

I was really poor back then. I was working three little part-time jobs and paying my own tuition. I didn’t even have a telephone because the 30 bucks every month for basic service was money I could really use for other things. Like food. You can eat for a month on 30 bucks if you’re careful.

Was the place a shithole? Absolutely. Was it inconvenient not having a phone? Of course. Hell, at one point my parents took out a classified add in the college newspaper because they had no other way to get in touch with me.

But I had time to write.

In fact, I distinctly remember writing Kvothe’s first admissions interview while living there. And his first class with Hemme. I was pretty proud of those scenes, and they didn’t change all that much between there and the final version of the book.

Best of all, living cheaply is a skill that will serve you well *after* you’re a published writer too. Especially if you’re writing Fantasy or Sci-fi. Tobias Buckell did some research into the advances a new writer gets for a first novel. And, on average, it’s not a ton of money.

So there you go, Becky. My advice for a new writer. Live somewhere cheap. Sorry if it’s not the gem of wisdom you were looking for, but really, what would you do with a gem of wisdom anyway? This is more like a muffin of wisdom. Everyone likes muffins.

Later all,

pat

Also posted in BJ Hiorns Art, Fanmail Q + A, my student days | By Pat79 Responses

The Perils of Translation: Babelfish.

Alright folks, while I’m dealing with the aftermath of the fundraiser, here’s a question from the mailbag.

Pat,

You’ve mentioned your translators on your blog before, generally in glowing terms. I don’t really see what the big deal is. You wrote something great. You made something out of nothing. But they’re not doing that. They’re not really making anything, they’re just…. copying it.

Plus, don’t you think that what they do is rapidly becoming obsolete? They already have programs that can translate languages. One wonders why they bother having people translators at all.

Your fan,

Steve

At first, Steve, I thought you might be pulling my leg with this e-mail. “Nobody could really think translation was easy,” I thought to myself. “He has to be putting me on.”

Then I realized that I’ve been having a crash course in the perils of translation over the last year and a half. And I remembered that most Americans are pointedly, painfully monolingual. And I remembered one of my friends saying as a joke, “How hard can it be to learn French? French babies do it all the time….”

So I’m going to take this question at face value, Steve. The truth is, translation has got to be one of the hardest jobs there is. Period.

First off, you have to be fluent in two languages. Not just kind of fluent, but *really* fluent. You need to understand the culture of the language you’re translating from, and the idiomatic speech.

Like what I said up there in my first paragraph. “Pulling my leg” is an idiom. It doesn’t mean what it actually says. If you’re pulling my leg, it mean you’re playing a joke on me, teasing me.

There are a thousand little things like that stand in the way of true fluency, and you can’t just copy them over into the new language and have them make any sense. For example, if I said, “You have a bird,” in Germany, I’m not actually saying anything about a bird. What I’m actually saying is that you’re crazy.

Secondly, you have to decide if a translation is going to be true to the letter of the work, or true to the spirit of the work.

What do I mean by this? Well… I’m reminded of what one of my favorite professors said when I asked him which version of the Odyssey I should read. I was looking for the best translation, and I trusted him, because he had a good old-fashioned classical education and could actually read Latin and Greek.

“It’s not really an issue of the best translation,” he said. “My old classics professor used to say, ‘a translation is like a woman. It can be beautiful, or it can be faithful, but it can’t be both….'”

Sexism aside, I think this strikes to the heart of the issue. A word-by-word translation is going to be clunky and awkward. But a beautiful one isn’t going to actually say the exact same thing as the original. A translator needs to walk that fine line between. Or rather, they have to dance madly back and forth over that line.

And as for translators being replaced by computer programs? I give a hearty laugh. Translation is not a science, it is an art. And as such, it belongs solely in the realm of humans.

Most everyone knows about Babelfish. Let me show you what something looks like when I use that program to translate something from English to German and back again. If this were as simple as plugging numbers into an equation, we should end up with the same thing we started with, right?

Here’s a paragraph most of you probably recognise:

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

After Babelfish.

I stole princesses back of sleeping truck kings. I burned down the city of Trebon. I spent and with my reason and my life left the night with Felurian. I was away-driven of the university at a recent age, than most people are inside permitted. I step ways by moonlight, which others are afraid, in order to speak during from the day to. I spoke loved women and written Lieden, who let the Minnesänger cry with Gods.

They can have heard of me.

And that’s using German, a language so closely related to English that if they were people, it would be illegal for them to get married.

Look what happens when you do the same think with a language that’s *really* different, like Japanese:

I stole the king woman from wheelbarrow king of sleep. I burnt under the town of Trebon. I passed the night of Felurian, my sanity and went away with my life both. I was discharged rather than being able to allot most people from the university of a younger age. I the other people between day step on the road with the moonlight which is feared in order to speak concerning. I God, to the song by the document which makes the woman and the wandering minstrel cry who are loved spoke.

It can inquire about me.

Yeah. I think the translators’ jobs are safe for another year or two.

pat

Also posted in Fanmail Q + A, foreign happenings, my oracular impulse, translation | By Pat69 Responses

Ask the Author #3: What Good Is Fantasy, Anyway?

 
Hello folks. I’ve been elsewhere lately. Things have been busy with writing and getting ready for my trip out to New York for the Quill Awards.

But just yesterday I got the following message from someone asking me to help her settle a debate between her and a friend:

Patrick,

[…] Anyway, her stance is that Literature (her cap) is about enlightenment and improving the human condition, while fantasy is just escapist crap. I know she’s wrong, but I’m not a good debater. I’m not good with words. Can you help me out?

Thanks,

Sami

Sami, your question reminded me of a forum I got drawn into a while back. Normally I resist being pulled into online discussions, but this one struck home with me. The person who started the thread was asking, effectively, if fantasy really mattered in any sort of profound way.

This is the from-the-hip response I made on that forum a while back. If you’re looking for some argumentative ammo, there might be a few things in here. At any rate, it does a pretty good job of summing up how I feel about the issue.

“Can a Fantasy book/author really change anything?”

[First post: July 10th 5:15 AM]

Years ago I was watching a documentary on the Beatles. There was a video clip where a journalist was interviewing John Lennon. He was protesting the war, doing ridiculous things to get press attention so that he could spread the word about his message. He spent his honeymoon in bed with his wife and invited the press. When the press showed up hoping for something racy, John and Yoko used the opportunity to spread their message about peace.

One of the journalists got exasperated with him at one point and said, “You dear boy, you don’t think that you’ve saved a single life with this nonsense, have you?”

I remember watching that and thinking that I couldn’t decide which one of them was being foolish. Lennon for thinking he could change things, or the reporter for being so cynical.

Ultimately, I want to believe Lennon. I want to think that a person can make a change in the way people think.

I think that can be done with a protest. Or a song. Or an interview. Or a fantasy novel.

Hah! I actually found the video clip on youtube. If you watch it for about 40 seconds you’ll get to the part where the reporter says her line….

However, I don’t think that political activism is the only type of change a novel can create. I think a novel can change they way you think about the world. It can expose you to new thoughts or make you reconsider old ones.

Hell, a fantasy novel can teach you things. Any time you learn something it changes your life.

Lastly, but not leastly, we shouldn’t overlook pure entertainment. Back when I was in Grad school my life was a hell. It sucked really, really bad and I was stressed out beyond belief. That’s when I read the Harry Potter books. They were great. They helped me relax and not freak out. They didn’t heal my crippled limbs or stop me from being racist or fix global warming, but they improved the quality of my life. In doing so they hey changed my life in a little way. A good way.

[Second post: July 12th 11:18 AM]

I like what you said about escapism being productive. I think Robert Frost made a point along those lines in Birches.

“It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.”

That is one of the things that fantasy does best.

And laughter is not to be underestimated either. I write a satirical humor column for the local school paper. I write it because I like to make people laugh and it gives me a vent for my humor when my other writing needs to be serious.

After the most recent presidential election I was… distraught. Profoundly distraught and depressed. But my deadline was still there. I had to go in and be funny when I was in no mood. So I wrote about the elections. I made fun of the American populace, and the president, and both parties and myself most of all.

And the column pissed people off. They started a media event about it, got people riled up, and in the end, I almost lost my job because of it.

I remember thinking to myself, “Why do I do this? Why do I work 4-6 hours every week to write a column I don’t get paid for? A column that offends people (as all good satire must) and costs me what small shred of respect I have among the other faculty at the university. A column that at best, gives people a cheap laugh?”

Weeks later I was grousing about the whole experience to someone in the University Center. A student walking past overheard and stopped.

“You’re that guy that writes the College Survival Guide?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. Inwardly I was cringing against another attack. The media coverage had not been kind to me, satirical humor quoted out of context looks really, really damning, and as a result I’d been having I got a lot of unpleasant attention. Everything pales in comparison to a death threat, or the promise of a beating, but even tongue-lashings get you down after a while…. “Yeah.” I said. “That’s me.”

“I read it all the time,” he said. “After the election I wanted to kill myself. But when I read your column I laughed. I really needed a laugh right then. A lot of us really needed a laugh right then.”

It was like a great weight got lifted off me when I heard that. I remember thinking. Oh yeah. *this* is why I write. If we don’t laugh sometimes we’ll cry. I want to help out with that.

This conversation made me think of a piece of fan mail I got a couple days ago. I’m going to contact the person who wrote it and see if she’s okay with me re-printing it here. If she agrees I think it will be a nice addition to this thread…

[The final post: July 12th 12:12 PM]

She said I could share her letter so long as I removed her full last name. I wanted to share this because when this e-mail came in just a couple nights ago, I thought about this thread.

Even if I never get another e-mail like this again I’ll feel like I’ve done something worthwhile with my life….

Mr. Rothfuss

I read a lot of books. That’s not to brag, it’s just a fact. I read a lot of books, sometimes once, sometimes twenty times, and I’m glad that there’s a lot of books out there because I’m more a little afraid that I’m going to run out one day. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is really a thank you letter, so I should start there.

I want to thank you for your book, but I want to do it right. I read a lot of books, and it’s been a long, long time since I’ve felt as passionately about a book as I do about yours. I don’t know how to describe this feeling, really – I hope you know what I mean so I don’t sound like a complete babbling idiot. It’s like what I felt when I finished the Tolkien trilogy for the first time. It’s the same thing I felt when I read my first LeGuin, it’s the first time I read Ender’s Game. It’s being eight and fascinated by orcs and elves, and fifteen and shocked by the names of shadows that move inside of you, even if the shadow’s name is your own name. It’s finding love and pain and hope and a piece of yourself in the words on a page that were written far away by someone you have never met.

For the first time in a long time, I had a book that I couldn’t bear to leave: your book. I bought it on a whim at five minutes to closing in a bookstore that I had never been to before, on a street that I have been on a hundred times. I started it at 11:45 on Monday night with a cup of grapefruit juice and a little seed of hope. I think you may know this hope, I think everyone has had it in one form or another. It’s more than the, “gee I hope this is going to be a good trip” kind of hope.

Let me elaborate. (This is, by the way, kind of a personal letter. I hope you don’t mind. You don’t have to write back, it’s okay, since this is really just a thank you.) I’m 19, just finished my first year of college, and living alone for the first time. I’m scared out of my wits, but not about finding a job or making it through school. I’m afraid that now that I’m an adult, there’s no such thing as magic anymore. I don’t want to be jaded any cynical and worldly. I like the crisp newness that varnishes the world. If I have to start paying bills and finding an apartment and paying rent, will I lose that shock, that joy, that awe that I felt when I saw things for the first time? (I had my first snowfall this winter. My first winter up north. It was everything I had dreamed it would be and it was utterly miserable. Who knew cold could be so, well, cold?) I am arrogant, I know, but I have to say it: have I read every good book? I wish I hadn’t squandered so many good first reads in my childhood, when everything was new, when I didn’t know how precious that first read is. That first bite of a taut red apple.

I started reading your book at 11:45pm and stopped at 8:30am when I realized that I probably still needed to show up for work. The first thing I did when I came home was pick it up again, and when I stopped I sat and stared at the wall and cried. Just because some things are over doesn’t mean everything is. There are still people out there who can make magic, who know magic, there is still magic, I can still see magic. Closing the back cover was defeating; everything ends, and really there’s nothing you can do about it. But it was exciting too. I was excited for another read, excited for the sequels, excited for the future.

I am going to go read it again now, and even though it won’t be the first time, it will still be exciting. Thank you for your book. It is beautiful, and bright, and full of magic. Thank you for letting me write you this letter, even if you never read it. Thank you for the hope.

Monica Q.

Hope that answers your question Sami. Everyone else, hope you weren’t bored by the horribly long post.

Later,

pat

Also posted in fanmail, Fanmail Q + A | By Pat9 Responses

Ask the Author #3: Dark Poetry.

Pat,

I’d like to ask about a subject close to my heart:

How do you feel about poetry? Have you ever written any? What is your favorite kind? and in particular how do you feel about Dark Poetry?

Oh and do you feel that getting poems published is maybe easier/harder then publishing a book?

N-
Generally speaking, I like poetry. Specifically, it’s more of a love/hate relationship. I love some types, but a great portion of does nothing but irritate me.

I’ve written poetry in the past and enjoyed it. I believe that if an author loves language and words, then poetry can teach a great deal about how to use those words effectively.

True, all authors use words, but not all authors focus on making them beautiful. Shakespeare loved words, so did Roger Zelazny and Angela Carter. Ray Bradbury also has what I consider a poetical turn of phrase, by which I mean that the language itself it beautiful, regardless of content, character, or cleverness.

Some authors just don’t play that word game. They care more about story, or plot, or character, or… I dunno, unicorns or making money. I’m not being critical here. Those things are important. Those authors can still write good stories, there’s no denying that.

But my favorite authors love words AND character AND story… and sometimes unicorns, I guess.

Even if you aren’t a word-centric writer, poetry can teach you a lot. You know how everyone talks about Hemmingway learning his tight style by writing for newspapers? I think people can learn the same economy of phrase from poetry. In an 80,000 word novel you have space to waste. But in a twelve line poem you need to make every word pay for itself twice. Ideally, poetry is all about the efficient, affective, well-crafted line. Any author will benefit from learning lessons in that vein.

Unfortunately, a lot of poets these days don’t give a damn about a well-crafted line. They think poetry is about getting drunk or wasted and then vomiting their emotions onto a page. These people idolize Ginsberg and Bukowski, but they don’t realize that those poets used an amazing amount of craft in their work.

Where were we….? Oh, Do I like Dark Poetry?

Honestly, I don’t really know what you mean by Dark Poetry. If Dark Poetry is a pages-long free-form rambling discursion on the angsty emoness of a person’s life…. then probably not. Generally speaking those folks have different poetic goals than I do. There’s not much attention to the beauty of the language, which is where my heart lies.

In terms of publishing, I never really tried to get my poetry published in any professional way. But I can make a general statement that I’m reasonably sure is true: the difficulty involved depends on where you’re looking to get published. If you’re trying to hit the big dozen poetry venues where they pay serious money and you get real fame for being there, then it’s going to be hard. Same with publishing, the A-list venues and big publishing houses are like unassailable mountains where you really need a friend on the inside or some really remarkable writing to get in. (Or both, ideally.)

But if all you’re looking for is to see your work in print and have it read by people, there are a lot of smaller venues that do a nice job publishing people’s writing. Not much money or fame, but it can be a good place to start.

Good lord, I thought this was going to be a short post. Sorry for my long windedness. I’ll get to a few other questions later, and, as brevity is the soul of wit, I’ll try to be brief.

pat

Also posted in Fanmail Q + A, side projects, the craft of writing | By Pat3 Responses

Ask The Author #2 – The first step to publishing.

 

Hi Pat,

I have just finished the first draft of my first novel and have a short story that will see print in the Dragonmount anthology for 2006.

Now I have to do the agent thing, and not only would I not know a query letter if it jumped up and bit me in the nose. I dont really know what I should do now. I mean what is the thing that will help me get to the next step. (Feeling very green and newbie at the moment.)

I mean I will have my name in print I want to use that to get to the next step.

Any advice would be welcome.

Thanks for your time.

Karl.

Honestly Karl, my advice is to work on the book before you even start hunting for an agent.

I know that’s not what you want to hear. But it’s the best advice I can give you.

Now believe me. I understand how you feel. You don’t want to wait, revise, tinker, and edit. You’ve finally finished your huge project. You feel awesome. You’ve worked for months or years to get to this point. It’s finally done. Now you can sell it and get rich and famous. Or you can at least take the first step toward becoming moderately less poor and obscure.

I know that’s how you feel because that’s how I felt back in 1999 when I “finished” my trilogy.

I say “finished” because it wasn’t. My story had an ending, sure. I’d written the trilogy all the way through. But was it finished? Good lord, no. Nowhere close.

Let’s approach this from another angle. Let’s say your query letter catches someone’s attention. If you’re lucky, the prospective agent will want to see the first 30 pages of your book. When they read those pages are they going to say, “WOW, this is awesome! I can sell this for sure!” or are they going to say, “Hmmmm, it looks pretty rough.”

I’m guessing if you just finished the first draft, it’s going to be the latter.

At that point the agent either has the option of putting in a ton of time and effort into you and your rough manuscript. OR they can toss it aside and read one of the dozens still sitting on the slushpile, hoping for something that’s clean, tight, polished-up, and ready to sell right now.

Which option do you think they’re more likely to pick?

It’s my belief that you should never show your work to anyone in the publishing world until it shines like a diamond. Rough drafts don’t shine, as a rule. Mine certainly didn’t. That’s why I was rejected for years and years.

I’m actually glad the book was rejected during those years. Sure it was frustrating, but it forced me to go back, improve the story, and improve myself as a writer. I learned things about plot and character, about structure and brevity, about scene and story.

If that early version had made it into print, you wouldn’t be reading my blog right now. That early version of the book wouldn’t have recieved gushy reviews and author quotes. The publisher wouldn’t have ponied up money for this cool website. If that early version had been bought, it would have been read by a handful of people, then probably quickly remaindered and forgotten.

But I was lucky, and I got seven extra years to work on my story. My book is worlds better now, and, as a result, people are really enjoying it.

You say you want to take things to the next step, Karl. Here’s the next step. Revision. The first step is the draft. The second step is the revision. The third and fourth steps might be revision too.

Am I saying you should spend ten years working on your novel? No. Of course not. I’m just saying that first you need to work on your craft as a writer, THEN you should focus on your product, LAST comes the selling of it. Leave that for later.

But when it comes time to get that agent, Karl. Tap me. I can give you some pointers. I spent two years doing it wrong, I can help you avoid my mistakes.

pat

Also posted in Fanmail Q + A, getting published | By Pat5 Responses
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