April 26th, 2013


The publishing cycle: it's longer than you think!

A comment that I see frequently in reviews and discussions of literary work—both mine and others;—is "oh, this reads like a response to reviewer criticism of thing X," or "see, the author realized that fans didn't like thing Y and so they changed it," or "this is such a take that to people who didn't enjoy thing Z." And I will admit, every time I see it, I smack my head against something and moan.

Now, don't get me wrong: it is entirely possible that this is a valid criticism, especially with shorter works. "Velveteen vs." for example: if you say "I don't like how Jacqueline is acting in this story," I can absolutely address that in the next story, because they're being written and posted at a pace that allows for that sort of thing. But with novels?

Not so much.

Right now, we're a little under six months out from Chimes at Midnight. I have the page proofs for review, and it's locked to any major editorial changes. I'm also writing The Winter Long, which is due at DAW before the end of the year. Technically, this means I would have time to read reviews of Chimes and incorporate any criticism into the finished Winter manuscript, but let's be honest here: I won't. I never have. By the time Chimes comes out, I'll be finishing draft two, the plot will be locked into place, and nothing structural will happen that doesn't come from my editor or agent (or Vixy, but she has a unique place in this ecosystem).

As the first reviews for Midnight Blue-Light Special were coming out, I was finishing the second draft of Half-Off Ragnarok. And yes, I have cringed every time someone said, seriously or in jest, that book three would suck because it wouldn't be about Verity. I couldn't bench this book and write another one about Very if I wanted to, because there isn't time, even if it were her place in the story (which it's not). I'll get back to her eventually—with book five, to be specific—but the fact that some people don't want her to go doesn't make her stay. Hell, I don't want her to go. The narrative is set.

This is not to say that writers don't listen to criticism or commentary, because we do. I have made it a point to include more QUILTBAG characters in the Toby series since I realized that, due to most fae marriages being about procreation, the majority of the on-screen relationships were monogamous and heterosexual. I've clarified things that people found confusing...but I've done it three books down the line, because that was when the schedule allowed for it to happen. At any moment in time, my world looks like this:

1. The book that just came out.
2. The next book in the series, which I just finished.
3. The book after that, which is very tightly plotted.
4. The book where comments about book #1 can be considered.

With series like Newsflesh, which was only three books long, or Parasitology, which is only going to be two books long, we literally never get to step #4 in the conversation. By the time you see book #1, I'm either writing book #3, or I'm about to get started. With Newsflesh, I wrote book one, outlined books two and three, and then rewrote book one to fit the series outline and account for feedback from my editor. Book two was done before book one saw shelves, and so on.

I love reviews. I often wish that I could go back and change things, and sometimes I fantasize about the Feed: 20th Anniversary Edition where I get to revise and rewrite and address the accidentally problematic aspects of the story and do my job as a storyteller a little better in some places, because oh man that would be amazing. (And some people would hate it and accuse me of pandering, and I would then dream about hitting them with the book, because it would totally be a hardcover big enough to stun rabid wolves.) But I've never gotten feedback about book #1 and then gone into book #2 with the idea that I'LL SHOW THEM I'LL SHOW THEM ALL HOW DARE THEY QUESTION MY GENIUS. I can't.

Because the publishing cycle? It's longer than you think.