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Back from Indianapolis

I'm back home again after a weekend in Indianapolis, where I was the Guest of Honor at InConjunction. The good folks of the Circle of Janus were most hospitable, the hotel was nice enough, the parties were lively (until some high school baseball players in the hotel complained about the noise and shut us down), and I got to see some old friends and make some new ones. A small contingent from the Brotherhood Without Banners was on hand, as lively as ever. It was great to see Trebla looking much happier and healthier with his new bionic spine, to hang out with Pedicab Kate (well, she's really a student, but as I explained to her, I know hundreds of students, but only one pedicabbie). My GOH liaison, the lovely Laura, came to the con with a cage of bats, which was pretty cool as well, and I met a couple of readers from Bulgaria who told me that in my Bulgarian editions, "battering ram" is translated with the word for a male sheep. I keep picturing the scene at the Wall, where the wildlings try to knock through the gate with... ah... sheep under their arms... the Bulgarians must think I'm very imaginative.

I had a reading at the convention, and decided to read the newly-completed prologue from A DANCE WITH DRAGONS. I've been struggling with this particular chapter off and on for years (not continuously, of course, when a chapter gives me as much trouble as this one has, I tend to put it aside, move on and write something else, and come back to it later with fresh eyes), writing and rewriting it, moving chunks of it around, trying different structures. There's a lot of flashbacks in the chapter -- not just one flashback, but more like four, each to a different time in the viewpoint character's life -- and integrating those with each other and with the present action has proved to be a bitch and a half. I finally did manage to get the ducks all in a row, however, so I thought I'd see how it went over.

FWIW, I have always found convention readings to be very valuable, especially when I'm doing a chapter than I've never read before. No matter how many times you go over your work on a computer screen, somehow mistakes still slip past you... but when you're reading aloud, they leap right up into your face, screaming and spraying spittle. Typos, missing words, double words, tortured syntax, clunky dialogue, you name it. I always try to keep a pen on hand, so I can mark up my reading copy as I go.

And sometimes you see bigger problems too, as I did in this case. The audience seemed to like the chapter well enough, which pleased me. I talked to some of the BWB about it afterward, and was glad to hear that it mostly worked. There are still problems, though. A couple of awkward transitions, a false step and double beat in the middle, maybe too much repetition. Yes, I have reshuffled certain sections of the prologue half a dozen times already, but at the reading it became clear to that I need to look at the sequencing of the flashbacks yet again. I may be close, but I'm not there year. So that's one of the things I've been doing since returning home: polishing, trimming, and restructuring the bloody prologue one more time. For the last time, I hope... but really, who knows?

This, by the way, is the quandary that every writer faces on every book. When is a chapter really done? When is it good enough? We all walk tightropes there. On one side are those who just pound out first drafts, publish them, and move on to the next book. On the other side is poor souls like the character from THE PLAGUE, endlessly revising one sentence over and over in search of some illusory perfection. The best work, I believe, comes from those who stay up the tightrope, leaning this way and that, but never falling off to either side. That's what I try to do... and yes, that's one big reason why the books take so long.

Anyway, I had a great time in Indiana, but now I'm home again, and I have a prologue to revise. Ciao.

Comments

( 174 comments — Leave a comment )
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twistedsheets10
Jul. 12th, 2007 12:21 am (UTC)
:D

Glad to see you enjoyed the Con. *sigh* Wish we had those hear.

It was quite funny, the thought of sheep being used to break doors. They must have ah, pretty strong horns. :D

Good luck with the revisions.
yts88
Jul. 12th, 2007 12:34 am (UTC)
Myself and Jennifer had alot of fun hanging out with you and our newfound BWB friends. We hope to see you in Madison next year at least, if not sooner.

--Matt
sorceress01
Jul. 12th, 2007 02:31 am (UTC)
InCon Memories
Hi George and all who were at the Con. That was my first SF&F convention, and anyone who has been to one before knew that fact by how lost I looked most of the time. It was fun and I met a lot of very nice people.

It was great to meet you, George. You are as gracious as everyone has said. The reading was great. It would have been better if all those annoying people would have stopped opening the doors! The four autographed "Ice and Fire" books have a place of honor on my bookcase. They will remain there and will never again be touched by human hands. Well, I still have the paperbacks for the reread!

I still want a t-shirt. We all know that "Winter is Coming!" (I love that!)
bigmont
Jul. 12th, 2007 09:45 pm (UTC)
Re: InCon Memories
It was my first big Con, I thought it was great too and could have done without all the door opening as well.
Re: InCon Memories - sorceress01 - Jul. 12th, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
riverheart
Jul. 12th, 2007 03:01 am (UTC)
Any idea when we can expect the book, she asked hopefully?
sensorglitch
Jul. 12th, 2007 07:10 am (UTC)
*wince* wow, I hope you wear flame retardant clothing..
(no subject) - hippoiathanatoi - Jul. 12th, 2007 02:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
murry_duck
Jul. 12th, 2007 04:28 am (UTC)
Before I die I hope? eally I am sick of waiting for both of these books.(WOT by RJ altho he is ill so I cut him some slack) I love em, every word, and read and re read but oh I want a new story!
magusprimo
Jul. 12th, 2007 03:10 pm (UTC)
while I wait
any one recomends a good read while we wait for dance w dragons?
I just read Hendee(noble dead series) and Scalzi(old mans war +2 sequels) not as good as george but good enough.
werthead
Jul. 12th, 2007 03:53 pm (UTC)
A few ideas:
Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing Trilogy.
Paul Kearney's Monarchies of God quintet.
Tad Williams' Otherland quartet.
Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series.
Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora/Red Seas Under Red Skies.
Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy.
Anything by Jack Vance.
Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind.
Black Man (aka 'Thirteen' in the USA) by Richard Morgan.
Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy.
Re: A few ideas: - grrm - Jul. 13th, 2007 05:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: A few ideas: - werthead - Jul. 13th, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: while I wait - uc_rommel - Jul. 14th, 2007 12:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: while I wait - anowyn - Jul. 24th, 2007 05:38 am (UTC) - Expand
dangerdork
Jul. 12th, 2007 04:01 pm (UTC)
reminds me of the old Hemingway quote:

"A novel is never finished, only abandoned"
eaglesfan511
Jul. 12th, 2007 04:34 pm (UTC)
You Havn't Finished the Prologue Yet?!?!
Man, we are going to be in for a long wait.
werthead
Jul. 12th, 2007 05:42 pm (UTC)
Re: You Havn't Finished the Prologue Yet?!?!
As he mentions, GRRM doesn't write the chapters in order. So whilst the prologue isn't 100% finished yet, plenty of other chapters are. I think GRRM likes to mention that the Red Wedding chapter was actually the last chapter he wrote in ASoS, for example, even though it takes place halfway through the book.
solice_moon
Jul. 12th, 2007 04:43 pm (UTC)
From what i've heard of your reading of the prologue it sounds fucking awesome. Can't wait to read it. Hope you finally get it down the way you want it. Can't wait for Dance.
sorceress01
Jul. 12th, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
It was great! You should have been there! George said he wanted you to feel the cold and I surely did.

Kathy
redhotswing
Jul. 13th, 2007 01:15 am (UTC)
There is a saying: "A work of art is never finished, it is only abandoned."

Good luck figuring out when it's "good enough!"
sentientnr6
Jul. 13th, 2007 09:45 am (UTC)
Insightfull
Woow it's awesome that you share the process of writing with your fans.

I am not a writer myself but read a lots of books and wondered which methodologies one can use when writing.

I read that Edward Gibbon also spoke out loud his sentences before trusting them to paper. It sounds rather involved but hey if it does the trick why not. It's the writer's responsibility to write the best he can. You could say that it's the reader's responsibility to read only the good books but then again you cannot tell whether a book is good or not until you read it. A chicken and egg situation.

Personally I enjoyed the first and third book more than the 2nd and 4th. It's hard to tell why but splitting the 4 th book sure didn't do it justice. I guess I would have preferred a smaller book focused on the main characters. That's not to say I didn't like the sidekicks but in my personal opinion they slowed the pace too much. But hey what I don't like, someone else loves sooo and I am definitely looking forward to next installment. Take all the time you need and keep up the good work.

karencoyle
Jul. 13th, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC)
Legacy Ghost Writers
Assuming (God forbid), that your re-writes and re-edits last longer than your health does; who would you nominate to finish Dance for you? Is there any particular writer that you know would be up to it?
werthead
Jul. 13th, 2007 05:07 pm (UTC)
This question has been asked of George before...
...and the answer was that if the story is left unfinished, we're out of luck.

He has a point though. Kevin J. Anderson's sequels to the Dune books are appalling. I certainly wouldn't want ASoIaF finished off by another writer who didn't have a clue where the story was going or indeed lacked any discernable writing skills altogether.
inadequate_one
Jul. 13th, 2007 08:12 pm (UTC)
sounds good keep up the good work.
olga_stark
Jul. 13th, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC)
BOREDDDD.........
Hmm don wanna be a partybooper here but i have to admit that am on my way thru to end "A Feast for Crows" and i must confess that am getting bored. Sorry u guys and especially George. I am getting bored, too many elongated sequences, scenes..... I hate Cersei, she´s no good but being a bitch. And Jaime, whts with the sudden change of heart. How come he´s so chivalrous lately... He´s the Kingslayer for god´s sake. We shouldn´t find ourselves kin to like the guy. I want more Jon, more Arya and well hellllooooo, some updated news of Rickon and Bran...
Hehe sorry i sound a bit bitchy but it´s just boredom playin its toll on me.. Sorry again.
wipnit
Jul. 14th, 2007 01:39 am (UTC)
Re: BOREDDDD.........
Dont be sorry, you are right. Books 1-3 were stellar, and the last was weak, he has lost the thread and you are not the first to notice it. You are not a party pooper at all, even though alot of the people on this site will tell you otherwise.
Books 1-3 came out every two years and were pretty tight and focused. Book 3.5 took 7 years on its own and seemed like it lacked anything of real substance, it was like a shadow of the former ones.
Re: BOREDDDD......... - thrashkreator - Jul. 14th, 2007 06:58 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - olga_stark - Jul. 14th, 2007 11:37 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - werthead - Jul. 14th, 2007 11:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - uc_rommel - Jul. 14th, 2007 12:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - olga_stark - Jul. 14th, 2007 12:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - magusprimo - Jul. 14th, 2007 03:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - ghostkc - Jul. 14th, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - olga_stark - Jul. 15th, 2007 11:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - bigmont - Jul. 21st, 2007 06:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - olga_stark - Jul. 22nd, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - olga_stark - Jul. 15th, 2007 11:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - werthead - Jul. 16th, 2007 05:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - olga_stark - Jul. 16th, 2007 08:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - astral_avenger - Jul. 17th, 2007 11:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - olga_stark - Jul. 18th, 2007 06:54 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - astral_avenger - Jul. 18th, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - olga_stark - Jul. 18th, 2007 10:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - astral_avenger - Jul. 18th, 2007 11:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - olga_stark - Jul. 19th, 2007 06:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - astral_avenger - Jul. 19th, 2007 09:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - anowyn - Jul. 24th, 2007 05:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: BOREDDDD......... - anowyn - Jul. 24th, 2007 05:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
olga_stark
Jul. 14th, 2007 02:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Bigmont
hey guys u shouldn´t take things too personal.. this is a liberal open forum. everybody voices his thoughts and opinions out... no need to get all agitated people... i mean if he wants to call himself fantasy god let him be.... its up to people like us to actually make him believe it or think it... he names and we opinionate nothin more nothin less... chill out good people in the name of the old gods :D
Re: Bigmont - bigmont - Jul. 21st, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - truththat - Jul. 27th, 2007 02:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - bigmont - Jul. 28th, 2007 07:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - truththat - Jul. 29th, 2007 05:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - bigmont - Jul. 30th, 2007 03:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - fishercat123 - Jul. 31st, 2007 08:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - bigmont - Jul. 31st, 2007 09:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - fishercat123 - Aug. 1st, 2007 10:15 am (UTC) - Expand
??? - balefont - Aug. 1st, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
Balefont - fishercat123 - Aug. 2nd, 2007 02:07 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - bigmont - Aug. 1st, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - fishercat123 - Aug. 2nd, 2007 02:02 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - bigmont - Aug. 2nd, 2007 12:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - wyclefcupcake - Aug. 2nd, 2007 11:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - bigmont - Aug. 3rd, 2007 03:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - fishercat123 - Aug. 3rd, 2007 09:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - bigmont - Aug. 5th, 2007 01:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - sergawain133 - Aug. 5th, 2007 10:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - bigmont - Aug. 5th, 2007 11:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bigmont - sergawain133 - Aug. 6th, 2007 01:03 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Get a life - bigmont - Aug. 6th, 2007 03:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Get a life - sergawain133 - Aug. 6th, 2007 04:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
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