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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

grrm
Jul. 22nd, 2007 07:14 am (UTC)
Re: A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE
The sheer ignorance of posts like this is very frustrating.

"Apparent lack of interest in finishing the next book?" Where do get such ideas? "Not interested in telling the whole story to his readers?" Do you realize how moronic such comments are?

For the record, I will 'tell the whole story,' and I am 'interested' in finishing the next book. Though the fact that I should have to say so is insane. Just because I am "interested" in finishing the book does not mean that, snap, it's done. Writing is bloody hard work, strawfm. Sometimes it goes quickly, sometimes it goes slowly. And some of the times when it goes quickly what you end up with is crap... or mediocre at best.

I am a slower writer than most, yes. I always have been, and I always will be. That's not going to change. Live with it, or read someone else. There are hundreds of fantasists around who write much faster than I do, and many of them are well worth reading.

Nor will I give up traveling, speaking, reading, going to movies, attending cons, editing anthologies, teaching workshops, watching television, playing games, writing reviews and forewords and introductions, having dinner with friends, and doing other projects. A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE may be the only story that interests you, but it is certainly not the only one that interests me.

You are right in one regard -- there are a lot of good writers out there. Why don't you go read one of the many fine books now available at your local bookstore, and quit obsessing about one book that isn't? A DANCE WITH DRAGONS will be finished when it's finished. When it is published, you can read it or not. Your choice. If you read it and like it, great. If you don't, well, okay. You'll live, and so will I.

Ten years from now, no one is going to care how quickly the books came out. The only thing that will matter, the only thing anyone will remember, is how good they were. That's my main concern, and always will be.
talmach
Jul. 22nd, 2007 08:48 am (UTC)
Re: A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE
You are right, of course. Your many Bulgairan friends here stay behind :-)
Hope you will visit our small & sunny country one day?
olga_stark
Jul. 24th, 2007 12:58 pm (UTC)
Re: A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE
OMG, i cannot believe that people could get mad because a genius like GRRM takes his time in finishing another part of his ASoIaF piece of art!!!! I mean i was a bit frustrated when i finished the 3rd book and knew that there´s still one more i need to purchase not to mention the other book that is still being written. But i mean this is the beauty of it, the intrigue not only of the story´s course of action but also knowin when GRRM is gonna publish the last book. It makes it worth waiting for knowing that the characters i´ve read about r still being created and their future still being sculpted.
Before reading any new book Strawfm, make sure u read about his writer first and don get into this labyrinth if ur not up to the intrigue, waiting and nail biting that go along with it and which makes it worth waiting for and have it in ur hands WHEN it finally goes out no matter how long it takes. U cannot rush geniusness and inspiration.
If ur working ur ass off u tell ur boss u need some time to do about ur business and have a bit of a social life. Well here its the same thing we cannot oblige GRRM to dedicate his whole life to finish this series for he has a personal life himself.
GRRM true fans like me don really care whether u get it done in april 2008, july 2009 or in 5 years as long as it´s enriching, thrilling and simply wonderful when it comes out.. My regards and love to GRRM and to Parris.
christianmystic
Jul. 25th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC)
Re: A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE
"You are right in one regard -- there are a lot of good writers out there. Why don't you go read one of the many fine books now available at your local bookstore, and quit obsessing about one book that isn't? A DANCE WITH DRAGONS will be finished when it's finished. When it is published, you can read it or not. Your choice. If you read it and like it, great. If you don't, well, okay. You'll live, and so will I."

Indeed, it's not as though one swears allegiance to a writer, and making the choise to read your material prevents him from reading anything else.

Mr. Martin, I add my voice to those who support you in the hopes that foolishness such as they may fade from your mind.
truththat
Jul. 26th, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
Re: A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE
You took a long time with Feast and that was mediocre. You are missing the point George, it is not just that it is taking a long time, it is that you have lost the thread. Also, no one cares what you are interested in. If you dropped your car off at the mechanic, would it be cool if she took 3 weeks to fix it because she was also into break-dancing? I know that you will counter by saying that you are a writer, and thus an artist, which just shows once again your arrogance. Like it or not, it is your job, and you are asleep at the wheel. You are a prisoner of your own ego, do you realize how moronic that is?
I know you will delete this post because you cannot deal with it. Thanks.

guitar_player7
Aug. 4th, 2007 12:19 am (UTC)
Re: A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE
Well, when you really like a series, the way a lot of us like this one, it is hard to wait. I'm not justifying going down the path of making assumptions about your work ethic or anything like that, but I do get how some could (unfortunately) react this way.

I wouldn't take it personally - keep up the good work.

Peace,

rj

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