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Entitlement: yet another post on it.

Friday, January 22, 2010
Posted in: Azteclady Speaks

Not your bitch, bitch

The following is a non-specific but repeated conversation between authors and their adoring public (aka fangirls of both the crazy and not-so-crazy varieties):

Reader to writer: Oh, I love your work!

Writer to reader: Thank you so much, I’m glad to know that.

Reader to writer: Yes, I’ve read everything of yours—twice—and I’ve been waiting to find out what happens to/with character (fill in the blank)

Writer to reader: Thank you…

Reader to writer: You know, you should write faster, dammit, I want to know what happens in the next book of the series! Now!

Writer to reader: I am writing, as fast as I can!

Reader to writer: Oh no, you are not—look, the last book came out six months ago, where’s the next one????

Writer: …..

The thing is that most readers who say this—or any of the many variants—are mostly, kinda, joking. I mean, we want the next book now, but we also understand that we won’t always have what we want, when we want it.

Then there are those who seriously feel they are (here it comes) entitled to what they want when they want it—and preferably, the way they want it too.

Which invariably makes me think of the wonderful Neil Gaiman’s piece, the heart of which is: George R. R. Martin is not your bitch. (If you haven’t read it, please do go ahead and do so now—wonderful barely starts to describe it. Go on, I’ll wait.)

My only quibble (you know there had to be one of these, didn’t you?) is that that piece doesn’t address the many many things and steps between writing the story and having it published. In the past couple of years I have been granted a small glimpse of the life of a writer and the process a story goes through from conception and creation to the hands of the readership.

First draft. Second draft. Beta reading (which, depending on the number of readers and their availability, can eat up some time). First revision. Editors’ input (which, depending on their availability, can eat up quite a bit of time). Revisions (and a writer is lucky if there is only one round of these). Copy edits. Galleys.

Then you have all the production issues—cover, blurb, printing, distribution, promotion—all things that have nothing to do with the story but that are part of the process of producing a book.

After that, you have the publisher’s schedule—which is absolutely outside of the author’s control or, most often, influence. And sometimes a book that has been scheduled a year in advance gets bumped back—for whatever the reason—and the author is powerless to do anything about it.

So even if the seven or eleven books in a series were written consecutively in a period of six or ten months, that wouldn’t mean that they would be in the readers’ hands in three or six or ten years—that is in the hands of the publisher, not the writer.

So that tired rally call, “write faster”? Not only hollow, but often mindlessly cruel.


  • May I just say this?

    Thank you for being a reader who is knowledgeable and understanding. Most may not be knowledgeable but are sympathetic when they find out that an author has been having issues or somesuch, but all it takes is that small vocal self-entitled minority to make a writer’s day (or week, or longer, depending on their mental state) hellish.

    So again, I say: Thank you.


  • Well…I wish George R.R. Martin was my bitch because he is a brilliant, amazing writer – one of the best writers I have ever read. There, said it. His series, A Game of Thrones, is killer stuff. The books are – do not put down until you finish every last word out of 1200 pages…or whatever the number is.
    However, I realize that I may not get to read the next installment because he may not ever get it out and such is life. Shit happens. Maybe he’s burned out. Maybe he lost the story somewhere in all those many competing threads, maybe he just plain old lost interest or maybe there are production issues. Whatever the problem is, I’ll be sad if he doesn’t put out another volume and finish the ungodly good work he began, but I’ll live with it.
    If ya’ll haven’t read the series, you really should.


  • Beverly
    January 22
    8:34 pm

    I understand and agree with what you are saying in general. Writers work on the time frame that they need. Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors and she writes very slowly. She never announces what’s coming next, you just have to wait and see.

    I think the situation between George R. R. Martin and his fans is a little different. He was never a fast writer. There have been years between his books in the Song of Ice and Fire series. And for fans, that was okay because you knew he was working on it. The problem now is that he’s promised another book (and yes, he has promised it), indeed half of it was already written because he cut the last book in half because he originally wrote too much.

    But he’s also written and edited soooo many other books in the last few years while fans have been waiting for the next in the series. He’s written Wild Cards novels, a children’s book, edited multiple books. It’s frustrating as a fan because he keeps saying he’s working on it and we keep seeing other stuff. Obviously it’s his perogative to work on what he wants, but it’s still frustrating as a fan, knowing his books are really some of the best ever, and you may never get to read the rest of the story.

    He also very much gives the impression in some of his blog and website posts that he is delaying on purpose to spite the fans who are rude and complain to him. That’s frustrating to everyone else because those people are only the few, and we’re all being punished for it.


  • Beverly
    January 22
    8:41 pm

    I guess what I’m saying is exactly what Gaiman is responding to, but I want to add that I think there’s a difference between expecting an author to do what I want and being frustrated because they aren’t. There’s definitely something wrong with telling them what to do or implying that they’re doing the wrong thing. There’s nothing wrong with a reader being disappointed and frustrated that the author isn’t continuing a series. I thought that was what all writers wanted?


  • Have you been stalking me on Twitter, watching me tell authors (*coughlaurendanecough*) to write faster? Because I swear I was only joking. Mostly. Kind of.

    Honestly, I don’t understand the sense of entitlement some readers have, either. And that isn’t just limited to getting the stories when they want, either. I’ve seen some readers demand, demand, authors write a book a certain way, or put certain characters together. I’m sorry, but no. I can be upset with an author for not writing what I want, but some take it way too far.


  • willaful
    January 22
    11:07 pm

    Not to mention, counter-productive. Because when writers write too fast (or write books for fan demand, that they didn’t really want to write) the books aren’t as good.


  • I find that people in TV fandom are worse about the entitlement, frustration, anger and expectation than in genre fiction fandom. But that’s not what the post was about, so shutting up now :).


  • Great post.

    Beverly, I have no insight into this author, but chances are, he’s working on other stuff because the man has bills to pay. Every author works in a different way and if he’s as brilliant as you say he is, then I’m quite certain he’s working in his own way and the book will be ready when it’s ready and the other work has nothing to do with when the book will be released.

    Also, readers often don’t know the issues that go on inside publishing–authors don’t speak publicly about a lot of it. Editors leaving. Personal crises. Publishers changing release dates to take advantage of prime real estate in bookstores…it’s very complicated. I think the best advice is for readers to simply look at each book from their favorite author as an unexpected gift until the release date is firm. Then they can start waiting with great anticipation.

    It’s not easy. I just got done waiting six months for a favorite author’s new book (Robyn Carr, whoop!) and now I’m going to go back to reading it…delicious!


  • I just have to add that if you have read A Game of Thrones, you will understand why readers/fans are hoping for another installment, one that was promised. As I said earlier, the series is quite possibly the most challenging, imaginative, and engrossing fantasy series ever created and I’ve read a whole lot of fantasy. In some ways, not all, but in some ways, George R. R. Martin, IMO, trumps Tolkien – those words are tough for me to spit out because I worship the ground Tolkien walked on. So…while I would never presume to tell an author they have to do something or should do something or better do something, I do feel justified in saying that if Mr. Martin does not release another volume, I will be disappointed….understatement…


  • @JulieLeto

    I’m afraid in this case, I can’t agree with you. George R.R. Martin is a bestselling fantasy author. On the series in question alone, he has merchandising (like board games and a potential video game) and apparently an HBO-produced TV series is also on the horizon. And if he was really concerned about paying the bills, he probably should spend less time staying up to all hours of the night playing tabletop RPGS (by his own confession) and more time taking care of business.

    By his own admission, this book has been in the works for 9 years. About five years ago, when the last one came out, he was quite insistent that this next one was almost done. “Pages and pages”, he said. (Read the author’s note at the back of the book if you don’t believe me.)Because the book he’d written had gotten too long, you see, so he had to split it into two.

    What he’s done over the past 5 years: Edited a few anthologies, gone to a bunch of conventions, and spent inordinate amounts of time blogging.

    For the life of me, I can’t see how other writers can, well, write this off. It’s so unprofessional. He is years–not months, YEARS–past his deadline.

    Since we’re talking about entitlement, why is this man entitled to have a career, to keep a contract that he’s not fulfilling? Why is he entitled to do next to nothing during a recession that is killing the careers of other authors? Why is he entitled to group all readers who are weary of the half-decade wait into haters, when the vast majority of them have been more than polite and courteous?


  • @B – This is just from my small-fry experience, but all writers have different processes, and for some of them the stories come when they come. When I got invited to write for LSB, I started a story, worked on it for three months, went dry, updated a free online story and most likely my blog, then started the story I would eventually submit. It was a *year* before I actually sent it in, and I was sure they’d forgotten me. I was lucky as hell they hadn’t.

    Now I’m in a spot where I should be writing sequels and I should be writing new installments to online serials that I have promised to produce. But any number of things can derail a person. One or two people who have serious entitlement issues can throw off your mood even though logically you know it’s just those one or two people. The pressure of the sheer *popularity* of a story can make your fingers go still over a keyboard. Or you might want to work on a kid’s story instead because you’re feeling that and your brother has five of the little rugrats and you think they might get a kick out of it.

    Right now I’m blogging a lot because I can’t seem to click on a story, and blogging lets me continue to write during a dry spell. Of course, I can’t speak as to why George R.R. Martin blogs. Maybe he just likes it.

    Also, I think he’s entitled to have a career even in this recession because the man is a legend and has quite thoroughly paid his dues. If he’s not fulfilling his contract with his publisher, his publisher seems to be okay with letting him do whatever he needs to do before writing and/or releasing the next book in the series, I’m guessing because they trust his marketability and his writing process. Or maybe they just know something we don’t.

    Oh! Like his cat levitated and they’re helping him to document the phenomenon. 😀


  • Carolyn
    January 23
    4:13 pm

    I’m not taking sides; it is what it is.

    From a personal perspective, A Feast for Crows finally came out, and I bought it and then found I didn’t want to read it, because … why bother? It’s not the last book and I’ll be dead and gone before this series is finished – if it ever is. (I’m not kidding either, lol)

    I can’t help but think of Melanie Rawn as another example. I’ve totally given up on her Exiles series, and don’t read her anymore.

    I understand how a writer could get burned out on the world and characters they’ve created, but I also understand that readers get invested in these works and it’s disappointing that there’s not a satisfactory conclusion. JMHO.


  • jml
    January 23
    4:28 pm

    Sometimes ‘write faster’ is just a compliment.

    Sometimes readers can be real asshats.

    Sometimes authors shouldn’t put out the crumbs if there is no path to follow.

    Sometimes readers just have to move on from an author who doesn’t publish quickly enough for them.

    Sometimes authors who don’t have to worry about paying the rent should complete a series — or at least a two or three book arc — before putting out the first book.

    Sometimes readers don’t want to be the punching bag for an author who thinks the reader’s time doesn’t matter.


  • Sometimes “write faster” can be a wonderful compliment…

    but for somebody who has now had four surgeries on her hands/arms, who will be doing physical therapy for who knows how long and had to switch to voice software because of issues with repetitive stress injuries, I often wonder..

    Write faster?
    And make my wrists explode? Have to deal another surgery that much sooner?

    It can definitely be a compliment and I’ve taken it that way plenty, but I’ve also gotten a few less than ‘complimentary’ requests and frankly, if I don’t slow down from time to time, I’d be looking at burn out mentally, not to mention the physical complications.

    Writers have to know their own pace-they have to, and most of us know that putting the books out is something that does serve us and our readers best, so if we’re not putting them out as fast, there may well be reason.

    I’m gathering there might something going on here that I don’t know about.

    Regardless, I know that I can only go so fast and I’ve had to slow down the past year or so-I’m too tired not to.


  • Great post, Karen. You’ve really nailed it talking about the many, many events and possibilities that come into play on the road to producing a book.

    As to George R.R. Martin, I know a dozen people waiting for his next book–but that’s all they’re doing, waiting. They’re disappointed that it’s taking so long, but they’re not bitching . . . yet. LOL


  • *cough*


    Thank you.

    jml and b–the thing is, there are many things in there that the author cannot control, whether s/he wants to or not. I don’t know what the deal is with R.R.Martin specifically, but I will say that I know of at least two cases where authors had the second or third book ready (written, turned in, etc) where the publisher either pushed the publication date back a full year, or decided not to publish the book after all.


  • @ Shiloh Walker – Since you’re a nurse and all (I think), I’m sure you’ve done this already, but have you had your work area ergonomically assessed?


  • Sadly, Ann, yeah. I’m basically just screwed. I’m one of those people who are just ‘prone’. Posture doesn’t help and while I work on that, it’s at the point now that I can’t undo the damage, I’m just working to prevent ‘future’ damage.


  • @AL, have I already told you that I love you? I totally love you! 🙂

    @Shiloh, that sounds horrible! I hope your poor wrists will be better soon!

    For the life of me, I can’t see how other writers can, well, write this off. It’s so unprofessional. He is years–not months, YEARS–past his deadline.

    You know, B, writing fiction doesn’t exactly work like painting a wall yellow. It also doesn’t work like writing an essay, a newspaper article or academic stuff (as I should know because I finished a baggy, 400-page monster of the latter last year, after having written two thirds of it in the time from January to August). When I have to, I can sit down, write an academic article and produce a decent no matter whether I’ve really felt like writing it or not. With fiction, however, forcing yourself to write works only so far, and chances are good that you’ll suck your creative well dry in no time at all. And then, you’ve got a bit of a problem, to put it mildly.

    In addition, life happens to people. For some authors, writing is a way to get through times of personal stress and turmoil. Others just freeze up.

    As Gaiman has put it so nicely, “People are not machines. Writers and artists aren’t machines.”


  • Dr Schwab! *tacklehug* The love is totally mutual! (where have you been, woman?)


    B, I guess I don’t explain myself properly after all. The whole point of the piece is: we don’t know what’s going on.

    George R.R. Martin or whomever the writer may be *coughLisaValdezcough* we just don’t know. Whatever may be going on with a contract, broken deadlines, other writing projects–or even games–the point is we don’t know. And since we don’t own the person in question, we have no right to demand to know.

    We may wonder, of course. We may wish, for sure. But we have no right to demand jackshit.


  • […] I don’t think humans as a species can change quickly enough to make the overwhelming sense of entitlement I see all the time a new thing, but I wonder if the degree (that overwhelming part) is encouraged […]

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