A question of how to proceed (or wrestling with inner demons)

I’m a member of a writing group for other people who are all busy with trying to break into the publishing world for Epic Fantasy and while it has been quiet for a while it’s been fun to be involved and get the feedback from other people who are of like mind.

I’m not quite sure of when the group slowed down but I seem to remember it slowing down toward the end of last year because everyone had some things they were busy with and had to divert their attention to these other tasks and in the mean time one of our members came back with the news from WorldCon (I think) that the publishing world is no longer accepting longer works from first time authors because it was too hard to sell these works.  The limit for first time Epic Fantasy is a maximum of 120,000 words.  That means that if the average for a published novel is 400 words per page – epic fantasy novels from first time authors would be a maximum of 300 pages.

That’s not very epic is it?

It was probably at this point when the group really got to be rather inactive as everyone tried to figure how this would impact our ambitions going forward.  There is no way we’re going to be able to break into the publishing world if we are all writing something which wouldn’t be accepted.

But I’ve been thinking.  Patrick Rothfuss managed to sell his novel and I’m not only mentioning The Name of the Wind (pictured left) either.  I’m talking about the whole Kingslayer trilogy, which was really one novel.  There is no way that it was less than 120,000 words.  The Name of the Wind, which is now really part 1 of 3 of the whole novel must be longer than 250,000 words all by itself.  And when did he break in?  I have to say that I’m guessing here, but it must have been 2007/8 and that means that the industry has changed so much in 3/4 years.

It means that if we want to break in, we’re going to have to change our direction for the first novel before we move onto our real calling as epic fantasy writers.  The real question is in which direction to go.  My epic fantasy has always been behind my horror or “supernatural thriller” writing.  As of this evening, I am now 45% of the way through the latest draft of Pecan Hill.   The good news for me is that Pecan Hill is only planned to 100,000 words so there is no chance that I’ll have to trim the novel to hit the limit mark.

The bad news is that I have been busy with Pecan Hill non-stop for 3/4 years.  It’s pretty demoralising to go through the same story again and again when I want to move on.  I believe I’ve gone through this before, but there is so much more to write for me.  But Pecan Hill won’t let me move on until it’s been perfected.  If I have to compare it to anything, I’d have to say that it’s like having a child.  I’d say I’d throw it into the trunk and move on but I’m not quite ready to kill this darling just yet.  It’s too big.

But Pecan Hill is one of the options of breaking into the publishing world I’ve been considering.

The options I’ve been thinking about for how to get into the publishing world is basically the following:

  1. Write a  series of short stories and get them published.  Getting the short stories published would be demonstrate my skill in being able to tell a story (or should that be show a story ;)) and therefore give me a proven track record so that when I do send in my epic fantasy I’ve proven I can sell;
  2. Take the world which I have created and write a YA novel.  The YA novel would come in under 120,000 words and do the same as the short story  – prove my ability to tell a story and sell;
  3. Finish Pecan Hill and get it published.  I’d have a full story that I wouldn’t have had to compromise on to bring the story in under the limit. It would do the same as the above; or
  4. Say screw it and still write the epic fantasy and try to sell it.

The problem with options 2 and 3 is that even if I’m able to sell it and break in, I’m left with another problem.  I’d have broken in but in the wrong genre and would be left with the same problem of breaking into epic fantasy.  Although if I write under a pseudonym, the publishing world might be able to overlook the fact I’m writing in two different genres.

Coincidentally I’m following possibility 1 and 3, although I am seriously thinking of trying out option 2 as well.  Option 4 just doesn’t seem to be an option.

The redemption of fantasy

Okay, so fantasy hasn’t technically died. As far as I know, it is still alive and kicking and I’ve actually heard somewhere that there are more people writing fantasy than ever before. I can’t remember where I heard that little snippet but I recall hearing it. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that great books like Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia have been made into movies. Or perhaps it has something to do with that teenage wizard, Harry Potter.

The beginning of the love

I think my love of fantasy had the same start as many, many other people. Mine started with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (bet you thought that I would say The Lord of the Rings). I think I first picked it up when I was in the second grade and finished it and slowly worked my way through the whole series (my favourite in the entire series was Prince Caspian and it always felt as though all of the other books picked up and picked up until Caspian and after that they all slowly tapered off). But being in a country which was subject to sanctions and on the other side of the world from where all of the interesting fantasy books were being brought out, it was difficult to find any similar books. Of course, the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit existed but I hadn’t heard of them by that time. But come the sixth grade and one of our comprehension tests in English made use of a small section from The Hobbit, where Bilbo was rushing to try and escape after having found the one ring. I remember reading the last sentence where he barely escapes and the buttons of his vest are ripped off by the closing door and wishing I could walk away from the test and find the rest of the book. Funny thing was that my Gran had had a copy of The Hobbit all along and when I told her about the section I read she disappeared and came back with The Hobbit. Which I then devoured and had to wait for my Great-Gran to give me The Lord of the Rings as a birthday present the next year. That copy of Lord of the Rings must have been the most ‘abused’ book I have ever owned. I have read that copy twelve times personally and lent it out to all of my friends who also wanted to read it. I think in total, that copy was read more than twenty times. I think I now have three copies of Lord of the Rings on my bookshelf and will not part with any of them. And it seemed as though after the Lord of the Rings, I discovered a whole treasure trove of fantasy. Although my favourite was Dragonlance. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that apartheid was over and the sanctions had been dropped but there seemed to be more fantasy than ever. I just couldn’t get enough.

The fall of fantasy (at least in my eyes)

And then came The Wheel of Time. The first three books were fantastic and I couldn’t put them down. And then it seems as though the publishing house realised that they had found a money maker and the Wheel of Time started to drag and frustrate and torture. I finished the first three books in less than a month (all of them combined) but for the fourth book it took me a year and a half. For me and my reading style, that is an eternity. It felt as though it became a bottomless pit which sucked all of the enjoyment out of reading and made it more of a chore than for enjoyment. I couldn’t take it and kept shifting between different books to try and keep myself entertained. But I forced myself through book four and book five and by the time I reached the end of each book I enjoyed the end so much I wanted to see what happened in the next book. But the first seven hundred pages are always a drag. I have realised that I can’t take it anymore. Call me a quitter but I have put down Book Six, The Lord of Chaos and that is where the Wheel of Time ends for me. I’ll read the synopses on Wikipedia for the rest. It feels as though it has become the Days of our Lives of the Fantasy world and I cannot take it. Unfortunately Robert Jordan was unable to get to the end of the series before he lost his battle with amyliodiosis (the spelling of which is probably horribly wrong) and for that it is a shame. It would have been nice for him to have been able to finish the series which he started. I found that I detested more characters than I enjoyed and that is a shame. I have officially put down The Wheel of Time and will not spend my hard earned money on another one of its books (may it rest in peace).

The redemption of fantasy

And then along came Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of The Wind. Admittedly, I haven’t finished it yet, but so far I have enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than the last two and a half books of Wheel of Time that I’ve read. And I ‘discovered’ Raymond E Feist’s Riftwar saga and Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth. And I have Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy waiting for me once I have finished The Name of the Wind. I actually can’t wait for him to finish up the revisions to the sequel and send the next one through to be published. Really can’t wait.