Now I’m going to talk here like I’m used to talking: storyteller mode. So if that sort of things confuses you or annoys you, you’ve been warned. 🙂
Back history as to how I’ve noticed things for the sake of… uh… back history. My first publication was at the age of 18, 1988, in a little magazine called Trouveare’s Laureate. You won’t have heard of it. It was semi-professional. :-O And I made an enemy that day because of it, but that’s another story… but this is where my publication history didn’t begin so much as was confirmed. My storytelling history begins much farther back than that.
So let’s take 1988. The internet was still a scientific buzz for geeks to pass info to themselves share a database, BBS boards were something I had no comprehension of, and .. omi-eff-gosh you had to WAIT for a response from an editor. You had to wait up to six months. You sometimes had to wait LONGER… *IF* the editor was the kind type. IF you remembered your SASE*. (gloat: MZB always got back to me within the month. Nyaaaaah~)
Not only that, it could take (gasp) more than a YEAR for a company to put your book together FOR PUBLICATION. After that it might take a year for it to get on the shelves.
Companies had to wait… oh no… months for the cover art in some cases. (Especially in the case of Boris Vallejo, I imagine. OMFG.) In many cases that cover art was original stuff on a canvas that had to be photographed and assimilated into the great publishing system that was the publisher’s domain.
So yes. It took anywhere from a year or two to see anything of your book in the place you wanted it to be: the public’s hands.
Self-publication was expensive as all get out, and you still had the time delays.
Fast forward to 2011.
These days I’m one of the artists on the Smashwords cover artist list. I work cheap because, well, it’s for Smashwords. I’ve had to deal with clients of all kinds:
1. The client who does a little bit of research, decides they’re the be all end all of cover making, and tell me not to do the things I want to do only to have to come back and ask me to do the things I wanted to do because of things they didn’t know about such as that mysterious bleed area. 😛
2. The client who nit-picks everything. “That earlobe just looks a millimeter too long ….”
3. The client who can’t make up their mind.
4. The client who expects a bunch of something for nothing. 5. And the best client: the one that simply lets me do my job.
These clients have one important thing in common. They’re all impatient, sometimes stupidly so.
They come to me and ask me to do their cover, expecting me to paint these fantastic things within 24 hours. They all say the same thing, “It takes Smashwords two weeks to put the book in their marketing catalog! TOO WEEKS IS TOO LONG! YOU MUST HURRY! YOU LIKE COMIC BOOKS, WHY AREN’T YOU RACING AS FAST AS THE FLASH??!?!?!”
In most cases I realize they’re new to the business and times have changed. A lot of the things that slowed the process down have been sped up with the use of software and cheap slave labor in China. But one thing has NOT changed.
If you rush good art, you get bad art. If you rush a good book, you get a bad book. And if you take the pizza out of the oven prematurely, it’s gonna be cold. No cheesey goo for you.
Going backwards to my reference on MZB**: I’ve had a lot of good mentors in my life. MZB I remember the most because she was important; she encouraged me. We never met, sure. But those hand-written notes on my returned manuscripts meant a lot to me, and they still do. She saw potential in me. It’s her I think of when I’m recovering from a fit of frustration and picking up the pieces to try creating again.
My father even got me a subscription to a writer’s magazine, and I remember she had an article in it. It said something that stuck with me. It had to do with rushing things.
When writing a story, one of the most important steps happens AFTER you think you’ve written the whole thing.
You set it down.
You walk away.
And you don’t come back for two weeks, at LEAST.
Sometimes you take longer. That’s up to you. The point to that created space is to clear your head so that you can come back to it with a fresh mind.
So you come back to it with a fresh mind. You put the printed manuscript to the side of your typewriter, and you load a blank sheet into the typewriter. Then you start to type your manuscript word for word. (I know there are modern day equivalents here, just go with it please.)
When you begin to make tiny changes (as we all do; the trap some would-be writers sink in to the point of obscurity because these tiny changes take over their creation process) then you’re warmed up.
Then. Then then then THEN…. read your manuscript. You will know if you’re done if you know what you’re doing and can bring yourself to remember story flow and not, “But this sentence is so COOL!”
I’ve seen a lot of them in the past couple of years: manuscripts from hurried would-be successes that can’t bring themselves to take that one bit of advice. They’re redundant manuscripts; boring, repetitive, and when you get to the climax it’s over so quickly you’re sitting in your chair wondering just what happened and was your afternoon worth losing.
These terrible tales that now saturate our market and give the independent creator a bad name are this way because of that earlier statement. “Two weeks is too long!”
I think a good tale is like a fine wine. You let it ferment, and you’ll have a classic people want again and again. If you pull it quickly, you get cheap liquor – and the drunk isn’t even a gentle one. It just makes you want to throw up.
So in conclusion, I would like to make the following statement.
“Two weeks is too long” is too short-sighted. Why on earth would you want cold pizza for dinner when you can dine elegantly instead?
*Self Addressed Stamped Envelope
**Marion Zimmer Bradley