Feminist Killjoy. Badly Behaving Bookliker. Writer and reader of all things speculative.
As a writer myself, I'm really tired of the attitude that both some writers and some readers uphold: That writers are somehow special beings that aren't required to behave like every other paid professional.
We talk about writers who rant against reviews all the time, but what I want to cover is slightly different. It's about timeliness, accountability, and communication. Muses and inspirations be damned; this is a fucking job, and it needs to be done in a timely manner. If it's not, we as writers need to take responsibility for that.
The class example is one George R. R. Martin. Many people love to quote Neil Gaiman on how "George R. R. Martin is not your bitch," but I question how many of those people (including Gaiman himself) are quite aware of the situation surrounding that particular furor. You'd think people had been sending Martin death threats after only a year by the way some people reacted, but that isn't the story at all. There are a few key facts that people seem to be missing.
1. Not only had it been a good couple years since the last book, but the next book had fairly recently been pushed back. This, incidentally, in spite of an author's note from Martin himself at the end of A Feast for Crows stating that the fifth book was all but done. As well, this is also after the series went from three books to five to seven. Fantasy readers in particular have very good reasons to be leery of that sort of behavior, as they've been exploited by Ever Expanding Series Syndrome more than once.
2. Martin blogged. A lot. All the time. About everything but his books. Meanwhile, he was also constantly editing other things, going to conventions (and he refuses to work when he travels) and constantly pushing ASOIAF merchandise and other merchandise on his blog. Readers generally didn't even get anything so much as a "Don't worry guys, I'm working on it." Yes, authors are people, but readers connect to Martin through his work and thus it's not unreasonable to expect that at least a little bit of what he would be talking about would be relate to his, you know, job.
3. It all came to a head with a blog post from Martin that appeared after a five hour stint of blogging. In the talk of BBAs who rant against readers, somehow Martin's name never comes up, despite the fact of that post. What it was? A post decrying every and any person who had ever felt even the slightest bit of impatience over the time it was taking him to finish his work. Every and any. Only people who never had a complaint at all were spared. Everyone else was classified as evil haters who didn't even want him to have the chance to take a piss.
Despite my own frustrations with the delays, I had continued to defend Martin up to that point. Nonetheless, I got lumped in with the haters, because how dare I have an opinion, am I right? To say that I was disillusioned would be an understand. Fine, George R. R. Martin is not my bitch, but guess what? I'm not his either. I am no one's bitch.
So as a writer, I want to say to my fellow writers: READERS ARE NOT YOUR BITCHES. If you take five years to finish every novel, you don't get to complain when your readers get tired of it. People love to say that writers don't owe anyone anything, but news flash: Writers have contracts. They are in fact legally bound to owe their publisher a goddamn finished project.
In professional terms, they owe their readers something too. The success of a writer's career is dependent upon readers; without enough of them your books don't sell, and if they don't sell, you don't get to have a career. I want a career. As a writer, I promise any future readers that I will always do my damnedest to get my work done on time and if for some reason I don't, I will take full responsibility. And will always, always, always make sure to communicate. If something goes wrong, if a book needs to be pushed back, especially if I don't know how long, I will at least do all of you the professional courtesy of telling you what I do know, however much or little that is. For the people supporting the one thing I want to do most in the world, it's the least I can do.
Trust me, I know better than many that writers are people too. Do I ever. And I know how much some of the criticism can be frustrating as well. But the fact remains that a job is a job. A lot of writers only seem to want to be acknowledged as people just like anyone else when it means something positive to them. But when it comes to consequences? When it comes to the fact that any other person just like anyone else would be fired for not getting their job done for as long as Martin didn't get his done? Suddenly writers are a special breed of workers and oh, no, no, they need special treatment and it's not their fault and blah blah blah.
You can't have it both ways. Shit happens, yes. But admit to that. Don't be George R. R. Martin. Be Patrick Rothfuss, who wrote a long apology to his fans, which basically amounted to "Sure, shit happens, but I am a responsible adult, this is my job, and therefore this is still my bad. I'm sorry." Communicate. Let people know what is going on. And for god's sake, allow readers to have feelings too. If we want them to respect our feelings, we have to respect theirs.
If you're just going to classify anyone who doesn't lavish praise on you, who occasionally speaks justified criticism of you, as a hater, regardless of the fact that they actually love your work and are waiting with bated breath for your next book, you're a fucking spoiled asshole who needs a reality check.
(Okay so maybe that wasn't so short. It just kind of...kept rolling once it started.)