A Writer’s Obligation to Readers?
The five-year wait is over.
I got an email from Tor.com today that gleefully announced (yes, it actually was gleeful) that George R.R. Martin’s next book, Dance of Dragons has a release date.
For those of you who aren’t wrapped up in the world of fantasy fiction, this comes five years after the release of the previous book in his Song of Ice and Fire series and it has been the subject of much, much discussion on its delay. More on that in a bit.
And those of you already involved in A Song of Ice and Fire, you may officially begin rubbing your grubby little gauntlets together in anticipation.
Did it take forever? Or are fans just whiny?
There’s been a bit of a hubbub about how long it’s taken Mr. Martin to write this book, and it brings to mind a question that I think is important to all writers of fiction:
what kind of responsibility does an author have to his readers?
The series thus far, which includes four books, has been a gigantic success. That’s splendid. But at some point (possibly when he announced that he scrapped an entire year’s worth of work started all over) many fans began to clamor that Mr. Martin was just simply taking way too long to write a book. He owed it to his fans to deliver his words of wonder and amazement right now! How dare he take this long???
The way I see it, writers should put out the very best work that they can. We should be held to a quality standard, with few or no points awarded or deducted for quantity or speed. (OK, maybe a few extra-credit points for quantity, but only if you’ve already got a 95% or better quality rating on your previous work.)
Writing is hard work, and it takes how long it will take. Should writers try to be productive? Of course. If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer. But some stories take longer to discover and get down than others, and some writers simply have a different method than than cranking out a zillion words a day.
One of the things people (me included) rave about with the Song of Ice and Fire series is its complexity. The characters are all amazingly fleshed out, the plots and subplots are so intertwined that it’s like mating season in Eel City, and the stories stretch across continents and years. That’s a huge amount to keep track of, plan, and arrange so every bit fits and makes sense and eventually creates the quality that fans love so much. Misty Massey has a good explanation of this in her post at MagicalWords.net on Untying the Knot.
So what do you think? Do writers have obligations to their audience? Is five years too long for a book?