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November 28, 2005

Off It Goes

The second pass corrections for The Ghost Brigades are now in to Tor, and hopefully we've caught all the errors there are to catch, and if not, well, then know we've done our best (the corrections for "Questions for a Soldier" went in this weekend as well -- truly a weekend for correction!). Barring another unexpected round of corrections, this is probably the last time I'll read TGB for a while, at least until I get my author copies. Mmmmm... author copies.

I'm probably repeating myself here, but re-reading TGB reminded me that I'm very happy with how the book came out, and I'm going to be very interested to see how it's received. Personally speaking I think it's a better-written book than Old Man's War (one would hope it would be, considering it was written four years and several books later than OMW), with better pacing, interesting and evolving characters, deeper explorations into the nature of the universe (and humanity's place in it) and of course tons of action, because what's the point of character development if people can't grow while the things explode around them? This is, I believe, one of the fundamental existential questions facing writers today.

For all my enthusiasm about TGB, I am not naive enough to equate my personal feelings about the book with an expectation of how the book will be received. There are a lot of potential potholes this time around: The book is darker, with less chatty, breezy humor; the plot is more complex (it's not the "ride on a rail" OMW was); the writing is less overtly "Heinlein-esque" and so on. And of course, it's a sequel, which means that some of the element that took readers by surprise in the first book will simply be part of the background here -- but at the same time the first book's main character is nowhere in evidence, so some of what people come to a sequel for is just not there. In all, lots of places for people to go "Hey! This isn't what I wanted!" and to tear me a new one from there.

That's fine. I wrote what I think is a good book, and that's what I require out of myself as a writer: To write as well as I can, and not to phone any of it in. That done, I can take whatever else transpires, for good or ill. I am not so lacking in personal vanity that I can say I truly don't care if people don't like the book, but I do have to say that since I'm happy with how the story works, I'll be at lot more at peace with how other people respond to the story, whatever that response will be. Well, actually, that's not entirely true. I don't mind if people hate the book -- at the very least, that will engender some enjoyably scathing reviews -- but I'll be severely depressed if people are merely entirely indifferent to it. I don't think people will be; allow me enough vanity to suggest that I'm a good enough writer that the book will produce a pronounced response one way or another. Be that as it may, if you want to know what the definition of writing hell is, it's this: audience indifference. Man, that just sucks.

This much I know: I enjoyed reading The Ghost Brigades. As a reader, I get bored quickly, even (hell, especially) with my own words. I didn't come close to being bored with TGB, even on the twentieth or so re-read, which is what this was. I think that's a very good sign.

Posted by john at November 28, 2005 10:50 AM

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Comments

Jack Scheer | November 28, 2005 01:45 PM

...what's the point of character development if people can't grow while the things explode around them?

AKA The X-Men Law of Character Arcs. Always a good idea to heed that one.

John Scalzi | November 28, 2005 01:47 PM

Snickt! It works for Wolverine!

KenL | November 28, 2005 02:19 PM

...and of course tons of action, because what's the point of character development if people can't grow while the things explode around them? This is, I believe, one of the fundamental existential questions facing writers today.

I read that line, too, and promptly snarfed out a mouthful of water all over my shirt. :)

I must remember not to read the Whatever while drinking or eating....

David Moles | November 28, 2005 03:43 PM

Words for an SF writer to live by.

The Analog nostalgia crowd is missing the point. What today's SF is missing isn't just spaceships, it's spaceships blowing each other up. (Plus character development. Of course it's really mostly Analog that's missing that.)

David Moles | November 28, 2005 03:45 PM

When's it due out, by the way?

John Scalzi | November 28, 2005 03:50 PM

David Moles:

"What today's SF is missing isn't just spaceships, it's spaceships blowing each other up."

Spoken like the infernocrusher devotee you are!

It comes out in February.

RooK | November 28, 2005 04:21 PM

Mmm... 'Splosions.

tobias Buckell | November 28, 2005 04:26 PM

A man after my own heart.

I finished the ARC and thought it had lots of cool shit blowing up and I enjoyed the crap out of it. Very cool stuff, John. I do like how you dragged in a new set of players and only gave us some glimpses of the previous set. Particularly fun seeing the wider universe and politics at play.

Still love the first line of Old Man's War, though, hard to top that period. But I think Brigades was more SF-nal fun for me.

John Scalzi | November 28, 2005 04:49 PM

Why, thank you, Mr. Buckell. Glad you enjoyed it. I think the first line of Old Man's War is indeed a fine one. However, my favorite first line of any of my books is from the upcoming The Android's Dream, which is (in case you missed it from a couple entries ago):

"Dirk Moeller didn't know if he could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out."

The rest of the chapter's pretty good, too.

tobias Buckell | November 29, 2005 08:52 AM

Oh man :-)

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