Only 9 years later than the rest of the world, I am working my way through The Name Of The Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. Frankly, the book is astonishing. Equal parts epic fantasy and fictional biography, it contains beautiful language, a magic system based on scientific principles, and a story so captivating that, 500 pages in, I find I do not care that the protagonist is only 15 years old. It is the kind of story that makes me wish that I had written it.
As I frequently do with writers whose works I admire, I have spent some time researching Mr. Rothfuss as an author. As it turns out, The Name of the Wind is his first novel, and he began writing it in college. He had “completed” the trilogy it is a part of 6 years later, but continued working on the books for another 9 years, until the work was published. While I admire his dedication to the development of his story, I freely admit that there is not a whole lot here for me to learn from and apply to my own writing career.
The problem is, unlike Mr. Rothfuss, I do not have 15 years in which to write my first novel.
Consider the problem: In 15 years, I will be 61 years old. Nothing wrong with that, many people have made great contributions in their sixties. But now, in 2016, Mr. Rothfuss has yet to complete his trilogy. Following his example, at 70 years old, I would not yet have completed my novel. (Remember, this is a trilogy we are talking about). Fifteen years after that, I will be 85…I am sort of running out of time to produce anything more than one “masterwork” if I am to emulate his schedule.
Now, I run into a difficulty here. Do I desire to produce something beautiful, like “Name of the Wind”? Or, in the name of time management, should I merely be settling for good enough? Right this moment I am working on my first serialized novel for Fiction Vortex, which is actually due out at the beginning of next year. Every day I re-read the story I have created so far, and am terrified: What if this is just “good enough”, but not great? Do I really want to produce a novel that isn’t great, in the name of expediency?
This is my dilemma. So far, the only solution I have found is to distribute the episodes as I write them in order to get honest criticism back from picky readers, hoping that the friction of critique will rub off the elements that do not contribute to greatness. My greatest fear is not to crash and burn spectacularly. My greatest fear is that of a reader opening my book, reading a few pages, and then shrugging and going on with his or her life – completely unaffected by what I have created.
- Jeremy C. Schofield