So yesterday I read Patrick Rothfuss’s The Slow Regard of Silent Things, an odd, slantwise, e.e. cummings-ish little novella about the beauty in broken things and the quiet joy and dignity in setting one’s home to rights. It’s a very Advent-appropriate book, for those of us who attend to such things, a book of waiting and a book of cleaning and a book of working, and a book about the wonderful superabundance of creation. I was amazed and humbled and impressed at Rothfuss’s craftsmanship, because in less skilled hands the book would certainly have been cloying and smack-your-head-with-a-pillow whimsical, but he made it both delightful and yet earthy and grounded. Truly a great achievement.
But I’m not here to talk about that.I’d like to talk about what happened when I went to rate the book on Goodreads.
I didn’t expect it to be universally acclaimed. It is a weird not-really-a-story, as Rothfuss himself points out (and apologizes profusely for), and it’s certainly not for everyone. But what I didn’t expect were the one-star reviews simply boiling over with rage and vitriol, spitting poison in Rothfuss’s direction because Slow Regard is not the long-awaited Book 3 of his Kingkiller trilogy. Man, there are a lot of people who are really really mad about that.
Look, I get it. I want to find out what happens too, and that’s pretty frustrating. And it’s easy to get mad when you’re frustrated. Boy do I get that! Right now, I’m pretty mad/frustrated with myself, because the story I thought would be an easy jaunt has taken me years to write. I’m closing in on the end now … but I’ve been closing in on the end for months, so that doesn’t mean I’ll be done anytime soon. That is super frustrating! And probably the people who read Voyage to Ruin when it came out, to whom I said, “I’m working on the sequel; it’ll be done soon!” are frustrated, because most people’s definition of “soon” does not mean within a decade or so.
But listen, angry fanboys. Writers are not machines who can through some mechanical process sit down and bang out reams of excellent or even adequate prose without thought or rest or pause. We’re people. (And I’m not trying to put myself in the same class as Rothfuss, believe me! He’s a world-renowned best-selling author who has finished multiple books, whereas I have finished one and am staggering towards the end of another. But we both make up stories, so in that way at least we’re the same.) People who need rest, who need fun, who need time with their families, time with their friends, time to sing or dance or worship or have dinner or time to just chill for awhile. And whatever stuff it is that stories are made out of, it comes from ourselves, the deepest wells of our being. If the well is dry, if we’re tapped out, there’s just no story happening.
And life happens. Life, in fact, has a way of happening relentlessly and without cessation or pause. I know I’ve fielded some sudden and unexpected curveballs since I started working on Steel Butterfly in earnest: first, I got pregnant; then, my dad died; then, my grandmother died. That’s a lot of stuff to deal with, and it takes its toll on the writing as well.
Then, there’s another thing. Sometimes books don’t want to be written right now–and other books do. Rothfuss said pretty clearly that he didn’t intend to write Slow Regard. He had something else in mind entirely. But the story grew out of him, and it needed to be told. I have every confidence that Kingkiller 3 will happen when it’s ready to happen, but rushing it or forcing it is not going to make it a better story.
And finally there’s my favorite complaint, which I just have to address: the entitled fanboys fuming about how much time Rothfuss is wasting on his pet charity projects and Kickstarters, when instead he could be delivering his next novel into said fanboys’ eager hands. I would like these entitled fanboys (of whatever age or sex) to stop and listen to themselves. Rothfuss has helped raise thousands, maybe millions, of dollars for a charity that helps people worldwide to have enough food to eat–not just for a day or a week, but for the rest of their lives. It helps children go to school, who would otherwise be put to work or just starving. It educates women so that they can start their own small businesses and take care of their families. It is making the world a better place in an active and concrete way, and you’re mad because you can’t have what you want right now? What are you, four?
Lest all the above is not clear enough, let me point to someone more eloquent (and famous) than me, who wrote of a different famous and best-selling fantasy author, George R.R. Martin does not work for you. There you go, fanboys. Now take a deep breath and read some Brandon Sanderson. He puts out like five books a year.
P.S. I’m still running the A Question of Time giveaway, until midnight 12/28 (that is, the midnight that 12/28 begins, not the next day), so if you’d like to win a free book–maybe something to tide you over until Kingkiller 3 comes out–sail on over and check it out!