Passing It On

Recently Oliver wrote about an artist who mentors other starving/struggling artists.  It was a nice piece. I would like to expand on that topic a bit.

By and large authors are a territorial bunch. This is my baby, mine, mine, mine. Nobody is going to write it but me! For every famous author book collaboration you hear about which actually produces a book, you will hear hundreds of stories about fast friends who do not even speak to one another anymore. Two minds which work differently rarely meet. It’s like that statement I hear many wives say.

I love my husband to death, but, if we had to work together we would kill each other.

There universal truth is that opposites attract and they don’t work well together.

For those of you who will never have a character appearing in more than one book (it’s a shorter list of you than you think) this applies a bit less, but still applies. You need to be mentoring and adding another writer now. Not “in the future” or “somewhere down the road,” now.

Traditionally writers with a bit of income used to hire interns from colleges. I haven’t heard of that happening in quite some time but that is what used to happen. You were supposed to be paying it forward helping them work on their writing skills, developing their own voice and studying your voice. (Two other things which don’t go well together. Studying the voice of another will inevitably change the trajectory of your voice like a planet’s gravity changes the trajectory of a comet.)

Series writers must bring someone in to work on a series. You know of very few who actually follow this rule. This is why a series tends to die with the author instead of continuing to support their family. Generally the author dies at the worst possible time. I’m stunned that more publishers squeezing issue after issue of a book series out of an author don’t mandate a second and third author be part of the writing team.

Yes, you read that right, team! If you want to get some idea about how many book series end as train wrecks because there wasn’t a team visit one of those 70% off discount book stores. You will find many book N of blah series copies for sale. Look the series up on-line and you will see it died before completing the story arc. This reality is one of the many reasons I never walk into those places anymore. I find a copy of something I might like only to find out it is part of a series which died before completion.

Some of you are saying, “Well, if I’m dead what do I care?” You obviously didn’t read the preceding paragraph and think about it. The reason I find a copy in the abandon and forlorn book store is because a dead series doesn’t sell. The books were liquidated. All of those royalties your family could have had to live on vaporized because you were selfish, short sighted and any other insult you feel might belong here.

Let me once again speak of my two favorite examples of profitability and train wreck. First we look at profitability. Don Pendleton bowed out of writing this series long ago. It still carries his name but I don’t know his level of involvement. The series is now north of 400 in book numbers and a stable of writers keeps it going. Personally I cannot believe a series still carrying his name isn’t still paying him money.

Now, let us look at the train wreck. Wheel of Time was handled badly. James Oliver Rigney, Jr. (pen name Robert Jordan)  created a series which ended up being 14 books in length. He didn’t bring in another writer part way through. Then he became very ill and died. Supposedly there were very detailed notes for the next writer to finish. Suffice it to say fans were _not_ happy. Personally I never finished reading the series though I read the early books close to a dozen times.

Don’t be greedy. Don’t be selfish. Most of all don’t be a train wreck.

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