The Pressure To Produce – An Author’s Perspective

Rarely does a week without me being asked when the fourth Wycaan Master book is coming out. Let me be very clear: I am absolutely chuffed (ecstatic in my new country’s vernacular) that people ask and truly humbled that readers care enough to ask and want the next installment.

 Games of Berkeley Question from Asif

Most of these questions come from young people, the generation of instant gratification. You click and you get it. It is hard to explain that it takes 5-6 months to write, a further 2-3 to edit, and another couple to publish. I have set a goal of a book a year, and I don’t believe I can produce more. Those who crank them out (or have others write for them) are, I suspect, doing themselves a disfavor, even if they sell well.

I can’t help thinking that unless you blindly follow a strict formula, there needs to be some creative downtime and an opportunity to mull over what has happened and where the series might be going. I’m trying to work a good wine or whisky analogy, but failing dismally. Everything needs to ferment and you need to burst into the next book, not start still breathless from the last climatic battle.

I am, however, waiting on two ‘next installments.’ The third Magicians book by Lev Grossman is due out in the fall and then there is that author I dare not mention who takes a couple of years to write each tome.

images-1George Martin to kill Tyrion

In total hypocritical mode, I have to say I am impatiently waiting for these books. It is really a compliment that readers bond with the characters and want to see how they develop.

But it is also pressure. The need to maintain a creative energy is perhaps akin to working out and keeping your body at a weight or suppleness that age and gravity take issue with. We know that our bodies react better when we work out regularly, and sometimes I think that it is the same with writing.

If I was to give one piece of advise to a beginning writer, it would be to cultivate a daily practice, whether writing a chapter of your novel or blogging, but not your shopping list. I only write a first draft of a novel in half a year, the other half as explained above is for editing, production and promotion.

While I embark on a novel with a lot of excitement there is also apprehension as I begin to work those creativity muscles and feel the soreness and fatigue. This feeling disappears as I settle into a rhythm and the plot reveals itself to me.

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And if I have doubts, or feel lethargic, I always have those readers who earnestly ask: “When’s the next book coming out?”

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

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World-Building: How Much Detail?

I’ve noticed a number of adult reviewers of my Wycaan Master series have been critical of my world-building, suggesting that I do not go deep enough or that the books are too fast-paced and that more description of scenery and environment would help to pace the book.

There seems a definite age issue here. I asked a number of my sons’ friends (ages 10-16) who have read the book and they did not agree. In fact, the younger readers were happy to describe to me the fortress of Galbrieth from Book 1, and mighty Hothengold, the dwarf capital, which is situated in a huge cavern. Admittedly, each child described it differently, but I am not sure that matters.

Girl Browsing Books at the Library

It seems there is a certain richness in each (young) reader’s imagination forming their own world, but why do adult readers not want to exercise their minds in such a way? Why does the generation of instant gratification seem willing to work their imagination muscles, while those who always had to work hard to discover anything, do not? In an earlier blog post – The Art of World Building – which I wrote at the beginning of my epic fantasy writing journey – I assumed that it would be exactly the opposite.

I suspect age is not always a factor. The adult who is often challenged to find reading time, wants to push the plot along, something my books are complimented for, and not spend a chapter describing every tree in Mirkwood. Ironically, when the same readers lost themselves in Tolkien’s Middle Earth decades ago, they had more free time to meander with the master.

Over the summer, I have indulged myself in writing an adult fantasy novel, a Game of Thrones wannabe, and I will soon shelve it to focus on editing Book 4 and writing Book 5 – the cycle never ends. But I realize I have been no more generous with my world building than for the Wycaan Master series.

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So my question to you, dear readers: How much detail of the environment is needed for a YA in comparison to an adult fantasy novel? Is there enough world-building in the Wycaan Master series? Please feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section below. I really appreciate every comment.

Talking of feedback: I have been reading a number of books about Amazon.com and how to improve your ranking and exposure. I really need reviews on both At The Walls Of Galbrieth and The First Decree, on both the US and UK sites. Apparently less than 3% of readers leave reviews and I admit, until I began writing, I was one of the 97%. But now from the other side of the fence, I would really appreciate that if you have read either book, please take five minutes and leave a review.

It will be a huge help to a struggling author and if ever we meet in Odessiya, the next round of ale will be on me!

hobbits in pub

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).