Strange Dreams, Koontz and (briefly) King – Part 1

Lately, I haven’t been sleeping well. It seems every time I get into REM sleep, I wake up halfway through the dream. Last night, people (I don’t know who they were) were hanging around me (in some unknown location) and pestering me to write more, faster and better. With some small success behind me and many years of studying the craft of writing and the markets, I can interpret my dream in one of two ways: wishful fantasy or nightmare.

I’d love to have multitudes of book-buying fans eager for more stories. What writer wouldn’t? On the flip side, may of those fans clamor for their favorite author’s next book right after reading the one that just got published.  Not many of them, unless they’re writers, too, understand how much time, work, and often, sleep deprivation goes into a novel or that the same amount of effort goes into a book whether it turns out to be a page-turner or a dud. We’re talking long, lonely hours of writing, research, rewriting, editing with sometimes not the hoped for results either in advancing one’s craft, readership or income.

Yep, it takes much less time to read a book than to write one. For those of you who don’t believe that, I say: Go ahead. Try it. Participate in NaNoWriMo­—National Write a Novel in a Month—this November. See if you can rack up 50,000 words, coherent or otherwise, in 30 days. Then add another 20,000 to 25,000 words to get it to 70,000 to 75,000—the word count most publishers consider the minimum for novel-length fiction. It’s definitely a good experience for anyone who has the notion “one day I’ll write a novel” but hasn’t typed a word (except texts, tweets and emails) since college.

Tirade over.  Tirade cause? Probably the fact that, basically, I’m tired…all the time and have been for many years. After working my day job, I come home and try to write at night. As one of my friends pointed out, I’ve been trying to hold down two full times jobs.  And the night shift, aside from not paying well (or anything most of the time) ain’t that productive.  It’s difficult to be creative when sleep-deprived. After having written two novels (unpublished) and three novellas (published under a pen name), I can tell you that my dream of last night tipped more toward the nightmare side.  My last novella was published in the summer of 2009. From a reader’s perspective, it looks like I’ve let the ball drop. Not true. I’ve been working steadily, albeit very slowly on two new books, but completed neither this year. (Guess what’s at the topped of list for my 2011 resolutions.)

Aside form exhaustion, there’s another factor that sometimes throws a spanner in the works. Writer’s block it’s not. (In fact, I don’t believe in writer’s block, but that’s a topic for another time.) What does sometimes slow me down is the unsettling realization that success, while highly desired, brings its own set of woes, even for those wunderkind who seem to hit the bestseller lists every time they go up to bat. I know, I know. I have a long way to get to that point if  I ever do, but—since over analyzing is my thing—it’s still cause for concern. Besides, looking to my writer heroes for inspiration, I can’t help but acknowledge their setbacks as well as their successes.

Take Dean Koontz, for example. His latest, released this past December, didn’t get very good reviews out of the gate. Publishers Weekly said it’s “less than suspenseful.” Not good for a suspense novel. Koontz is one of my favorite authors—which is not to say I love everything he’s written. So have I run out to buy Koontz’s latest book? No. Like many others, I’ll probably wait to get it from my library or buy a used copy on Amazon.com. Why? Truth to tell, I’ve been disappointed in the endings of many of Koontz’s recent novels, so I tend to shell out the big bucks for a shiny new hardcover version only if it’s from one of the series that I love. Had it been a new book in the Odd Thomas series, I’d have pre-ordered a copy as soon as I was able.

Here’s the crux with Koontz: he doesn’t hit one out of the park every time. This doesn’t upset me as a fan. Eventually, I do read everything he writes. No matter where Koontz’s efforts fall on the sales lists or my own list f favorites, I still admire and respect him as a writer. Every author has work that misses the mark, especially when he’s written as many books as Koontz has. How many? Over 70 novels. (I confess, when I got to 70 on the Wikipedia list, I stopped counting.)

I’ll continue to look forward to the books where he expands and explores the craft of writing. That kind of book hasn’t been coming out of his fingertips lately though. What’s happening? As with other popular authors, I see him churning out two or three books a year. No doubt, he loves to write, but he’s also one of those brand names now with readers and publishers clamoring for fresh product on the shelves. I have to wonder at our demands on top authors today. Take into account the much smaller bodies of work of successful fiction writers in the past. And I’d have to say we’re too greedy, authors and public alike. Conan Doyle, for instance, wrote 56 Sherlock Holmes stories—but note, that’s stories, not novels, no where near the word count of today’s best-sellers. Is our hunger for more books, creating a market of less satisfying books? I’d have to say yes.

(Oops. Running too long. King will have to wait for Part 2.)

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