In Adventures in SciFi Publishing’s recent interview with Lou Anders, editorial director of Pyr Books, the host asked Lou, “What kind of [book] pitch do you want?” His answer, while not surprising, blew my mind.
Lou said his biggest pet peeve pitch was, “I’ve just written the most amazing fantasy since Lord of the Rings, which by the way is the only thing I’ve ever read.”
Lou then said, “People think they can come in to the genre at the top, having complete ignorance for what’s been going on for the last fifty or sixty years.”
In describing the kind of submissions he gets, he said, “What we see is a lot of okay material…it’s the brilliant stuff that really stands out.”
My goal is to make the science fiction series I’m writing strong enough to stand at the top of its genre. I want it to win awards, not because I crave recognition, but because I don’t want to put it out there until it’s that good.
While this is a noble pursuit – if I don’t say so myself 😉 – it presents a couple tough problems.
First, I can’t possibly read all the best science fiction books from the last fifty years, but I might be able to read some of the past few years that have similar. While my temptation is to just write, I need to take Lou’s advice. I can’t expect to write the next Dune if I don’t have an intimate appreciation of the best books in between then and now.
This leads to the second problem, which is a paradox for me right now. On one hand, I want to read all the award winners in science fiction that have something in common with my series (i.e. Campbell Award Winner, The Dervish House, because of it’s advanced nanotech society). Adding to that, I need to research space colonization and telepathy. I also want to keep working on an outline and character building before I write anymore.
The other hand comes from another quote in that podcast, that everything is a muscle, including writing. Between reading these books, research, outlining, etc, it could be a while before I’m ready to start writing again. But how do I expect to write an award winner if I’m not writing everyday?
This has been a cycle for me in the past few years. After weeks of worldbuilding and outlining, the idea either doesn’t work, or I get impatient and start writing. Often times, the outline changes and instead of updating it, I keep writing. What comes out the other end is a rough draft lacking continuity, character, and often times, sound science.
I’m trying to write something brilliant. Right now that means heavy on the preparation. Hopefully it will mean I’ll have a world to play in for a long time, one where the preparation I do now adds the depth and character that will make my stories stand above the rest.
The good news is that the moratorium from writing won’t last too much longer, because I’ve got a short story to start for Team PYP. I’m a little delayed on that though because I’m casting it in the same universe, which added more research to see what the other culture would look like. Having my stories for Team PYP performing double duty by adding scattered viewpoints in this universe is very exciting. This might also give me the escape I need to write in this world without wasting those words in my novel draft before I know where it’s going.
I’ve got to say, this is a lot of fun. I’m just getting impatient without the escape of writing fiction. I’m not picking up other projects, because I will lose myself in them, and I can’t afford the distraction. Ultimately, I keep telling myself I won’t be satisfied with the end product unless I do this work, so I just have to push through so I can write as soon as possible – but not before I’m ready.