There is an ongoing debate in the writing community about whether it's good or bad to push ourselves to write fast. One school says, "Write fast, send it out, never revise except on editorial request." The other--mine own--believes that a book takes as long as it takes. Those who know me, of course, know that I'm all about discipline, and though I don't write fast, I've still published eleven books in fourteen years.
So when my friend and colleague Catherine Whitehead sent me the following, I rejoiced. It's from the Globe:
Top Authors on Annual Deadline Pressures
Publishers (and fans) increasingly expect and hope that top fiction authors will issue a new book on regular basis, but the Boston Globe says writers are complaining about the pressure. Patricia Cornwell says : "The Scarpetta [manuscript] that's due out Oct. 7 is due in a few weeks, because they have to reserve the storefront real estate and pay for it. If I don't get the book turned in on time, they'll be freaking out. If I miss my deadline, I miss the entire year. Sometimes there's an overwhelming feeling of panic. It's like a rock 'n' roll concert, and what if I don't show up?"
Thriller writer Brad Meltzer has turned down requests to have a book a year: "There's pressure to treat authors like Coca-Cola. Every time you get a bunch of writers together, this is all they complain about. The trend is, 'How many books can you put out?' From building your reputation to get on the best-seller list, it's gone to trying to get to the tippy-top of the list. It's not worth it to me."
And Dennis Lehane said he tried to write faster once: "I did it ["Prayers for Rain" in 1999], but the week it was published I realized what would have made it a really good book. The anger of that realization haunted me. I said I would never go back on that hamster wheel. It's what led me to write 'Mystic River.'"
David Baldacci does not object: "If you don't write a book a year, it might not be devastating, but it helps to keep your face out there,"
Yes, part of me thinks it would be cool to be in Patricia Cornwell's shoes and be that much in demand. And I do love the organizing effect deadlines has on my work. But Dennis Lehane's position is closest to mine.
To quote another great author, K.W. Jeter: "Do you want a book that's on time, or do you want a good book?"