I was out on the patio, bundled up, and having a cigar, and looking at the sad frozen garden we have here. It made me think about writing, and books. Not only about the books that sit on our shelves, waiting for us to pick them up and breathe new life into them (like I talk about in this month’s newsletter). It also made me think about the time between books for us authors, and the readers waiting for us. We get a book out there, full of life and color. The readers give it more life as they explore the pages and scenes and characters. Then they put it down, and that world goes to sleep. Meanwhile we are trying our best to bring that world back anew, with more stories, and greater characters.
It’s like that for me, picking up the Dragonlance Chronicles again. Like coming home after a long time away, or a long winter break. Visiting old friends, familiar places, and faces I haven’t imagined in years. Breathing life into the world that has lived in perpetual winter in my head.
That’s what this time between books is like for me too. I have the scenes and characters, I have the adventures and trials, but they aren’t yet alive. They aren’t complete, the story isn’t finished, and there’s no readers to experience it. It’s a long, cold winter while your world waits on the sun and life your readers will bring to it. Maybe that’s why it is so easy to disappoint fans if we don’t deliver the garden they expect. They see the first little Eden, with all its brilliant flora and fauna, the koi ponds and fountains, and they fall in love. When they come back they expect something more. A statue here, and a bench over there. A cute little bridge over a bubbling brook. If they come back and find the same garden, or worse, a garden full of weeds and mosquitos, they won’t want to stay.
That’s kind of our job as writers. We need to make sure there’s something new to see. Something fun and interesting, so when the winter is over, the readers feel like exploring in the sunshine again. Like reading a familiar book you haven’t visited for a long time, we have to make sure that a new installment in a series feels like that. It has to feel familiar, and new. Comfortable, and different. We have to give them what they’ve come to love, and new things to fall in love with. Don’t disappoint, because if the garden isn’t up to snuff, they’ll let you know.