Friday, October 2, 2015

Lev Grossman on failure (and strategically going after Game of Thrones fans)

Some answers from an AMA today:

It took me 10 years to get my first novel published. Six more years to get my second published. Five years after that to get my third one published, and that was the first really successful one.

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In the interim I wrote probably 100 short stories, of which zero got published. I've had a lot more failure than success.

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I wrote the first draft of The Magicians in a year, almost exactly: June 2004 to July 2005. Then I revised continuously till it was published in 2009. A lot of it was deepening the characters, adding complexity. A lot of it was making the writing less awful, very gradually. A whole lot of it was complicating the plot: connecting one thing to another. How would they find the button. Who would sleep with whom. Very basic stuff -- it's almost embarrassing to admit it. Who was The Beast? When he first arrived, I didn't even know.

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The Magicians was my third novel but my first to break out at all. The gross, crappy truth is, you have to spend some time looking at the marketplace. See what people have done, and how you can put a twist on it. Look for where there's a gap in the market. I saw that George RR Martin had done a very gritty, serious, adult take on epic fantasy. Maybe I could do the same thing with the more Narnia/Harry Potter kind of fantasy? Nobody was doing that. There was a gap there.

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It wasn't as calculated as that makes it sound. But I realize in retrospect, that's one reason The Magicians got to that next level: it found a gap.