How The Name of the Wind Took Away My Guts, And How A Blog Post Put Them Back
It’s already time for another progress report. Since the last one, I’ve written 3 1/2 chapters of my new POV character and done some revising of older material. It feels like more, but maybe that’s because I’m heading towards the climax of this subarc while weaving in plot threads from my other two arcs. Or, maybe it’s because I’ve been learning about a hidden subculture I previously knew nothing about. Learning it and creating it at the same time. Discovering it would probably be the best way to put it.
Honestly folks, I almost forgot to write a post today, as I just emerged hours ago from The Name of the Wind.
A really good book, I devour. A great book devours me. This is a great book, an Ouroboros of a book. It is a crafted book, a fantasy where the time taken in tending to all the details shines forth from each page. Languages, measurements, lore, cultures, countries, all the bricks of a built world were solid and true, but at no time was I inundated with pages of mind-numbing exposition that science fiction and fantasy writers are prone to, desperate to show off their backbreaking work. No, it was seamless.
The magic system is a logical extension of sympathetic magic, a system I am quite familiar with as it appears everywhere from Mass (one bread, one body) to The Lord of the Rings (destroy Sauron’s ring and you destroy him), but the way in which it was extrapolated was extremely clever.
The tension was maintained throughout. Maintained. What a mealymouthed little word, when what I mean to say is I read the first 600 pages without even thinking of stopping. Qvothe as a boy is so daring, so foolish, so ambitious, so intelligent, and so capable of evil as well as good, that I never really knew what was going to happen next. Each page was a surprise. That in itself is an achievement, but I haven’t even told you that the story has a frame structure (one of my own favorite devices) and it is the adult Qvothe who is relating his past to us. And yet, I was constantly in doubt. And, joy of joys, the writing itself is excellent.
After I finished it I was humbled and discouraged in a way I usually am not. The book in my hands was like a bright light shining down on my own writing, throwing all the flaws into stark relief. What the hell am I doing? I thought, sitting in a lawn chair, watching my son lark about in our mud pit of a backyard. I’ll never write anything as good as this. Never. When my boy went down for his nap, I tiptoed over to the computer, popped open Google and keyed in Patrick Rothfuss.
I wanted to know if the next book was out. If it was, we were going to the bookstore post haste. But even more than that, I wanted to know HOW? HOW DID HE DO THAT?
On Rothfuss’s website there are links to a treasure trove of interviews, nuts I haven’t had time to crack yet. I bookmarked and moved on, to a post called Concerning Release of Book Two, and scrolled down past some cute cartoons to a GRRMish post of Rothfuss explaining why the book ain’t done yet. And his reasons filled me with reason. He’s not magic, he’s meticulous. He’s obsessive. The wrong word nags him until he thinks of the right word, in the middle of the grocery store. He inserts 60,000 extra words into his already-projected 300,000 WIP because “it needed more action, more tension, more detail. It needed to be re-worked, expanded and generally betterized.”
In sum, Patrick Rothfuss is what every speculative fiction writer who wants to write a book as good as The Name of the Wind should be. He’s practically crazy.
I can’t tell you how this chirked me up. I’m practically crazy, I thought, and I’m not afraid to work. And then I remembered PLC and the post I still had to write, and I dashed off into the Dashboard.
The Name of the Wind. A book for me to study.
And frankly, Rothfuss can take as long as he likes with the second book. I am content to wait.