Quote from Patrick Rothfuss

A quote that basically sums up the struggle that has been my writing life, from this interview with Patrick Rothfuss on Wired:

There was so much that wasn’t in those initial drafts, simply because I had no idea what I was doing in terms of structuring a story. I put words together fine. I could write dialog and scene. I could even make an interesting chapter. But a book is so much more than a series of interesting chapters. And that’s what it took me a fucking decade to figure out.

15 years, he says, it took him to finish The Name of the Wind.

Good news, guys: I’m only on my 10th!


5 thoughts on “Quote from Patrick Rothfuss

  1. Heh – I recall I spent about five years working on my first novel before finally scrapping it, then a couple of false starts before I felt like I was ready to start into the novel idea that had been bouncing around in my head a couple years, and wrote that in Nanowrimo, finished the first draft that december. But that first draft was barely more than a glorified outline with some fleshed out scenes, and maybe 30% of that first draft made it into the final draft about three years later. I let it simmer a year before going back to revise, and I think that helps. Don’t ever be afraid of rewriting large swathes of story from scratch, sometimes that’s the best way to fix things.


    • Oh trust me, I’ve had to do that in several places, heh. Kind of depressing, at first, having to rewrite something from scratch. Though, sometimes, you end up looking forward to it!


  2. “But a book is so much more than a series of interesting chapters.”

    Very true. It reminds me of Howard Hawks’ rule of what makes a good movie: “three great scenes, no bad scenes.” Which has a lot of truth to it (it’s pretty much how successful superhero movies work, for example — and of course it doesn’t talk about great movies, only good ones).

    But a movie, particularly in Hawks’ era, was a performance — you went someplace, it was presented to you, and then you went home. It had to grab you and transport you for those ninety minutes, and leave you with a positive feeling when you looked back on those three great scenes. As long as the rest of the scenes did their jobs, you’d probably never think about them again.

    A good book, on the other hand, can live with you for the rest of your life. So, it can’t survive on some good scenes, no matter how many there are.


    • Sometimes I wonder, though, how many people are willing to “put up” with a novel that isn’t great, simply because of facing the guilt of not finishing. As for me, I’m not one of those people anymore, heh. Perhaps at one time, yes, but no longer. (I read too slowly not to be selective about the stories I choose to invest my time in.)

      “It had to grab you and transport you for those ninety minutes, and leave you with a positive feeling when you looked back on those three great scenes.”

      Yes, I think readers hold similar expectations for the novels they/we read.

      Maybe it’s just me, but I feel it’s harder to justify giving up and leaving in the middle of a movie that’s just “not cutting it” than doing the same with a novel. (I mean, for one, you had to leave your house!)


  3. I’d say that’s quite accurate. I think that happens because when we start out we misunderstand our lack of knowldge for freedom. I certainly did so. But if we persist, we finally realise that true freedom comes with structure, with rules and with limitation.
    I not even sure I can explain it…

    Liked by 1 person

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