In my early twenties I perused a book offering advice to young people like me, just starting out on our own lives. I don’t remember the title or author, but one particular concept struck me as being very true. I paraphrase…
Your parents love you and want what’s best for you. And they want you to have it right now. All those lessons they supposedly taught about patience being a virtue go right out the window when it’s their baby boy or girl they’re thinking about.
This was a bit of an eye opener for me. It was true… the reason my parents were worrying and criticizing and second-guessing me wasn’t just to make me miserable, it was because they wanted me to accomplish and have everything I wanted.
Well… so did I. I didn’t feel particularly patient either.
Yet we understand, as adults, that in order to achieve the really good stuff, the stuff that fulfills us and really matters, we do need to exercise patience. Not just the sit-on-your-rear-and-wait patience, but the work-really-hard-without-being-sure-whether-it-will-ever-pay-off patience.
Television executives have lost this lesson. It used to be that if a show didn’t succeed as well as they wanted, the show simply would not be renewed for a second season. Now, if a show isn’t an instant hit, it will likely be cancelled after just a few episodes have aired.
I’m not just whining about Breaking In being cancelled… again. (Any excuse to see Christian Slater is a good excuse!) I’m talking about a basic truth that a the few high-powered executives have forgotten. Television shows mature and grow just like people do. A show that doesn’t show instant success shouldn’t be killed, it should be nurtured, at least for a whole season. For example, I (and many others) hated Stargate: SG1 in its first season, but the series turned out to be one of my favorites, inspiring a couple of spinoffs I loved as well.
Earlier this month I quoted Tom Hanks saying “I’ve made over 20 movies, and 5 of them are good.” This expectation of success… of having hit after hit… it just isn’t real. And it isn’t good either. I’m not the only television viewer who sees an ad for a new show and says “Looks interesting, but I’m not going to bother watching it until I see whether or not it’s going to be cancelled.” This creates an endless circle. The viewers don’t watch because it will probably just get cancelled, and the executives cancel the show because no one is watching.
I didn’t see Firefly until after it was dead. I didn’t start watching The Big Bang Theory until it was in its fourth or fifth season. Likewise, some of my favorite books I didn’t discover until they had been on (or off!) the shelves for months or years; Stephanie Laurens‘ Cynster novels, and the humorous romance of Kieran Kramer.
My own novels are doing a bit of “maturing” right now. I’ve very glad that I have four rough drafts set on Kingdom Come, as well as four more half-fleshed out stories. I want this series to feel like a unified whole, even though there’s no “Save the Universe!” storyline tying them all together. Since it is Soft SciFi, there are rules involving world building that all need to be worked out. (For example, although I, and generations of readers, adore L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” series, there are definite contradictions between the books.) Of these eight stories, I might completely throw away some of them. Others might be significantly rewritten. Specifically, with Under the Radar I’m seriously considering writing the whole thing starting with the semi-climax that is actually towards the end of her story as-is. The relationship between Scharona and Kevin is life long, but they don’t get together (hey, it’s a romance, that’s not exactly a spoiler lol!) until later in life. However, the complexities of their previous relationship are very important to how they end up. I think the story would flow better as a series of selected flashbacks instead of (as it is now) me telling practically her entire life story. (On a side note, the character of Kevin looks like Christian Slater. But then again, so do many of my MMCs…)
When it’s time to query, there will be one very well-written and thought-out book that I will submit. But there will be a host of others waiting in the wings for an editor’s guidance.
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