Dancing to the Muse’s Pipe

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Yesterday, during one of my short breaks from editing, I checked my FB feed and boy did I get a laugh. Of course, that laugh was followed by much shaking of my head and wondering how long before the person in question found themselves suffering various painful and unforgettable literary deaths. You see, this person decided it was a good thing to chide an author because the author hadn’t written a book in a series they liked in, well, years. The only good way to start the New Year, it seems, would be for said author to announce the long-awaited sequel and then follow through. Forget all the other projects. They were okay but they weren’t the book he wanted.

And he wanted it NOW!

Don’t get me wrong, but I’ve been in that reader’s shoes. There are a few authors I follow who I really wish could write faster, would go indie so their books would come out sooner and that they would revisit series I loved. But I would never have the audacity to sit down and tell a writer he or she had to write something because I wanted to read it. I might ask if there were any plans for another book and where it came in the list of upcoming projects. But demand? Never in public. I’m smarter than that.

As a writer, I laughed a bit, shook my head a lot and then started pounding my head against the desk. The fan didn’t stop to think that there might be reasons why the author hadn’t written the book they happened to want. It could be a business decision by the publisher. If the previous books in the series didn’t sell well enough, the publisher’s not going to keep putting out more books. They are in the business to make money. Something writers are as well.

But there’s another factor the fan didn’t take into account. There are writers who write only when the muse strikes them. Then their muses, who are even more evil than my own Myrtle the Evil Muse, tell them what to write. When that happens, they become writing machines. Normal schedules are forgotten. Meals are missed. Sleep is missed. Your life has suddenly been taken over by the voices in your head and it will remain that way until the story is written. Then, if you’re lucky, your muse will give you time to recover, edit and return to human before once again taking you on the inspiration rollercoaster.

I’ve had that happen to me. I love it and I hate it.

It is also why some authors can write a full length novel in a week, sometimes less. They pay for it later but the book is written. The problem is often that they are then in a dry period until the muse decides to torture them with this madness once again.

For those authors, having fans telling them they have to write this or write that is counterproductive. The author might like nothing more than to write that particular book but the muse isn’t cooperating. In fact, I know some writers who say when that happens, the book is pushed even further down the queue because the muse doesn’t like to be told what to do.

All of this is a long about way of saying that authors understand. They often want to write that book you’ve been craving but there may be reasons you don’t know about behind why they haven’t. It could be business. It could be their muse isn’t cooperating. It is never–at least not that I’ve ever heard–that the writer is being an ass and not writing it just because someone has been clamoring for it.

So ask about a book but don’t demand it. Leave reviews and give copies of the previous books in the series to friends and families. Make it economically feasible for the author to write the next one in the series. Remember that it is easier to put a book out if the author is indie publishing it than if they are going through a traditional publisher.

In the meantime, keep on reading. Leave reviews. Tell your friends. That is the best way to convince a writer to keep on writing.

Until later.


  1. Conan Doyle also comes to mind. What he wanted to write were long historical novels. As a result, he came to resent his readers demands for more Sherlock Holmes short stories. Eventually, he became so frustrated that he killed Holmes off. That did no good. His readers kept insisting on more Holmes, so much so that he was forced to bring him back. Even today, many readers wish he’d written still more.
    Owing to the close successive deaths of his son and brother, Doyle turned to spiritualism and wrote extensively on the subject; his biographer Owen Dudley Edwards writes that at the time of Doyle’s death in July 1930, while the writer “most wanted to be remembered as a champion of spiritualism and as a historical novelist, it is Sherlock Holmes who has continued to capture the imagination of the public.”


    1. Just a minor niggle, but I’m in the middle of researching Conan Doyle’s life, and he had a lifelong interest in Spiritualism. When he was a doctor in Southsea, he attended seances. When he publicly declared his belief in Spiritualism, his son and brother were both still alive.

      There’s a great cartoon online that illustrates ACD’s attitude to Holmes. It’s by Bernard Partridge and ran in Punch magazine. It shows a tiny Holmes shackled to a large Conan Doyle.

  2. Both my wife and I can tell you our travails with authors who won’t finish their series. She knows of at least one fantasy trilogy that she adored that was never finished and probably never will be. Then there’s Jasper FForde’s “Shades of Grey” trilogy that never got beyond one volume, despite his announcing the titles and publication dates of the subsequent books.

    But I understand why books might be abandoned or delayed. I just wish they would tell us. If it’s not going to happen, a note on their website will at least give us some closure, and we can get on with our lives.

  3. I quite understand your reader’s frustration. I’m still waiting for Theodore Sturgeon to write a sequel to Killdozer, damnit Ted, being dead for almost 40 years is no excuse!

    & don’t get me started on how much that Bradbury guy has been slaking off lately!

  4. Perhaps you should have a “phone number” which your “reader” could be directed to under the heading “Don’t call me, CALL MY MUSE at 3-999-BADGIRL.”

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