Normally it is customary that authors never respond to their reviewers, because that is seen as uncouth. Some authors would say, barbaric, or unprofessional even. Luckily for me I’ve built my career on doing everything basically ass backwards from what publishing considers normal. (considering I actually open Tom Stranger 2 with a scene responding to all the bad reviews of Tom Stranger 1, I even make money with it!)
So far most of the reviews for my latest book have been good. However, there’s a couple that made me laugh because of how goofy and off base they are. This one in particular for the audiobook is going to peg the Brandollini meter, but it illustrates a few things about how the writing process/reviewing works, that I thought might be professionally helpful for the writers who read this blog to understand how my collaborations work.
“Having never read anything else by John Brown I can’t say Gun Runner is exclusively his story, but I can say it’s definitely not Larry Correia’s style of writing. “
Ha. Bullshit. 😀
Okay, this line of attack is one that I get on pretty much every collaboration I’ve ever done, and it’s just downright wrong. I’ve seen this said about my collabs with Kupari, Ringo, Hoyt, and now Brown. And I guarantee I’ll see the same thing said by some crank next year when the collaboration with Diamond comes out.
First off, these people assume that they can pin down my “style”, which is funny considering the same dude wrote Ashok Vadal and Jimmy the Intern. I’ve already demonstrated that I don’t give a shit about tone or genre, can write wildly divergent PoV characters, and bounce around as I see fit from world to world, so it’s kind of amusing that somebody thinks that I’ve only got one style in my tool box. (I’ve also ghost written some shit that would blow your mind because none of you would ever in a million years guess it was me. I can be a chameleon when I feel like it.)
Second, there is this goofy idea that collaborations consist of some phoned in nonsense where the junior author does all the work and then the senior author just sticks his name on it in some cash grab. Sure. Some authors do that. I don’t. Feel free to ask any of those many authors I listed above about how hands off I am on all those books. I take a great deal of professional pride in the fact that all my collabs are actual collabs. Everybody who knows me knows that I’m too much of a workaholic and a control freak to not make sure something with my name on it represents me.
Plus, it is always kind of hilarious to watch people guess which character/scene was written by which author, as everybody continually gets it all wrong, and I never say shit because I like watching very self-assured people be incorrect. (this is particularly fun on the Ringo collabs)
“While there’s interesting elements the pace of the story is torpid, the characters are somewhat flat and cliched and many scenes that should be immersive and exciting are very much just watching the action. I kept listening, hoping it would get better, but when redundant explanations started occurring that the reader is fully aware of, having seen all that info during the introduction, I called it quits. I’m about six chapters in and can’t take any more of the dull, remedial storytelling.“
Oh ho ho ho. He ALMOST pulled that off! For the first bit he had me believing that he was an honest reviewer who simply had a conflict of taste (and taste is subjective and thus can’t be wrong) and wasn’t just another troll review. Except then he had to go and overreach by saying how many chapters he made it in.
Chapter six is 60 pages in of a 439 page book. Of the “dull and remedial” storytelling that occurs in those 60pages, 14 are a panicked evacuation/rescue mission like the fall of Saigon but with more mind control and giant robots, from one character’s perspective, then the rest is a heist story on a different planet that goes from subterfuge, to a street chase, to a train job, to riding a stolen mech into outer space, from a different character’s perspective. During those 60 pages we briefly introduce probably ten named characters, and though almost all of it is action sequences, we toss in a lot of backstory and world building to lay the groundwork.
If this guy found that intro torpid, he really needs to stop doing meth. That shit ain’t good for you. 😀 So there you have it people, if you are flying high on crank, Gun Runner is not for you. Also, quit scratching yourself. It makes sores.
The “redundant explanations” is amusing, considering that the change between our rough draft and the final, Toni Weisskopf had us PUT MORE EXPLANATIONS IN. Because behind the scenes John and I both come from fantasy/action/thriller backgrounds where you under explain until you can’t, and Toni had to educate us that sci-fi audiences tend to expect more clear laying of groundwork earlier on, so we didn’t need to explain how the fundamentals of the universe worked for the next 400 pages.
But what does Toni know? She’s only considered one of the most successful and prolific editors of sci-fi in the genre’s history.
“Oliver Wyman does a terrific job on narration, but even he can’t save Gun Runner. “
At least he didn’t bag on Ollie. Because Ollie rocks. Nobody was going to believe him if he did that.
“Not sure what is going on with Larry Correia.”
Well, I do have a newsletter you can sign up for if you are curious. 😀
“This is the second story I purchased, based on his name and have been disappointed with the results.”
Hmmm… curious. Out of my 25 books in half a dozen different genres/worlds. I’ve let you down twice with my profound torpor? Or, more likely my take on space opera ain’t your thing, but rather than just put a low rating on it because it wasn’t your thing, you had to pontificate about my lack of work ethic and dishonest business practices to try and scare other readers away?
“Is he a sponsor for other authors now? ”
You caught me. I’m really billionaire James Patterson, and I keep 20 younger authors chained to computers in my basement dungeon.
“Or is it his publisher using his name to draw sales?“
Well duh. 😀
Publishing education time! Gather ’round aspiring authors and random internet cranks, and I’ll explain what a “collaboration” is. That’s when more than one writer gets together to write a story. My publisher, Baen, has a long and successful history of pairing authors together. Usually one of them is more famous than the other, which helps drive sales, and helps get the less known author’s name out there, which boosts the sales of their books. (though this isn’t always the case, like me and Ringo both being bestsellers when we teamed up, and some writers are just an endless powerhouse team up, more famous together than apart, like Niven and Pournelle, or “James S.A. Corey” which is Ty Frank and Daniel Abraham)
And here is a dirty little secret about these terrible cash grabs that us rich and famous authors do just to hoodwink poor customers like Johnny InternetRando… Collabs actually take LONGER than writing a book by yourself, and then we SPLIT the money. BRILLIANT! 😀
This charge is extra funny on Gun Runner however, considering that this is the book John Brown and I plotted live for a two hour panel in front of 200 people at LTUE.
“Regardless, I’m aggravated with their misleading representation.“
Okay, I actually snort laughed when I got to that line. I wasn’t going to say anything about this until I hit that sentence, and then I was all like, oh man, this bullshit has got to go on the blog. Just for educational purposes for other writers, because that’s so goofy. That was the point where my Benefit of the Doubt killed itself in shame.
“What’s next? The ‘narrated by’ isn’t accurate either?“
That’s not a bad idea. I was actually thinking the next book I’d put Oliver Wyman, Bronson Pinchot, AND Tim Gerrard Reynolds on the cover, and then 20 hours of audio would just be a repeating 30 second loop of Adam Baldwin making manatee noises. WE WILL MAKE MILLIONS!
Or as Wendell would say (for 20 hours straight!) Fleeerp mewhoo HOOOON!
However I bet that would still crack the top 10…. Hmmmmm… Damn it. That is actually tempting. Get thee behind me, Satan!
“Not happy with the bait and switch.”
That’s awesome. 😀
Dude. See that cover? It has both our names on it. This isn’t one of those ZOMBIE TOM CLANCY in giant letters at the top with “presents” in little letters, and then tiny tiny print in the bottom corner “By JimBob ScrubHack” books. John and I wrote this book together.
Hell, I usually don’t go into that many details of who did what in a collab, but I’m going to here for educational purposes. I’ll even give you the timeline. We started this project clear back in 2015 (when I was less famous!) when we got ideas from my at the time 10 year old son, and then used those to plot an entire book over a two hour period in front of a live studio audience. When we got done, we looked at each other and said, wow… that’s actually pretty solid. We could write this.
And then it wasn’t until 2018(?) after the successful conclusion of some of my other collaborative contracts that Toni asked me if there were any other collabs I wanted to do. I pitched two, this one with John and another one with Steve which this reviewer will surely hate next year.
John is also a successful thriller writer (he got his start doing epic fantasy at Tor around the same time I wrote MHI. We did some book signings around the country together which is how we became friends). In 2018 we got together and did a more in depth brain storming session based on the panel we’d done at LTUE. Then I wrote a detailed, scene by scene outline, that was about 10k words if I recall correctly. We then hashed that out for a few weeks back and forth via email before John went to work.
I’m trying to recall file sizes now, so these might not be 100% accurate but they are close enough you get the idea. John wrote the rough draft over the next few months, sending me updates about every 20k words. I’d make comments and send them back. John put those together into a 100k rough over about 4 months and sent it to me, where the poor guy had to wait a couple of months because I was finishing up another book (Destroyer of Worlds I believe) that was on deadline. (and I can’t switch back and forth between worlds because it takes me about a week to find the right voice for a project)
I sent him back a bunch of notes and he revamped all those. (some day I will tell the tale of poor Bruce, who John loved, but who didn’t make my brutal uncaring cut!) John made a slew of changes and we ended up with about 100k of rough draft.
Other novel sent off, I took that 100k and chopped it down to about 90k, and then wrote it back up to 130k. And that was not -10k in one spot, + 40k in another. Those edits were spread throughout the whole thing. Every page. It took me about two straight months (because I edit/write at about half the pace I write/write).
To put this in perspective, from beginning to end for me to write a novel by myself is usually 4-6 months, but I’m so clever with all this bait and switching, that this collaborative method takes twice as long to turn in a product and afterwards I only get half the money. BRILLIANT… It’s almost like there are creative or artistic reasons to collaborate or something, but I’ll get to those.
Then John got the manuscript from me and went through it again with all my notes. At this point I think we were about 140k when he sent it back to me. I really liked it. I did one last small edit pass, and then sent it to Toni.
Toni went through it and came back to us with some changes that she felt were necessary. At this point that whole opening chapter, Fall of Gloss evacuation/rescue scene DID NOT EXIST. We’d only referred to those events in passing bits of backstory and conversations between Jackson, Jane, and the Captain. Toni is normally anti-prologue, however in this case she thought it was necessary to tell the story and set the themes.
And now here is the part that is really going to piss off our erstwhile mind-reading totally-not-a-troll reviewer… Because I’ve written a couple dozen books for Toni and know how to incorporate her edits, and we were now on the clock with the deadline approaching, and John had gone back to finishing up one of his books, I told John that I’d take care of all her edits, including writing what is now the intro. John had an idea for the new opening that he started on, but I’d just read a thing about the Fall of Saigon and wanted to get a visual equivalent to everyone trying to get on the Huey.
Yes… That first opening part that this reviewer managed to suffer through which he was so certain wasn’t MY voice? On the contrary, that’s the longest part of the whole book that I wrote pretty much by myself. I kicked it over to John after I was done and he had a few suggestions that I implemented, but that opening Holloway scene was mine.
So going back to his clever thesis of: “but I can say it’s definitely not Larry Correia’s style of writing. “
(EDIT: final word count was 154k)
Okay, so goofy review out of the way, why should authors collaborate? I’ve written about this in depth in some of the Ask Correia posts, but it comes down to creative reasons. The book that you write with someone else is going to be different than the one you write yourself. This can be good or bad. It depends on each author’s strengths and whether you play to them or not. It’s also a learning process, because every time I write with some other author I inevitably pick up some new tool that I can add to my personal tool box for writing my own books.
Sometimes a collab can be a cash grab for the bigger name, but psychologically I’m not wired that way. I couldn’t put out a book without working on it (and the the logistics of the back and forth are going to make it take longer than I could do it by myself no matter what). But some authors do that sort of thing and their fans love it, so more power to them. I wasn’t joking when I called Patterson a billionaire. (If he’s not, he’s got to be close by now). Heck, if George Martin collaborated maybe all the GoT fans would have gotten a satisfying conclusion by now.
I wrote Gun Runner because I had a lot of fun plotting it with John, and he’s a cool guy to work with, and it was a new genre that I’d only ever messed with in short fiction. Every collaboration I’ve done has been for a different reason, but ultimately, the most important thing a writer can do is make sure they are having fun. Because if you keep having fun, then your fun is contagious through the page, and your readers have fun too.
If you do what internet cranks tell you to do, you’ll be miserable. And then your writing will be miserable. Its the same way I tune out all the needy types who bark at me You Should Be Writing X Instead of Y! Because series X is their favorite and they hate that I waste time on series Y. Except they’re idiots who don’t understand that creativity isn’t simply a faucet that you can turn on and off. I write series Y (and W, Z, 4, and !) because that is what is fun. And because I’m having fun with those, I can then go back and write more X without me ever getting tired or bored.
Collabs are the same way. They mix things up for me. Working with another author gives me a chance to step back and refocus on my craft. I can’t just take things for granted. I’ve got to think things through because I need to be able to explain why those are the things to do. I’ve been pretty consistently good for a long time across a bunch of different series, and I think one of the reasons I’ve been able to keep up that level of productivity/quality is because about every three books I write one with somebody else.
You also have to check your ego, because sometimes you’re wrong and the other guy is right. And recognizing that they’re right and why they’re right helps you become a better author.
That’s another reason that I don’t recommend collabs for two newbs starting out. From what I’ve seen those projects usually turn into train wrecks. Good collabs usually have an ultimate decision maker, but they work best when both of the collaborators already know how to write. (that said, some newbie collabs turn out really awesome, so once again, there are no hard and fast rule to this stuff. If you can make it work, it works)
But anyways, there you go. That’s how collaborations work for me.
Final note, honest reviews are awesome and appreciated. Authors love reviews, good, bad, the more the better. Just spare us all the mind reading and pontificating about our character and business practices because it’s fucking embarrassing. 😀