A Torch Against the Night author Sabaa Tahir jokes that Patrick Rothfuss saved her from writing a bad second book when it came time to follow up the success of An Ember in the Ashes. Rothfuss, of course, knows all about the pressure of writing sequels to successful debuts, as he is hard at work on the third novel in the Kingkiller Chronicle, after The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. The two sat down with Penguin Teen for an illuminating talk about fending off impostor syndrome, how to look at writer’s block as not something permanent, and potential epic beards for Kvothe.
For Rothfuss’ question about handling writer’s block, Tahir referenced the philosophy of her friend Alison Goodman, author of Eon:
“She had said, ‘I don’t call it writer’s block, I call it writer’s pause.’ She said, ‘If I think of it as a pause, then what I think is—OK, I’m stopped, I’m paused, why? There’s some reason; the story is not doing what I want it to, maybe I’m forcing a character into something, but that character wouldn’t actually do that. Maybe I’ve got a plot issue, maybe I’ve got something at the end that’s not working out…’ Whatever it is, her gut instinct is telling her something’s wrong. I started adopting that philosophy of ‘this is a pause, this is not a block.’ Again, it’s the mental game—if it is a pause, then I know eventually it will be over, and I will get through it.”
On the lighter side of things, they discussed excuses for not turning in projects on time. When it came to editors, Rothfuss said, the paramount lesson he learned was to be honest and keep communication open. But when it came to his nine years as an undergrad in college, he had a few tricks up his sleeve… not to mention some lessons that have found their way into the Kingkiller Chronicle.
They also took Twitter questions about a range of topics: how they plan out their stories before writing (“If you’re Sabaa, you don’t plan, and then you’re like, ‘Oh God, why didn’t I plan?’ Then you try to insert a plan after you haven’t planned, and then somehow it sort of works out.”), what kind of Muppet they would be, favorite socks, and this key bit of experience from Tahir:
“If I’m really excited about a scene, I used to wait to write it, and now I’ll just write it,” she said. “When you do that, all sorts of awesome things can happen from just giving in and writing that scene you’re excited about.”
“If you’re looking for a piece of writing advice,” Rothfuss chimed in, “that’s an amazing one. It took me a while to learn it.” He went on to explain how, back when he wasn’t under deadline, he drafted “100,000 words” of book 3, a lot of which survived as the backbone of the current draft.
They also answered Twitter questions, including this tongue-in-cheek one: “Is Kvothe going to have an epic beard like Patrick?”
The entire video is below; it’s about 20 minutes, but worth watching for the candid conversations about balancing the professional responsibilities and “juice” of writing: