This week GalleyCat announced that Michael Chabon (that guy to the left, and author of the book I’m reading right now, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) will release the first four chapters of Fountain City, a novel he abandoned years ago, in an upcoming issue of McSweney’s.
Wikipedia informed me that Chabon spent five years working on Fountain City unable to finish it satisfactorily. The pressure of having already accepted an advance added to his frustration with the project. However, only a few days after finally giving up on Fountain City, Chabon started to write what would become his next book Wonder Boys, which became a huge success. Oh, and Wonder Boys featured a disgruntled writer who has spent years working on his next book. See, some good came from the earlier failure.
The whole episode taught Chabon that perhaps it would be better not to accept an advance. Then again, if someone wanted to pay me a lot of money ahead of time to write something, I’m not sure I could turn it down. Paper and pen (and, let’s be real, computers) aren’t free.