When I sold Phoenicia’s Worlds, someone who meant well told me that I had obviously reached the point in my career where I could sell any old thing. I knew it was meant as a compliment; I also knew our starting points were so far apart that it would be a waste of breath trying to explain why he had actually just insulted me, every friend who critiqued it and Jon who bought it. So I muttered “whatever” (short for “whatever I can say that will make you think you’ve had the last word and shut up, let’s pretend I said it”) and changed the subject.
And that’s why I feel sorry for JK Rowling. The first couple of Potter books, tightly plotted and written, showed she could do it, before they turned into the bloated, unedited, rushed-out slabs that would have sold even if “DUMBLEDORE DIES ON PAGE 700” was stamped on each cover. She must so badly want to know she still has it and can sell on the strength of her writing alone, like she used to. She will never know if that’s so again.