For Today's Readers, What are the two most important words in a novel? The End
December 15, 2012
Be short is what I read.
Be brief is what I’m told
And less is more. And nobody argues the point.
In today’s publishing world, yon’t write a sentence if you can say it in a phrase. You don’t write a paragraph if you can say it in a sentence. And you don’t write a book if you can say it in a short story.
I once brought home books that were thick enough and heavy enough to be hauled around in a wheelbarrow, but that’s not the case anymore.
Readers of novels no longer enjoy the long, leisurely journey.
They open the first page with one thing in mind.
Take me on a hard, fast ride, and let’s don’t tarry along the way.
Make me cry if you want to.
I’d like a couple of good laughs along the way.
I don’t mind wiping away a few tears.
Make me fall in love or out of love. I don’t care.
And, if necessary, shoot a few people and give me a nightmare or two.
But don’t mess around with the details.
Let’s get to the most important two words in the book: The End.
Readers want to get through one novel as quickly as they can, so they can jump right in to the next one.
Patience is no longer a virtue.
This is how I believe the art of writing has changed. Let’s look at the old school style of developing a novel. Let’s look at William Faulkner.
In Light in August, he wrote:
And no one could have known that he had ever looked at her either as, without any semblance of progress in either of them, they draw slowly together as the wagon crawls terrifically toward her in its slow palpable aura of somnolence and red dust in which steady feet of the mules move dreamlike and punctuated by the sparse jingle of bells and the limber bobbing of jackrabbit eyes, the mules still neither asleep nor awake as he halts them.
Faulkner wrote classics.
But the new school of writing would take out a whittling knife and cut the sentence down to read something like this:
She watched as his wagon rolled slowly toward her. He studied her face as if they were both strangers. He pulled his mules to a halt as the red dust of a hot afternoon swept over them.
Then, of course, you have the writer of screenplays. His is the easiest job of all. He simply writes:
Cut to Wagon. It rolls to a stop beside her.
I am working hard to keep pace with a style that’s foreign to me. I haven’t figured out whether I really like it. But I know I must adjust to it. My Golgotha Connection was 148,000 words. Secrets of the Dead and Wicked Little Lies were each around 60,000 words.
My next novel will be shorter.
I began the book by writing two words: The End.
Now let’s see how fast I can get there.