Writing for an Impatient Society

In Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell took too many pages to get her characters to the picnic.
In Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell took too many pages to get her characters to the picnic.

GOT A BIG BOOK lurking inside of you?

Hang on.

Maybe it shouldn’t be as big as you think it is.

Is it a saga?

Does it follow three generations of the same family?

Two generations might be enough.

One generation might be even better.

We live in an impatient society.

We have impatient readers.

They don’t want to fight their way through five-hundred-page epics.

Not anymore.

They want novels that are short.

They want novels that have impact.

They don’t want you to fool around.

They want you quit wasting your words and wasting their time.

In the words of novelist Tom Clancy, they want you “to write the damn book.”

They want print on a diet.

Margaret Mitchell, for example, would no longer be able to find a publisher willing to take a chance and market Gone With the Wind.

It’s a great work.

It is indeed a classic.

But it took Margaret Mitchell the first hundred words to get everyone to the picnic.

Readers won’t give you that much time to go to the picnic anymore.

In the first ten pages these days you have to:

Open the story at the picnic.

It is night.

Lights are strung through the trees.

A man walks in with a gun.

A marriage fails.

A woman falls in love with the wrong man.

Or a man falls in love with the wrong woman.

That’s why the marriage is failing.

That may be the reason the man has the gun.

A shot is fired.

A woman screams.

Someone flees in the darkness.

The dead man is a stranger.

He had no business at the picnic.

In his suit, someone finds a business card.

The business card belongs to the man who hosted the picnic.

Everyone looks around.

The host is missing.

Now that you have the preliminaries out of the way, you can jump into the action.

What people want in a novel these days is what they want in a sports car.

How fast can it go from zero to sixty?

And how long can you keep it picking up speed?

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