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The Naked Page

Author Jamie Sobrato's Diary

1.14.2009

The Ever-Shrinking Novel

I started reading a Madeline L'Engle book, Many Waters, with my kids recently. It's a much longer-than-usual novel, especially for kids, with meandering chapters and small print. And while I consider myself to be a reasonably literate person, I have to admit, I find myself looking ahead and thinking, when is this #!@&! chapter ever going to end?

That's not because it's a young adult book, either. I love reading YA novels. I'm also re-reading one of my all-time favorite books, The Poisonwood Bible, and a friend remarked to me the other day when I mentioned it that she thought the story went on way too long. Indeed, it's quite long, but in this case I savor it--I don't want the story to end. It's a rare book I can say that about.

Meanwhile, my own stories tend to be spare, and I always strive (thought don't always acheive) to write fast-paced page-turners. I like this as both a reader and a writer. I'm part of the trend of the ever-shrinking novel, I guess.

Publishers cite printing costs and competition with other media as the reasons for novels getting shorter and shorter. Do we even care? Is anything being lost as novels get shorter?

9 Comments:

At 6:10 AM, Blogger ~tivi jones said...

I enjoy novels of all lengths, but I guess there's an increased chance of losing the reader as your page numbers increase.

People today are all about instant gratification and getting to the point. I'm guilty of it too. In my marketing profession (for publishing & small business) I like to see results, but I often find myself having to shed that mentality when I engross myself in a new book or I won't enjoy the experience.

But in the long run, for me, as long as I can lose myself in the book, enjoy it, and crave more of it when I'm done, the length doesn't matter.

Wow, this is a long comment, but I really liked your post and wanted to share!

Good luck reading "Many Waters"!

 
At 11:08 AM, Blogger Lori Borrill said...

I've got the original "short version" of Stephen King's The Stand. I also have his later released 1000+page version that he put out because he believed it was better before the pesky editor made him take out all the good stuff. I'm a huge fan, but I have to admit I'll take the first. To me, it felt more rambling than "better", and I can only appreciate the writing for the writing's sake up to a point.

I feel the same way about movies. I've seen a couple lately where I've come out saying it would have been a great movie if they'd cut 1/2 hour out.

But is that that we, as a socitety, have lost our attention spans? Or is it bad editing and the ego of the writer/director who believes everything on the page is gold and none of it can go?

Maybe a little of both?

 
At 1:01 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

That's funny about The Stand, Lori. I think the version I read was the longer, less-edited one. Not having read the shorter version, I didn't have anything to compare it to, and I swear that book had me so engrossed I had a hard time getting out of bed at all. I just lay there reading it even when I was hungry and should have gotten up to eat something.

I do believe you that the shorter version was better though. I think that's almost invariably true. We writers tend to get way too attached to our words.

 
At 5:39 PM, Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

I have Poisonwood Bible but haven't read it yet. I'll consider your post a recommendation. But it will probably still sit on my shelf for eons....

Good to see you back on the blog a bit more.

 
At 1:06 PM, Blogger Lori Borrill said...

I bought A Forever Family at the grocery store today, and I was so pleased to see that the cover characters weren't all slippery.

Actually, they look a little like Jackson Browne and Sandra Bullock...

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Cindy, Poisonwood Bible is one of my all-time favorite books. I can't say enough good things about it.

Good to see you here too! I've been flat on my back with the flu for a week, but I'm at least sitting up and typing today.

 
At 3:21 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

LOL, Lori, yeah, they're not slippery at all. I'm so glad.

It's funny, I keep getting comments on which two celebrities those two look like.

 
At 3:29 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

BTW, Tivi, I agreed with everything you said. And I'm not really enjoying Many Waters much. It's tedious to read out loud, but once I've started something my kids won't let me quit.

 
At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

Sorry you've been sick. Yuck. I still haven't seen A FOREVER FAMILY in stores here. Hopefully next time I head to Safeway.

Keep blogging, and I can add you back onto my Fav Author Blogs. I had to take you off ONLY because, well, you weren't here, LOL. (Your site is still listed, though, just not the blog. I am nothing if not faithful).

 

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