Monday, May 14, 2018

The Long and the Short of It.

Like many of you, I was interested  in my guest Christine Poulson's post about 'long or short' when it comes to book length.

Like her, I think I have a natural length.  I don't decide ahead of time what it's to be and my editor doesn't impose constraints on me one way or another, but my books mostly come in around the 120,00 + mark.  I definitely write long.

I write crime novels rather than thrillers.  I suspect most of us tend to write what we like to read; above all as our plot unfolds we're telling ourselves a story along with the reader.

 I like reading big crime novels that allow time for the characters and their backgrounds fully to emerge; I like descriptions that let me see the characters' surroundings and give space for the setting to develop its status as a character in the novel.  I like slow-burn tension, where the screw is gently tightened and tightened and the pace is inexorable rather that helter-skelter. I like PD James, Sophie Hannah, Louise Penny.  I feel their books are rich and satisfying and time spent with them is time well spent.

Of course, we're not all Jameses and Hannahs and Pennys.  The traps for a long book are wordiness and padding, or the sagging middle when the book seems mired in a slough of detail and not going anywhere.  You have to work harder at persuading the reader to stick with you to the end and you certainly need to have a scalpel handy when you start revising.  

The other big drawback to writing long is  that it takes a long time.  I'm always awed by people who turn out two books a year, though I suppose that's only a little over half the number of words I write.

There are 'short' authors I love too, of course - Andrea Camilleri is a great favourite and there's nothing to beat the old 'gumshoe' stories.

So the long and the short of it is, 'We're all different' - and isn't that a lucky thing!

No comments: