Thursday, September 6, 2012

Are longer books better books? Deeper books?

It doesn't take drinking an entire ocean to know it holds a lot of water, right? You can pretty much figure that out with your eyes. You can tell it's deep by the hue. By the animals it holds. Actually, that's a better way anyway--wouldn't want you drinking salt water. But more to the point: is something better because it's bigger?

Of course not. Duh. Things--be they oceans or diamonds, love or ideas--hold value because of what they are, not because they're big. And books are the same. A heavier, longer book is not necessarily better than a shorter one. It isn't better-crafted because it's bigger. It isn't more interesting because there are more words. I like the idea that books should be exactly as long as they need to be, and no longer. Frankly, we all have piles of books we want to get through. We don't have time for books that are full of unnecessary fluff.

I'm saying all this for two reasons. One, there's a thoughtful article from Salon about this issue, and two, because I tend to under-write so this makes me feel better. I write too concisely and am always adding scenes or backstory with each draft. Naturally, I blame this on my English teacher, Mr. Kaple, who introduced me to Hemingway. I also blame it on a certain Army Captain, who taught me how to write Intelligence Assessments when we were in Baghdad. Both of these men taught me to rein in the prose, which is hard to do when you're naturally wordy. I can't thank them enough! But now, as I am gearing up to do another revision on book one and quick-draft book two, I have to balance the scales a bit.

As a writer, I want to give you time to ease into the story a bit, feeling your way around my world, and savoring the characters and their inevitably bad choices. Otherwise, you won't want to stay to see them grow.


Mirka Breen said...

As a reader I'm partial to shorter, and like you- that's the way I write.
So the *short* answer to your title question is NO.

Marcia said...

No, not automatically better or deeper. I agree with your last paragraph especially.

Val said...

As a consumer I would say that different people need different books. For one (grown with TV and digital entertainments and have poor imagination) you have to chew the food and put it in their mouth. Another can easily draw the picture in their mind that you have started in your book.
For me writing is like cooking. The good soup should not be insipid but you can’t either eat it if it is over spicy.
About your question as a man I would answer that I’d like to drive a bigger car and to have bigger penis.