On Writing : Rock it with a SHORT BOOK: Still working on your project? Maybe it is too long by Douglas Glenn Clark

Douglas Glenn Clark

Rock it with a SHORT BOOK: Still working on your project? Maybe it is too long

Back in the days when the Great American Novel was still the Holy Grail for many young artists, writers would labor for years creating long, absorbing masterworks. Even genre fans would get into the act by churning out six hundred page horror stories or family sagas. In the digital age of publishing long books are still welcome if written by brand-name authors of a popular series, or wrought by a newly discovered wunderkind of crime, suspense or sci-fi. Yet many new authors fail to finish a first book because they are overwhelmed by the task of creating a cogent, compelling story that spans three or four hundred pages. Get Digital Now! Fortunately, the advent of Kindle, Nook, and tablets like iPad has spawned new publishing trends, one of which is the emerging popularity of shorter works. For writers of fiction this is an opportunity to create a series of short stories or novellas that may range from 10 to 100 pages. For journalists and narrative non-fiction authors, short essays that have a “breaking news” edge may be a viable way to go. How-to guides and other useful information articles also have their place. The trend toward shorter works is driven by consumers of digital books who may not have much time for long books. Business people who travel a lot, for example, may enjoy a story or report that can be read in only one or two hours. The reader enjoys the satisfaction of actually finishing a story or article, rather than interrupting the process and picking up loose ends later. Short & Satisfying Shorter works provide satisfaction for authors, too. It feels good to complete something that has been brewing for years, or even days. Authors who have another profession often cannot sequester enough time to stay focused on a longer work. But the fulfillment that comes from finishing several short stories or essays can improve work habits and build the confidence needed to commit to writing that first novel. Needless to say, Amazon Kindle welcomes all of the above, and doesn’t demand that a work of art or reportage be of a certain length. If a writer can say it in 10 to 20 pages, why must they go on a quest to expand? “Masterpiece” is not synonymous with “painfully long.” And who among us has actually finished reading “Moby Dick,” unless it was a school assignment? (Just kidding. Many readers have, of course. But …) This is not to say there isn’t a new Herman Melville or Stephen King in our midst. By all means, think big if you must. But if you aspire to be a writer and yet have not finished your first book, could it be that you’re expecting too much of yourself? In the beginning, think small. If your intended book is necessarily long, break it into short sections that can be published separately. Then when each section is finished, put them all together under one digital cover and publish your title as a “new” edition. Or while you’re working on a long book, find something on your hard drive that can be finished in a couple weeks so that you can relish the joy of achievement while pursuing grander goals. In short, digital publishing allows writers to be marathon runners and sprinters. Mix it up. Surprise yourself by changing your habits. And know that more productivity may be your greatest reward. Douglas Glen Clark Multiplatform artist

Richard Buzzell

I agree - shorter is better. Longer books tend to be full of filler, and that makes them less interesting.

Douglas Glenn Clark

So true, Richard. In this economy and publishing environment "short" may be the only time we can give to a book. Be well, my friend.

Sue M. Swank

Novella series tend to grab fans harder seems like to me at least

Elaine Haygood

Back in the day, quite a few long books were often posted in newspapers and magazines chapter by chapter as a way of building a fan base and garnering the attention of potential publishers for the completed work.

Douglas Glenn Clark

Sue -- I love novellas. As a reader I love the length and the art. Hey Elaine - you're right about he serialization of our books. But we can do that now on blogs and even via kindle. Dividing a long work into shorter pieces provides more digital shelf space for the author, and the reader does not immediately need to make a big commitment.

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