I just finished taking a look at two thrillers, both big, slick, well-touted works. Although they had interesting plots, there were so many point-of-view characters and so many incidents that the stories never seemed to go anywhere. I finally got tired of the words yip-yip-yipping at me and closed the books.
Three-hundred-page manuscripts used to be common, but the size of books grew along with the influence of corporate booksellers. Not only did large books make people think they were getting more for their money, they were well suited for mass displays. As with other merchandise, perception of worth apparently supersedes true value.
Big books are divided into short chapters and those chapters divided into smaller and smaller segments that make the book easy to put down and pick up at odd intervals for attention-challenged readers, but those small segments make it hard for a reader who wishes to identify with a character and be pulled into another reality.
Some books don’t lose anything by being big and thick. Although toward the end I did get a trifle tired of Stephen King’s Duma Key, he managed to keep my attention all the way through. No mean feat. But most big books today can do with some serious editing to better focus the plot and give some depth to the characters and stop that incessant yipping.
One of the more enjoyable books I read recently was a mere two hundred and sixty pages, but it didn’t seem like a short book. The character’s plight engaged my interest, and I didn’t keep flipping pages in an effort to finish the book quickly.
I used to feel guilty that my own books were only about three hundred pages long; obviously something is wrong with me if other writers can churn out words by the hundreds of thousands. But I want my words to signify something, to be worth the time it takes to dig them out of my psyche. And I want my characters to be more than mere types. I don’t know if I will ever become the writer I wish to be, but I know one thing: I won’t be creating overblown, yippy works; the words come too hard. Besides, I would rather readers complain that my books are too short than slam them shut to get a bit of silence.