Quality Versus Quantity

Written By: DonnaKeeley - Nov• 12•13

Business 2964

With November being National Novel Writing Month I thought this would be an appropriate time to rehash my rant about quality writing versus gimmicky writing.

My personal opinion is that I would rather read a GOOD short book than a BLEH long book. Filler material like detail descriptions of meals or horticultural science level discussion about the landscape just interferes with my desire to find out what happens to the characters. Now some of these descriptions are useful, such as in Lord of the Rings (history lesson) or Clan of the Cave Bear (medicinal properties of plants used throughout Jean M. Auel’s saga), but these writers are weaving in these details as part of the story, most modern books I’ve read use them to generate more pages so the publisher can sell a 400 page book instead of a 200 page book. Because more is better, right?

I had the pleasure of being on a 4-person panel at a local convention with legendary Science Fiction writer Larry Niven. Mr. Niven is known for writing 200 page books; he writes very good 200 page books. Would a publisher accept his work today if he was unknown? Probably not. This artificial desire of publishers and readers to judge a book by it’s weight rather than it’s content is all the more justification for self-publishing.

Right now Young Adult fiction is the big push from publishers. Several authors are touting their “first YA book”  because that is where the trend lies. I actually like a lot of YA books because they aren’t huge, they have interesting stories and great characters. Many people read them for the same reason. Publishers have picked up on this trend, but instead of seeing a market for smaller, original books they see a market for people who read Young Adult books. So now we have an overflow of vampire teenagers and dystopian futures thanks the Twilight and Hunger Games.

Gimmicky. Not original. Same stuff, different cover.

I’m not knocking National Novel Writing Month, but my belief is that writing a good story should take more than a month – especially if it relies on research like mine do. One of the reasons Queen for a Night was delayed was because I wanted to actually visit the Queen Mary; to touch it, feel it, gather all the history into my pores before putting all my ideas on paper (well, computer screen). The visit inspired me further and led to some additional scenes. Having walked in Shannon’s footsteps I was able to make her description of the ship more realistic for my readers, especially those who have visited the ship.

I’m not saying that there are no good stories that were written in a month because my favorite mystery writer Arthur Conan-Doyle wrote the Sherlock Holmes stores monthly for magazine publication. And they are damn good stories. And they’re short.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.