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The Fat in the Book

July 19, 2010

By Mytrueblood "Sookie is Mine"

A weekend out in the country is over. The sun was way too hot (something we don’t get a lot here, and also something I don’t thrive well in), and I saw five–FIVE– spiders! Eugh! I suppose that with the weather warming, the number of insects increase. I don’t mind flies so much (even the bees I used to be terrified of before I became a mother), but spiders, even though they’re tiny = a squeal and a shudder + warily looking about everywhere I go and feeling tiny little itches everywhere.

Back on subject:

There are two things I’d like to talk about today: Cutting the fat out of the book and short endings.

As I’ve talked about before, I wrote my first manuscript without having read a word about how to write a book. I wrote it as I would like to read it. It was, after all, originally a book for me from my fantasy world. After reading several books on writing, I learned to stick to the plot and cut out trivial information that were just for fun. By doing that, I severely reduced my word count (which was way too high for a YA novel), and the story became faster. But! I have been reading a lot of YA books since, and there are books, like the House of Night series, where there is a lot (and I mean a LOT) of little things that could be cut out, but if they had, the story would be missing a lot of its charm. The plots in those books are relatively simple, but essential to further the series along (there are going to be 12 books), so I get that the authors have to put a lot of fat on the meat. They have Zoey (the heroin) eat breakfast, get snacks before watching a movie, having conversations with her friends that have nothing to do with the plot, and even a lot of interaction with her cat (that, for now, has very little to do with the plot).

Charleine Harris’s books, The Sookie Stackhouse Series (True Blood), is also like that. The series is for adults. Sookie does her hair in a certain way, gets dressed in this or that, puts on makeup, does yard work, cooks, cleans. And I love it all. The books wouldn’t be the same without it.

I wonder if adults prefer reading books that get right to the point, and in doing so, loose a lot of the little things that the teenagers might be more eager to read. Most (if not all) books about how to write books are written by adults. I wonder if the “How to Write YA Books” were different if they were written by teenagers.

And then there’s the endings… I’ve noticed that in most of the books I’ve read, the final plot reveals itself when there’s only a handful of pages left. It is natural to have it at the very end, but I always feel a bit cheated when, after the plot is revealed and the hero/heroin has saved the day, there are only 2-3 pages left for the aftermath. I want more. I want to read about everyones reaction and discussions about what happened. I want to read about what they’re going to do next. I want to read about how they go on with their lives after the big event is done.

I’m writing a series myself (3 books, but could possibly become more), and there’s a whole chapter dealing with the aftermath (my chapters are very long, around 8,000 words). In that final chapter, more is revealed about the big event: questions asked and answered, and then decisions are made. The heroin struggles with decisions, feelings about the big event, and one of her fellow travelers develops as a character. Some other characters deepen as well and there are hints to what will happen in the next book. I don’t think the book is complete without all of this, and I’m going to fight for this chapter if I get a contract, because it is essential to further the series as a whole.

What are your opinions on this? Do you prefer a direct line to the plot, or more fat on the meat? Do you prefer curt endings, or do you like to see the aftermath?

Task for the day: Play with twins.

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One Comment
  1. Nikki permalink

    Depends on the book and what needs to be said in the book. Some stories are best told sharp and to the point, others are better off with many sub-plots woven into them and other seemingly random stuff going on. I think this also depends on the author – I don’t think that just any author can pull off a more ‘meaty’ book without it becoming boring. It’s easier to write a simple story, so naturally it’d take a more gifted writer to write a more complex book. I think a *good* writer can write both simple and more richly textured novels, whereas a mediocre writer can only write simpler ones.

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