Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Be Expansive For a Change

In his forward to his second collection of fiction, The Garden of Forking Paths, Jorge Luis Borges laid out, not for the last time, his views on long works of fiction:

"It is a laborious madness and an impoverishing one, the madness of composing vast books -- setting out in five hundred pages an idea that can be perfectly related orally in five minutes."

I agree, and it's one reason that whenever I write a book, I try always to condense, condense, condense. In the five books I've written, I haven't written one that even reaches 60,000 words. They are all in the novella to short novel range, and as I've said once or twice while doing book launches, I could say that I've followed the principle of inverse ratio in writing each book: the more time it takes me to write the book, the less pages it should be in the end, because more time spent writing means more time spent condensing and pruning and eliminating anything not entirely essential. That elimination of everything smacking of the inessential, a necessity in short stories of course, is one reason that I write books so slowly. Prolific as a writer I will never be.

Regardless, I am working on a book now that I'm determined will be a longer length, though nothing in the range of five hundred pages. But let's say something more like 80,000 words, something closer anyway to typical novel length. It's a challenge, a way, among other ways, to get out of what I suppose by now is my comfort zone in terms of length. It means being more expansive for a change without being long-winded. It's something other writers of novels take for granted perhaps, but for me this challenge to be expansive yet tight is something new. That in itself is not a bad thing; every time you write a book, it should contain a challenge for yourself, either in terms of its language or structure or subject matter or something else. For me, this is the challenge: to write a book longer than any I have written before, write it with a kind of precision and conciseness I can live with, and not take forever doing it. So far, the book is going pretty well, and I'm actually finding that not being so strict with myself, not keeping the language on such a tight leash (so to speak) has been enjoyable, even fun. Whether I can continue like this through the book's end I'll find out, but that feeling of uncertainty as one proceeds is par for the course. After all, every book you write, while you're in the act of writing it, feels something like a crapshoot.

This new one, in progress, is no different. 

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