Writing Short: It’s a Brave New World

Lovely Night to Die is the first in the series of three novellas I’m writing, as I enter the world of brevity.

A lot of fine authors have begun publishing short stories and short reads on Amazon.

So what’s the importance of brevity for a writer these days. It may mean the difference between putting your reader to sleep and jarring him awake with a perfectly drilled noun right between his eyes.

The age of William Faulkner has come and gone.

And, Lord, I hated to see it go.

I have long been a disciple of William Faulkner. And when I grew weary of writing and did not have any interest in throwing down enough words to form another sentence or paragraph, I would just dust off a volume of Sanctuary or The Sound and the Fury or Light in August, read a few passages, and not be able to wait until I got back to the keyboard again.

William Faulkner wrote great prose but not for the indie world of today.

He lit a fire inside me.

And it burned long and deep.

Now I fear that if Faulkner, like the rest of us, was wandering through the brave new indie world of digital technology in the wake of an ebook revolution, he would not be given the chance to spin his beautiful prose where pages are separated by commas instead of periods, by essays instead of paragraphs.

Now the reader wants his or her stories quick and, if possible, even quicker.

Short.

Punchy.

Each sentence, each paragraph, each book should have impact and hit with the force of an explosion.

Bam.

It grabs you.

It holds you.

It intrigues you.

It mystifies you.

Bam.

It’s over.

And you remember every haunting scene, ever fascinating character, ever twisted plot as though it were a lingering dream – always out of your reach but never out of your mind.

Ernest Hemingway, who ushered in the art of short, crisp, clear sentences, once wrote, he said, the saddest story he had ever written. He did it in three phrases: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

Think about it.

And you’ll cry for the rest of the day.

The lessons, even those of the past, are legion about the importance of brevity.

The Lord’s Prayer has 56 words.

The twenty-third psalm has 118 words.

The Ten Commandments have 297 words.

Yet, in order to establish the pricing of cabbage, the U. S. Department of Agriculture couldn’t say in less than 15,269 words.

You get the point.

It was on a November day in 1863, and the harsh memory of the dead, lay thick upon the Gettysburg Battlefield. From throughout the country, the crowd had solemnly gathered to consecrate a cemetery that would hold the graves of those who had fallen on the field of battle.

The President was there.

He had been cast aside.

The featured speaker was Edward Everett, one of the nation’s most fierce orators. He stood before the twenty thousand and spent more than two hours delivering a eulogy that, among other things, included extensive quotes from classical literature.

His words were wildly applauded.

He sat down.

And no one would ever remember what he said

Abraham Lincoln stood humbly and spoke for less than five minutes.

He delivered only 226 words, and 206 of those words had one syllable.

His Gettysburg Address would never be forgotten.

I have long written short sentences, short paragraphs, short chapters but long books.

From time to time, I’ll be venturing down a new path.

Beginning with Lovely Night to Die, I am going to concentrate on novellas, written as a three-book series, that run only from 100 to 120 pages. I will finish Lonely Night to Die by the first of the year and have Lively Night to Die by Spring.

I’ll produce each novella as an eBook, then package a collection of the three stories as a trade paperback for book signings.

Full-length novels are here to stay, of course, and I’ve just completed one, the sequel to Back Side of a Blue Moon. But I’ve noticed that a lot of fine authors have begun publishing short stories and short reads on Amazon.

It seems that readers don’t have the attention spans they once did.

Maybe writers don’t either.

Brevity is quickly becoming the portal to a whole new world of literature.

Please click HERE to find Lovely Night to Die on Amazon.

 

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  • The only way to go? Write it as short as you possibly can. Especially when it’s a long story.

    I believe it is Rosamund Pilcher (sp?) whose fans love the digressions and side trails. I do not. Which is an odd thing to say if you write door-stoppers. But I spend most of my time making sure the scenes are as taut as I can make them.

    I keep editing until I start to lose precision if I remove more words.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      That’s the secret, Alicia. Forget the novel. Write one taut scene after another, and the book will be the way and the length it needs to be.

      • Write one taut scene after another, and a very long book will keep people turning the pages until late into the night. And make them unhappy when the last line comes. I never want Dorothy L. Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon to end.

        • Caleb Pirtle

          Alicia, I sit up writing until late in the night just to see what happens next. Sometimes I’m surprised. Sometimes I’m shocked. Sometimes I say I’ll wait until tomorrow and re-write it.

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