Getting the Hang of It

Well, I think I’m finally getting the hang of this blog.  I’ve reworked the About page and added a Bio page. I’ve also added some tags that should make it easier for folks to find the blog. I’ve even had a couple of comments (okay, one was my wife), but the other one wasn’t and that made me feel good. I also wanted to pass on the following email exchange:

Jim to my wife: “tell him to send me a copy.  if it holds my interest over the first 5 pages then it’s a sure seller.”

Jim to me after I sent him a PDF of the novel: “hell so far i like it.  gonna print off the first 50 pages and take home tonight.  Good work Kevin.”

Okay, so Jim is my brother-in-law, but in all honesty getting anyone to take on the task of reading a long manuscript is an accomplishment and I certainly appreciate it.

I recently finished reading a book, a rather long one, where it took probably four hundred pages before I was really able to empathize with the main characters, to really invest myself emotionally in them, which made it all the more difficult for me to give them up when the book ended. I got to the end of the book and literally went, “Huh? Is this it?” I wanted to grab the author and say, “You brought me this far just to leave me here?”

While it is true that the story was satisfactorily concluded, the villain met an ignominious end, the hero lived on and your sympathies remained with him, yet there was a feeling of not quite getting the whole story. I don’t say this so much to criticize the author’s writing style, but rather to illustrate the type of novel.  This type of novel would be difficult to break up into shorter stories. Or would it?

Could it have been reformatted as a series of cliff hangers, leaving the reader on the emotional edge of his or her seat until the next volume in the series was released? It’s a good marketing strategy if the first book is good enough to keep the reader wanting more.

But it’s also a gamble because instances of problematic writing can be hidden in a long novel. I’m sure you’ve encountered this before. “Just slug through this part and it’s got to get better,” you tell yourself. And it usually does. If problematic writing occurs in a short work, I doubt I’d buy the next volume with the hope that the writing will improve. I’d buy something else by someone I know will deliver. That’s the gamble you take when you consider whether to publish your long novel as a whole or break it into smaller novels, novelettes, or novellas.

My novel, the one I’m considering for publication, has eleven distinct parts which could probably stand alone without a large amount of rewrite or elaboration to achieve the length of product I wish to generate.  But while it may be true that the novel can be divided, is that what I really want? Would I take the chance that readers might make it through the first two or three volumes only to leave what might be the best parts of the story sitting on the virtual bookshelf in the later volumes?

I guess a couple of considerations factor into this. The most practical is marketing, what’s going to sell. But there are other things you may not even want to admit, such as pride, self-doubt, and fear of failure or embarrassment.  Would one failure end your career as a novelist? Possibly, if the real end game for your writing is profit. But if you’ve enjoyed the writing experience, the creative process, and, more importantly, enjoy what you’ve written, then that may be enough in itself.

So, I still haven’t decided what I’ll do with my novel, whether to make it one book or eleven. There’s still time for that. And with an eBook, since I control publication, I could actually achieve the best of both worlds. I could publish eleven Novelettes at .99 cents each and a little later publish a special anthology containing all eleven volumes for say, $7.99, giving the buyer a savings of $2.90 over the single volume price.

Life is full of possibilities.

© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.