I seek the opinions of avid readers of fiction!

Francis king

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As some of you may or may not know, for the past year I have been working on a novel. It currently stands at... 211,000 words and I am at last on the final edit! Soon I will send it away and try to find a buyer...

Now, I am aware that, conventionally speaking, this novel is far too long. Most novels are around 90,000 words in length, yet I do not care. If I can find a publisher and THEY want to cut it- fine, otherwise, no cigar. Besides, I have searched WIKI, and there are several novels with high volume sales that are as long as mine, although they are usually sci-fi...

Regardless... this morning I ran a spell check, and assessed the grammar and readibility statistics using the Microsoft in-built system, which provides me with 1) Flesch Readability statistics and 2) Flesh-Kincaid grade level scores.

According to 1): readability statistics, my chapters range in understandability from.. 71.8- 87.3, and according to 2), my chapter gradings run from 3.2-7.0.

I am happy about the readability stats- after all, a bestseller becomes a best seller as it has mass market appeal, yet I am a little ashamed of the grade level-my novel is written for adults, and contains adult themes, yet according to this, the way my novel is written means it is so easy to understand a small child in the third to seventh grades would have no problems reading this, even if the themes are not suitable for children.

However, searching online today I discovered many people have analysed both Flesch-Kincaid grades and Flesch readability statistics alongside popular and successful works of fiction stretching back hundreds of years.

The majority of authors and bloggers speaking on the subject say there appears to be a formula...

In general, there should be no more than 4.5 characters per word
Novels should contain less than 5% passive voice
Novels should have no less than 80% readability
Novels should have a Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 5 (4-6).

My questions are, then...

1) When reading fiction, do you want a novel full of that deemed "purple prose", odd obscurations, long sentences, amazing alliterations and masses of description, or do you prefer "clear prose", easily understandable, nothing unknown?

2) If you are buying a work of fiction, would you pick the thin 90,000 one or the weighty 200,000 one?

3) If a novel is.. well structured, easy to read, with good characterisations and a fantastic storyline, would you feel cheated if, after analysing it, you realised it wasn't particularly literary? Do avid readers expect to bathe in purple prose or do they just want a good, entertaining read?

4) Should a genreless novel always be Literary Fiction? Do you consider commercial fiction literatures' poor relation, even if it makes much more money for authors than literary works usually do?

Any thoughts, statements, comment, etc are most welcome.
 

dauer

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1. It's more important to me that the prose is done well.

2. I know this doesn't apply to me so much because I rarely read fiction, but the length of a text isn't a factor for me.

3. No and it depends imo on whether they're reading for enjoyment or to feel smart.

4. Can't comment.
 

wil

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How about cutting an pasting works of fiction that you like or that have critical aclaim (or more importantly sell bmillions) into the little MSword games and see how they comply in characters per word, grade and readablilty...

When it comes to long novels...isn't Michener the champ and hasn't he done fairly well and I'd say his readability is lower, grade level higher and characters per word higher....

I can't wait for an autographed copy....look forward to reading it and discussing in depth in our media forum... It should be the first in our long awaited book club!
 

17th Angel

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2. I know this doesn't apply to me so much because I rarely read fiction, but the length of a text isn't a factor for me.


Short.... Is a must.... Reading is boring as ****.

I imagine if I liked reading I would still want short.... You know, when you ask someone a question or to explain themselves? And they take such a long ass round-a-bout way? It's like stfu and get to the point....

However a really long book.... It would have to be like the best story ever..... You know? There's a reason there aren't that many "long" books, but if it isn't that great a story if they are drawn out, the book I guess could suffer.... *shrugs*

Just some thoughts from a non-reader lol.
 

iBrian

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My questions are, then...

1) When reading fiction, do you want a novel full of that deemed "purple prose", odd obscurations, long sentences, amazing alliterations and masses of description, or do you prefer "clear prose", easily understandable, nothing unknown?

2) If you are buying a work of fiction, would you pick the thin 90,000 one or the weighty 200,000 one?

3) If a novel is.. well structured, easy to read, with good characterisations and a fantastic storyline, would you feel cheated if, after analysing it, you realised it wasn't particularly literary? Do avid readers expect to bathe in purple prose or do they just want a good, entertaining read?

4) Should a genreless novel always be Literary Fiction? Do you consider commercial fiction literatures' poor relation, even if it makes much more money for authors than literary works usually do?

Any thoughts, statements, comment, etc are most welcome.

It's not what the reader wants, but what the publisher wants that matters in the end.

Here's a couple of decent books covering writing:

Stephen King - On Writing
Carole Blake - From Pitch to Publication

First is about the writing process, cutting stuff out, but all described in a very biographical manner.

Second is from a UK literary agent who describes the process from the pitch to eventual publication.

If you are writing science fiction/fantasy you might want to check out this place:
Science Fiction Fantasy Chronicles: forums - Powered by vBulletin

It's kind of a sister site. :)
 

wil

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hee hee advice from the non reader?

hmmm 8,395 posts...last post 102 words equals 856,290 words you may have written here? Ya think you've read what...3 or 4 times as many words...don't like to read?

Pick up Michener's "The Drifters"....there is enough of a story in there to keep you intrigued through hundreds of thousands of words.
 

Faithfulservant

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My questions are, then...

1) When reading fiction, do you want a novel full of that deemed "purple prose", odd obscurations, long sentences, amazing alliterations and masses of description, or do you prefer "clear prose", easily understandable, nothing unknown?

2) If you are buying a work of fiction, would you pick the thin 90,000 one or the weighty 200,000 one?

3) If a novel is.. well structured, easy to read, with good characterisations and a fantastic storyline, would you feel cheated if, after analysing it, you realised it wasn't particularly literary? Do avid readers expect to bathe in purple prose or do they just want a good, entertaining read?

4) Should a genreless novel always be Literary Fiction? Do you consider commercial fiction literatures' poor relation, even if it makes much more money for authors than literary works usually do?

Any thoughts, statements, comment, etc are most welcome.

Ive been a book junkie my whole life.. I dont know anything about the marketing aspect.

1) I could go either way.. short and sweet if its boring topic or long winded if it is an interesting topic. example.. I could not stand Lord Fouls Bane because the author Stephen Donaldson was extremely long winded and over descriptive which took up WAY too much time in the book .. not enough dialogue and action. Now Piers Anthony is short and sweet and gets to the good stuff right away and keeps your attention with wit and humor. But not everyone can do that. Now.. Jean M Auel wrote the Clan of the Cave Bear and those books are pretty large and Ive probably read them 5 or 6 times since I was 12 yo and I will probably read them again. Her books are very descriptive and not that much dialogue but she grabs you with the subject matter. Another example the Twilight series or even Harry Potter both series have large books and I just inhale both of them and have read them multiple times Twilight is simply written but very entertaining.. for young and adult and I very much enjoy them... Harry Potter is a bit more difficult to read but you have to stick with it to reap the rewards.. I dont really know if I answered your question.. but hope this helps.

2) completely depends on the subject matter... I love long books that I can sink my teeth into... as long as Im interested in it.

3) who are you marketing towards.. whats your target audience.. if you want the literary groups reading it .. you might have a problem. catching their interest... if you want the average run of the mill book junkie that uses books as an escape from reality.. it really doesnt matter as long as you can "get away" I guarantee you that the latter groups spend more money on books a year than the former.
 

shawn

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I have loved reading since I was 5.
It is my major vice.
(although the computer, since I got into this internet thing , has been edging in.)
If it is fiction I will read mainly science fiction or fantasy.
There is a lot of fiction I won't look twice at.
The last large work I read was The Saga of Seven Suns - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Uber long series.
He padded his word count out by having each chapter be focused on a different character and then he spent time re explaining things from a different point of view.
At times it was interesting and other times it was tedious and I skimmed over sections on occasion as a result.

As for what kind of prose I prefer that is hard to answer as the key with my liking a book or not has to do with the charisma of the story.
Does it grab my attention and make me interested?
What kind of prose I can't say as it has to do with the believability of the work. Am I immersed in the world the author is weaving?
Is there substance to the work?
Some authors have that ability down pat, others need to develop it.
Personally I don't give a fig whether or not critics would deem it good prose if I like it then the critics can p1ss up a rope.
There have been a few books I have read where the author deliberately defied the rules of good writing and I thought they were good reads regardless.

Being a good writer follows the rule of any story teller.

"Can you get their attention and keep it."

If you can then you will be successful.
If not, you aim at that goal and keep at it.
You will get there if you persist.

The bulk of the readers want a good read.
It is escapism.
A door into the rabbit hole.
The more fun the ride, the more believable it is, the more popular it will be.

 
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One thing I look for in Science fiction is coherent mythology. Flesh it out not so that it is possible but instead plausible.
 

Garnet

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You can take away my TV, my MP3 player, even my computer, but if you try taking my books away, you're going to get hurt. Some months my biggest expense is reading material. I'm almost at the point where I'll have to buy another house; one for books & one for me & Bubba the WonderCat.

I want believable characters.

Tony Hillerman writes a series of mysteries that take place on the Navajo reservation. The main characters are two tribal police officers, Joe Leaphorn & Jim Chee. Hillerman makes them so real that I've had a bit of a crush on Jim Chee.

Caron, the teen-aged daughter of the bookshop owner/amateur sleuth in Joan Hess' Claire Malloy mystery series reminds me of me at that age; mouthy, impatient, & dramatic.

Stephanie Plum, the 30-something bounty-hunting divorcee in Janet Evanovich's series is like most women; we have issues. Although she's involved (& sometimes living) with a yummy man, she's intrigued by another, her ex-husband's infidelity still angers her so much she can't be near him without trying to hurt him, she had to blackmail her cousin into hiring her as a skip tracer.

Skip esoteric details that will appeal to only a few readers. My favorite science fiction author is Robert A. Heinlein, but there are chunks of some of his books I've never read. He goes into too much mathematical & scientific detail about rocketry, etc.; detail that's beyond my understanding & education. I'm interested in whether or not explorers got from Planet A to Planet X; I don't need or want lengthy explanations about how the ship works.

Please, PLEASE forget the "as you know" dialogue. There are other ways to explain the background of the story without having characters launch into lengthy explanations that are always prefaced by the phrase, "As you know". If the character being talked to does know, the speaker doesn't need to say it. Such dialogue always sounds stilted.
 

Thomas

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When reading fiction, do you want a novel full of that deemed "purple prose", odd obscurations, long sentences, amazing alliterations and masses of description, or do you prefer "clear prose", easily understandable, nothing unknown?
The former can be okay, as long as it does not stop the flow of the novel. I read M John Harrison for sci-fi, because I really like his prose style, but then the novel moves along. There's writers in other genres that I like for the same reason, and sometimes the style actually helps make the story, creates an atmosphere, if you like, better than long explanations, or scene-setting texts ... John le Carre's espionage novels, for example, create a mileau of their own, and basically they're love stories ... but then you have the Chandler-esque 'private dick' genre ... and its modern exponent Robert B Parker ... which is its own version of 'purple prose'.

But a novel must create some order of 'suspense' to make the reader want to turn the page ... without the reader thinking the author's justing jerking his/her chain, as it were. What the reader must want to know is ... what happened next?

So I would say style and substance in balance, but only when the style actually builds the substance? Otherwise it's the author showing off.

I'm a graphic designer, and I point out to people that if you can look at a piece of work and name the company that did it, as one so often can, then the work has failed — it's a brochure advertising the design group that did the brochure, not the client for whom they did it ...

2) If you are buying a work of fiction, would you pick the thin 90,000 one or the weighty 200,000 one?
Doesn't matter to me. I launched into Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles on a recommendation. Same with Philip Pullman, Tolkein, and Peake's Gormenghast trilogy ... and frankly I think all three got into the purple prose a bit in the 3rd volume, and the story became a passenger.

On the other hand, it took me four attempts to get beyond page 30 of G.G. Marquez' Love in the Time of Cholera, which is the one book I would save if the library burned down. The Human Factor, Graham Greene, a slim volume, and one of the best espionage novels of all time, with almost no espionage in it!

If a novel is.. well structured, easy to read, with good characterisations and a fantastic storyline, would you feel cheated if, after analysing it, you realised it wasn't particularly literary? Do avid readers expect to bathe in purple prose or do they just want a good, entertaining read?
The read. Greene wrote 'literary' works, and 'entertainments' ... if it possessed the elements you mention, then it would be good. To suggest that a good novel has to be literature, which is esoteric or arcane syntaxically, I suggest is snobbery.

A good book, in my opinion, is a book that makes you want to read books.

Dickens is 'literature', but good grief, his stories! The plots are soooo contrived! Oliver Twist is just frankly ridiculous, but that's not the point, is it?

And Kurt Vonnegut! Is Slaughterhouse 5 'literary'? I doubt it, but such stories, such ideas! And what about Catch 22, or Kerouac ... and I read William Borrough's The Naked Lunch, a classic, but literary?

Have you read Alain Robbe-Grillet? I think his Jealousy is a literary classic (and is regarded as such). It's a good read if you have asperges tendencies! The novel opens by describing the spatial relationship between the trees in a plantation ...

He was already known when he wrote it, but it sold only 746 copies in the first year.

Should a genreless novel always be Literary Fiction
Don't think so. Iain M. Banks writes fantastic science fiction — and there's one section I used to read again and again just for the joy of watching how he constructs the drama of an event, it's a masterclass in itself — he also writes, 'plain fiction' ... stories ... as Iain Banks ... good stuff, but not literary, I would say.

Do you consider commercial fiction literatures' poor relation, even if it makes much more money for authors than literary works usually do?
I only consider it 'poor' when badly written, or shabbily constructed. Many people criticise J.K. Rowling for a very derivative Harry Potter, but it still got my kids reading, and you can develop your taste, skills and critical faculty as you go along, which is way better than never developing them at all.

Dan Brown on the other hand is, in my book (haha! see that, that's a pun! I like puns, puns are fun! See me write a pun ... ) execrable! But Stephen Fry says it far more eloquently than I:
"We were apparently rather resistant to the idea of destroying witches in England, unlike views espoused in so-called books — and I use the word "book" very loosely — like The Da Vinci Code. [pretends to spit in disgust] It is complete loose stool water. It is arse-gravy of the worst kind."
(On his QI TV programme — and he hates all religions!)
'nuff said.

+++

On a shelf in my study sits about 80,000 words of a novel set in Medieval Japan. I decided very early on that my characters would not speak the somewhat arcane Japanese of that era, it would seem too contrived, from the pen of an English author, although I do have translations that give me something of a feel ... but Japanese just doesn't translate easily.

A favourite proverb, for example, is something like 'clench-arse-fart': 'it's no use clenching your arse after you've farted' which is a somewhat more colourful idea than shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. But if I put it in the mouth of a character, it would just advertise itself ... and how do you do swearing without resorting to "By the Buddha!" or stuff like that, which just looks awful? I'm afraid I resorted to some anglo-saxon (and which met with the approval of some Japanese people I asked).

I also struggled with long descriptions of places/events/people to set the scene ... all the results is a hiatus in the story, and people (on whom I've tested) getting confused as to who's who ... so tell the story, and people will build the scene for themselves (the main point is that medieval samurai were not much like the modern image, and ninja were nothing at all like they way they are portrayed ... so my 'book' is the antidote to James Clavell's Shogun which, if you know your medieval history, is a lot of stereotypical tosh).

Thomas
 

Muslimwoman

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1) When reading fiction, do you want a novel full of that deemed "purple prose", odd obscurations, long sentences, amazing alliterations and masses of description, or do you prefer "clear prose", easily understandable, nothing unknown?

Hi Francis

I'm an avid reader and I prefer clear prose ... purple prose interupts your reading stride :mad:


2) If you are buying a work of fiction, would you pick the thin 90,000 one or the weighty 200,000 one?

If it's an auther I haven't read before I tend to choose the slimmer book, unless it's a recommendation but if it's an author I know and like bring on the door stop of a book.

3) If a novel is.. well structured, easy to read, with good characterisations and a fantastic storyline, would you feel cheated if, after analysing it, you realised it wasn't particularly literary? Do avid readers expect to bathe in purple prose or do they just want a good, entertaining read?

If I want purple prose I read history or religious books ... if I want a fiction book I want an easy, entertaining read .. nothing worse than enjoying a good read and having to reach for the dictionary.

4) Should a genreless novel always be Literary Fiction? Do you consider commercial fiction literatures' poor relation, even if it makes much more money for authors than literary works usually do?

Nope, I love a light read when I want to relax my mind.

Best of luck with your book :)
 
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